Japan-only 3DS games Dragon Quest Yo-kai Puyo Puyo
Image: Nintendo Life

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:

Beyond the Labyrinth (3DS)

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 World Re:Digitize Decode (3DS)

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.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (3DS)

"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.

The lovely Jon has gushed about this version before, and we'll continue to gush over it too, even if it's vanishingly unlikely we'll ever see this release in English.

Time Travelers (3DS)

Ahh, Level-5. A developer that is now synonymous with "games that don't release in the West". And 3DS "without a genre" game Time Travelers is one such adventure.

Looking at it, it's hard to believe this is a 3DS game from 2012 — its cinematics are stunning to look at, and the 3D character models are incredibly detailed. Playing it, it feels like you're interacting and participating in a TV show, watching the events unfold and making split-second choices to help determine which path you take, or sometimes, whether a character lives or dies.

Luckily, as the name implies, there's time travel! The main character is Mikoto Shindo, and she's a teenager who can travel through time. She's trying to gather other time travelers to prevent a second disaster from taking place — something similar, and worse, to the "Lost Hole" event that wiped central Tokyo off the map. It's an engrossing premise and a heck of a looker to boot, and we want to get hooked on this one. But, over 10 years later, we're still waiting to see this one make a comeback.

Touch Detective Rising 3: Does Funghi Dream of Bananas? (3DS)

We got the first two Touch Detective games in the West on the DS, but the 3DS entry, Touch Detective Rising 3: Does Funghi Dream of Bananas?, is still stuck across the pond.

Rina Ozawa, or Mackenzie as she's known here, returns with her mushroom pet in order to solve mysteries and beat "the world's greatest detective" Shiro Tachi. The third game is pretty similar to the first two entries — you click around, present evidence, and make your way through the story through five separate 'episodes'. You and your Funghi friend will need to present evidence to people in order to progress. The big new addition here is the Rewards System, which lets you unlock hidden extras by completing objectives. Its cutesy art style and amusing sense of humour makes it one of the lighter mystery games on the 3DS

This one's a little easier to get hold of if you can read Japanese — the game is part of a Switch compilation with the first two called Touch Detective: Rina and the Funghi Case Files — so surely there's a chance, here that we'll see it in the West soon.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3 (3DS)

This is another one that's a bit weird to us given that both previous Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker games got worldwide releases. But perhaps that's because of hindsight — Dragon Quest is more popular than ever in the West nowadays, which means we're all the sadder that Joker 3 is missing from our libraries.

It's probably because this gem launched on the 3DS in 2016, the year before the Switch launched, and Dragon Quest XI was only a couple of years away for the West. But Joker 3 brings some much-needed additions to the Monsters subseries. You can now ride on any monster you collect throughout the game. Each monster specialises in one of three transportation modes — land, air, or sea — and you can quickly travel across the world on whatever your chosen steed. There are also more monsters than ever before in Joker 3, many from Dragon Quest X (another title we're desperate to see, which also could've made this list, but that offline Switch version is our best hope at this point).

The Joker series might be over now, but a nice little compilation for the Switch would be rather lovely, we think. Especially with how lovely and charming Treasures is.

Yo-kai Sangokushi (3DS)

Whatever Pokémon can do, Yo-kai Watch can do — perhaps better. Sort of. Yo-kai Sangokushi isn't quite a simple Nobunaga's Ambition crossover game, rather it serves as a celebration of Romance of the Three Kingdoms' 30th anniversary. But Nobunaga does play a part.

In this strategy RPG, you can pick between three Yo-kai — Jibanyan, Komasan, and Usapyon — to command an entire army of Yo-kai creatures. Story and cutscenes also play out differently depending on your chosen cuddly commander. It's not just a simple strategy crossover game, though. Sangokushi is a love letter to both Romance and Yo-kai, with series fans reportedly working on the game to create something new. Plus, fuelled by Level-5 CEO Akihiro Hino's passion for both Romance and Nobunaga's Ambition, the team created a unique and fun turn-based strategy game that bursts with personality.

Frankly, we're missing way too many Yo-kai games here in the West, but alas. We wanted to highlight this one in particular for its unusual premise. Perhaps Level-5 will start feeling generous again...

Theatrhythm Dragon Quest (3DS)

We love rhythm games here at Nintendo Life. We especially love rhythm games that take video game soundtracks and celebrate a series' music over the years. Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts have both done it, and we're getting a new Theatrhythm game here very soon — but where on earth is Theatrhythm Dragon Quest?

Taking the exact same gameplay as the two Final Fantasy Theatrhythm games on 3DS, Theatrhythm Dragon Quest delivers 65 iconic songs from across the Dragon Quest series that you can play in three different modes — Challenge, Music-Play, and Casino. So it definitely gives the formula a little bit of a Dragon Quest twist. Battle, Field, and Event music stages all return, as do Monster Octopus' adorably squishy character designs.

There's no Dragon Quest DLC coming to Final Bar Line, which is out February 2023 — at least at the time of writing. So can we please at least get that? Or a port of this one?

Puzzle & Dragons X (3DS)

GungHo's Puzzle & Dragons series has been going since 2012, and while many of the games have been mobile exclusive, we have seen a few on Nintendo consoles. The Switch boasts Puzzle & Dragons GOLD, and we did get Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition on the 3DS. However, the last 3DS game, Puzzle & Dragons X, is missing in action in the West.

The game blends turn-based RPG elements with block-matching puzzle mechanics seamlessly, to create a satisfying and addictive adventure where you explore dungeons and level up your monsters. Famitsu reviewers lavished praise on the game back in 2016.

Strangely enough, the game also has an accompanying anime series, which was streamed on Funimation with an English dub back in 2016. However, licensing issues between Funimation and GungHo meant the dub was halted, and it took another six months for the show to return in North America — subtitles-only — on Crunchyroll. We could speculate, but mostly, we're just bitterly disappointed we can't play this one in English.

Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2 (3DS)

The first Etrian Mystery Dungeon is so much fun, and mixing up Etrian Odyssey with the Mystery Dungeon series is a no-brainer. And yet, despite (again) getting the first game in the series, Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2 entirely skipped the West.

Taking what the first game did and expanding on it, Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2 expands the first game's dungeon crawling and class system for an even more addictive adventure. Five new classes were added to this sequel, and characters are now able to equip multiple classes. Those who managed to play this sequel did report AI issues, but it feels strange that we never got the last Etrian entry on 3DS in the West.

Unfortunately, this is another one we can probably blame on the release date — the game launched in August 2017, when the Switch was almost six months old. And the sequel's sales were below expectations in Japan. But hey, you can stream Yuzo Koshiro's stellar soundtrack, at least. That's something!

Puyo Puyo Chronicle (3DS)

Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is one of our staple favourites on Switch at Nintendo Life. But, if you ever thought the Puyo Puyo series was missing something, then Puyo Puyo Chronicle is the game for you — if you can read Japanese, that is.

Yet another game on this list that combines RPG elements with puzzle mechanics, Puyo Puyo Chronicle has a whole story mode that's laid out like a traditional RPG mode. You complete missions, fight monsters in Puyo-style battles, and use MP to unleash skills in these fights. It's honestly adorable to control our little character across an overworld and explore towns. And this is the first Puyo Puyo game to use full 3D character models. If you're not interested in the RPG side of things, all of the traditional Puyo Puyo elements are otherwise here, so there's something for everyone.

Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: Final Stage (3DS)

Sega is one of the better companies for re-releasing its back catalogue and sharing its past with the world. Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: Final Stage is another of the company's compilations, lovingly put together for the 3DS. And while several titles are (or were, depending on when you're reading this) available separately on the 3DS eShop, this collection has a handful of games that are only on that cartridge.

Except, you know, it's not available in English. We were hopeful of a global release back when we managed to snag a copy of the game in 2017. Final Stage which allows you to play 11 classics using the 3DS's 3D feature and adds local co-op to games like Columns and Alien Storm. The former is a really neat touch that has some brilliant results with games like Thunder Force III, and we're always happy for more local co-op.

Of course, there are many other ways to play many of these games, but for us, the novelty of using the 3D slider will never get old. And we miss it, especially in cases like this.

Pictlogica Final Fantasy ≒ (3DS eShop)

Lovely readers, you didn't think we'd forget about Picross, did you? And it just so happens that Final Fantasy got its own Picross game on 3DS in the form of Pictlogica Final Fantasy ≒ (that little icon means 'approximately equal', by the way — a variation of '' that's more common in Asia). This one hurts a little bit more than the others though, as it's already been delisted from the 3DS eShop. (Update: It seems that Pictlogica Final Fantasy is still available on the eShop in Japan at the time of writing this. Thanks to @StarlaceUK for pointing this out, and we apologise for the confusion).

Developed by Picross legends Jupiter, Pictlogica challenges you to complete 5x5 puzzles as quickly as possible to build your Limit Gauge. A little bit like Theatrhythm, you'll have a party of four battling out on top while you try to solve the puzzle down below to help them defeat their foes. Some of you may have played this one — the game was originally released on iOS and Android, and the iOS version was actually available in multiple countries for a period of time, albeit in Japanese. The 3DS version, however, came with exclusive characters and game modes that we never got the chance to see.

This is the only eShop-exclusive title to feature on this list, so this will soon be lost to time forever on the 3DS...

We've begged for Switch Japan-only games before — and one of those games did in fact get an English release in 2022! — so we're praying, hoping, that this list has the same effect. Because that one was definitely down to us. We know, some ports of these to Switch would take a little more work than a simple localisation were they to somehow migrate to Switch, but let us dream.

In the meantime, we'll be saving up our pennies and importing, looking at cases on the shelves longingly. We don't want our 3DS consoles or our libraries to go missing...

Let us know which of these you want to play, or if you've played any of them, in the comments. And feel free to share any other 3DS gems you wish had seen a global release.