The 10 Best Nintendo 3DS Games

From Mario Kart 7 to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, here are the best games on the 3DS.

Nintendo released its last primarily handheld console, The Nintendo 3DS, worldwide in 2011 which went on to sell over 75 million units in its lifespan. Through 2019, many quality titles were developed for the platform; so many in fact that this list was quite tricky to craft, but we’ve managed to piece together a list of the Top 10 3DS Games of All Time.

10. Mario Kart 7

Mario Kart 7, the seventh entry in Nintendo's famed kart racing franchise made innovative changes to the land-only formula that players had been accustomed to for years, and now we can't imagine the game without these features. Racing beneath the waves and gliding through the skies made for ambitious designs for new tracks and refreshing renewals of classic ones.

Although the roster of characters was a bit lacking, the introduction of creating your own kart by mixing and matching various parts was a welcome addition. With a proper battle mode featuring Balloon Battle and Coin Runners as well as solid online and local play, this was another Mario Kart essential that most 3DS owners had on them at all times.

9. Bravely Default

Showcasing exceptional new ideas along with refined concepts from Square’s golden age of RPGs, Bravely Default is a reminder that Japanese RPGs have unique flair and vision. If you’ve never experienced the Job System from Final Fantasy fame, get ready for one of the best character class customization systems in the genre.

8. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

There's no denying that Ocarina of Time will always have an impactful legacy for the 3D Zelda games. And Grezzo's 2011 remake, Ocarina of Time 3D, is the definitive way to experience the first 3D Legend of Zelda game. Updated visuals aside and the fact it still retains the charm that made the N64 original so great, Ocarina of Time 3D also introduces plenty of quality-of-life tweaks, such as the ability to utilize the 3DS' dual touchscreens, which definitely made item management a lot more tolerable. And the increased framerates offer smoother gameplay.

Even if you have played the original N64 original by way of the console itself or other means, Ocarina of Time 3D warrants a revisit. And if you have yet to play Ocarina of Time anyway, this is the version to get your hands on.

7. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Though there was another Monster Hunter release on the 3DS after this one, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is still the best Monster Hunter that can be experienced only on the 3DS. It's filled to the brim with increasingly challenging monsters to hunt and armor and weapons to craft out of their parts, and it's the first in the series that introduced mounting mechanics and truly embraced verticality.

If otherworldly fashion and that core, addictive gameplay loop of hunt monster-craft-hunt stronger monster isn't gripping enough, Monster Hunter 4U is a bit of an outlier of the series with a more gripping story and likable characters. If you want to visit a "classic" Monster Hunter, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate can't be beat.

6. Pokemon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon

Whereas Pokemon Sun and Moon honored the legacy of the Pokemon series while making some fundamental changes, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon expanded on those ideas even further, making Pokemon's polished 3DS swan song stand out among the rest. The Alola region had us falling for our first-gen favorites all over again in their new forms and the Island Challenge was a welcome and interesting break from the gyms we'd come to expect.

Everything Sun and Moon did, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon did better, with additional side stories that added even more character to the region, an expanded native Pokemon selection, and an unexpected endgame that allowed us to hunt for rare Legendary Pokemon. For something a little different but still bursting with Pokemon charm, say Alola to Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.

5. Metroid: Samus Returns

With Samus Returns, MercurySteam went above and beyond doing a 1:1 adaptation of Metroid 2 in favor of modernizing the formula: Samus could aim in 360 degrees with a laser sight, and her melee-counter changed the series for the better. Nintendo was clearly happy with the results, as they let the developer take the reins on the fabled Metroid Dread, a game that would not have existed without Samus Returns being so darn fun.

4. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf will forever be one of the games that are synonymous with first-party Nintendo exclusives on the 3DS. Unlike the previous main installment, City Folk, Animal Crossing: New Leaf brings plenty of welcoming changes to the series that make it a lot more enjoyable and rewarding each time you make milestones in your journey.

And while customization has been around since the first game, New Leaf's emphasis on customization is key, from changing your character's clothes to the option to hanging furniture on the walls, and the fact that you were the mayor of your own town, allowing you to take on new infrastructure projects among other things. New Horizons might be the better game to play in the series to date, but some of the coolest features in New Horizons were most certainly precursors that originated in New Leaf.

3. Super Mario 3D Land

There are a handful of games on the 3DS that really push the spectacle of the "No Glasses 3D" mechanic, and Super Mario 3D Land makes that magic comes to life in an adventure that stands up to the likes of a game that was released a year prior, Super Mario Galaxy 2. 3D Land is full of colorful worlds with surprisingly dense obstacle courses that shift perspective before your eyes, and visual puzzles that make you actually want to have the 3D slider turned up to a comfortable max.

Whether you're in it for the fun time of a jolly Mario title, or for the solid challenge of collecting all of the Star Coins in every level of the game, this one shouldn't be missed.

2. Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem Awakening acted as a crux for the series, bolstering its popularity in the West and paving the way for even more commercially successful outings down the line. It offered a top-notch strategy RPG with fun characters, witty dialogue, and a deep battle system while also presenting players with difficult choices and the (optional) stress of permadeath. The end result is a stunning combination that cemented the series as a Nintendo linchpin.

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

By far one of the strongest games in the Nintendo 3DS library is The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. A spiritual successor to A Link to the Past, this 2013 action game is a beautiful nostalgia trip; it is both a love letter to the game that influenced it while also breathing fresh life into 2D Zelda titles. Dungeons and puzzle design are top-notch and strike a healthy balance that makes it a fair challenge.

More importantly, the new wall-merging mechanic, something that on paper sounds like it would not work in any 2D Zelda game, actually works so well — never once does it feel out of place. It flows naturally with the established framework of Zelda's gameplay. If there's ever one Legend of Zelda game to play in your life, A Link Between Worlds should be on a shortlist for consideration.


There are so many other amazing games that unfortunately had to be left out(shoutout to Kid Icarus Uprising), so if you didn’t see them represented here give them a shoutout in the comments; or if you want a blast from the past, check out our review of the Original 3DS or the revamped NEW 3DS & XL models.

In This Article

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: June 9, 2013
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
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