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...
Azure Striker Gunvolt isn't just a great game; it's something of a revelation, finding an entirely new — and rich — approach to the hardcore-platforming genre. While it makes no secrets of its inspirations, the gameplay itself is unique and anything but superficial comparisons fall away quickly. The core experience is arguably over a bit too easily, but hidden items, unlockable items and skills, level-specific challenges, and a few other surprises make this a game you're more likely to return to than you may think. It may not be a flawless experience, but it's a thoroughly rewarding one.
There's no questioning the quality of Kirby's Adventure: it was one of the NES's standout titles, and every ounce of its charm remains intact today. Hidden exits, fun minigames and fantastic stage design all come together to make this an endlessly replayable experience, but the 3D Classics upgrade doesn't really bring much to the table in addition. In fact, aside from portability, there's really nothing to recommend it over the Virtual Console release, and that's a shame.
Pullblox, deceptively simple as it may seem, features great gameplay, a lengthy main game, a simple to use level creation and sharing tool and, best of all, comes at quite a low price. It's far and away one of the best downloads available on the 3DS eShop and a recommended purchase for anybody.
Gunman Clive 2 successfully avoids the pitfalls that can befall sequels; it offers fresh ideas along with familiar excellence, and provides a notable improvement over its predecessor. Its stylish action platforming - along with dabbles in other approaches - combines with distinguished audio-visual presentation to deliver another gem for the 3DS eShop. We recommend it as a must buy for fans of action platformers, especially those that enjoy retro nods and winks with their modern day experiences - this one's a straight shooter.
In the hands of Mario & Luigi enthusiasts and those up for an epic but light-hearted quest, this is an indispensable must-have for the 3DS. In a universe apart from any other series starring the famous brothers, this once again shows the merits of a studio investing itself whole-heartedly not just in one game, but a whole franchise. It can be a glorious contradiction at times; simple but complex, accessible but lengthy, varied but familiar.
The enthusiasm and unrelenting creativity behind Mario & Luigi: Dream Team means that it flirts with going too far, truly being an adventure for those willing to stick it out over the long haul, which perhaps dents its ability to appeal to all 3DS owners. Yet such is the obvious talent and commitment to the project and its unique style that it's still an adventure worth embarking upon.
BOXBOY! takes a simple idea and extends it beautifully into a cute and challenging puzzle-platformer. Qbby went on to star in two sequels (plus the upcoming Switch adventure BOYBOY! + BOXGIRL!) but this first outing is still a great introduction to the little guy. Its nostalgic, minimalist style may not be for everyone, but it's nevertheless a polished puzzler.
Kirby: Triple Deluxe is a pleasant package that doesn’t push the envelope very far. The Story Mode is an elegant but conservative adventure that trades too greatly in familiarity and simplicity, the same type of neo-nostalgia that Nintendo has seen success with on the Mario side of things. It’s sure to scratch that Kirby itch — or create one for new players — but fails to move the franchise forward in any meaningful direction. However, the rest of the package holds its own quite well: Kirby Fighters is a great time-sink sure to provoke new rivalries among friends, and the post-game content offers a second competitive wind to the adventure. Come for the cute platforming, stay for the battle royale (no, not that type of battle royale).
Ever since Star Fox 64 (or Lylat Wars to us poor Europeans) introduced the Rumble Pak on Nintendo 64, we’ve been waiting for the series to return to the heights it scaled back then. Although subsequent entries have had interesting elements, none have quite captured the formula we fell in love with in 1997. Fortunately, this remaster reminded everyone just how good it can be, now with sumptuous stereoscopic 3D. Of course, we miss the chunky rumble pak and the N64’s peculiar pad, but Star Fox 64 3D is arguably the best way to find out why we still get a tiny buzz from every tired ‘barrel roll’ reference.
With X/Y and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, 3DS already had some excellent Pokémons to its name, but Pokémon Sun and Moon felt like a new start for players who had perhaps fallen off the RPG collectathon bandwagon. With improved character models and customisation, plus the addition of powerful Z-moves, the return of fan-favourite Gen I pocket monsters in new Alolan forms helped enthuse the franchise faithful as well as people who can only reliably recall the first 151. Extra forms, moves and activities in these Ultra editions make them the most ‘complete’ variants. Although it’s a shame we never got to see our favourite monsters in stereoscopic 3D, this is the crème de la crème of traditional-style Pokémon on 3DS.
Simply put, Sun and Moon are some of the best Pokémon games that Game Freak has ever produced. Poké Pelago, the side quests, the absolutely stunning nature of the presentation, it's all a sheer joy from start to finish. Game Freak managed to carefully balance the inclusion of new mechanics without totally ruining things for the most hardcore fans. It's got content coming out of its ears, a much more interesting story than some previous efforts, and it rewards exploration in a way no other title in the series had to that point. Whether you're a Pokémon fan new or old, this is an absolutely essential purchase.