As we all know the 3DS and Wii U eShops are closing down, taking with them countless classics in all genres. It's a decision that's understandably left many of us scrambling to find our old passwords and make those last minute purchases, finally turning those 'Maybe next time' purchases into a wallet-busting reality.
Nintendo's decision to region-lock the 3DS after decades of easygoing handheld gaming has added another problem to the mix — the Japanese eShop. This forbidden store is packed with delights, not least in the Virtual Console section, where the games are comparatively so cheap, and some of their original releases are now so expensive (before shipping), and so otherwise unavailable (legally), that it's enough to make anyone weep.
But why waste time feeling sad about it when we could hatch a cunning plan instead? Although 'sailing the seven seas' is and has always been the most dubious and cost-effective way to access tough-to-source titles, the vast gulf in costs between Virtual Console and original cartridges means it's entirely possible to buy yourself a Japanese 3DS, plus the imported eShop credit necessary to purchase all of the games below, and — compared to the legal alternative — still by able to strenuously insist to your partner/friends/family that you've been financially responsible for doing so.
That sounds like a win to us! Let's take a look at 10 Japan-only winners worth importing a Japanese 3DS for. While you still can, that is. We've listed both their current eShop price and the price you can expect to pay for a secondhand physical copy...
Note: Obviously these games will all be in Japanese, which may present obstacles for non-Japanese speakers ranging from 'oh, it's just the title screen!' to 'hmmm, time to crack out the translator camera for this one'.
- Feature: 29 Best 3DS eShop Games You Should Get Before They're Gone Forever
- Feature: 23 Best Wii U eShop Games You Should Get Before They're Gone Forever
Balloon Fight GB
This Japanese Game Boy Color exclusive Balloon Kid upgrade has always been hard to get hold of at the best of times, as it was originally sold via special store kiosks and copied onto special rewriteable carts. Like Link's Awakening DX, the use of colour here is so brilliantly done it feels as though this great game was never made with anything else in mind.
eShop price: 628yen (approx £4) Original cart (used): We'd love to tell you, but we can't. It's just that rare.
Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa (NES)
This game's only international appearance was on the Wii's Virtual Console service, so if you missed out then this is currently the cheapest and easiest official way to experience Konami's better-than-the-description-suggests action baby platformer.
eShop price: 524yen (approx £3) Original disc (used): £80+ (complete)
Famicom Detective Club Part II: The Girl Who Stands Behind
The Switch version may be beautifully updated, but retro fans in search of the original experience will be pleased to know Nintendo currently offers the Famicom Disc System versions of both Famicom Club mysteries, as well as this brilliantly redone SNES port of the second for sale on the 3DS eShop. The one it's closing down.
eShop price: 838yen (approx £5) Original cart (used): £60+ (cart only)
Famicom Mukashibanashi: Shin Onigashima
This beautiful pair of fantastical adventure games were made for the Famicom Disc System, and often overlooked due to hardware as much as the language barrier. This latest Virtual Console release bundles both parts of this wonderful story together in one convenient portable package, helping to keep them playable and accessible.
eShop price: 524yen (approx £3) Original disc (used): £20+ (complete — each)
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 (SNES)
Mysteriously this fantastic game didn't make it to the SNES Mini, and isn't available on NSO either. Even with the language barrier anyone familiar with the series is bound to love being able to play 16-bit strategy classic this while curled up in bed, sitting on public transport, or pretending to listen to whoever's nearby.
eShop price: 943yen (approx £6) Original cart (used): £100+ (standard edition, complete)
Ganbare Goemon 3
Much of Konami's beloved Goemon series has remained overseas, and that's true for this third SFC entry. A colourful multi-character action adventure as essential as any other in the series that's only improved by the ability to play it wherever and whenever you please.
eShop price: 838yen (approx £5) Original cart (used): £40+ (complete)
Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (GB)
Nintendo's rarely cameoed and never revisited puzzle-leaning Game Boy adventure is the sort of game everyone should play if they have the chance. Relentlessly charming and inventive, it draws you in with its Link-like styling and then goes on to surprise at every turn.
eShop price: 419yen (approx £3) Original cart (used): £50+ (complete)
Live A Live (SNES)
With the recently announced and very welcome remake of Square's RPG opting for a beautiful Octopath-like look, the original experience remains something left behind on the Super Famicom — or the Japanese 3DS, if you've got one. Packed with multiple interlinked stories to play through, this is one of the developer's more unusual and overlooked titles.
eShop price: 943yen (approx £6) Original cart (used): £60+ (complete)
Super Famicom Wars
Advance Wars' prequel is the place where charming 2D pixel art meets the sort of simple but absorbing strategy that's easy to play for a 'quick' go that somehow seems to last until you need to recharge your 3DS' battery. It's also another game that didn't get a standard cartridge release, making it easily-bought and its 3DS presence all the more welcome.
eShop price: 838yen (approx £5) Original cart (used): £120+ (cart only)
Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict (GG)
A handheld game with console polish, the third part of Sega Game Gear's Shining Force Gaiden trilogy was a superb, if untranslated, finale. Visually stunning and as effortlessly enjoyable as any other game in the series, this is essential for all fans of grid-based combat (and plenty of people who think they wouldn't like it, too).
eShop price: 524yen (approx £3) Original cart (used): £100+ (complete)
So, is it worth importing a Japanese 3DS to access all the hard-to-find games above and many more in a totally legal manner? Well, looking at those totals above, it's safe to say the theoretical savings are enormous even if you decided to treat yourself to a factory sealed limited edition 3DS to go with those games.
Reality is, of course, never quite as simple (after all, the only reason this feature exists is because access to the digital store these games can be bought from is soon disappearing forever) but it does at least give us a chance to reflect on the ridiculous cost of physical retro games and how awkward Nintendo makes it to buy official alternatives.
It also highlights the frustrating friction found between the need to buy official re-releases to prove to publishers they're worth bringing back and the fact that it's understandably hard for anyone to seriously invest in a service that will one day — perhaps sooner than you think — simply cease to exist, with no end-of-life provisions made for legitimate personal backups. The Virtual Console, for all its fault and foibles, was a special thing across the three systems it appeared, and we're sorry to see it leave so soon.
Are you tempted to treat yourself to another 3DS? Is *counts on fingers... five too many? Or have Nintendo disappointed you for the last time? Let us know in the poll below, as well as your favourite retro titles from our small list above in the comments.
It’s times like this I grow quite irate,
But my preference is to emulate.
Wow, this is my first time being first!
I wouldn’t think that these games would make it worth it, particularly with the Live a Live and Detective Club remakes making the originals not worth the difficulty to find.
Edit: Never mind about that first sentence. Sigh…
Hey finally an option for us sane people who would rather download 100mb than spend 100 bucks!
Removed - trolling
Already got an imported 3DS for the One Piece games and MH4G content.
If I knew Japanese I might consider it. Though maybe not since the games I'm most interested in have remakes or they have remakes coming soon.
If the Japanese 3DS consoles themselves weren't that expensive, maybe.
And if they weren't, the few games I'm really interested in are really expensive. I'm talking about physical, though.
Yeahhh, this is why I have CFW on my 3DS. Especially since you can play the English patches of some of these.
@JakedaArbok These arguments always crop up during news,
But those anti-pirates are just goody-two-shoes!
Woah - watching that video made me look up the price of Doshin the Giant.
I honestly thought - about 6 months after I paid £40 at release when I could see brand new copies on clearance sales for £20 that I'd been well and truly had. The market for second hand games is crazy.
The only one that may deserves is Fire Emblem, but it not fit for me since I can't read a single word in Japanese. (I want to play NES Detective and Libe A Live, but I prefer the remakes)
Just hack your 3ds and you have access to all of those games mentioned and more.
Theres probably english patches of these games I could play right now if I wanted to.
When retro games are confined for no reason,
I will defend piracy in any season.
@JakedaArbok If you don't own the games and you're downloading them from some ROM site then it can be classed as stealing. That being said if there is no other way to obtain these titles except through places like ebay where more than likely they're being sold for a ridiculous amount then what other means is there? if there is no profit being made honestly I couldn't care less about these websites.
None of these games here interest me so it wouldn't be worth it to me personally.
Could I purchase the games from the Japan 3DS shop website and they'll be waiting for me when I get a Japanese 3DS?
I haven't quite got how this works, from what I understand is if you've bought it, it's still accessible.
Legally it’s technically illegal to play these games on a ROM, but morally it’s not very forward thinking to not play a game when it is in no way available for purchase.
Or, to keep the hot streak going,
Although illegal this may technically be,
no problem in playing unavailable games do I see.
If I ever imported a 3DS, it would be for the Dragon Quest: Theatrhythm game they got over there.
Tempting, but I got enough to buy on the English Stores.
As a huge supporter of VC on 3DS, I was always frustrated with the difference in libraries between America and Japan! Granted, they did get a ton of games that didn’t have English translations, but I couldn’t figure out why Square Enix put Elevator Action, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IV, and VI on 3DS in the East but not the west. Kemco released Shadowgate on 3DS in Japan, but we never got it here. I always felt that Nintendo treated the service like an afterthought on the platform, at least in North America.
@JakedaArbok : I have to agree with you there. If they're going to make it difficult for us to play such old games, it's easy enough to find more convenient (and cheaper) ways to do so. So I can't say I am terribly sympathetic, especially when the hindrances are mostly arbitrary.
I see little reason why we can't buy these games in the West. Just be upfront that they're Japanese only and leave it up to the customer as to whether they want to spend their money or not.
Likewise with the NSO ROMs. I see no reason why people shouldn't be able to access Japanese exclusives, irrespective of their region. You can already access them if you have a valid Japanese NSO profile on your console and have downloaded the apps via the Japanese eShop (and you can use your non-Japanese account to actually play the games if that is the account subscribed to NSO), but it's a somewhat convoluted process. People shouldn't need a second account in order to access these additional titles.
So 'The Wii U and 3DS eshops are closing down' is gonna be 2022's equivalent of 'You won't be able to play Mario 35 after March 31st' in terms of how many articles this site is able to drag out of one story, huh? 😉
While I get the issues regarding game preservation, I can't help feeling that in most cases, people weren't interested in playing these games before which is why they haven't already downloaded them. 🤷🏻♂️
@BanjoPickles : Australia missed out on a ton of Wii/3DS/Wii U digital exclusives due to classification requirements. When IARC was introduced, and traditional (paid) peer-reviewed classifications were no longer required for games that were only distributed via digital storefronts, we have since seen fewer omissions in the Aussie eShop. Unfortunately, the majority of publishers didn't bother to retroactively release their games in the Aussie eShops after the IARC scheme was introduced.
Already have my Japanese 3DS for SEGA 3D Classics vol.3
It's not worth owning a 3DS without hacking it. And by hacking it, you essentially get access to all regions' games.
I did get a JP 3DS a while back, but it's not a NEW 3DS, so even if I wanted Live a Live or other SFC games on VC, I couldn't. ...
Save your money.
So what are you guys going to do when the shop is like a month away from closing. Just act like these articles never happened and do them again?
Apparently in 2052 everybody is going to come storming to the Wii U and 3ds to play nes/ snes games. Sorry forgot about the indies that have already faded into obscurity.
Already got a Japanese 3DS and Wii U. Don't think I'd recommend it just for virtual console though. But there are some unique gems on the eShops. A Japan only 3DS (and PS3) game called E.X. Troopers is really fun and highly recommended. If you can get a Japanese 3DS for a decent price then it could be worth it. Hopefully you can get a Japanese eShop card though since credit cards aren't accepted anymore. (For me in Canada, I can't seem to be able to order eShop cards from Amazon Japan while some American friends have been able to do so)
I have Japanese New 2ds LL animal crossing edition. With CFW of course.
I wish I still had my USA 3ds xl AC, but sold it years ago for profit.
I have been eyeballing getting another system since they're getting harder to find and more expensive unfortunately.
@EarthboundBenjy there is no reason it can't play super Nintendo games. Just put custom firmware on it and you should be good to go.
The only 2 on the list that really slap are Live Alive and the Game Gear Shining Force. Just emulate all the Game Gear games you want to play and play the Live Alive remake this Summer.
i'd say more for JP exclusives like the taiko 3DS titles or the numerous untranslated dragon quests
Jeez it's almost like nintendolife WANTS people to emulate these games.....wait a second. Also if this is a joke it's a pretty bad one. Some of these games have LOTS of Japanese text which makes them worthless to an English speaker like myself and probably a majority of the people here. What was the point of this article again?
@rushiosan says a hacker. I'm perfectly fine with never hacking mine.
3D Turbo Outrun is the only temptation for me.
Seems like an awful lot of money to pay just so one can buy five dollar Game Boy games. Go 'way witcha bad self
Super Famicom Wars was exclusively released through Nintendo Power flash carts (pretty much equivalent to a digital release).
About five years ago (only, what a shock) the copy protection was cracked, so it is no longer possible to tell if a copy is "genuine".
Most copies of that FE game will also be NP carts. Retail copies are scarce and even more expensive (I was lucky to pick one up when it was ONLY $70 loose)
I bought 3DS LL Pearl White in November 2018 and have collected 11 Japanese 3DS games including Yokai Watch 3 Tempura (the best 3DS games I played on Japanese machine).
Since I already have Japanese machine, I have downloaded all the updates for the games I want to buy in the future but I have no interest to pick VC games.
Digital releases being region limited or completely removed and unavailable really sucks. There's games I'd like to buy and play, but can't because the Wii eshop closed. Mostly STGs that I didn't know I'd love to play until after the store closed...
I can read some Japanese letters (Hiragana, Katakana and a few Kanji words) so I can enjoy my purchase of Japanese exclusive games despite I didn't really understand with the whole Japanese texts but at least I can read Hiragana and Katakana + understand the meaning from certain words. For Kanji letters, I only understand a little as I depended on Furigana letters on the top of Kanji words so I can read those Kanji words but mostly I have no idea with the meaning unless I have recognized the Chinese letters that looked exactly same as Kanji letters. Despite I still have language barrier issue but I still able to finish the storyline of my Yokai Watch 3 Tempura just by following the guidance arrow to proceed to next mission and I trusted my instinct to figure it out by myself what was the whole dialogues about from the situation I saw during gameplay.
Certainly, there was at least one user here who can read some Japanese letters and able to play Japanese games.
@yokokazuo I've been using Play-Asia for buying eshop vouchers (and EX Troopers did get a physical release).
Where's the option for "I already have a Japanese 3DS". Though, I do wish it was a New 3DS for those few Super Famicom games.
The Japanese 3DS store has some DSiWare titles that are either exclusive to it, like the excellent DSiWare shooter Sagittarius-A-Star, or where delisted in the west. Such as the Go Series games (Picdun, Spiky Blowfish, and Captain Sub, etc), as well as other titles like the original Go! Go! KokoPolo.
I have four 3DS XL machines with all three regions (2 USA machines, 1 Japanese machine, 1 PAL machine) so I can play all 3DS games on every region and all of my machines are original, No CFW at all.
Also, Japanese 3DS have a lot of exclusive 3DS theme from theme shop that you cannot find on USA 3DS and PAL 3DS.
Eh, no thanks.
I already have 3DS LL (Japanese machine) with legit copies of Japanese 3DS games.
1. Buy a regular 3DS
2. Hack the firmware
3. Install the VC games you cannot buy as ROMs. You’re not depriving Nintendo of profit because you cannot buy said games in this country anyway.
I bought multiple original 3DS machines in different regions instead. 😁
I know region lock is suck but I don't want to hack my 3DS machines.
I already have a JPN 3ds (taiko and dragon quest machine) but thank you for the must have list! I'll add some of these to the pile.
Great list and great suggestions, however if you don't read Japanese many of these games will not be too enjoyable. This unfortunately causes us to rely on unofficial translation patches until Nintendo and the original developers provide an official translation we can purchase.
I already bought an import 3DS for VC games in September. I did it for Trip World (Game Boy), but Picross e9 and Mario no Picross 2 are better. I've already bought and played Balloon Fight GB and the Frog Bell game--the latter deserves a Link's Awakening-styled remake on Switch.
I already have a Japanese 3DS, they are pretty cheap on second hand apps like Mercari. And you can still mod them easily to access other region games.
@JakedaArbok You my friend, are a scholar and a saint,
your ideas and morals are indeed, first rate!
Nintendo doesn’t make anything awkward to buy, because in reality they don’t intend for everything to be purchasable by everyone. When you’re not supposed to be able to buy something, that goes beyond just being awkward. When you can’t access something because of a bit of computer code, obtaining via ‘sailing the seven seas’ or by expensive import is all equally outside Nintendo’s intent for you.
I have a Japanese 3DS already but none of those games are really that interesting to me. However I would be extremely grateful if somebody could create a feature to showcase little known 3DS eShop games that were exclusive to Japan (edit: or games that were delisted from the US eShop but still available in Japan) - it's simple enough to navigate the Japanese eShop if you already know what games you want to look up, but discovering lesser known titles without knowledge of Japanese is almost impossible. (Hell it's hard enough to discover games on the US eShop even without the language barrier!)
Those pixel art cover plates are incredible. I tried to get the Majora's Mask set but I couldn't find it anywhere.
I'm trying to imagine someone who would spend hundreds of dollars on import hardware just to play old video games that can be googled and emulated within minutes, cause that is something else.
Thank you so much for your kind remarks,
Your comments have allowed me to extend my snarks!
@AstralRedStar705 @Anti-Matter Good luck from March 2023 onwards.
@Zebetite Yeah especially considering all the great cheap emulation handhelds available these days. For $50 you can easily order a high quality basic handheld with every NES/SNES/GB game ever made that plays them flawlessly.
@JakedaArbok I see that your first reply got removed for trolling,
but it definitely had me on the floor, laughing and rolling!
@Silly_G what games would you recommend for Aussies with a 3DS from North America or Europe?
Any JP eShop recommendations for those that speak no Japanese? Happy with any suggestions that don't require reading text to understand gameplay or story (or RPGs are a no go). Arcade, platformers, puzzle, etc would probably be okay.
I have no idea what I did to draw their ire,
but at least I can say that I was no liar!
A hearty thanks for the rhymes you send,
but this wonderful exchange must come to an end.
Y'all forgot about Trip World. Absolute masterpiece of a Game Boy hidden gem
A hack only allows you to run the basic software, but you won't be able download DLC, updates, or have access to the Japanese Eshop.
In some cases you won't even be able to see the proper menu icons from the home screen because they will glitch on anything but a Japanese region 3ds.
@JakedaArbok It's true because it rhymes™
@JakedaArbok Hhahaa, yep that was fun. Have a great day!
@Fighting_Game_Loser Trip World is insanely good. Shocking they crammed all that into a GB game.
You're the biggest sucker of all time if you import a system for this reason. Nintendo doesn't even want your money so don't reward them. Just get the rooms.
@BloodNinja Totally. I'm honestly glad that the game was able to have a life outside of the game with a bunch of cameos in games like Galaxy Fight and Blaster Master Zero 2
I have purchased four 3DS XL machines in different regions (USA, Japan, PAL) to play every region of original 3DS games and so what?
I like to collect interesting stuffs.
No, it's not worth it. There are a few good games but it's a ton of money for things that can be more easily played through fan translations anyway.
Also, Super Famicom Wars is not a prequel to Advance Wars. A prequel is a later work that describes events that precede an earlier work. It's not just something that came before something else. Also, even if it were.. the term refers to chronology of a story timeline and Super Famicom Wars isn't connected to Advance Wars in that way.
For example, in the Tales series, Tales of Xillia 2 is a sequel to Tales of Xillia. The next game in the series was Tales of Zestiria. Zestiria is not a sequel to Tales of Xillia 2 nor is Xillia 2 a prequel to Zestiria. However, Tales of Berseria (which is the next game in the series after Zestiria) IS a prequel to Zestiria. If it had been released before Zestiria, it wouldn't be a prequel, it would just be a preceding work.
@Anti-Matter Well it’s your money. lol
Before anyone gets too excited about this, I have a Japanese account on the Switch e-shop and it will not accept any of my American credit cards. Having a Japanese 3DS won't do much good if you can't transfer any money to your account.
@TheFox And thats why its more convenient to just hack your 3ds instead.
My goodness I'm glad that I'm not into classic stuffs.. is it necessary for this kind of fear mongering?
Not surprised if Nintendo suddenly make a "we heard you and we decide to postpone" move once the 3DS game sales skyrocketed thanks to the overexaggeration by media.
Just hack your 3DS lol.. it's nearing EOL already and friendly reminder that CFW =/= piracy. With CFW on 3DS we can use
Luma3DS ftw! Just read their documentation on how they managed to hack 3DS.. really talented and genius programmers
I happen to have a Japanese 2DS, but sadly it's in Japan where I can't access it. The race is on!
No, it's not worth it to import a Japanese 3DS for those virtual console titles.
Its not going to significantly move the needle on Nintendo's bottom line, just use Luma CFW
@rushiosan @LexKitteh I'll get by. I've never hacked before and I'll be fine never doing it in the future. I'm honestly more worried about people like you who feel the need to hack their consoles to enjoy them, or save money I'm not sure.
@Lyricana I agree completely, this whole article is BS at best and completely ludicrous at worst. Only japanese (or people who understand japanese) or the biggest collectors would be interested in these games.
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