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

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

7%

Mighty Switch Force!

3%

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D

5%

Resident Evil Revelations

14%

Liberation Maiden

2%

VVVVVV

6%

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

17%

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy

7%

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate

5%

Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition

4%

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

9%

Mutant Mudds

4%

Code of Princess

2%

None of the above

13%

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