What's this? A 3DS game in this list that wasn't made by Game Freak, Nintendo, or Level-5? Madness!
Siesta Fiesta stands out from the crowd with its festival-coloured Breakout-style gameplay, which adds new elements like fire, ice, and alternative paddles to mix things up. It's just a really, really good paddle-ball game, and developer Mojo Bones is still kicking in 2022, with their next game Chrono Faction currently in the works for Switch.
Just like Sonic, we think the second Streets of Rage surpasses the first one, as an all-time classic that basically perfected side-scrolling beat-'em-up games. Turn that slider up to max and eat an entire turkey out of the bin if you don't think this M2-developed port deserves a place on your 3DS.
We promise this is the last time we'll say this, but The Starship Damrey is the last game in Level-5's Guild collection, which brought together a bunch of well-known game designers to make weird one-off short games.
The Starship Damrey is a first-person survival horror set on the titular spaceship, and it pointedly refuses to provide the player with tutorials or help in any way, making confusion and experimentation part of the narrative. Like all of the Guild games, it's worth owning almost purely for its novelty as a strange little piece of game dev history.
This seminal run-and-gunner Gunstar Heroes is unfairly gorgeous for a game released in 1993, and the addition of 3D visuals just makes it even more so. This version even includes the ability to switch between International and Japanese versions of the game, allowing you to sample the original story and the slightly-different localised story in tandem.
In SEGA's Mega Drive hack-and-slash action-platformer, Shinobi III, you play as Joe Musashi, a ninja who can save the world from the evil Neo Zeed. As one of the best action games of its era, Shinobi III has been re-released for many platforms, from PC to the PSP, and, of course, the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack — but never in slidey-widey 3D, like it is on the 3DS.
And everyone knows ninjas look their best in 3D.
When people name their favourite niche games on 3DS, you can bet that Dillon's Rolling Western will be on there somewhere. Developed by Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland studio Vanpool and published by Nintendo, Dillon's Rolling Western features an armadillo ranger who has to defend a village from invading rock-monsters in a combination of tower defense and roll-based action.
Dillon's Rolling Western is from an era where Nintendo was weirder, less risk-averse, and more willing to throw ideas at the wall and see what stuck. What a time that was.
Now, Nintendo Pocket Football Club — which is exactly what it says on the tin — had a physical release, except not really since it was just a download code in a nice box, so we're counting this as an eShop-only game. As with Dillon's Rolling Western, NPFC was a Nintendo-published third-party game which tried something new: Letting players run a football club.
"But that's not new," you shriek. "Football Manager's been doing that since the 1800s or whatever!" You're right, but Football Manager doesn't have a lot in common with Nintendo's take on the genre, other than the football bit and the manager bit. NPFC is charmingly retro-themed in its visuals, with a ton of characterful dialogue. Also, Football Manager never came to the 3DS, so you really don't have an alternative.
Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword may not be the prettiest game on the eShop but it sure is one of the most challenging, striking a good balance between difficulty and precision. With plenty to do and done well, Sakura Samurai is rewarding in a way that many games don't even aim for. With a lengthier story mode, it could easily pass for a full retail game. Not bad for $7.
Gotta Protectors is a fantastic tower defense / action hybrid that you shouldn't miss out on. There are dozens of maps to conquer, a fully featured level editor, co-op play, stellar presentation and witty writing. If you're looking to get plenty of bang for your buck and want to play something a little different, give this a shot. It's infuriatingly addictive and you're sure to have a good time, and there's also a Switch sequel now to enjoy, too.
Don't judge the merits of 50 Pinch Barrage!! on its title alone — the run through this gauntlet of mini platforming challenges is thoroughly worth the tiny price of admission. Game design this smart and simple is just plain refreshing in a market saturated with so many overcomplicated, overwrought mechanics. The presentation is also surprisingly good, with major points going to the detailed sound effects. Frustration will be a problem at times, especially if your patience is low, but this is a treat best enjoyed in short sessions.