Another technical marvel, quite how Monster Games fit Monolith Soft’s 3D epic onto a tiny handheld is still something of a mystery. The second screen meant most of the Wii original’s HUD gubbins could be shifted to the bottom screen, but the scope of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D’s world meant it was restricted to running only on the updated ‘New’ 3DS models. It was never going to beat the Wii version in a beauty pageant but having it on a handheld gave busy gamers a better shot at seeing everything this brilliant 100-hour action RPG has to offer, and that’s as true today as it was in 2015.
Originally released on PS2, this 3DS yet another brilliant instalment in the legendary series. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King showcases its trademark style with great music, a memorable roster of characters and all the quality-of-life improvements you’d expect with a more modern remake of an RPG classic. Incredibly, this was the first game in the mainline series to launch in PAL regions, and it was also the first to ditch the 'Warrior' from the North American version.
Unlike some other games in the franchise, its sprightly pace makes it an excellent choice for new players, too. 200-hour grinds are all well and good, but how are you going to fit in all these other gems?
Building on the solid foundation of Kirby: Triple Deluxe, this is a game where the pink ball can transform into Mech Kirby. Personally, we would have scribbled that into the design doc, grinned from ear to ear and gone down the pub for a celebratory pint, but the consummate professionals at HAL took that winning central idea and surrounded it with brilliantly designed worlds, trademark rainbow visuals and enough charming moments to make Kirby: Planet Robobot the finest outing on 3DS — and arguably on any system — for The Most Powerful Video Game Character Of Them All™.
We always knew he was more than candyfloss with a face.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is an excellent package wherever you choose to play it, delivering hours and hours of entertaining and quirky interactive novel gameplay. It remains unique in the market, at least in its consistent levels of quality, and for those new to the franchise — or fans of Dual Destinies — it's a must buy. If you've played the originals to death, the prospect of replaying them on other platforms is a trickier sell — the enhancements are minor enough that they're not worth buying as opposed to simply firing up that old DS cart. As an isolated product, however, this is a wonderful addition to the 3DS' library (as is the Switch version); surreal, funny and huge value, it's definitely Guilty of being excellent.
Shovel Knight is more than just a great platformer; it's a celebration of classic gaming. Excellent controls, gorgeous graphics, an incredible soundtrack and endearing characters make the game worth playing, but top-notch level design, varied gameplay, hidden rooms, optional challenges and a deceptively rich combat system make it brilliantly memorable. The entire experience comes together so naturally that it feels more like a recently unearthed gem from the days of the NES than it does a latter-day attempt to milk nostalgia. Shovel Knight is the rarest kind of game: one that set sky-high expectations prior to release, and then managed to exceed all of them. It's a must-buy for platformer fans, and one of the most charming and satisfying experiences on 3DS.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D is a magnificent remastering of one of the finest Legend of Zelda games to date. The visual overhaul, the streamlined features and other improvements make this version even more enjoyable and (crucially) accessible than the original N64 release. Minor flaws seem insignificant against its unique gameplay ideas, the dark and haunting theme and a cleverly crafted game world which gets the chance to truly shine again in this remake.
It's strange, perhaps, that a game in which the main premise revolves around repeatedly travelling back in time was so ahead of its time. In its enhanced form, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D defies its age and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best games on 3DS. Simply put, it's a masterpiece that every 3DS owner should play.
Becoming mayor in Animal Crossing: New Leaf gives you licence to shape your village more than ever before, with the help of secretary Isabelle, of course. The most evergreen of games, Animal Crossing is a joyous pastime that enters your life and becomes part of your routine. Whether catching comedian Dr Shrunk or resident musician/DJ K.K. Slider at Club LOL, taking fossils and artworks to Blathers for verification, or simply wandering around catching bugs and fishing, there’s enough to keep you occupied for days, months and years.
It never overwhelms you, though; you can go deep with breeding flowers or working the stalk market, or kick back and collect fruit, decorate your house or simply chat with fellow villagers throughout the changing seasons. The addition of the campsite and amiibo support in the Welcome amiibo update gave us more reasons to return. Animal Crossing: New Horizons may be the shinier, newer version, but New Leaf is still a very fine way to experience the charm of this relaxing series.
This SRPG series has always enjoyed the adulation of a passionate fanbase, but it wasn’t until Fire Emblem: Awakening with fan-favourite characters Chrom and Robin that its popularity went mainstream. Beyond series-best mechanics, subtle use of stereoscopic 3D made the battlefields even more readable and a wonderful localisation courtesy of the folks at 8-4 Ltd made a large roster of characters truly memorable - the relationships created in this game stick in our minds to this day (ah, Sully). You can’t really go wrong with any entries in the Fire Emblem series, but the first 3DS game left a particularly strong impression.
When we first heard that the 3DS entry in the venerable series would revisit the world of A Link To The Past, our excitement was tempered with trepidation. The SNES classic is sacred ground and after so many 3D iterations that stuck to its template, perhaps returning to that Hyrule might sully our memories, or worse, reveal that it wasn’t quite as good as we remember. Of course, our concern was unwarranted – A Link Between Worlds proved to be spectacular. Like all the best mechanics in the series, its novel wall-painting transformation puzzles were so ingeniously simple that you wondered why the concept hadn’t been hit upon before. Great use of the system’s 3D feature brought Hyrule to life in a game that rivals the greatest in the series. If – shock! horror! – you’re reading this and you don’t own a 3DS, it’s time to track down a deal and play one of the very best games in a franchise of winners.
As if its library wasn't impressive enough, the 3DS got a wonderful remaster of a game which collects ‘Best Game Of All Time’ awards like beer mats. It was always going to be good, but Grezzo managed to strike the perfect balance between evoking nostalgia for the N64 original and carefully updating and polishing the experience to help it shine in the 21st century. It’s just like you remember, but going back and actually comparing the two reveals that it’s vastly improved in many areas, from UI to textures to character models. The modifications this remaster brought to the table make this the best way to play the game in the present day and everybody should play Ocarina of Time.
Phew, what a console! Disagree with this ranking? Time to get voting, then — remember, this is a fluid, ever-changing selection governed by each game's Nintendo Life user rating, so just use the search box on the first page to find your favourites and get rating. You can also check out our 50 best Nintendo Switch games, too (again, actually it's your 50 best Nintendo Switch games).
Is this the best library on any Nintendo console? It's hard to argue with the depth and breadth of games on offer. Share your thoughts and memories of the console and its games below.