Just what is the best Fire Emblem on the Nintendo 3DS? Well, ranking these games is no easy task, trust us this took a while. Yes that’s right we’re back talking about one of our favourite game series’ of all time, Fire Emblem, and specifically how we rank those available on the 3DS! For reference we’re not including those that are technically available to play, since that would open the door for the best Fire Emblem game, Shadow Dragon, to dominate, so we’re just going to rank those actually designed for the Nintendo 3DS console.
Let’s get down to it and rank Fire Emblem games on the Nintendo 3DS from Worst to Best!
5. Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation
We’re sure this entry will be no surprise to fans of the series. Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation is a DLC only, third chapter to the Fates story. It aims to tie up any loose ends that might exist between the Conquest and Birthright story lines, and whilst that story itself is questionable to say the least, our qualms are focused on a slightly more important aspect: Game play, and more specifically, level design.
A well designed Fire Emblem map should act like a visual puzzle, with groups of enemies dotted around the map to be mentally tackled before they’re even encountered. Unfortunately those in Revelation have been filled with annoying gimmicks, ambush spawns and uninspired map designs. This ultimately holds it back, to the point where it’s considered by some to be the worst Fire Emblem game in the series’ history.
4. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
The second of the Fire Emblem Fates trilogy on our list, Birthright represents one of the main ‘halves’ of the story. Should you choose to play this option, your avatar will side with their biological family, the Hoshidans, as they war with the Nohrians and attempt to defend their lands from invasion. With regards to the story line it’s hard to recommend one over the other, since both really need to be seen to be fully experienced.
Again we come down to the actual game play to make a difference, and in this regard Birthright falls somewhat short. By no means is this a bad example of Fire Emblem, it’s just a bit… Easy. There are quite a few concessions that make the experience a little too smooth for us. The objectives are simple, the cast inoffensive and the ability to grind makes the whole thing far too manageable. It’s probably an ideal title for Fire Emblem beginners, but for us the series has always been about challenging situations, and Birthright has precious few.
3. Fire Emblem Echoes Shadows of Valentia
Yes, the irony is not lost on us. We’ve just came away from complaining about the grinding in a Fire Emblem title and yet here we are praising one almost designed around it!
Fire Emblem Echoes Shadow of Valentia is a remake of a much earlier title, Gaiden, itself a very different type of game. Gone is the weapon triangle, two range exclusive archers and weapon durability. In it’s place come random battles, the fatigue system, the ability to explore in third person and the ability to resurrect fallen allies. Echoes is probably the biggest excursion away from the regular Fire Emblem formula that you’re likely to find in the modern series, outside of Warriors.
Why so high on our list then? Well it mainly comes down to the overall design. To this day the game is probably the best looking Fire Emblem title, right up there with Three Houses, and it’s not just skin deep either – even the sprite work is fantastic throughout. This beauty extends to the game play too, feeling achingly smooth and compulsive to the touch, even with this being a much looser extension of the series. Despite it feeling so different to the other titles, you can really tell they poured oodles of love and affection into Echoes’ creation.
2. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest
Conquest is the other half of the Fire Emblem Fates story, or the other third with Revelation combined, which details the Norhian side of the campaign in which your avatar chooses to side with their adopted family. In terms of an actual plot, we’d argue this side makes even less sense than Birthright, filled as it is will plot holes and whimsical nonsense. Happily however, that’s not why it’s taken the second spot on our list.
It’s the level design and difficulty that solidifies Conquest’s position in our list. There’s just something about a tightly designed Fire Emblem map, that mix of planning and tension, that really makes these games for us. Our time with Conquest had us consistently balancing our units on a knife edge, even on some of the seemingly simply maps. Yes it’s filled with moderately insane story content, and some of the support conversations are wilfully shameful, but it’s the compulsive game play that keeps us coming back for more.
1. Fire Emblem Awakening
Finally we settle on what is, on balance, our favourite of the bunch. We realise this is probably somewhat contentious, and even now we’re slightly concerned that number three should actually be number one, but we’re going to stick with our decision. Awakening is the Fire Emblem title for the 3DS, and the title solely repsonsible for the resurrection of the series as a whole, struggling as it was to achieve enough sales on the main consoles.
It makes the top of our list by balancing the old, favourite features with new, modern gaming requirements. It still has those recognisable classes: Cavaliers become Paladins and Archers become Snipers. It still has the weapon triangle and durability. It even brings back the notion of a second generation of characters, albeit shoe-horned in with a ridiculous story.
Yet for all it accounts for the nostalgic past, Awakening drags the series into the future: In comes a new anime art style which whilst polarising, is certainly more appropriate for the times. Improved social interactions and customisation have been added, and whilst this seemed to earn it the title of ‘Waifu Simulator’, it’s a trend that we’ve seen continue to proliferate into the gaming conciousness more and more of late.
Throughout all of this however, what continues to exist is a tightly produced and well curated Fire Emblem experience, by turns infuriating and satisfying. For us it’s the best Fire Emblem available on the 3DS, and whilst it doesn’t quite topple Shadow Dragon for us, it’s certainly up there in the conversation for best in the series.
That’s our Top 5 Best 3DS Fire Emblem games done! What about your own list? Do you agree with ours? Perhaps Warriors even made your list above Revelation? Let us know in the comments section below!