With the closure of the 3DS eShop fast approaching, it's got us feeling a little bit nostalgic here at Nintendo Life — particularly for games that we never got our hands on here in the West.
It's a tale as old as time at this point. Many Japan-only games never get localised, and that's been the case for a long time, but the 3DS has some truly special and unique titles that we've been begging for over the years. We've talked about Virtual Console games in Japan before, but now it's time to look and pine after those that were available both on the shelves and on the eShop, but that we were never lucky enough to see get an official English release.
We've selected 13 Japanese-only 3DS games that we're yet to see on our shores — titles that showcase the best and most unique aspects of the console, as well as classics and sequels that entirely skipped us by. Some of these don't require a lot of Japanese knowledge to play, while others might need you to crack out the old translator. (And remember that 3DS games were region locked, so definitely take that into account before hitting your auction site of choice and tracking down any of the games below!)
With that said, here are our picks for some of the best 3DS games that never left Japan:
Maybe one of the best-looking games on the 3DS, Beyond the Labyrinth comes from the team who brought us Valkyrie Profile and the Star Ocean series. This gorgeous dungeon crawler takes place inside an MMORPG, and initially, it is stylised like an 8-bit video game complete with chiptunes. But, soon, you find yourself thrown into a gorgeous, ruin-filled world as you try to help a mysterious girl escape from this 'digital' labyrinth.
Comparisons with Ico are common — from the moss-covered ruins to escorting a young girl around — but Beyond the Labyrinth's unique turn-based combat. Magic is at the core of everything, with a simple rock-paper-scissors style approach, but the girl, while not playable, can assist you as you and your party of four progress. You can manipulate turn order and even use weaker magic if you want a quick-charging attack next round.
For a system bursting at the seams with excellent RPGs, Beyond the Labyrinth still stands out today, and it's a crying shame we never got to experience this beautiful, emotional adventure.
Digimon games are pretty much expected to get worldwide releases nowadays, but back in 2013, Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode was one example that we didn't get our Digidestined hands on.
As an enhanced rerelease of the PSP game Digimon World Re:Digitize, Decode is a clear callback (and direct sequel) to the first Digimon World game on PS1, with a strong story to back it up. You'll explore the digital world as Taiga and his partner Agumon in order to solve the mystery of why Digimon are leaving File Island. The 3DS version adds two extra campaigns and more than doubles the playtime of the PSP version. There are plenty of new Digimon to tame and use, and you can bond with your digital pets by going to the gym and feeding them.
Decode makes the whole Digimon World experience a lot more accessible. You can now track your Digimon's evolutions in a journal, 'Decode' Digimon to make them more powerful, and Bandai Namco listened to lots of fan feedback and made many tweaks. Many fans call Decode the best Digimon World game ever. Which makes it all the more of a shame we never got to try it out ourselves.
"But wait! We have Dragon Quest XI at home!" But not this version of Dragon Quest XI.
Back when Dragon Quest XI was released in Japan in 2017, there were two very different versions of the game — the PS4 release (which is the one we eventually all got), and the 3DS version. And while aspects of the 3DS version such as the 2D Mode eventually came over to the West thanks to the Definitive Edition on Switch, there's so much more that we're missing out on because we never got the 3DS version of the game.
So we might be a bit nostalgic for that low-poly look on the 3DS (Dragon Quest games look so charming in this style), but cutscene direction and pacing are very different. Also, dungeons are designed totally differently and much more compact on 3DS compared to consoles. Towns, the overworld, and basically everything is smaller and sweeter. It feels even cosier than the Switch version if that's even possible.