Reflecting upon the pocket-sized console’s many successful years, we’ve drawn up a list of the best 3DS games you can play. This is not definitive and is kept concise, so don’t be dismayed if your favorite isn’t in here. We’ve also omitted any remakes – fantastic though they may be – to keep our list somewhat readable in length, or else we’d be here for weeks!
Wanna keep up with Nintendo? Check out the best Soulslike games for the Switch, the best visual novel games on Switch too, and what the cutest Pokémon are.
Here are the best 3DS games we recommend:
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
New Horizons may have added some cool new features, but Animal Crossing New Leaf stands out as the best in the series – even before the whopping Welcome Amiibo update! You take on the role of a Mayor, starting work as soon as you step off a train into a mysterious village populated by animals.
There are 17 different kinds of fruit trees, an upgradeable general store run by Timmy and Tommy, and a full street filled with shops and amenities. Many of New Leaf’s features were cut in New Horizons, so we can’t help but go back to the 3DS title and continue Mayor-ing while soaking up Dr Shrunk’s comedy shows, or visiting Harriet’s hair salon.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds came out at a time when the Zelda franchise was in a slump. Sure, Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time were available on the same platform, but they were remakes of old classics (so they’re not featured on this list – sorry!).
Skyward Sword, on the Wii, had divided fans with its newfangled motion-control gameplay, but A Link Between Worlds brought everyone flocking back to the positive side. The game features a cute, almost chibi-like art style and a fun story that had fans falling in love with Link and Zelda’s adventures all over again.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Even some long-term Nintendo fans can be forgiven for not knowing what Kid Icarus is as a franchise – despite the first release gaining critical acclaim, only three Kid Icarus titles have ever been released. Uprising, on the 3DS, is easily one of the best games you can play on the iconic handheld.
Don’t let the controls put you off here – though they were criticised, the visuals, cast and voice acting more than makeup for it. Uprising even had a stellar online multiplayer mode, which is a rarity in older handheld games! While we pine for a Kid Switch-arus title, we’ll probably jump back into Uprising for old-time’s sake.
Nintendogs + Cats
This pick doesn’t really need a reason to be on this list, does it? Here we go anyway: Nintendogs + Cats built off the amazing success of the launch-day DS title, by adding new puppies, and kittens. Along with these upgrades, it makes use of the 3DS’ three-dimensional functionality to make your fuzzy friends even more realistic. Did you know that it also uses facial recognition? Meaning your puppies learn your face, and run up when they recognised you – how adorable is that?!
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
Long before the days of the Phantom Thieves on our Switch, we had them on the 3DS in Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth – an adorable, chibi-style RPG that has the cast of Personas 3, 4, and 5 all bundled into one. The story follows Joker and co on a trip to Mementos, where they find themselves transported into a film (hence the cinema title), and must find their way out of the fix they’re in.
Attack of the Friday Monsters
Some may be rejoicing that Attack of the Friday Monsters made it to this list, and others will be thinking ‘what on earth is that?’, well if you’re in the second part, it is a hidden gem that you should play immediately. Only ever released on the 3DS (and still available for a limited time!), this sweet little adventure game has you discovering your new home as Sohta, while battling your new friends and neighbours in card duels. In between these battles, you need to figure out what the weird monsters that appear on a Friday are…
Tomodachi Life is one of Nintendo’s weirder creations. It never got a sequel but provided an odd new style of game for those with a 3DS. Featuring a simulation playstyle, you create your own Mii’s as characters, and monitor their daily life as they make friends, get jobs, and even start a family. In recent years, Tomodachi Life has become a hotbed of meme activity, which feels like something that was almost intended with the game’s release with its silly mini-games and deliberately odd events popping up in each Mii’s life.
Pokemon Ultra Sun & Moon
Pokémon USUM is one of the best entries into the franchise, hands down. No, I won’t be taking questions. A few players took issue with the lack of proper gyms, but the Ultra version added so much more to Alola and its story. The music of the Hawaiian-themed locations is delightful, as are the lush areas surrounding each town. Generation seven’s gimmicks, the Z-Moves and totem Pokémon boss battles, added something new to the age-old formula of turn-based type-matching combat, which complimented the brand new addition of regional forms of some ‘Mon, like Alolan Raichu.
Super Mario 3D Land
Mario and friends had many an adventure on the 3DS, but Super Mario 3D Land stands out as the best. In a tale as old as time, Mario sets out to rescue Princess Peach, who has been somehow kidnapped by Bowser yet again. Super Mario 3D Land is especially creative with its level design and brings in new gimmicks and items to help Mario along, including the Tanooki Suit.
Metroid: Samus Returns
Samus Returns is technically a remake of the Game Boy’s Metroid II, but with a load of new features thrown in along with completely redone graphics, a new control scheme, and more, to earn it a spot on this list. The 3DS title brought in new mechanics to the series like Samus being able to perform a counterattack, and the ability to aim in any direction, instead of a fixed area. Anyone who’s a fan of beating back the Metroids should have this in their collection.
And that’s our list of the best 3DS games! For more of our opinions, check out the best GBA games, the best Switch games for 2023, and our picks of the best Switch RPGs.