Billed as a stepping stone between the 2D and 3D games, Super Mario 3D Land scaled down the grand playgrounds of the mainline titles into smaller courses that worked better on a handheld screen. Beyond a few gimmicky perspective puzzles, this platformer really showcased the console’s stereoscopic 3D by subtly signalling distance and perspective to the player – you weren’t relying on Mario’s shadow quite so much (a fact we more fully appreciated when we first played this game’s ‘big brother’, the excellent Super Mario 3D World on Wii U). Comfortably contained and wonderfully tailored to the hardware, this should really be in your collection already.
Cave Story may come from humble PC beginnings but it feels most in its element in this slick portable package. Nicalis has put together the definitive Cave Story compilation, but without any earth-shattering changes or additions it's ultimately just another way to play an all-time classic on familiar hardware. Granted, that's still a rather excellent thing, as the game is so pleasing to play that we're more than happy to delve into it yet again, and again.
Building on the solid foundation of Kirby: Triple Deluxe, this is a game where the pink ball can transform into Mech Kirby. We’d have probably scribbled that in the design doc, given ourselves a pat on the back and gone down the pub for a celebratory pint, but HAL surrounds this central idea with brilliantly designed worlds, trademark rainbow visuals and enough charming moments to make Kirby: Planet Robobot the finest 3DS outing for The Most Powerful Video Game Character Of Them All™ (as confirmed by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate). We always knew he was more than candyfloss with a face.
With a plethora of Picross games available on the system, you can’t go wrong with any of them (we’re particularly partial to the rewards program exclusive My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) but the one we’ve chosen here really uses the system’s namesake feature. Chiselling away the empty blocks to reveal the sculpture within is as addictive as any of the 2D variants, and added amiibo puzzles are the icing on a particularly delicious cake. You can find this for peanuts on store shelves and we’d recommend bagging it pronto (unless you’re in North America where this was digital-only, so off to the eShop with you).
Monster Hunter: World has done the business on other platforms and attracted a far broader audience than ever before to a series that already enthused a sizeable playerbase, especially in the east. The Monster Hunter games have always required a big investment and many fans insist the 'traditional' grind and other franchise foibles are necessary to the 'authentic' Monster Hunter experience. Crafting items from the enormous beasts you’ve taken down can be hugely rewarding, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is possibly the best of the 'classic style' - the best way to find out if you’ve got the bug for the series. Although Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate works on an original model 3DS, we’d recommend playing on a New 3DS for camera control and a better framerate. Lovely.
As an RPG sequel, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is just about perfect. It lets players revisit a familiar world from a new perspective, keeps what made the original so special, and adds in several small but significant mechanical improvements that make for a smoother, better game throughout. We recommend playing through SMTIV first if possible, both to get the most out of Apocalypse and to experience one of the 3DS' finest JRPGs, but however you arrive at it, this is a game that begs to be played. It's a delightfully dark adventure that's dripping with dystopian charm, and between the personable demons, deeply satisfying combat and killer aesthetic, we couldn't get enough — the end times have never been so good.
As a sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer does everything right. It improves on its predecessor in nearly every way, shakes things up enough to still be exciting for players who may have recently poured sixty hours into the first game, and offers a meaningful chance to reconnect with beloved characters. Even better, it's a nearly-perfect JRPG in its own right. Beautiful, well-written, and endlessly engaging in gameplay and story, this is a wonderful example of why people fall in love with the genre. Simply put, Bravely Second is a must-play for JRPG fans, and one of the 3DS' finest games.
Pokémon Crystal is the perfect swan song to what many fans consider the best generation of Pokémon games. Nostalgia hat aside, the 3DS Virtual Console re-release is the perfect opportunity to both those who have yet to experience its timeless, era-defining magic, and those who are looking for an excuse to replay arguably one of the best Pokémon entries in the series’ illustrious history. With a plethora of welcomed new features, more things to do, improved graphics and UI, a slight notch in the challenge department, and the implementation of the 3DS' new capabilities that generally make Pokémon games that much more accessible and enjoyable, Pokémon Crystal takes what Pokémon Gold and Silver did so marvellously and proves that Johto is worth exploring once more – and Kanto for the umpteenth time for that matter!
Rune Factory 4 might not be for everyone, but if its unique combination of fantasy farming, dating sim, and action-RPG sounds like your cup of tea, you'll have an absolute field day with this gem of a game. It's bursting with bucolic charm, backed up by masterful writing and an irresistibly positive outlook, and plays like the pinnacle of a genre it invented itself. Whether you come for the adventure, the romance, or simply the turnips, Rune Factory 4's inviting world will draw you in and give you plenty of reasons to stick around for many, many seasons to come.