The 10 Best Games on Nintendo 3DS

The 10 Best Games on Nintendo 3DS

Before the release of the very successful Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo 3DS was the pinnacle of Nintendo handheld consoles. The handheld was released on February 26, 2011, and was received with open arms. The console was seen by many as the natural next step in the Nintendo handheld family. While fans and critics generally loved the console, they especially loved its library. The Nintendo 3DS game catalog is filled with some of Nintendo’s best games, especially if you’re a fan of The Legend of Zelda and the Pokemon series. With over 3,000 games, here are the definitive top 10 games released for the Nintendo 3DS.

10. Colors! 3D

Collage featuring the    key art and gameplay screenshot for Colors ! 3D


  • Release Date: April 5, 2012
  • Metacritic Score: 89 (Generally Favorable)

Kicking off the list is a game that isn’t a game. Colors! 3D is an art software that allows owners of the Nintendo 3DS to use its functionality for art. The software has access to many features you’d find in a good art program. You can paint in layers, swap brush types, and even look at other people’s artwork online and post your own.

Despite its simple exterior, there’s a lot of depth hidden for those who look for it. Will this software replace things like Photoshop, Krita, or Clip Studio? Of course not. But for what it is, it’s truly an outstanding part of the Nintendo 3DS library.

9. Streets of Rage 2

Streets of Rage 2 box art and gameplay


  • Release Date: July 23, 2015
  • Metacritic Score: 89 (Generally Favorable)

That’s right, Streets of Rage 2 is one of the best Nintendo 3DS titles, even though it’s a port of the original Genesis version. The 3DS port is loved so much that some fans believe it is the definitive version. This version of the game introduces the implementation of the Nintendo 3DS stereoscopic 3D effects. Granted, the 3D effect of the console isn’t for everyone, but those who love this gimmick like it in this title.

This port of the game also has two new gameplay modes — Rage Relay, which allows players to play through the game using all four characters in any order, and Casual Mode which allows players to instantly defeat enemies including bosses. Accessibility and difficulty options are a net positive for any game in my opinion. So with all the new features in mind on top of the base game being one of the best games ever, it makes sense that this is a top 10 3DS title.

8. Gunstar Heroes


  • Release Date: August 20, 2015
  • Metacritic Score: 89 (Generally Favorable)

Some may argue that the Nintendo 3DS has a bad catalog since so many of its top games are remakes, but I disagree. Some games are better on certain hardware and like the previous entry, many gamers believe this is the best way to experience Gunstar Heroes. This title isn’t a complex one but as gaming publication CD-Action, said in their review. “You won’t find a better game about running to the right and shooting everything that comes from beyond the screen.” [CD-Action 04/2016, p.63]

This port of Gunstar Heroes is praised for the same reasons as the previous entry. Developed by the same team, they brought over similar accessibility changes and new features. Like the 3D Streets of Rage 2 port, many fans consider this the best way to experience the title. This is another win for the Nintendo 3DS and its owners.

7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D


  • Release Date: February 13, 2015
  • Metacritic Score: 89 (Generally Favorable)

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask is one of the most important titles in gaming, and the 3DS remake is no different. Being able to explore great games on the go is usually the main draw when it comes to handheld consoles. Many gamers consider the darker Zelda titles, Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, etc., the best titles in the franchise, and if you haven’t experienced this surreal title then this might be the best way to do it.

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask 3D takes the original game and polishes it to perfection. Fans of the original might prefer the original feel and atmosphere but for those who prefer snappier controls and graphics, this is for you. Remakes are a controversial topic in gaming but this is one of the best remakes of all time.

6. Pushmo


  • Release Date: December 8, 2011
  • Metacritic Score: 90 (Universal Acclaim)

Fans of this game tend to compare it to a cuter, simpler version of the Atlus title, Catherine. This addictive block-pushing puzzler is one of the stand-out titles of the Nintendo 3DS catalog. Nintendo is the king of making simple addictive titles and this game is another success from the well-oiled Nintendo machine. Pushmo also makes players feel intelligent when completing its puzzles. This title is perfect for those who are fans of games like Catherine, Bejeweled, and other simple puzzle titles.

5. Super Mario 3D Land


  • Release Date: November 13, 2011
  • Metacritic Score: 90 (Universal Acclaim)

Super Mario is Nintendo’s flagship IP. If there is a Nintendo console, there will be many Super Mario games following in its wake. While Super Mario 3D Land isn’t as great as Super Mario 3D World, it’s still one of the best Mario titles available for purchase. The game is jam-packed with content, making it perfect for long commutes.

Super Mario 3D Land perfectly plays into what makes the Nintendo 3DS so great. It’s that awesome, colorful, Mario game design we all know and love with 3D functionality to boot. While the game isn’t as deep mechanically as Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, its casual nature is its main draw. Casual games are perfect on handhelds, and Super Mario 3D Land fits the mold.

4. Shovel Knight


  • Release Date: June 26, 2014
  • Metacritic Score: 90 (Universal Acclaim)

Shovel Knight is one of the best indie projects of the 2010s. It launched a phenomenal crowdfunding campaign and is looked at today as a beacon of hope for indie developers. This game made shockwaves throughout the industry upon release, and its Nintendo 3DS port is just as loved. Shovel Knight pays homage to NES classics while refining its mechanics for a modern audience.

The game is the perfect length in a world of too many 100+ hour games. It’s praised for its great pixel art, good music, and masterful level design. If you haven’t played Shovel Knight there’s no better time than now. It’s available on most modern consoles and it’s perfect on the Nintendo 3DS handheld.

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds


  • Release Date: November 22, 2013
  • Metacritic Score: 91 (Universal Acclaim)

The Nintendo 3DS is THE Zelda console. Some of the best games in the franchise can be played on this console and it even has some phenomenal franchise exclusives as well. The Legend of ZeldaA Link Between Worlds is more than a good Zelda game. This title is a very good action RPG.

While yes, A Link Between Worlds is a bit on the easy side in terms of difficulty. Its world is fun to explore, and its gimmick is novel enough to keep you entertained. If you’re a fan of the series’ original titles, then you will find yourself right at home with this title. Many Zelda lovers see this as the best top-down Zelda, even better than A Link to the Past.

2. Fire Emblem: Awakening


  • Release Date: February 4, 2013
  • Metacritic Score: 92 (Universal Acclaim)

This title was the reason I bought my Nintendo 3DS. If you haven’t played Fire Emblem before, this is the perfect entry point. This title is a truly excellent SRPG and is debatably one of the best in its genre. Fans of games like Final Fantasy Tactics will love this title, especially on its harder difficulties.

Fire Emblem Awakening is accessible to newcomers to the genre while also being challenging enough for veterans. The game is literally anime chess. It’s hard to explain why this game is so great without getting into spoilers, but this game is a benchmark of the tactical RPG genre. With its great visuals, great story, and beautiful soundtrack, Fire Emblem Awakening needs to be packaged with every Nintendo 3DS moving forward.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D


  • Release Date: June 19, 2011
  • Metacritic Score: 94 (Universal Acclaim)

Not surprising no one, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is the best game on the Nintendo 3DS. Ocarina of Time has topped many of our “Best Game” lists and many other gaming publications’ “Best Game” lists as well. The game is just that good and honestly they could’ve ported it directly without changing a thing and it still might crack the top 3 on our list.

Thankfully, this 3DS port offers the same quality-of-life enhancements as the Majora’s Mask release. Fans might prefer the tiny idiosyncrasies of the original Nintendo 64 version but if you’ve never played the title this is a viable way of experiencing it as well. Everyone should try this title at least once and the Nintendo 3DS is a great way to do so.

Honorable Mentions

  • Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward — If this was a list of personal favorites, this would be my number one Nintendo 3DS title. This game is amazingly written and a must-play for anyone who likes escape rooms or wacky narratives.
  • Fire Emblem Fates — This game isn’t as good as Awakening, however, it’s still good enough to be mentioned. Where it lacks in story it makes up for in map design, music, and characters.
  • Pokemon X / Y — The Pokemon games are always good, some people consider these games the beginning of the end for the franchise but honestly, there’s still a fun time to be had.
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf — Portable Animal Crossing before New Horizons. It’s just as good as the other two games in the series and if you’ve never played this series a great entry point.
  • Pokemon Sun / Moon — Probably the most experimental main-line entry in the Pokemon franchise. Many gamers love how it changed the formula with many more wishing it would’ve gone further.
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