The Virtual Console on the 3DS, or indeed any of the Nintendo consoles, is a godsend for so many reasons. It makes old games available for nostalgia hunters like us to play again, whilst simultaneously opening the door for a new generation of players to find out what all the fuss is about. On the 3DS specifically, it also means you can now play these games on the move, no longer glued to a big screen that you can’t shift out of your living room. Better yet, it means you no longer have to dust off that old console and fiddle about with old connectors until it works – just grab your handheld, flip the screen and you’re ready to go!
But which 3DS Virtual Console games are worth your time? Join us as we summarise our Top 5 and give you a few reasons as to why! Please bear in mind that we’re based in the UK, so our choices will be limited by exactly what is accessible in our region.
Two quick things first: This is likely to be a multipart series, and in this first article you’ll see some of the more popular titles that you’d expect to see… Except maybe our number one.
5. Super Metroid
We love metroidvania games, so it’s no surprise that one of the two titles that helped to coin the phrase – the other being Castlevania SOTN – should be on our list. Originally released for the Super Nintendo (Super Famicom) console, it’s essentially a platforming game that takes place in numerous rooms, each of which are linked together to form a map. What makes the title, and indeed the genre so compelling, is the way that each of these map zones and rooms are gated off from each other, requiring the player to return to previously inaccessible areas with new equipment and abilities to open up new areas. This results in an intoxicating blend of treasure hunting and exploration, the player led by their own curiosity.
Happily, the 3DS Virtual Console version is a joy to play. Each sprite, animation and power up looks and feels as satisfying as ever, and the ability to pop open the little console to join Samus whenever you want is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Let’s be honest though, you’ll probably just end up binge playing it on the sofa like us.
4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Another classic that really should not be missed is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Like Super Metroid, this is a title that originated on the Super Nintendo, and it’s another example of the ‘golden age’ that gaming was going through at the time. The game itself is a mix of top down action RPG and open world adventure, during which the gamer will control the titular Link as he attempts to rescue princess Zelda by traversing a world filled with dungeons, loot and snappy, satisfying combat.
Happily this all survives the transition onto the 3DS via the virtual console. It joins a whole host of Zelda games already available for the little bundle of joy. In fact, if we’re honest, A Link to the Past kind of overshadows almost all of them by itself.
3. Pokemon Crystal
Now, the 3DS is home to a great many Pokemon titles. From X & Y to Ultra Sun and Moon, there are numerous options for would be monster collectors out there, never mind the boat load of similar games looking to ride on their coat tails. There’s even the ability to play the original Red & Blue titles on the virtual console itself. That being the case, why have we chosen Pokemon Crystal Version to be on our list?
Well, it’s an unusual title. It represents the culmination of the second Pokemon generation by essentially being an ‘improved’ version of both Gold and Silver, all wrapped into one game. They didn’t just jam those together without a second thought either: Crystal comes with unique animations, side stories and even an additional dungeon. For a casual fan of the series, it’s a fantastic retro Pokemon game that you’ll lose full weekends to. For hardcore Pokemon fans, it’s a love letter to the second generation, lovingly crafted for you to lose vast swathes of time to. You don’t even have to hunt down your dusty old GBC – it’s out there on the 3DS virtual console right now.
2. Mega Man X
Games like this are exactly why the virtual console, in all of it’s guises on Nintendo consoles, is such a fantastic addition. Mega Max X is the first in the ‘X’ spin of series to the mainline entry of titles, though we could just as easily push forth the theory that this game was the beginning of the next mainline, such was the success. It represents the first foray of the series into 16-bit hardware, being the first released for the Super Nintendo console, though in many ways it sticks to the blueprint: It’s a platforming game split into stages, each of which house a new variant of gun type for you to collect, many of which significantly change the attacks available to you. These are then used to cut down the subsequent stages before you make your way to the final boss.
If that sounds pretty simple well, it really is. Despite being fairly forward thinking during it’s formative years, the series has stuck to a tried and tested formula throughout the entirety of it’s main titles. The real allure comes from the difficulty, which at times can be very high, and through it’s variation of abilities: Guns can be charged up before being fired, and each power up variant will bestow wildly different abilities, from sending sparks along the ground and walls to throwing metallic boomerangs across the room. Mega Man X famously went even further with this kit, by introducing a super secret ability in the form of the Hadouken, something fans of Capcom’s other famous games will surely recognise.
Having a snapshot of platforming history available on the 3DS virtual console is fantastic. To this day we still occasionally fire it up, instantly transporting ourselves to our old bedroom floor, flinging our SNES controller down as we once again fail to make that stupid mine cart jump.
1. Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya
Kudos if you saw this one coming, though we would excuse you for doing so, given how obsessed we are with a certain other tactical, grid based RPG. Yes, Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya is a tactical RPG, in exactly the same vein as Fire Emblem, and plays like most others in the series: You have an army of friends and allies, they have a gathering of absolute scumbags and you have to edge towards them in turns until you’re close enough to defeat them. It was originally released for the Game Gear and was solely responsible for the amount of time we spent with the console.
Now, we may just be getting to a certain age, but sometimes we crave simplicity. It can be nice to sit down and enjoy the feeling of playing a game without having to deal with the fluff that comes along with them. This is exactly why we love Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon so much, and the feeling continues here. There’s no messing around between battles, no potential suitors to romance and no DLC to be missed. Just you the player, your small army of willing comrades and a formation of enemies to outsmart.
Of course, you could argue that it’s nowhere near difficult enough, it lacks the variety of it’s genre brethren and of course it can be hard for your eyes to adjust to those graphics these days. Regardless however, it’s a nostalgic glimpse into the TRPG past and a thoroughly enjoyable title in it’s own right. The 3DS virtual console version itself comes with an unexpected bonus too: You don’t have to plug six AA batteries into it every time you want to fire it up.