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Feature: Our Top 10 Third-Party 3DS Games - Summer 2013

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Going beyond Nintendo

Last week the Nintendo Life staff voted for their favourite 3DS games at the moment, with retail and download-only titles eligible. Getting in before the swathe of hot releases coming in the next few months — kicking off with Animal Crossing: New Leaf this week — it reflected just how far the system's library had come, with 45 games earning at least one vote.

We were happy that all ten games listed were excellent experiences on the system, but the democratic vote also threw up another pickle; games owned by the majority had a big advantage, which pushed first-party Nintendo must-haves to the fore. Lots of third-party releases got plenty of love, but struggled to consistently accrue votes from the whole team as, ultimately, gamers are generally more picky to their tastes when choosing how to spend money on titles that aren't universal blockbuster hits.

And so, to pay third-party games their due, we've conducted another vote where titles developed and/or published by Nintendo aren't allowed. This is all about developers and publishers of all sizes that have taken to the 3DS to share their creative visions, which is worth celebrating. Once again, retail and download-only games were allowed, with 40 individual games earning at least one vote. We think the winner this time around will be a big surprise, the eShop is well represented, and positions were so closely fought that they led to tied scores.

Without further ado, here are the results.

Published by Atlus in North America, it fell to the developer Agatsuma Entertainment to self-publish as an eShop only title in Europe. This is a retro-style hack-and-slash with some leveling up, various characters and multiple move-sets to enjoy. The story is silly and fun, and it even offers up competitive and co-op online multiplayer, meaning that this is a game that keeps on giving. A treat for retro gamers or those that want a taste of old-school gaming.

And we have more retro-infused gaming, this time in the form of the "12-bit" platformer from Renegade Kid. With tight controls, challenging stages, gorgeous pixel art and a playful use of layers for the 3D effect, this is both fiendish and simple to play. Throw in unlockable stages and additional free content with the "Granny" levels, and this has a lot to offer.

A victory for innovative game design and storytelling, this sequel to DS cult classic 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors delivered complexity and intriguing gameplay. Perhaps better enjoyed after the DS original, this is fully deserving of its top 10 spot, and we can only hope for more projects of a similar nature in the future.

Possibly the highest profile title for the system when it launched in late March 2011, this is a testament to the capabilities of Nintendo's handheld that it's such a faithful reproduction of the home console original. It has online play — though matches with Pro controls are advised to avoid touch screen spammers — and a fun StreetPass trophy battle mode, while Capcom shows off the 3D screen with an alternative viewing angle. One of the best portable fighting games out there.

To say this title divided series fans is an understatement, but enough members of the Nintendo Life team were suitably enamoured for it to score joint 8th place. With classy visuals and a deliberate, immersive combat system, we feel that when taken at face value — rather than fantasizing over a Metroidvania release — this provides an enjoyable action experience. As well as fun gameplay for long spells, it also features some of the best graphical and stylistic uses of the 3D effect to date.

We do like music rhythm games here at Nintendo Life, and this one delivers a lot for fans of the Final Fantasy franchise. With plenty of tracks from throughout the main series, an attractive visual style and plenty of challenge to accompany intuitive stylus controls, this is a top-notch offering. Great for fans of the franchise and even those that aren't.

This placed very highly in some lists, but is perhaps hampered by some members of the team opting for the Wii U version rather than own both. It has everything that the Wii U title has minus online play, though StreetPass Guild Card exchanges are a neat touch. Although an expanded version of a Wii title, this is an epic undertaking that'll test your skills over dozens of hours — utterly compulsive.

Terry Cavanagh has forged a reputation as a master of simple concepts, and this gives the player just one main ability with which to traverse the world — to flip gravity. Clean retro visuals are joined by fiendish difficulty and plenty of scope to explore, while a number of additional levels beyond the campaign ensure that this eShop title can amuse for many, many hours.

This was the first Guild release from Level-5 to make it to the West, and the excitement around that launch — and strong sales to boot — probably secured this title a spot on quite a few lists. A snappy action title, this is a quirky and enjoyable experience, with optional achievements to keep completionists busy as they perfect their runs.

Recently re-released in HD form on the Wii U, when it arrived in early 2012 this was an enticing exclusive on 3DS. Not only does it push the 3DS' graphical capabilities to truly impressive heights, but it blends the action-leanings of the recent titles in the series with moments reminiscent of the good-old days of survival horror. Throw in online co-op in the Raid Mode with an outstanding 3D effect, and this is well worth seeking out.

This scored highly on a few lists, and this launch title perhaps didn't enjoy the sales success at the system's launch that it merited. Don't let the bolting on of Tom Clancy branding fool you, this is a carefully constructed, top notch turn-based strategy title, and even its American shadow squad story is relatively well done. Ultimately, this one is all about the finely tuned gameplay, and it also serves up heaps of content to occupy any gamer for a long time.

This puzzle platformer from WayForward is probably, to date, the highest profile 3DS eShop exclusive since the service launched, with its sequel arriving in the coming days. It lived up to its hype, with various members of the team being big fans of the gorgeous visuals and clever "switch" puzzling mechanic. The developer also released free DLC that fleshed out the content on offer, and it's since arrived on the Wii U eShop as a HD remake.

And so we have a surprise number one, especially as SEGA's own financial reports last year suggested that this struggled to achieve meaningful sales. That's a true shame, as this music rhythm game is outstanding, with diversity in levels, a fantastic soundtrack and a style of presentation that can't fail to charm. Its story also took the rhythm genre beyond simply moving from level-to-level and encouraged exploration, with one or two misguided motion-controlled stages being the only letdown. A delightful experience, and we'd recommend tracking down a copy to anyone.

So there we go, the Nintendo Life team's current 3DS third-party favourites. There were some surprises on there, while some quality titles struggled for momentum due to limited releases or, as yet, the absence of European localisations. As always we want to see your lists and opinions in the comments below, while you can vote on our list in the poll below.

What's your favourite third-party 3DS game so far? (366 votes)

Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure


Mighty Switch Force!


Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D


Resident Evil Revelations


Liberation Maiden




Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate


Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy


Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate


Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition


Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward


Mutant Mudds


Code of Princess


None of the above


Please login to vote in this poll.

From the web

User Comments (110)



Squashie said:

The line-up isn't quite as stellar as the first party titles, however, it's still an interesting affair and it should get better soon.



Marakuto said:

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Resident Evil Revelations are my favourite so far, I pretty much have bought Sega and Capcom games outside of Nintendo first party games more than any other third party for my 3DS.



Netto-kun said:

Well, I just played through Neutral route in Shin Megami Tensei IV yesterday. So picked that over anything on that list (though both MH3U & Theatrhythm come pretty close).



Dizzard said:

My favourite third party 3DS game would be Tales of The Abyss. When Ace Attorney 5 comes out it'll take the top spot though I think.

Not that impressive a top ten....although I would like to give Zero Escape a go at some point.



Oopsiwin said:

From that list my favorite is Resident Evil Revelations, but I have not had the chance to try all of them



sinalefa said:

Two of these sit unopened in my desk, one of them being your number 1 game! The other one is number 4. MSF I got it for Wii U instead, and I plan to do the same with Mutant Mudds.

Of that list, my most played game is Theatrhythm (and I am not a FF fan by any stretch of the imagination) for its soundtrack and tons of achievements, and SSFIV, even if I also have the home version. Special mention goes to Ridge Racer 3D and DOA Dimensions.



Giygas_95 said:

I knew VVVVVV and RE:R would be on this list as they're both great. For some reason, I didn't expect to see Mutant Mudds, but I'd say it deserves it. Love that game. I was also really surprised to see Ghost Recon Shadow Wars which I voted for. Great turn based strategy game. I love the different soldier classes (especially the Recon).

My favorites:

1: Ghost Recon Shadow Wars
2: Nightsky
3: Mutant Mudds
4: Nano Assault EX
5: RE:R
6: Ace Combat: AHL
7: Escape Vektor
8: Bit Trip Saga
10: Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions



Peach64 said:

A top 10 with 13 games :s

Generally, if two things tie for 1st place, the next thing is 3rd.



Tony_342 said:

This is the third or fourth time I've seen an article on the internet referencing Mutant Mudds that used that particular screenshot of the game. It's bugging me, because I've beaten the game five times now, and that screenshot has elements that are completely unfamiliar to me. The torpedo/rocket thing on the right of the picture isn't in the game (as far as I know), and the level design doesn't look familiar at all. If the picture was a bit taller, you'd see golden diamonds, too, which weren't in the final game. I'm really wondering where people are getting that screenshot from. All I can think is that it must be a promotional shot from an unfinished version of the game.



RR529 said:

I'm glad to see Liberation Maiden get some love! Although, Mutant Mudds & SSFIV are overrated, as per usual (it's not that SSFIV doesn't deserve a spot, but DOAD is better in every regard, IMO).

My top ten:

10. Liberation Maiden
9. Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition
8. Cave Story
7. The Denpa Men: They Came by Wave
6. Crimson Shroud
5. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy
4. Dead or Alive Dimensions
3. Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
2. Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
1. Tales of the Abyss



Inev said:

I have Code of Princess and Castlevania, and waiting for E3 to decide whether I'll get MH3U.

CoP is fun, especially with a friend, but it might as well roll the credits once you get the weapon that lets you damage enemies while guarding.

Mirror of Fate is really great, but way too easy! Even on hardcore difficulty, there's almost no challenge.



Justaguest said:

My favourites are Monster Hunter and Virtues Last Reward nothing else here comes even remotely close to those:)



Yoshi3DS said:

i thought/expected monster hunter to get higher. its amazing how long i have been waiting for it.

please use the exchange thread here for requests such as this. thanks. k8smum



Rief said:

Well, i can't name one as number one, but i would prefer some other games like Tales of the Abyss, Professor Layton or Devil Survivor.
So i voted None.



Ralizah said:

VLR really should be higher up... and VVVVVV is included, but no EO4? Awful.



Joe1113 said:




idork99 said:

I chose MH3U solely based on hours played. If the system continues on a good path, more excellent third party games will follow. For being on the market only 26 months, I'd say they have a healthy amount of excellent third party games that are only going to get better with time.



HandheldGuru97 said:

Ah now I see why Theatrhythm wan't on the last list!! In my option that should be higher, but I love the fact that Shadow Wars is up there. Such an under appreciated game. Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure might be my next title after Animal Crossing, looks amazing.



Meaty-cheeky said:

I would like to add some more games to this list.
1. Dead or Alive Dimensions
2. Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
3. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance
4. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy
5. Shinobi



Doma said:

Lets see, checked my Gamefaqs and i own 9 3ds games in total, 3 of which are third-party (i don't bother with eshop btw). My ds collection probably dwarfed this in the same time period but nevermind.

Resident Evil is my only game on the list. Best rated by users here i see.

Damn you however for reminding me of Code of Princess' eshop only BS.



Plutonian said:

I absolutely loved the Rhythm Thief demo, but I couldn't find it anywhere. I also plan on buying Code of Princess soon. But of course I also want Donkey Kong, FE:A and about 10 other games so I actually don't know what I'm going to do. Honestly, with the 3DS I have little time for much else.



Yoshi3DS said:

if anyone is offering me a free monster hunter code...

please use the exchange thread here for requests such as this. thanks. k8smum



Phantom_R said:

Rhythm Thief #1? YOU JUST MADE MY DAY! For all the uncultured troglodytes out there, let me assure you that an evening at the Louvre with the Rhythm Thief will be a life-changing experience. This is simply the classiest gem to ever smack your sad little Nintendo 3DS in its sad little face.

Seriously? Seriously. Phantom R absolutely schools Professor Layton in gentlemanliness every day of the week. And at the very least, it's prime training for the musical adventure that is HarmoKnight.

And Theatrhythm? Eat your tone-deaf rhythmless heart out.



I-U said:

Of the ones I've played on that list, my list would be pretty much flipped except in the case of Code of Princess and Mutant Mudds, so...

1. Mutant Mudds
2. Code of Princess
3. Super Street Fighter IV 3D
4. Liberation Maiden
5. Resident Evil Revelations
6. Mighty Switch Force!

I agree with @RR529 that Dead or Alive Dimensions is better than Street Fighter. Overall though, it does look like there are some third party games I could get into on the 3DS. I have VVVVVV, but have yet to play it.



RevolverLink said:

On one hand, I'm pleasantly surprised that Rhythm Thief took the top spot.

On the other hand, I'm disappointed that VRL wasn't ranked more highly and that, even with 13 spots for 10 games, EOIV somehow failed to make the list entirely.



Gioku said:

I feel really bad now because I own exactly zero of these games...



DarkCoolEdge said:

It really hurts to see Castlevania so low in the chart.

I like Liberation Maiden but it doesn't deserve to be fifth.



citizenerased said:

I miss the quirky titles DS had, like Ghost Trick. Maybe later in its lifetime. Or maybe 3rd party devs have moved onto mobile =/

When I get a 3DS I'll get Virtue's Last Reward. I'll get Renegade Kid's and WayForward's titles on Wii U. Nothing else looks interesting to me, to be honest.



XFsWorld said:

I chose Resident Evil: Revelations, but I understand why Rhythm Thief is number 1, clever game.



SCAR said:

I'm actually very interested in Castlevania, Kingdom Hearts, and Metal Gear, but I don't actually own any 3rd party retail games at the moment, sadly. I've been saving for Wii U games, but the ones I mentioned are the most appealing to me.
I've never played Kingdom Hearts, because it's a PS2 only title, which is keeping me from playing it on a Nintendo system. I have a PS3, but Sony messed up with no PS2 BC using emulation. I've beaten Metal Gear 3 on PS2(I've never owned a PS2), and I tried the demo of Castlevania.
I'm really split right now. I have tons of 3rd party DLC games, though.



nickysilks said:

Castlevania should be much higher on the list. Ic you haven't tried it give it a go-A def 9 out of 10 game!



Kyloctopus said:

10 Fractured Soul
9 Aero Porter
8 Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why Did You Steal Our Garbage?!
7 Splinter Cell 3D
6 Tekken 3D Prime Edition
5 Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure
3 Sonic Generations
2 Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
1 Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward



SamuraiShyGuy said:

SSFIV is such a boring fighter. TvC and Injustice are better by leaps and bounds. My favorite third party games are VVVVVV, Mutant Mudds, RER, and Shadow Wars.



ivanmata said:

Surprising to not see MSG 3D Snake Eater. @Happy_Mask I agree, the controls are easy to get used to, is that the reason they did not include it though?.



Prof_Elvin_Gadd said:

I had to go with Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy in the vote, but RE: Revelations is the best RE game I've played in a long time. It's a pretty amazing 3DS game. The music of Final Fantasy is just too good though.



Xilef said:

MH3U is my favorite right now. Love playing co-op localy with my little brothers. I've missed ou on a lot of 3rd part 3DS games, Code of Rpincess, Rhythm Thief and Theathrythm is on my to-buy list.



Sinister said:

Missing DoA on that list. So far it has been my fav third party game on the 3ds.



Relias said:

I have The Castlevania.. and Liberation Maden looks good.. of Course Atlus is a company I usually follow eventually... Code of Princess will probably get bought soon..



gaby_gabito said:

shouldn't metal gear solid be on the list and shouldn't revelations be closer to the top?



Undead_terror said:

Meh to the list above, I really never played revelations after I beat the story mode I still don't have monster hunter to try out, you would think Mario kart 7 or luigi's mansion would be up there.



MasterWario said:

Is Etrian Odyssey 4: Legends of the Titan not a third party game? That's my favorite.
Neither do I own a single one of those titles above nor do they interest me (except maybe Theatrhythm or VVVVVV).



Freelance said:

Not sure which is my favourite, but my favourite from the above list is Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. Actually, it's either that or Harvest Moon 3D: The Tale of Two Towns.



SheldonRandoms said:

Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure is such an amazing game, but I didn't expect it to be number one at all, it's truly a hidden gem (took me months just to find this game) and should be played because it's one of the best rhythm games out there.



CanisWolfred said:

My only complqaint is that there's no Etrian Odyssey IV, but then it'd need to be a top 11, because all these games are too good. Glad to see Rhythm Thief at the top, too.



Jairo_MC said:

I have all the games on the list!
For me, though, Zero Ecape: Virtue's Last Reward will be the game to beat (probably by Zero Escape 3). It is my overall most played game on the 3DS and I just couldn't put it down until I saw every last ending, good or bad.
I also loved Kingdom Hearts 3D, and was expecting for it to be on the list, but oh well... At least it proves that there are more 3rd party games on the 3Ds than people realize.
This list will only get better when ProjectXZone and Shin Megami Tensei IV launch!



AVahne said:

Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy is actually one of my favorites, though Bamco could've put more time and added online play and free flight to extend the game's life and given it much more value. Wish that they had patched in Japan's CPP support as well.Ended up buying it for $20, which is pretty fair for what the game contains.



Pichuka97 said:

VVVVVV is truly a gem in the 3DS library. The only thing it needs is an update so we can have a level editor. Then we could share our levels like you can in the PC version. Also, where is Cave Story?



ajcismo said:

Tales of the Abyss was a quality port that I really enjoyed. Would've been nice to see that make the list since the 3DS (and Nintendo consoles in general) can always use more Tales games.



shinesprite said:

"Terry Cavanagh has forged a reputation as a master of simple concepts, and this gives the player just one main ability traverse the world — to flip gravity."
I think the word "to" may be a bit out of place.



WinterWarm said:

YES! Liberation Maiden at Number 5! That's currently my favorite eShop title.

I'm also considering buying VVVVVV



Objection said:

Titles not mentioned I'd recommend:
Gunman Clive
Dead or Alive Dimensions
Centipede Infestation



GreenDream said:

For retail, anything Shin Megami Tensei related, I pick over this list. For eShop, Crimson Shroud is my pick.



WaveBoy said:

Mighty Switch Force, RE: Revelations, Rythem Thief(the demo was good fun)
and Mutant Mudds for me.

SSFIV was a let down with it's lifeless people/animal static paper cut outs and it only ran at 30fps(unusual for a fighter) in 3D...But even if these problems didn't exsist, i'd still much rather play SSFII HD remix or SFIII.... VVVVVVV hardly did anything for me(oh i know, i'm totaly in the minority) and the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow demo was HORRID, amazing stereoscopic 3D aside!

Anyways, most of the 3rd party support on the 3DS just doesn't really appeal to me, seems like the only titles i'm getting excited about are titles from the Big N. Maybe if we got a mega man, proper castlevania game, contra, ghost's 'n goblins sequal, anything that harkens back to golden age of gaming i'd be more satisfyed. But i guess this is where the DS comes in, it's got wonderful 3rd party titles.



roryscott said:

I'm so glad that Rhythm Thief got number 1. It is such a good game and I'm happy that people realise that!



GreenDream said:

Rhythm Thief is definitely a good pick. It has this very "Japanese" charm that is unmistakeable, and will never be found in Western titles.



marakassi said:

I voted "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D". Easily my most played game on 3DS (over 60 hours). I am not big fun of wargames, but Ghost Recon is a gem! It is just perfect for handheld game console with two screens.



Aerona said:

After seeing this, I think a lot less of the 3DS' third party support.



seronja said:

my top 10 3rd party games, goes like this:
1. resident evil revelations
2. kingdom hearts 3D
3. super street fighter 4
4. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
5. monster hunter 3 ultimate
6. metal gear solid: snake eater 3D
7. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
8. tales of the abyss
9. heroes of ruin
10. ghost recon: shadow wars 3D



datamonkey said:

The numbering of this "top 10" is shot to pieces!

Anyway my vote goes to Resi Revelations...



dumedum said:

Ghost Recon followed by Revelations and MGS and Castlevania.
The list was pretty strange, especially the top 2 which would not even be in my top 10. And why SF4 and no DoA? Heroes of Ruin also should be on the list.



Spoony_Tech said:

EO4 got the shaft but I did forget it wasn't released in Europe yet so that's a big factor! Otherwise I still wouldn't put and eshop title over retail. Not when I believe more then 10 third party games are better then those. Would've like to see Ace Combat and Tails! Kinda surprised Kingdom Hearts is not there even though I haven't played anything but the demo.




All excellent. Solid list. Have to agree, RHYTHM THIEF is my favourite too, closely followed by SSFIV 3D



Jairo_MC said:

My top 10 3rd party list is:
1 - Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
2- Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
3- Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
4- Resident Evil: Revelations
5- Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
6- Dead or Alive Dimensions
7- Super Street Fighter IV
8- Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate
9- Sonic Generations
10- Code of Princess



MetalKingShield said:

My favourite is Mighty Switch Force, but I'm looking forward to trying Code of Princess and Etrian Odyssey IV as well.



NintyM said:

My vote goes to monster hunter. Fantastic game with depth.As others pointed out before, Dead or Alive dimensions should be on this list. Imo way better than sf4. I also quite like the Zen pinball games.



marakassi said:

Game looks pretty good but I don't own PSP. Do you have any game recommends on Nintedo consoles (turn-based tactics). I haven't play Advance Wars series yet, so it might be my next tactic-move.



Emaan said:

Well this only reminds me how much I need to find myself a copy of Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure.



Gamer83 said:

I'm just going to do a top 5 list, haven't enjoyed enough third party 3DS games to compile 10, but these 5 are some of my favorite games, from any developer, that the system has to offer...

1. Resident Evil: Revelations (my favorite 3DS game, first or third party)
2. Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D
3. Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
4. Mighty Switch Force
5. Dead or Alive Dimensions



BigDaddysPizza said:

Yes sir you can bet Ace Attorney Dual Destinies will be #1 on this list next fall.
No love for Prof. Layton and Miracle Mask? Darn. The Azran Legacies will be on this list too next year.



MitchVogel said:

There's a criminal lack of KH3D in this list. Haha, I'm sorry, but that could've easily replaced any of the eShop titles.



defrb said:

Nice list, thank you.
It would be great when we also get a 3dsware list, a list whit the best 3ds download only ware.



Luffymcduck said:

Mutant Mudds ftw.

So Rhytmn Thief didn´t sell well? That´s a shame as the game ended with a cliffhanger. I hope they make part 2 one day.



Mahe said:

My list so far:
-Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
-Mighty Switch Force
-Gunman Clive
-Mutant Mudds
-Bloody Vampire
-Rhythm Thief

There are others but these sprung to mind first.



QuickSilver88 said:

Ok but not much love for RPG fans with Tales, Etrian O, and Kingdon Harts all MIA. I have to say Shadow Wars was a great game for a launch title. I played that a lot in early months and it is a fine SRPG only topped by FE. I alao ooked Nightsky but wouod have never even known it was good if not for playing it on PC. I do like the list in that some were soewhat unkown to m e so gives me a few to give a try while waiting for new Zelda. Zero's last reward is very hard to find at retail. I got it on Vita because I found it used but recomend it if you want something quirky.

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