It may have had a slow start at launch back in 2011, but Nintendo 3DS steadily went from strength to strength and amassed a huge library of quality titles - enough to rival the company's finest. Sure, glasses-free 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 (which arrived in 2014) 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. This 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...
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.
3D Streets of Rage 2 is wonderful version of a game which is a masterclass in its genre. In its day it was one of the most accomplished and fully featured beat-'em-ups available, with great game balance and spot-on pacing. All these years later it's still a joy to pick up and play; even more so with M2's excellent additions. If you're reliving your youth, you'll find this is one game where rose-tinted spectacles haven't pulled the wool over your eyes. It is as good as you remember. If you're coming at this fresh, we envy you; enjoy every second. Streets of Rage 2 is thoroughly deserving of your time. A true classic.
It's clear that nothing can ever replace the sublime experience of sitting inside a hulking, moving arcade cabinet, steering wheel shaking and Passing Breeze pumping out of the speakers. But with arcades becoming increasingly rare, the Nintendo 3DS version of this classic steps up to the table and makes up for its diminutive size by packing in plenty of extra features, stunning presentation and immaculate controls. M2 has delivered a fantastic version of a timeless classic and another victory punch for Sega's 3D Classics range. 3D Out Run is a beautiful journey that everybody should take.
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.
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 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.
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.
Monster Hunter Stories is an excellent adventure that channels the colourful world of Capcom’s storied series into a joyous JRPG. It suffers from performance issues on non-New 3DS hardware, but it’s still full of personality, beautifully presented and fun to play, with combat that’s easy to grasp but engaging throughout. Longtime MonHun fans will appreciate Stories as a thoughtfully-made spin-off, but the gameplay template and tone are so different that you don’t need to be familiar with — or even enjoy! — mainline Monster Hunter to have a great time here. Regardless of whether you’ve been hunting Hornetaurs since the beginning or couldn’t tell a Felyne from a Fatalis, Stories is yet another charming 3DS RPG that’s well worth your time.
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.