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Features: Nintendo 3DS Launch Game Buyer's Guide

Posted by James Newton

Every game reviewed, rated and ranked

So you've got yourself a spanking new 3DS console, but which of the currently available games is worth your money and which should you avoid?

If you're lost in a sea of three-dimensional decisions, fear not: our 3DS reviews are here to help you make the right choice.

We have in-depth reviews of ALL 18 3DS games currently available in Europe and North America, so we proudly present to you our guide to all things 3DS.

The Must Buys

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These games stand out as the cream of the first 3DS crop, with the most content, the best use of the 3DS's features and some of the most fun you'll have with your new console.

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition — 9/10

Capcom's legendary fighter arrives on 3DS with all the content from its HD console counterpart intact: 35 characters and online multiplayer sit alongside new features like the impressive 3D Dynamic View, customisable touchscreen controls and the StreetPass figurine battle mode too. Our Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition review summed it up like so:

Video game fans have waited a long time for a portable fighting game experience that could actually live up to the standards of those found on the current home consoles, and thanks to Capcom, that day has finally arrived.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D — 9/10

The quality of Ubisoft's strategic title came as a real surprise to many, and although it doesn't boast the greatest graphics or the most impressive use of 3D, it's a solid tactical experience and a lengthy one at some 30 hours long. There's nothing else like it in the console's launch line-up, so if you're a fan of the genre we highly recommend you grab this one post-haste, as our Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3DS review states:

Shadow Wars is without a doubt one of the most robust titles on offer for the launch of the 3DS. The negatives are few and relatively minor: the storyline and characters are forgettable, the multiplayer is a little clumsy and the visuals could be better. However, the developers have done a superlative job of creating a turn-based strategy game that can, conceivably, be appreciated by newcomers to the genre as well as experienced strategists.

Nintendogs + Cats — 8/10

Cat and dog lovers will find plenty to love in this follow-up to sales behemoth Nintendogs. There haven't been too many huge changes since the DS original, but with Augmented Reality features, greatly improved graphics, StreetPass functionality and more, it's worth a look if you're into animals, as our Nintendogs + Cats review explains:

Nintendogs + Cats is most successful when lovingly recreating the personalities of its animal stars, and even though isn't the quantum leap forward some will want, it'll likely be the pet simulator to beat over the 3DS's lifespan.

Pilotwings Resort — 8/10

Nintendo's flagship first-party title is a budding pilot's dream, with 30 challenges to take part in around Wuhu Island. Hang gliders, jet planes and rocket belts all feature in a range of missions, and our Pilotwings Resort review explains more about the game and its finer points:

At its core the majority of the game is still just basically flying around the island, but there's enough variety between the various missions to keep things fresh and enough unlockable goodies to keep you coming back for more.

Super Monkey Ball 3D — 8/10

Sega's spherical simians keep up their high profile on Nintendo systems with a well-rounded effort on 3DS. The traditional puzzles still shine, either with the Circle Pad or gyroscopic controls, and two minigames survive in the form of Monkey Fight and Monkey Race. Our Super Monkey Ball 3D review sums it up succinctly:

The game's toned down difficulty does open up the game to a much wider audience, but it will ultimately be the flashy 3D visuals and fun multiplayer action that really pulls people in. Super Monkey Ball 3D might not be perfect, but its enjoyable moments end up far outweighing its few minor deficiencies.

Worth Investigating

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If the five games above don't take your fancy — or, if you're really lucky, you own them already — then the next set of picks can still provide plenty of enjoyment if you approach with your eyes open.

Ridge Racer 3D — 7/10

Namco Bandai's iconic sideways-racer comes to 3DS with plenty of the over-the-top drifting that makes the series so enjoyable, with classic courses and some impressive use of 3D. It's hardly innovative and the lack of online multiplayer is a blow, so make sure you read our Ridge Racer 3D review for the full picture:

There will unquestionably be better racers on the 3DS – heck, we’d be willing to bet that there will be a superior instalment of Ridge Racer within two years or so – but for now, this will prove enough to keep dedicated petrol-heads contented, so long as expectations are kept to a reasonable level.

Rayman 3D — 7/10

Ubisoft's limbless hero crops up again, this time in a far better effort than 2005's Rayman DS. Fans of 3D platformers aren't exactly spoilt for choice currently, but even so this capable conversion of the 1990s original is worth a play, says our Rayman 3D review:

Ultimately, Rayman 3D might not be the complete reworking that some fans had hoped for, but it is a solid portable version of what remains one of the better 3D platformers. There are a few minor issues here and there, like the somewhat average visuals and a camera that doesn't always cooperate, but for the most part the game still manages to capture the majority of the magic from its earlier console days.

Steel Diver — 6/10 (European release: 6th May 2011)

A submarine game that began its journey on the original DS, it's finally docked with 3DS and although it has its flaws, it's got its charms too. It's fun while it lasts, but that may not be as long as you'd want: our Steel Diver review sums it:

Steel Diver is easily one of the more creative titles in the initial 3DS lineup and offers a nice glimpse of the type of innovative gaming experiences the system has to offer. Unfortunately it feels at times like the developers spent too much time on the actual gameplay ideas themselves and not enough time surrounding those ideas with content: it just doesn't have enough bang for your buck.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D — 6/10

The world's first three-dimensional football game, this is certainly a graphically impressive effort from Konami that, like many 3DS games so far, falls short in the content stakes. Our Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D review hits the back of the net:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D nails the on-pitch action but lets itself down with a limited feature set. If you absolutely have to have a kick about in 3D this is currently your only option as the world's first 3D football game, but be aware of all the missteps such a title carries with it.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars — 6/10

Another blocky outing based on the intergalactic adventures of George Lucas's imagination, this is solid in some areas but features no co-operative play and has a few irritating bugs too. We built our LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars review on phrases like this:

In a word: disappointing. What we have here is a fun game that, with a bit of polish and a few extra features could have been something truly special.

Rabbids 3D — 6/10 (North American release: 10th April 2011)

Known as Rabbids Travel in Time 3D in some territories, this isn't the usual minigame outing for the bonkers bunnies, instead it's a half-decent 2D platformer. As our Rabbids 3D review says:

A solid, enjoyable 2D platformer particularly suited to less experienced gamers. There is, however, a sense of missed opportunity: the level design is often disappointing, with only the occasional creative spark brightening the experience.

Approach With Caution

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Of course, not all the release games can be worth your time and money, and the following titles come with warnings attached. They may be deficient in important areas, so read the linked reviews and make an informed decision before removing those crinkly notes from your wallet.

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles — 5/10

A disappointing entry in Tecmo Koei's long-running feudal series, this features an interesting combat system that's bogged down in uninteresting periphery: poor artificial intelligence, dodgy camera control and a nonsensical plot limit this to hardcore fans only. Our Samurai Warriors: Chronicles review slices right to the point:

There are a lot of missed opportunities here, as strategic troop planning could have added a lot of depth to the title. Sadly though, you can do pretty well in the game by simply running around and mashing the attack button at anything that moves. That is after all what the franchise is best known for, and in this case, that is probably not a good thing.

Madden NFL Football — 5/10

Engage in a spot of gridiron action with EA's first sporting effort on 3DS, which fumbles in key areas with an under-developed franchise mode and no multiplayer features. Read up on our Madden NFL Football review before attempting to throw your money to the nearest cashier:

The core gameplay is fundamentally solid and filled with potential, but it seems like the developers gave up at halftime instead of pushing through to the end. The end result is a featureless title that feels like a demo of things to come instead of a full $40 retail release, and the lack of multiplayer is a glaring oversight.

Asphalt 3D — 5/10

Gameloft's mobile racer makes its first move onto 3DS but it's a disappointing effort: although the career mode is lengthy and engaging, the graphical engine isn't up to the task and the handling is shaky. Driving fans would be better served seeking out Ridge Racer 3D, as our Asphalt 3D review suggests:

Asphalt 3D’s flaws are mostly minor but there are too many to ignore, and it doesn’t have enough of its own personality to make amends. Its twitchy handling does it no favours – half the fun of powersliding is wrestling control back from your car, but here the cars all bounce back to a central position as if spring-loaded.

Bust-a-Move Universe — 5/10 (European release: 22nd April 2011)

Known as Puzzle Bobble Universe in Europe, this is a mediocre version of one of the great puzzle concepts and another victim of 3DS-launch-game-itis: a lack of content and features to keep you playing after the initial 3D novelty has worn off. Or, in the words of our Bust-a-Move Universe review:

Bust-A-Move Universe is a very thin package that feels almost aggressively old-school through its distinct lack of features. While the core game is addictive as ever, the puzzles end too soon and the rest of the content is so underwhelming that you’ll wonder how much time it actually spent in the kitchen.

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We'd only suggest you play the games below this line if you're absolutely desperate for something new to play on your 3DS and you've already exhausted all other possibilities, including reading all the hints from the bird in 3DS Camera and Audio. Approach the below games with extreme caution.

Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D — 4/10

"Hey wow, it's dinosaurs in 3D." That's probably one of the nicest things you can say about this game, as it features shallow combat and even shallower exploration sections. Our Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D review spells out the terrifying truth:

Dinosaurs are awesome, but you wouldn't really know from playing Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D. Kids and kids-at-heart may get a thrill out of seeing dinosaurs kinda-sorta duke it out in 3D, but the game itself fails to offer much beyond its really simple structure and fight mechanics, both of which get old just a little too quick.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 3D — 4/10 (North American release: 10th April 2011)

Sam Fisher is back again in a portable version of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory — yes, another one — that also contains elements of Splinter Cell Conviction. Unfortunately it's let down by a poor control scheme and the removal of content that lifted the original above its peers. Our Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 3D review review takes the direct approach:

Splinter Cell 3D's main problem is that it feels like a missed opportunity. There are moments when you get a grip of the controls, shoot out a light and creep up on an enemy, all viewed in a nice 3D effect. These moments are few and far between, as the annoyingly difficult and complex controls often mean that you fail to execute the missions as planned. Add the complete lack of additional modes and content from the original title and this screams of a rushed port.

The Sims 3 — 3/10

The consistently popular life simulator comes to the third-dimension but it's hardly a beautiful baby: poor graphics, terrible bugs and a lack of locations to explore and things to do consign this to the bottom of the 3DS barrel. Our The Sims 3 review calls it how it is:

The Sims 3 is a strong contender for the title of ‘Worst 3DS Launch Game’. It has a sickening amount of bugs, is unfinished and reeks of a game that has been rushed for launch.

Of course, this is just a round-up of the first games available for 3DS: Nintendo Life will continue to review all the biggest releases for Nintendo's gleaming handheld, so keep checking back to read the latest 3DS news and reviews.

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User Comments (66)

DazzaAdmin

#4

Dazza said:

I have to say that Pilotwings Resort has been my favourite launch 3DS game. The depth of 3D effect is brilliant and I just find myself going back to this game time and time again to unlock everything.

I'm tempted to check out Ghost Recon this weekend. That does look superb!

Highwinter

#6

Highwinter said:

Good list, though I'm not sure I'd agree that any of the titles are really 'must haves'. Dead or Alive or Zelda are the ones I'm really waiting for but I'm enjoying Ridge Racer until then.

iphys

#8

iphys said:

Out of curiosity, will 3DS retail game reviews be a common feature at NL, or once the 3DSWare starts coming out will the reviews mainly be for that instead? We usually don't get treated to this many reviews for retail games here, except the Nintendo-published ones are pretty religiously reviewed it seems.

CorbsAdmin

#10

Corbs said:

Digital downloads are and likely always be our main focus. But we'll try to cover as many retail titles as we can. And we cover all first-party retail titles. :D

HanuKwanzMasBif

#12

HanuKwanzMasBif said:

I'm definitely getting SSFIV 3D Edition with my 3DS. It may take me a few weeks longer to save up for, but it's worth it.

DestinyMan

#14

DestinyMan said:

Out of those games, there's four that I hope to own in the near future, them being Pilotwings Resort, SSFIV, Rayman, and Rabbids.

prowlrx

#15

prowlrx said:

Samurai Warriors is my favorite, even though you guys gave it a bad review ):

Traxx

#16

Traxx said:

This guide is not taking into account there wont be many new releases in certain genres for the next couple of months.
That said, I dont see why PES or Ridge Racer are not must buys for the time being, if you are into football or racing. The gampelay of both games is there and intact. SMB3D on the other side suffered from gameplay downgrading AND lacks content.

I think there are only 3 games the 3DS currently has to offer providing real high class gameplay, that might appeal to people who are not very enthusiastic about the genres: Street Fighter, Pilotwings and (of all you hear about it:) Ghost Recon.

J-Forest-Esq

#17

J-Forest-Esq said:

I could only afford Ridge Racer and so far it's pretty good. Within the next week or two I'm aiming to get Pilotwings and maybe a bit of Street Fighter on the side.

Supremeist

#18

Supremeist said:

I already ordered Street Fighter from Amazon, should be here Tuesday. Today I'm going to Gamestop and picking up Pilotwings Resort. Then I will wait for better games to come out(: I think most people picked up Street Fighter, Pilotwings, and Nintendogs + Cats.

Kid_A

#19

Kid_A said:

Pilotwings is my favorite title so far as well. Easy to pick up, impossible to put down.

JohnDoe123

#20

JohnDoe123 said:

I need a new 3DS game. I'm waiting for Lego Pirates 3D. I'm very interested in Pilotwings, but I'll most likely wait for the price to drop.

Samholy

#22

Samholy said:

nice list. very informative, every good and bad points are well described.
Great reviews.
you guys convinced me buying street fighter, and i really dont regret it. its fun and has a long life ahead.

ThomasBW84Admin

#24

ThomasBW84 said:

I think, overall, the launch line up is pretty good; some other console launches have been thinner on the ground in terms of good titles, in my opinion. There's real variety, and although some games are re-makes or ports, doesn't mean they're not fun to play.

My main three games are Ridge Racer, Street Fighter 4 and Ghost Recon, and I'm enjoying all three. The great thing is that I can move between them and play the game relevant to my mood; Street Fighter gets brought out after a tough day! Also, I'd never previously owned a Ridge Racer title, and my last street fighter game was Street Fighter 2 on the Megadrive; so these are fresh experiences for me.

If money were no object I'd get Pilotwings and Pro Evo as well, but expenses like food and bills keep getting in the way...

TheBaconator

#25

TheBaconator said:

I'd say the only "must buys" in my opinion are SSFIV and...That is all. It is the only launch title I have played for a reasonable amount of time out of the 3 I own. In fact, I played Pokemon White for a longer time in one sitting than for the total time I played my other 2 games. ( I do like Steel Diver, though. I'd rather play Pilotwings 64 than Resort.)

HandheldGuru97

#27

HandheldGuru97 said:

Thank goodness I got three of the must buys: Super Street Fighter IV 3D, Pilotwings Resort and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D. And I can safely say they are some the best games in launch, go buy them if you have money left and want some thing to last, this doesn't count for Pilotwings.

potomas

#29

potomas said:

This is the only place i have seen a good super monkey ball review.Pro evo and ridge racer are must buys

Hokori

#30

Hokori said:

:O thats a lot of great titles for a system that had no great titles for launch

hray95

#31

hray95 said:

I'm trying to decide between Ridge Racer, Super Monkey Ball, and Rayman 3D. Which one should I get? I am somewhat concerned because I heard Monkey Ball is really short.

HandheldGuru97

#32

HandheldGuru97 said:

@hray95
I don't have any of the those titles but if I were to get one I would get Ridge Racer, because I have heard good things about it but if you want a fun enjoyable game get Monkey Ball, it may be short but from what I have heard it is fun.

daznsaz

#33

daznsaz said:

ive been playing ghost recon for 20-30 hours and only 13% complete if you want long lasting and immersive get it dazza

PhillaLoup

#35

PhillaLoup said:

NO WAY SUPER MONKEY BALL IS A MUST-BUY! That game is horrible, loveless and way too short...

D33G

#36

D33G said:

i'd say that Steel Diver is a recommended. Other than that, good list.

MasterGraveheart

#37

MasterGraveheart said:

I was gonna go grab Pilotwings Resort today, but dang, Shadow Wars 3D is looking... pretty darn good lately... and so has Monster Tale, even though that's not a 3DS game... wow... maybe I need to think this one through...

CorbsAdmin

#38

Corbs said:

@GonzoMontana - How long did it take you to beat Super Monkey Ball 3D? I personally have spent far more time with it than any of the other launch games and I've quite enjoyed it! :D

Squiggle55

#39

Squiggle55 said:

i only have street fighter and ghost recon and I am more than satisfied. I can certainly recommend both to everyone.

Spoony_Tech

#40

Spoony_Tech said:

I've now got 6 3ds game (yes I'm sick). Street fighter 4 pilot wings ridge racer and ghost recon were my launch day titles. I love them all and have played about equal time with all. Maybe a little bit more for shadow wars though since its more time consuming. Yesterday game stop got there first 3ds used game so I couldn't resist. It was buy two used get one used free. I got Lego star wars two other DS games for my son and picked up steel diver as well. Lego star wars is a blast and I would recommend it to any Lego or star wars fan. Steel diver I'm still on the fence with. I've only really had time to play the parascope mode and really like it but the fun doesn't last long there. It does seem really short but at least you have three different subs with varying levels to chose from!

LEGEND_MARIOID

#42

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Very, very satisfied with my 3DS software purchases and I love the in-built features of the 3DS too. Its been brilliant for me so far.

I got Pilotwings Resort, Super Monkey Ball and SSFIV on launch day and really like them all. Super Monkey Ball is fantastic and has a lot of replay value IMHO.

I then got Ridge Racer just recently and that is quite good too. Solid arcade racer that is occupying and sort of keeps me motivated. Not as good as the other three I mentioned, but good nonetheless. I think that just scrapes an 8 for me, but only just. Corbs' revw was more spot on than the over-enthusiastic ONM and N-Gamer revws, however.

Face Raiders and the AR cards are great, The whole QR coding and scanning and the intuitive mii creator with extra facial features is brilliant and quite addicting too!

Overall good launch line up, a few disappointments, but a fair number of good games. :-)

TeeJay

#43

TeeJay said:

So...glad....that I backed out of my Sims 3 preorder! D:
I didn't get any of the games that were ranked 9/10, though. Oh well. I'll just wait patiently for the truly epic games to be released, like Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 3DS, and Super Mario 3DS! Not to mention Paper Mario.

Despair1087

#44

Despair1087 said:

i got pilot wings and street fighter on launch.

i'm ashamed to say the only reason i got street fighter was because of the cool 3D boxart. (you guys know what i mean) i suck at it, and i only play as ryu lol.

SwerdMurd

#45

SwerdMurd said:

I liked Pilotwings....I just wish there would've been a little more. The core gameplay was fun, but I found it just a little too easy.

Overall I'd have to say that Monkeyball and Shadow Wars are probably tied for my favorite launch games...Monkeyball's 3D is just insane. SF4 is almost good....There's just no good method of control (Slidepad is too inexact to perform any of the moves and D-pad is too clicky and short-throwed to pull them off repeatedly) and the touch buttons kind of mask the problem and remove a lot of the skill needed to do well. Overall I'd say the button layout is the main culprit there...and online lag. Still a fun game though...

Kinda lucked out that I bought 4 of the 5 must-owns before these reviews came out!

k8sMum

#46

k8sMum said:

no game is a 'must buy' if one doesn't care for the genre...for instance: i would rather have my left hand chopped off than play a sports game (and i am a left-handed artist).

nintendogs & cats! really...what is that much different from all the other incarnations?

for those who love the games in this launch, great. but it really is disappointing to some of us.

nicknintendo68

#47

nicknintendo68 said:

hehe i got that top of the list game today and i love it :P and my mom bought rayman for a easter gift to me :P street fighter will hold me over till i get that game haha

CorbsAdmin

#48

Corbs said:

I'm definitely picking up Rabbids Travel in Time 3D tomorrow. I can't pass up a platformer. :D

lex0plex

#53

lex0plex said:

AWESOME! haha I like the choice of pictures under each category header.

...Although, it feels like this list is a little off, at least with my opinions about a few of these games.

gojiguy

#54

gojiguy said:

Ridge Racer is solid. SFIV 3DE isnt bad either. But its no TvC thats for sure.

still dont get the SW hate. Nintendolife gave a glowing review of SW3

StarDust4Ever

#56

StarDust4Ever said:

So The Sims took the bottom of the barrel this time. I bought Pilotwings Resort and Ramond 3DS. I also plan on getting Nintendogs+Cats for my fiance at a later date. ;)

CerealKiller062

#57

CerealKiller062 said:

Still holding out for some of the 64 remakes. Though I might get both Super Street Fighter 4 and Super Monkey ball before the launch. Don't get me wrong, 3 weeks of AR Games still is just as impressive as the first time I played them.

mariosonic1

#58

mariosonic1 said:

I would gotten SF IV on Released day,but we got 3 3DS so I didn't get a game.Though I MIGHT get SF IV someday.

Tate24

#59

Tate24 said:

I personal think samurai warriors should got 8 its totality and well worth your time. :-)

Chris720

#61

Chris720 said:

I dunno what's wrong with Asphalt 3D... I've played it for ages and its a lot of fun to play and haven't found any realy problems with it. Splinter Cell is pretty poor, the controls are all over the show.

KrazyKain

#62

KrazyKain said:

unfortunately not a single game I am interested in...

Will have to wait for resi mercenaries :D

cheapogamer4life

#63

cheapogamer4life said:

Thinking about getting SFIV for a good online game, Rayman 3d cause ive never played that one before, and PES 2011 as a free game from GS whenever they have there annual buy 2 get one free deal on their used games. That way i'll be able to afford one newly released awesome up coming game plus the system all in one purchase. :)

X-145

#64

X-145 said:

I got street fighter 4 (With my 3DS on launch week) and I love it!
My Mom got me Asphalt and Steel diver for Easter. I didn't even open them. She said I could trade them in for other games. Ashpalt has too risky a score for me to try and Steel Diver seems extremely boring, from the dozens of videos I'v seen.
I'm definatly getting Ghost Recon (it looks and sounds awesome), and I'm torn between Pilotwings, Ridge Racer, and Super Monkey Ball. I'm looking for a game, of these 3, with lots of content and has lots of life...

Resident

#65

Resident said:

Ridge Racer is great fun! I'm a fan of the series so I may be a little biased but yeah, it's currently the only game I own for the 3DS, although I recently got Pro Evo and Splinter Cell from LoveFilm. Pro Evo was good fun but I mainly only play football games 2player when a mate is round, so don't think it's worth it for me. I love the Splinter Cell games and my favorite was Chaos Theory on Xbox so yeah, I was SO disappointed with this port.. It's TERRIBLE! Controls are flat-out annoying, the sound is shakey and often overlaps itself and it's just all around a bad version.

Definitely interested in SSFIV and Monkey Ball, might give Pilot Wings a bash too.

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