The best Nintendo 3DS games

The writing had been on the wall since the Switch was released, but Nintendo finally made it official: the 3DS has been discontinued. For 30 years, Nintendo maintained both a console and a separate handheld system, but with the Switch serving as both, there was no longer a need for two different devices. So the lineage that started with the Game Boy in 1989 ended – or at least merged with the same lineage that the Nintendo Entertainment System launched in 1985.

The 3DS got off to a rocky start in 2011, but quickly became a worthy successor to the DS, which is still one of the biggest hits in gaming history. Nintendo released exclusively for the 3DS, and the small, compact system also received quality ports of games originally (and sometimes even concurrently) released for the Wii U. It’s also where Nintendo’s budding relationship with indie developers really took off, though; so many weird and unexpected gems have been released digitally for the 3DS, foreshadowing the cornucopia of goodness that is the Switch.

Yet no one knows how to make games for Nintendo consoles the way Nintendo does. As you’ll see below, the best 3DS games all come from Nintendo. Almost every major Nintendo series had a major episode released on the 3DS. Two series in particular, Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing, have exploded in major fashion on the 3DS, with the former finally becoming a major player in the West after nearly 30 years, and the latter setting the world up for the full-fledged phenomenon that Animal Crossing: New Horizons became earlier this year.

With the 3DS finally officially moving beyond gaming, let’s take a look back at the best the system had to offer. Here is DoughThe 10 favorite Nintendo 3DS games from .


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It seems odd that Nintendo’s best would come together to do battle on such a small scale. Smash Bros. is supposed to be huge. He always projected Nintendo’s history as broadly as possible, trawling through the past and projecting it onto my TV screen as a blind testament to the very concept of video games. It’s more than just a cathedral of nostalgia, however, powerfully recontextualizing those references into a cohesive picture that encompasses the company’s entire video game history. It makes the thought of Mario, Link, and Samus occupying the same world, something that once seemed impossible and pointless, feels as natural and even thrilling as some of their own individual adventures. Now it even nods to notable non-Nintendo outliers such as Pac-Man, Sonic, and Mega Man, expanding its already massive reach from Nintendo to the entire root system of Japanese video games. It does all of this perfectly well on the big TV in my living room, the one big enough for friends to sit and watch while collectively brutalizing each other, the one whose changing colors turn those friends’ faces into a kaleidoscope of masks. when the lights are out.—Garrett Martin



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When the 3DS stumbled in March 2011, it was the prospect of a new Mario Kart game that caught the attention of many non-believers and gave the system a second chance. The perspective behind the series’ back was the perfect showcase for the system’s vaunted autostereoscopic visuals. But even after the graphical novelty wore off, there was a solid racing game under the pizzazz, featuring some of the best original tracks in any Kart (Rainbow Road on the moon!) and past favorites (Waluigi Pinball needs its own game). Its online community has remained vibrant for more than five years.—Jon Irwin



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As I get older, my thirst for virtual death and destruction diminishes. I can only roam the rubble of so many apartment buildings in apolitical shooters steeped in politics to the core before I feel like that guy at the bar who can’t let his senior year pass. How about a game where we see what happened in this building before the end of the world? Maybe it was a bit like Tomodachi’s life, where friendly Miis of diverse backgrounds occupy an apartment building on a private island? This weird little game basically simulates what it’s like to be rich, as all you do is hang around, shop, and earn money doing nothing. Nintendo has received some well-deserved criticism over the lack of same-sex relationships in Tomodachi’s lifebut despite this bad decision and Nintendo’s tone-deaf response TomodachiThe laid-back pace and goofy charm of is something this industry needs more of. It is animal crossingthe odd second cousin, with cartoon versions of my actual crew instead of fussy mice. The stakes are fun and those stakes are high.—Garrett Martin



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Oddly enough, Super Mario games that actually have 3D in their name—3D Super Mario Land and Super Mario 3D World– don’t partake in the new freedoms offered by 3D platforming as much as the other five games on this list. Levels are generally more linear than the open-world areas you’ll find in games like super mario galaxy and Super Mario Sun. Think of it as almost a bridge between traditional side-scrolling Mario games and full 3D open-world games in the vein of Super Mario 64. 3D earth was the first of these two, and remains a fun, well-designed, and impressive game.—Garrett Martin



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Tragedy falls on both sides of this war, no matter what you or your hero does. Friends and family die or retire permanently with regularity. fire emblem is both an adorable game about cute anime kids becoming friends and lovers, and also one of the cruelest and most unforgiving virtual death marches you’ll ever play. Don’t hold all this death against Fates: it is the birthright of the game.—Garrett Martin



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Rusty Slugger is your ordinary baseball dog turned business owner. But he fell on hard times. His wife left him. He needs business to take over to feed his puppies at home. This is where you come in. His merchandise? Practice baseball mini-games like hitting a cage and lining up balls on the ground. The “real deal” comes in the form of negotiating with the poor hitter for cheaper prices, which means you buy each game for less real money if you manage to haggle. Rusty’s is that rare free-to-play experience that never feels exploitative and where payment is part of the actual game. It doesn’t hurt that each mini-game is polished, fun, challenging, and hilarious. Please, I’m begging you: Play this game.—Jon Irwin



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For many players Super Mario or one of its many sequels is the ur-videogame, the first brush with a controller, the most basic building block of an entire multi-billion dollar industry. The ability to play with our most powerful memories and experiences is haunting and almost unthinkable, but it is the heart of Creator of Super Mario. It’s exactly as good and as bad as you think a Super Mario level editor would be, and it’s entirely up to your own thoughts and opinions.Garrett Martin



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This “reinvention” of Metroid II: Return of Samus bears clear hallmarks of that Game Boy original, notably in that it focuses on hunting and destroying a specific number of Metroids. It’s so far removed from that game, however, in terms of structure and how to play it, that it seems unfair to call it a remake. Basically, it takes a handful of ideas from a game released in 1991 and expands them to create something that feels fresh and vital in 2017. The most crucial addition is a parry counterattack that looks nothing like what you’ve never done in a Metroid game before. .—Garrett Martin



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Before breath of the wild, The Legend Zelda had felt trapped by its own story for years. 2013 a link between worlds tackles this story head-on, but somehow creates a more fulfilling and surprising identity than any Zelda released between Wind Waker and breath of the wild. He could have the same card as A link to the past, the same aerial perspective and the same weapons and archetypes that appear in every Zelda. It’s not the same as any Zelda you’ve played before, as even this reliable good series is rarely as elegantly designed as a link between worlds.—Garrett Martin



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The most beautiful thing about Animal Crossing: New Leaf is – depending on your actual schedule, your emotional means, your ego’s appetite – the game conforms. It will read to you like a fortune teller and eerily predict your needs and wants. The game, for you, might score a 2 or a 10. Because, you see, the thing about heaven is that it’s what you want it to be.Jenn Frank

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