My Favourite Nintendo 3DS Games

On September 16th, Nintendo announced that the 3DS family of systems was no longer in production, and was thus officially discontinued. This is almost a decade after its release in February of 2011. The 3DS was the first system I bought with my own money, around the time that I started to self-fund my video game hobby. I did not own too many games, but it’s the system I had the most fun with, even more so than the Switch (so far).

My little gaming corner. She’s still growing!

What really struck me about the 3DS, which the Switch is painfully lacking in, was the ability to truly make the system your own. We were able to organise our Home screen the way we wanted, place games in folders, collect themes for the Home screen, and win badges that could be used for decoration. The Switch only has a standard black or white theme available, over 3 years into its life, and folders/badges are nowhere to be found. While the Joy-Con do offer some level of customisation with their colours, they are far more expensive than decals that were available for regular systems, a lot more plain than the special edition systems, and pale in comparison to the faceplates available for the New Nintendo 3DS.

A picture of my home screen, complete with a fitting fall theme.

In 2013, I bought the Cosmo Black version of the original 3DS second-hand from one of my 6th form peers. I was over the moon, and although I didn’t have any 3DS games (or money, for that matter), I poured hours into replaying my DS games on my shiny new(-ish) system, as well as the included software, like Face Raiders and the AR games. This type of quirky software made to showcase the system’s features is something I also wish the Switch had, but instead we got the mediocre-at-best 1-2 Switch which was sold separately, instead of being a pack-in like Wii Sports was.

If you couldn’t tell by the title, I’m going to talk about my 10 favourite 3DS games today, in ascending order. Enjoy!

10. Streetpass Games

Okay, this one might be cheating a little. Is it? I don’t know. It’s my post, ok?!

My absolute favourite feature of the 3DS was the ability to connect to other players who had their systems in sleep mode via Streetpass if you passed them, well, in the street. It was exciting to see people from different countries talk about where in the world they were from, and watch my little map fill up with different countries and their various states. Being in a rural area of a developing country where video game systems were harder to come by meant that passing actual people was quite difficult, but Nintendo took that into consideration and allowed people to use Play Coins, which were earned by walking around with the system, to play, even if the experience was lesser.

Two default games, Puzzle Swap and Find Mii were what I spent most of my time playing. The former allowed for players to exchange puzzle pieces which revealed game-specific 3D diaoramas, and the latter had players recruit soldiers to defeat monsters. Later on I bought the 2nd DLC pack which allowed me to explore jungles, race cars, do simulated day trading, cook meals and fight monsters in ninja gear. For people who may not be able to afford many games, I think the Streetpass titles are really neat as you can continue to play as long as you take your 3DS outside with you. Streetpass is something I couldn’t get enough of, especially when I travelled. I wish it were continued with the Switch family of systems, but in a way it’s nice that this was unique to the good ol’ 3DS.

9. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

My first foray into the Shantae series started with one of the elusive Humble Bundles involving 3DS games. The other games in the bundle weren’t particularly impressive to me, but I got completely sucked into this one. It was my first Metroidvania, and it did its job extremely well teaching me the concepts of the genre without being too frustrating. As a matter of fact, it was the first game I really wanted to 100%, but I only ever made it to 97% because of the insane jump in difficulty found in the last level.

This game features Shantae, the titular half-genie, who lost her genie transformation powers in the last game. Players must now traverse the Shantae universe with only Shantae’s wits, her signature hair whip and accessories from the pirate queen, Risky Boots, which are gradually acquired throughout the game. As is the case with Metroidvanias, players must trek through the levels and backtrack to previous levels to receive the necessary upgrades that allow them to bypass obstacles throughout the game.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse knew just how long to keep me captivated without overstaying its welcome. The witty writing and incredibly vibrant characters were refreshing, and I felt at home in Scuttle Town.

8. Mario Kart 7

Mario Kart 7 is especially dear to me because it was a huge upgrade after Mario Kart DS, which was the only other Mario Kart I’d owned. This was also around the same time that I started getting into online gaming communities, so I discussed this game with others and played with other people locally. It was here that I honed my Mario Kart skills, and while I can’t possibly dream of achieving 3 stars in 200 CC cups in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I at least won’t come last!

7. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

I was super apprehensive about getting into this franchise at first, but man am I glad I did. I started with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate as it was on sale, and fell in love. The underwater mechanics in 3U weren’t my favourite, which is why 4 Ultimate ultimately (ha) made the list.

Monster Hunter features a classic gameplay loop: hunt the monster (shocker!), farm its corpse for parts, use the parts to make better weapons and armour, use the new weapons and armour to hunt more difficult monsters, and repeat. This may sound like a chore, but the unique challenges brought on by each monster and the wide variety of weapon classes available means that there are endless playstyle combinations. I am more partial to the longsword, which my friends call “Easy Mode”, but being a small woman it’s always super amusing to watch my character wield a weapon 3 times my height against these huge creatures. I never got to G Rank or anything, but it’s a franchise I’d like to hone my skills in, which I plan to do when Monster Hunter Rise releases on the Nintendo Switch.

6. Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon

Explorers of Sky was, thankfully, my first Mystery Dungeon game, which meant I was immediately exposed to the best the side series had to offer, even if I didn’t finish it (seeing a trend here?). After the underwhelming demo put forward by Gates to Infinity, I got myself Super Mystery Dungeon with a discount code from My Nintendo. For those unfamiliar with the genre, Mystery Dungeon games feature a gameplay loop in which players are tasked with traversing multi-floor dungeons with randomly generated rooms. Oftentimes, a boss waits at the end of a dungeon, there may be travelling shop vendors, or rooms in which players get ambushed without warning by a slew of foes. It’s ever-changing, and no two playthroughs are the same. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games also feature the ability to go through a personality test at the beginning of the game

It took me a while to finish, but the end was more gut-wrenching than I ever expected. I never thought I’d be subjected to such an emotional story, but I’m glad I saw it through to the end.

5. Pokémon Shuffle

This entry is probably one you wouldn’t expect, but hear me out! This game was one of the free-to-start titles on the eShop, and served as a nice time-waster when I was taking a break from the games I’d paid for. I eventually spiralled into a months-long obsession with the game alongside my partner, and it was loads of fun, even if the game wasn’t multiplayer.

Pokémon Shuffle is a Match-3 type of game, aesthetically fashioned after a similar game, Pokémon Trozei on the Nintendo DS. What differentiates Pokémon Shuffle from other traditional Match-3 games like Candy Crush or Bejeweled is that you can move your Pokémon icons anywhere across the board. Some Pokémon, when matched enough, can Mega Evolve, and each Pokémon with this ability can have a unique effect, such as removing lines of Pokémon horizontally or diagonally. The strategy comes in when you must figure out how to complete the objective within the move or time limit. Defeating the Pokémon before your moves run out increases your chances of capturing the Pokémon, which you’ll then be able to use to catch more.

Of course, there were paid elements, such as purchasing more stamina hearts or diamonds for extra moves, but I didn’t find them intrusive. I think I ended up spending around $5 in the game, in total, out of sheer boredom. I especially liked the special stages, which had weekly chances to gain coins, experience points, or catch special legendary Pokémon which were insanely powerful. It’s a neat time-waster that I’d recommend. It’s on mobile, too!

4. Yoshi and Poochy’s Woolly World

If you know me, you know I LOVE Yoshi. Like, I love him. I’d die for him. He’s the best character in the Mario universe and deserves way more than to be used as an extra jump so that Mario can get on a ledge and—

Okay, focus. Can’t get too passionate. So, uh… how ‘bout that yarn?

Yoshi’s Woolly World was first released on the Wii U, and of course I owned it. I loved the music, the yarn aesthetic, and everything looked so SOFT. I even bought myself a Mega Yarn Yoshi amiibo so that I could snuggle him. However, the 3DS port beats it by thiiiiiis much.

The story is the exact same as every other Yoshi story. Kamek messes things up, and Yoshi has to collect stuff throughout the worlds to save the day. In this case, the things are bundles of yarn, which used to be Yoshi’s friends but were unwound by Kamek. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about how horrifying that premise is.

There was some new content added to the port, including the Poochy trials, where players run through levels as Poochy and collect three Poochy pups. The pups can also be called into the main levels, where they can assist players in finding secret items. Despite the graphical downgrade for the 3DS, this game was much more fun for me to play.

3. Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

Okay so I finally put a real Pokémon game on this list. This was a VERY difficult choice for me to make. I ended up choosing this game because of how much more fun I had than the others.

Sun and Moon had the best environments and graphics, but the poorly organised online, the removal of the PSS, the endlessly long cutscenes and the version-locked clothing colours (who thought this was a good idea?) made me kind of disappointed. In XY, I had a good time, and enjoyed the PSS and Pokémon Amie, but ORAS did it just a bit better. The improved PokéDex, the DexNav, the great environments, Secret Bases, riding Latios/Latias across Hoenn (!!!!) and all the available legendary Pokémon made this an incredible experience. I didn’t play Ruby and Sapphire when they released and was in the middle of a used copy of Emerald when these games came out. Needless to say, I kind of find it hard to go back to it now that I have these remakes.

2. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

Okay, I know my friends are tired of me going on about how great Shovel Knight is. But guys, it’s SO good. I had heard of the series in some Top 10 lists and decided to buy it physically for the 3DS for the first time, in the event that I didn’t like it. Years later, I have it on Wii U and Switch as well.

I don’t have much to say, other than: buy it. Whether on PC, PlayStation 4, XBox, Wii U, 3DS, or Switch. Buy it. It’s 5 games for $40. There’s co-op on Nintendo home consoles. Exclusive content on 3DS, PS4 and XBox. It’s an amazing retro platformer that gives you everything you remember from the NES days, without the limitations of the NES. The developers are amazing and constantly worked hard to give us a terrifically polished product.

1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome amiibo

This game is the only reason Shovel Knight is not number 1. It is the sole reason I bought a 3DS in the first place, and remains one of my most played at over 800 hours. New Leaf is my favourite 3DS game, and my favourite Animal Crossing game. I love New Horizons, but New Leaf’s multiplayer options make it even better in my opinion.

New Leaf was my safe space for many years and got me through some tough life transitions. I met amazing people on online trading communities, and still am still friends with some to this day. I don’t think I have more positive emotions associated with any other game. It’s great. Buy New Horizons, definitely, but if you don’t have a Switch and enjoy slower games where there’s no pressure to win, this is definitely for you.

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