As dwindling software sales and a paucity of games on the horizon finally signals the end of Nintendo 3DS' long day in the sun (despite what Nintendo might claim), there's no better time to look back over the extraordinary catalogue of what may well be Nintendo's final handheld-only console.
After a slow start, the portable went from strength to strength and amassed a huge library of quality titles over its eight years. Sure, stereoscopic 3D turned out to be a bit of a non-starter, but the best games made great use of the feature and the ‘New’ hardware variant improved it by tracking your eyes and stabilising the blurry image. Streetpass provided a genuine reason to keep the console on your person at all times and backwards compatibility with original DS carts opened an avenue to another whole console’s worth of fabulous games. If your 3DS is collecting dust in some forgotten cupboard, you owe it to yourself to get reacquainted with the little portable; if you somehow skipped it completely, it's time to snap up some great hardware and software deals while you still can.
So, here we bring you our collection of the top 50 games for 3DS - or more accurately, your collection of the top 50 games for 3DS. As you've probably read in the tagline above, the order here is all down to you lovely people. We've all got our opinions, of course, but we wanted this list to reflect everyone's views on the games - we didn't feel it right for just our team to decide what the 'best' games are, especially with such an embarrassment of riches.
Therefore, the ranking of this sizeable selection is governed by the user ratings for each game on this very site. It will continually evolve to reflect your votes - logged in users can interact and rate the titles directly on these pages by hovering over the rating, or alternatively you can do it from each game's individual page.
Can't see your favourite on the list? Head to our library of 3DS games (click the games tab at the top of the page) and input your own ratings. A game needs a minimum of fifty ratings to become eligible, so it's entirely possible to influence the ranking and get your favourite games onto the list.
Regardless of the order, though, it's an extremely impressive collection. Feel free to check out our 50 best Nintendo Switch games, too, if you're after something a bit more contemporary, but as the sun finally sets on the humble 3DS, let's sit back and enjoy some of the console's highlights...
Mario Kart has been a staple on Nintendo handhelds since the GBA’s Mario Kart Super Circuit, and although the DS version did a marvellous job of giving players the full-blooded 3D experience, 3DS’ extra horsepower made Mario Kart 7 feel more like a home console release than ever before. Bringing back coins during races and introducing vehicle customisation and underwater driving to the series, its excellent stereoscopic 3D once again proved that, in the right hands, the feature could really add some special sauce, helping flesh out the world just that little bit more. Booting it up now makes us miss having the option – roll on Nintendo 3DSwitch! (Calm down, that’s a joke… or is it?)
Given the game’s relative age, Fantasy Life isn’t the shiniest toy on the 3DS’ shelf, but it just may be the happiest. Providing quality gameplay in both its life sim and action RPG aspects, served up with more colourful wit and charm than anyone could ask for, it serves as a jewel in the crown of a games studio that helped create some of the most memorable role-playing video games ever. It may now be 1-UP Studios, but Brownie Brown hit its marks with Level 5 in this game. As a farewell for the company in its old guise, this was an excellent game for the occasion.
If you already own or played the DS version, this may not be the reboot you were hoping for. For those coming to the title fresh, however, prepare to be impressed. Even though the game doesn't offer up much of an overhaul, it still remains a stellar, stylish RPG that handily melds strategy and turn-based battle. It's definitely one of the heftier 3DS games out there too, with multiple endings and tons of content to explore.
The final game of the prequel trilogy which began with Professor Layton and the Last Specter on DS, Hershel Layton’s daughter took the limelight in the follow up. This capped the story of the professor and apprentice Luke’s first meeting and exploits, taking them on a globe-trotting adventure and showcasing the best elements of the series. Of course, thanks to backwards compatibility, we’d recommend starting from the beginning if its gentle form of adventure puzzling sounds appealing, but if you’ve only got time for one, you can’t go wrong with Azran Legacy.
Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire seem very similar to Pokémon X & Y, as you might expect, but the story and the environments you encounter feel – despite the fact that they are remakes – very fresh and unique. They’re not an extensive upgrade from their other 3DS counterparts, but any Poké-fan who’s played one of the series remakes in the past knows that expecting an enormous upgrade is a fool’s errand. These titles should be considered as games that belong alongside X & Y, rather than successors. — they've successfully surpassed X & Y, however, by building on the tremendous features available on the 3DS and pushing new ideas such as the Soar ability.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a classic, and this new version is arguably the definitive version. Yes, Bowser's Minions is a harmless but shallow add-on, but the Superstars are the real attraction.
This is a series that has a distinct and special place within Nintendo gaming, and after experimentation and not-always-popular approaches in the 3DS era of games, this takes us back to the IP's roots. What a treat it is, too - funny, smartly designed and pure unpretentious joy, this is a great start point for those that missed the original in the Game Boy Advance era, and should also be tempting to those with fond memories of the adventure.
By the time this sequel arrived, people had come around to Luigi’s Mansion. The GameCube original rubbed those expecting a Mario game at launch the wrong way, but with suitably adjusted expectations most players came to appreciate the beauty and comedy of Luigi’s haunted house exploits. Next Level’s sequel brought to fruition the planned stereoscopic 3D of the original to fantastic effect, making the mansion in Dark Moon really feel like a diorama as the green plumber tip-toes around sucking up ghosts and coins. A port of the original also came to 3DS, and they’re both excellent ways to prepare for the upcoming Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Switch.
Resident Evil Revelations is a truly impressive achievement, and the definitive ‘mature’ title on the 3DS. With production values worthy of a home console release (which actually arrived later), a significant volume of content, a blend of the series’ different game styles and a subtly evolved control system, this title feels like a tribute to and progression of the franchise. There are some downsides though, including spikes in difficulty and drops in frame rate that are occasionally jarring in contrast to the rest of the title. All the same, Revelations has something to offer Resi fans old and new – there are few experiences on the 3DS more engrossing or exciting.
Another of the home console games to migrate to the handheld, Retro’s Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D took us back to the sidescrolling antics of Rare’s classic SNES series, updating it with beautiful new graphics and mechanics. This version includes an extra world and the system’s stereoscopic 3D once again enhances the experience, turning those lush environments into mesmerising dioramas that have you playing about with the 3D slider like a kid. The game slots perfectly into the console’s collection of quality platformers, and that soundtrack is pretty great through headphones, too.
Fire Emblem may have found itself in a strange spot after the success of Awakening, but Intelligent Systems has found a way forward. Actually, two ways - Fire Emblem Fates does a remarkable job delivering what newcomers and long-time players both could possibly want out of this series. Fans of Awakening will dig Birthright's continuation of that style of gameplay, and Conquest's strategic demands should go over well with series veterans and those looking for more bite from their games. Extensive campaigns, online multiplayer, and spit-shine polish combine to make for some of the most well-rounded Fire Emblem experiences to date.
Each of these games is unique enough to stand on its own accord as an impressive achievement and a whole lot of fun. The writing is sharp and witty, and gameplay is as accessible or as hardcore as you could want it to be. While the story can feel like it's dragging at times, it's tough to hold too many grudges against padding since the core gameplay is so much fun.