As dwindling software sales and a paucity of games on the horizon finally signals the end of Nintendo 3DS' long day in the sun (despite what Nintendo might claim), there's no better time to look back over the extraordinary catalogue of what may well be Nintendo's final handheld-only console.
After a slow start, the portable went from strength to strength and amassed a huge library of quality titles over its eight years. Sure, stereoscopic 3D turned out to be a bit of a non-starter, but the best games made great use of the feature and the ‘New’ hardware variant improved it by tracking your eyes and stabilising the blurry image. Streetpass provided a genuine reason to keep the console on your person at all times and backwards compatibility with original DS carts opened an avenue to another whole console’s worth of fabulous games. If your 3DS is collecting dust in some forgotten cupboard, you owe it to yourself to get reacquainted with the little portable; if you somehow skipped it completely, it's time to snap up some great hardware and software deals while you still can.
So, here we bring you our collection of the top 50 games for 3DS - or more accurately, your collection of the top 50 games for 3DS. As you've probably read in the tagline above, the order here is all down to you lovely people. We've all got our opinions, of course, but we wanted this list to reflect everyone's views on the games - we didn't feel it right for just our team to decide what the 'best' games are, especially with such an embarrassment of riches.
Therefore, the ranking of this sizeable selection is governed by the user ratings for each game on this very site. It will continually evolve to reflect your votes - logged in users can interact and rate the titles directly on these pages by hovering over the rating, or alternatively you can do it from each game's individual page.
Can't see your favourite on the list? Head to our library of 3DS games (click the games tab at the top of the page) and input your own ratings. A game needs a minimum of fifty ratings to become eligible, so it's entirely possible to influence the ranking and get your favourite games onto the list.
Regardless of the order, though, it's an extremely impressive collection. Feel free to check out our 50 best Nintendo Switch games, too, if you're after something a bit more contemporary, but as the sun finally sets on the humble 3DS, let's sit back and enjoy some of the console's highlights...
The final game of the prequel trilogy which began with Professor Layton and the Last Specter on DS, Hershel Layton’s daughter took the limelight in the follow up. This capped the story of the professor and apprentice Luke’s first meeting and exploits, taking them on a globe-trotting adventure and showcasing the best elements of the series. Of course, thanks to backwards compatibility, we’d recommend starting from the beginning if its gentle form of adventure puzzling sounds appealing, but if you’ve only got time for one, you can’t go wrong with Azran Legacy.
Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire seem very similar to Pokémon X & Y, as you might expect, but the story and the environments you encounter feel – despite the fact that they are remakes – very fresh and unique. They’re not an extensive upgrade from their other 3DS counterparts, but any Poké-fan who’s played one of the series remakes in the past knows that expecting an enormous upgrade is a fool’s errand. These titles should be considered as games that belong alongside X & Y, rather than successors. — they've successfully surpassed X & Y, however, by building on the tremendous features available on the 3DS and pushing new ideas such as the Soar ability.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a classic, and this new version is arguably the definitive version. Yes, Bowser's Minions is a harmless but shallow add-on, but the Superstars are the real attraction.
This is a series that has a distinct and special place within Nintendo gaming, and after experimentation and not-always-popular approaches in the 3DS era of games, this takes us back to the IP's roots. What a treat it is, too - funny, smartly designed and pure unpretentious joy, this is a great start point for those that missed the original in the Game Boy Advance era, and should also be tempting to those with fond memories of the adventure.
In conclusion, 3D Streets of Rage 2 is a masterclass in its genre. In its day it was one of the most accomplished and fully featured beat-'em-ups available, with great game balance and spot-on pacing. More than twenty years later it's still a joy to pick up and play; even more so with M2's excellent additions. If you're reliving your youth, you'll find this is one game where rose-tinted spectacles haven't pulled the wool over your eyes. It is as good as you remember. If you're coming at this fresh, we envy you; enjoy every second. Streets of Rage 2 is back with a vengeance and it's thoroughly deserving of your time. A true classic.
It's clear that nothing can ever replace the sublime experience of sitting inside a hulking, moving arcade cabinet, steering wheel shaking and Passing Breeze pumping out of the speakers. But with arcades becoming increasingly rare, the Nintendo 3DS version steps up to the table and makes up for its diminutive size by packing in plenty of extra features, stunning presentation and immaculate controls. (Note: the Ferrari license still doesn't feature) It may have taken the best part of three decades, but M2 has delivered what is quite simply the best ever home version of Out Run. A fantastic version of a timeless classic and another victory punch for Sega's 3D Classics range - 3D Out Run is a beautiful journey that everybody should take.
If you already own or played the DS version, this may not be the reboot you were hoping for. For those coming to the title fresh, however, prepare to be impressed. Even though the game doesn't offer up much of an overhaul, it still remains a stellar, stylish RPG that handily melds strategy and turn-based battle. It's definitely one of the heftier 3DS games out there too, with multiple endings and tons of content to explore.
Mario Kart has been a staple on Nintendo handhelds since the GBA’s Mario Kart Super Circuit, and although the DS version did a marvellous job of giving players the full-blooded 3D experience, 3DS’ extra horsepower made Mario Kart 7 feel more like a home console release than ever before. Bringing back coins during races and introducing vehicle customisation and underwater driving to the series, its excellent stereoscopic 3D once again proved that, in the right hands, the feature could really add some special sauce, helping flesh out the world just that little bit more. Booting it up now makes us miss having the option – roll on Nintendo 3DSwitch! (Calm down, that’s a joke… or is it?)
By the time this sequel arrived, people had come around to Luigi’s Mansion. The GameCube original rubbed those expecting a Mario game at launch the wrong way, but with suitably adjusted expectations most players came to appreciate the beauty and comedy of Luigi’s haunted house exploits. Next Level’s sequel brought to fruition the planned stereoscopic 3D of the original to fantastic effect, making the mansion in Dark Moon really feel like a diorama as the green plumber tip-toes around sucking up ghosts and coins. A port of the original also came to 3DS, and they’re both excellent ways to prepare for the upcoming Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Switch.
Given the game’s relative age, Fantasy Life isn’t the shiniest toy on the 3DS’ shelf, but it just may be the happiest. Providing quality gameplay in both its life sim and action RPG aspects, served up with more colourful wit and charm than anyone could ask for, it serves as a jewel in the crown of a games studio that helped create some of the most memorable role-playing video games ever. It may now be 1-UP Studios, but Brownie Brown hit its marks with Level 5 in this game. As a farewell for the company in its old guise, this was an excellent game for the occasion.
An island-hopping adventure spanning space and time, Dragon Quest VII is a JRPG masterpiece. If you played the PlayStation version back in the day, this is as perfect a remake as you could ask for, with beautiful 3D graphics, a smartly streamlined opening, and lots of welcome quality-of-life updates. And if this is your first time in Estard, you're in for a wonderful surprise — great writing, a fun class system, lovely animations and a stellar soundtrack make for a fully engrossing adventure throughout. It's a massive game, but don't let that scare you off; with short story-style pacing and a huge variety of settings, speech patterns, and scenarios, it feels less like an epic tome and more like a shelfful of storybooks stuffed into a 3DS cart. This is an absolute pleasure, and a must-play for RPG fans.