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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Really Not Recommended
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.
"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.