RPG games and the Nintendo 3DS – name a better pairing. We love the little clam shell of joy that is the 3DS, mainly because it houses so many good RPG games, J or otherwise. In fact, we’re fairly certain it’s home to one of the biggest and best RPG libraries out there, at the very least it’s on a par with the Vita and the PS2 for quality.
Today then we’re going to break down our Top 5 Best Nintendo 3DS RPG games. We kind of get the feeling that this might become a series of articles however… You may note some (read: Almost all) cross over with our Top 5 3DS Games. We just love RPG games alright?
5. Etrian Odyssey 5
For those new to the series, the Etrian games themselves fit a somewhat familiar mould at first: The player is tasked with creating a party consisting of various class archetypes, loading them up with the best equipment possible and heading out into the wild to explore and complete quests, all from a first person perspective, punctuated by random battles.
So it’s very similar to most other RPG titles then, right?
Wrong. Etrian Odyssey is very different, something that becomes immediately apparent when you set out into the unknown, only to immediately be tasked with recording your progress by drawing a map on the lower screen of the 3DS, something that lends the titles a fantastic sense of discovery. This addition to the usual dungeon delving fare would be enough to differentiate the series alone, yet it’s also bolstered by some inspired level design, an ‘FOE’ system (read: elite level enemies that roam the dungeon halls), a crafting system with a good deal of depth, sub-classes and talent trees for your characters and even a moderately entertaining story.
For us, the series reaches it’s pinnacle at it’s fifth entry, Etrian Odyssey 5. Classes are bolstered by race choices, each with their own pros and cons, and the dungeon design represents a developer firing on all cylinders. It’s a wonderful title that’s perfectly suited to the console it inhabits, and one that any RPG fan would be a fool to miss.
4. Pokemon X/Y
It’s truly rather hard to know what’s left to say about the Pokemon series, aside from the fact that well.. We’re still playing it right now on the Switch – you can read about it here!
Why is it our favourite Pokemon on the 3DS then? After all, the system has access to a huge amount of titles in the series.
Firstly, it really showed us what a 3DS Pokemon title could look like. Each of the models and their animations ooze detail and charm, your Pokemon all flip and slash their way through battles and even NPC characters feel individual and organic. It all just feels so polished and professional, to the point where you can almost feel the amount of care and attention each and every facet of the game were given.
Secondly, it genuinely feels like it’s own game. So many Pokemon games feel like they owe themselves to a prior title, because in many ways they do: Leaf Green for example or Black and White 2 are each great games in their own right, but owe a great deal of their detail and content to titles that came before. In Pokemon X & Y the world is new, truly new, and as such it feels like such a fresh experience, each trip into the wild accompanied by that addictive sense of adventure and discovery
Mix this all in with some great trading features and you have one of the most complete and fulfilling Pokemon experiences available, to the point where even the most recent releases pale in comparison.
3. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
Where do we start with Xenoblade Chronicles? It’s one of the most featured series’ when it comes to our lists, firmly established as one of our favourite RPG games ever made and they somehow made it fit into the palm of your hand on the 3DS, an incredible feat for a game world so huge and detailed. Ok, it looks a little jagged around the edge, but this was true of the original and really shouldn’t dull their triumph.
We could wax lyrical about this game for aeons, so we’ll try to distil it somewhat:
Xenoblade Chronicles is the perfect mixture of numerous RPG systems, JRPG philosophies and unrivalled scope. The combat system is a wonderfully fluid mix of menu based ability choices and real time action, the story line is captivating and the amount of content on offer boggles the mind. The game is a true jewel in the crown of the 3DS, certainly one of the best available on the console and almost definitely one of the best ever made.
2. Fire Emblem Awakening
It’s the game that saved it’s series, re-launching it into the public consciousness and funding it’s development of the next three-part adventure. Yes that’s right, Fire Emblem Awakening makes our list of the best 3DS RPG games, but not because of it’s golden accolades or sales figures.
It sits here because, well, it’s actually a pretty damn good game. It’s a tactical RPG that works on a grid based system, not too dissimilar to Final Fantasy Tactics say, or X-Com. Battles play out on a variety of maps, with the underlying story line played out in cut scenes that take place between each tussle. Onto each of these maps you’ll deploy a huge cast of varied characters, some more cliche than others, and look to take advantage of their relative strengths and weaknesses to defeat your opponents. It’s a tried and tested formula sure, but it’s one that Intelligent Systems have refined and distilled over the years and the 3DS, with it’s super useful second screen, benefits greatly for having the series in it’s repertoire.
Yes it’s a bit of a dating simulator and yes, the Avatar is overpowered. It’s also altogether more ‘Anime’ than previous entries and you could argue that anything below Lunatic mode is a bit too easy. Yet none of these issues stop it from being one of the best RPG games on the 3DS, and we firmly recommend any fan of the genre play it.
1. Dragon Quest 8
For some players , it’s likely to be a bit of a surprise that Dragon Quest 8 made it to the top of our list. Then again, some of you will probably be applauding our choice. Such is the way of the Dragon Quest game: Relentlessly simple, devilishly difficult and ultimately moreish. Of these points, it’s the simplicity that makes it so divisive.
Don’t get us wrong, we understand the arguments. The battle system is painfully basic when compared against it’s genre brethren, the story is whimsical nonsense and the artwork is very literally a thing of the past. Yet, it’s those very same complaints that some would consider the series’ main strengths. It’s comfortable, familiar even. You know what you’re going to get with Dragon Quest 8, even before you drop your hard earned cash, but that’s exactly why we love it. We love it’s impressive voice over localisation, it’s huge amount of content, wonderful characters, chunky turn based battles and numerous side quests. We love it all.
It’s like that favourite book from your childhood. You know what to expect, of course you do it’s something you’ve read countless times, but that doesn’t stop you picking it up when you want to feel comfortable. This is why it’s our favourite 3DS RPG, because no matter the business hotel, extended family members house or service station we’ve found ourselves stuck in, our blanket has always been there with us.