Determining the best 3DS games might be the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. The magnificent little console is home to some of the best games ever created, and it’s full catalogue has enough quality to rival any other console in history, even the reviled PS2. Yet, with the advent of the Switch Lite, the 3DS is almost certainly retirement bound.
What a life it has led. Nintendo certainly has a track record for quality when it comes to their handheld consoles, and the 3DS is no different. It’s myriad of models was accompanied by some of the best games of this generation, so we’ve found some time to celebrate five of the very best.
Dragon Quest 8
When considering the best games on a console, it’s hard to look past this series. Modern RPG games, in particular those of the J variety, owe much of themselves to the influence of two gaming series’: Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy. Unlike the then Squaresoft developed series however, the Enix backed set of titles always struggled to gain traction outside of Japan, at least to the same degree.
This all changed with the advent of Dragon Quest 8, where new eyes were cast upon it during the height of the PS2’s console dominance. New players were thrilled by the exact same qualities series fans had loved for years; a simple but satisfying combat system set amid a hokey world filled with charm and comedy, with audio and visual design content with simply emphasising both. The story – typically a weak spot for the series – was delightfully twee, set in a huge game world replete with secrets, oddball characters and compelling mini games. Said fans, both new and old, were surprised then to see such a massive title squeezed into their 3DS and yet, but for a small drop in graphical quality, they did it, and it exists today as a shining example of everything we love about JRPGs, puns and all.
Fire Emblem Awakening
It’s not exactly a secret that we’re fans of this series. Regular readers may note then, a lack of this title in our top 5. Well, whilst that might be the case, the sheer success of Fire Emblem Awakening cannot be ignored, especially given the fact that came to light years later: It was the last chance for the series. Sales had not been impressive enough in the previous titles and Intelligent Systems were given a target: Sell 250,000 copies, or shutter the doors on the series.
Talk about performing under pressure. Awakening, a title almost analogous to the game and it’s importance in the series, was an immense success the world over. Yes, it has some characters you might not like and yes, it does pander somewhat to the current waifu generational craze, but if you can manage to look beyond this it has a significant amount of high quality strategic content to offer any would be player. It’s a tightly packaged tactical RPG that’s frighteningly difficult at times and yet, with the addition of a casual mode, also now approachable. Long time fans may still be divided by it, and whilst we’re a little more fond of Valentia, Awakening is essential playing for all comers and easily one of the best games for the 3DS.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
‘Monster Hunter’ and ‘Best Games’ are almost synonymous in our vocabulary: Were there an award for least surprising entry to a list well, here you have it. Yes it’s Monster Hunter, something we’re sure that you’re aware we like quite a lot really. However, where most Monster Hunter veterans joined much earlier – perhaps with Freedom Unite, or Tri – we were eventually swept up by this, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Luckily for us, there can be no better example of the series than this, a game which many still consider to be the best in the series.
The ‘Ultimate’ moniker, at least in this series, tends to signify the peak of that generation of games, and this is entirely true of 4U in particular: It’s a huge game, packed with almost endless amounts of content sent to test it’s players to breaking point. Of course, the whole point is to get over your breaking point, then loot it and move onto the next one. This all takes the form of a third person action game, pitting you against one or more monsters, handing you a chosen weapon and waiting to see who wins. It’s truly magical and, in an unusual act for a 3DS title, it’s presented in silky smooth 60 FPS. We really cannot recommend this title enough, but be warned: Once you pop your Monster Hunter cherry, nothing else quite compares.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
Sure, squeezing Dragon Quest 8 into a 3DS cartridge was impressive, but this? Surely not. The Wii was orders of magnitude more powerful and yet somehow they did it, and did it well.
For those unaware, Xenoblade Chronicles is an RPG game, taking the form of a third person adventure in which your characters live atop a massive giant, itself frozen mid battle with another massive giant, forming one of the largest game worlds ever created, all of which makes the port more and more impressive. Apart from this immense world, the game itself has a lot to offer: The battle system hits a sweet spot between menu choices and real time, the character work is fantastic – especially the localisation into English – which really breathes life into the playable cast, and the systems at play behind the scenes are almost dizzying in depth, each character learning a large amount of skills ready to be combined in combat. Add to this veritable databases full of collectables, pieces of loot and a gem slotting system, and you have a completionists wet dream.
Discussing the best 3DS games is hard enough, but discussing the best Pokemon game in this day and age is tantamount to starting a riot, especially given the recent backlash the developers received when announcing the roster for the upcoming Switch titles. However, when it comes to discussing the best title available on the 3DS, one title dominates the headlines: Pokemon X & Y.
It owes much of this by it’s return to type: It’s a game in which you experiment, catch Pokemon, form teams and train them up to beat gym leaders. In returning to the series’ roots and shining a light on the collecting element, the developers managed to make the title feel so much more satisfying to play. Yes, it still divides opinion to this day due to a perceived lack of difficulty, but for us that was never what these title were about; they’re about discovery, about finding that ideal ‘mon for a given situation and working it into your lineup, about setting out into a new zone excited about what you might find, seeing those collection numbers tick up as you do.
Pokemon games live or die on how they make the player feel when they’re in the long grass, and it’s here where X & Y excelled, transporting players back to the heady heights of Red/Blue, and their journeys of anticipation.