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Top 10 Nintendo 3DS Games

Over the span of time I’ve been posting on 3DStination.com, I have compiled two different lists of the five best Nintendo eShop games to date (which you can see here and here), but I have said nothing about my ten favorite retail releases. I’d like to change that now.

To be honest, it wasn’t easy to narrow my “best of” selections to just ten. In the two years the 3DS has been available, there have been more than two dozen games that I’d personally recommend purchasing to almost any player.

Regardless, here are my ten favorites – keep in mind, many of these are personal picks/based on my 3DStination review scores, but others have been selected for different reasons:

#10 New Super Mario Bros. 2
Developed and Published by Nintendo
Released August 19 2012

New Super Mario Bros 2 - Banner

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 7.9/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 8.9/10

Quite possibly the most unlikely choice on this list, New Super Mario Bros. 2 was released last August, and was met with mixed reviews from critics – at least, as far as Super Mario Bros. titles are concerned. Many felt like it was a great new entry in the franchise, others (including myself) questioned its value at full price.

New Super Mario Bros 2 - 3The reason NSMB2 makes my Top 10 Nintendo 3DS Games list is because that skepticism about its value has faded over time, and like many of Mario’s greatest games, NSMB2 is just as fun to pick up and play right now as it was when it was released. Over the past few months, it has become evident that I was a little too harsh on the game in my original review. The Coin Rush mode is one of the cooler features of the series in quite some time, and the level design is no less creative and challenging – at times even more so – than its predecessors. I just wasn’t totally sold on it at the time.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 may have stolen the #10 spot from a few other well-deserving video games - Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, Code of Princess and Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask being the next two choices for this spot – but only because it remains one of my favorites to play if I pop it in my 3DS.

#9 Resident Evil: Revelations
Developed and Published by Capcom
Released February 7 2012

Resident Evil Revelations - Banner

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.2/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9/10

One of the Nintendo 3DS’s very best third-party experiences, Resident Evil: Revelations was absolutely fantastic, and followed up the sub-par Mercenaries 3D game that Capcom released during Summer 2011. It was also one of the very first 3DS games to make use of the Circle Pad Pro, allowing players to enjoy the concole-quality game with expanded control options.

Resident Evil Revelations - Jill and ParkerRevelations wasn’t just great because of its amazing 3D graphics, stereoscopic effects, or impressive cinematic scenes; its intense music, highly-detailed environments, tight controls, or its entertaining mix of classic- and modern-style Resident Evil game design. I really enjoyed the single-player component, but perhaps the best part of the game was the “Raid Mode”, which offered local and online co-op. I remember this being my very first online experience on the handheld, and not only did it go smoothly – it was just really damn fun to play.

The modern Resident Evil games have been criticized for focusing so much on action, moving away from the “survival horror” aspect of the franchise’s roots – but Revelations was nonetheless exciting and fun to play, and certainly one of the most impressive 3DS games upon its release. Even today, Revelations ranks among the top of the 3DS’s best-looking games to date.

#8 Star Fox 64 3D
Developed and Published by Nintendo
Released September 9 2011

Starfox 64 3D - logo

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 9/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.2/10

The release of Star Fox 64 3D in September 2011 was where the 3DS really started to pick up the pace, with the handheld’s first high-quality releases started to roll out. It was the second Nintendo 64 rehash on the 3DS, following Ocarina of Time 3D - but it was arguably better as a re-make of the original content it was based on.

Starfox 64 3D - CorneriaI put Star Fox 64 3D on the list at #8 (just behind Ocarina 3D) for just one reason; the original game just wasn’t as big as Ocarina of Time. Beyond that, it adopted the stereoscopic effects of the 3DS much better than Ocarina 3D, which felt like a very natural and organic part of the experience (rather than a special effect thrown in for good measure). It also enhanced the sound effects, voice acting, and music from the original – though the classic voices may have been better after all.

Star Fox 64 3D remains a blast to pick up and play through, and if you can’t find a cheaper used copy at GameStop (or online), it is a great choice for a download through the Nintendo eShop. Either way, you really shouldn’t miss out on this 3D re-make. It’s one of the best 3DS games to date, never mind being a highly enhanced version of a fantastic N64 title.

#7 Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Developed by GreZZo, Published by Nintendo
Released June 19 2011

Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D - Banner

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.6/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.4/10

The very first Nintendo 3DS game I picked up was none other than Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3Dand I would assume many of the 3DS owners reading this made the same decision when the handheld was released in 2011.

Ocarina of Time 3D - 1Nintendo and developer Grezzo re-packaged the Nintendo 64 classic with enhanced graphics, 3D effects and more – making it one of the biggest and best games available right out of the gate. How could you really ask for more than an optimized version of arguably the most beloved Nintendo game created in the last 20 years?

That being said, the luster of Ocarina 3D hasn’t faded much since its original release. There are definitely 3DS games with better 3D effects – in fact I’d rank this re-make among the bottom of the list in terms of the stereoscopic qualities – but few that are simply “better” overall. If you own the handheld, you should probably own this game, period.

#6 Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Developed and Published by Square-Enix
Released July 31 2012

Review - Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.5/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.5/10

The 3DS installment of the Kingdom Hearts franchise - Dream Drop Distancewas one of my most-anticipated releases of 2012, and did not disappoint. Square-Enix delivered one of the most impressive 3DS games to date, with beautiful 3D effects and stylish visuals, an amazing soundtrack and fully-voiced cast of memorable characters from both Disney and Square-Enix franchises. Dream Drop Distance starred both Sora and Riku, visiting new stages from films such as Tron: Legacy, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, and Pinnochio.

Kingdom Hearts 3D Review - 2Separating itself from its predecessors, Dream Drop Distance introduced quite a few interesting mechanics, some of which were a bit more questionable than others – but all adding up to an incredibly deep experience. There were the Dream Eater “Spirits”, which could be developed as party members in the place of Goofy and Donald, who joined Sora in previous games. There was the FlowMotion system, which was incredibly intuitive and helped make the platforming and movement throughout each environment into an entertaining and smooth experience. There were the Reality Shifts, which were powerful attacks that were unique and special to each stage. There was the “drop” feature, which suddenly transitioned the player’s control from Sora to Riku.

This was a game that kept me busy for months, and I felt that it deserved a lot of praise – Square-Enix didn’t disappoint, and provided what I consider to be the best third-party game on the 3DS to date.

#5 Fire Emblem: Awakening
Developed by Intelligent Systems, Published by Nintendo
Released February 4 2013

Fire Emblem Awakening - Banner Art

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: N/A
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.5/10

Adding Fire Emblem: Awakening to my Top 10 list was pretty tough, but not because I think the game is undeserving of all its praise – I just haven’t had a lot of time with it myself, so I have less to say personally about it.

Fire Emblem Awakening - 2In total, I have spent roughly five hours in the single-player campaign, and from what I can tell, this is certainly one of the best 3DS games to date. Fire Emblem fans have told me multiple times that it is more intuitive and inviting to newcomers, which is something that I can definitely see, having played the re-make of the original on the NDS. I can definitely say that the visuals are amazing, with highly-detailed environments and smoothly-animated attacks in each battle scene. This was one of my favorite enhancements of the franchise – the visual style – and was enough to pull me into the story more than ever before. I also liked the voice acting and soundtrack, and felt very engrossed by the presentation of the plot.

Like I said, I don’t have a review to reference or a lot of coherent thoughts to provide about Fire Emblem: Awakening, but I am damn sure that it deserves a spot on my Top 10 list – even a spot so high up on the list, with such little play-time.

#4 Mario Kart 7
Developed and Published by Nintendo
Released December 7 2011

Mario Kart 7 - Banner

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.5/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.5/10

Rounding out a fantastic Q4 2011 for the Nintendo 3DS was Mario Kart 7, which may have benefitted from Mario Kart DS’s replay value-extending Mission mode, but was otherwise flawless. In fact, just behind its NDS predecessor, I consider this the finest Mario Kart to date.

Mario Kart 7 - Daisy HillsMK7 was another fantastic 3D game, using the stereoscopic effects of the 3DS in a natural, organic way that really enhanced the kart racing gameplay. Compared to its predecessors, its track selection was admirably diverse and utilized the new underwater/air racing sections in a great way. The roster of characters was very inclusive, but unlockable kart pieces allowed for a lot of customization, making the racers even more diverse. The items were toned down a bit from Mario Kart Wii – which was all but necessary, in my opinion – and made for a better racer, both solo and multiplayer. That was the last big bullet point for MK7; its multiplayer component was very deep, and featured “Communities” that connected 3DS players to friends like never before.

Mario Kart 7 - 3Mario Kart 7 didn’t rely on a lot of gameplay gimmicks (though it may have featured plenty of its own); it was just another solid Mario Kart game, albeit one with the most robust online multiplayer options and well-rounded selection of tracks to date. If you own a Nintendo 3DS, you really owe it to yourself to check this one out. It is high on the list two years into the 3DS lifespan, and I would guess that MK7 will remain one of the handhelds finest for years to come.

#3 Kid Icarus: Uprising
Developed by Project Sora, Published by Nintendo
Released March 23 2012

Kid Icarus Uprising - Banner

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.7/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.7/10

As a reboot of a series that had been dormant for over two decades, Kid Icarus: Uprising had its sights set pretty high – and it ended up us my favorite NIntendo 3DS title released in all of 2012. With its compelling single-player story mode and robust online multiplayer component, Uprising offered more bang for your buck than most titles I’ve seen on any Nintendo handheld.

Kid Icarus Uprising - 11Though many critics barked about Uprising’s controls, claiming the on-foot portions were too difficult to manage, I had no such issues in my time with the game, and I enjoyed its third-person action/platforming sections as much as its Star Fox-inspired flying sections. The plot was very compelling, bringing back the spunky protagonist Pit and his goddess friend, Palutena; the mysterious and annoyingly-nicknamed “Pitoo” and the series’ main villain, Medusa. The fully-voiced dialogue was particularly humorous and the constant banter between the characters kept my attention even more focused on the story, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining single-player mode. Perhaps more impressive was Uprising’s online/local multiplayer features, which allowed up to six players to duke it out in various battle stages, using their customized weapons from the single-player component.

Kid Icarus Uprising - 1Kid Icarus: Uprising was very deep, offered a load of content, and utilized many of the handheld’s nifty features better than any titles released before it – even the Play Coins collected by walking around with the 3DS in your pocket could be used in the game, making it incredibly enjoyable to pick up and play in short bursts, just as much as extended bursts.

Though its learning curve might not be so inviting to everyone, I would recommend Kid Icarus: Uprising to everyone with a Nintendo 3DS – it would have been my #2 pick, if it weren’t for one of the most recently-released gems on the platform…

#2 Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
Developed and Published by Nintendo
Released March 24 2013

Luigis Mansion Dark Moon Banner

Original 3DStination.com Review Score: N/A
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 9.8/10

Similar to Fire Emblem: Awakening, I hesitated to include Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on my Top 10 list…but only because I have no full review of the game to reference, and I myself am only about half of the way through the single-player quest (~15 hours of play time). That being said, I have no doubts about the astonishing quality of this 3DS title, and therefore I think it completely deserves the #2 spot on this list.

Luigis Mansion Dark Moon 3First of all, Dark Moon is a much, much better game than its Gamecube predecessor – though I’m slightly biased, as I was never really drawn to the original in the first place. This game just seems to be segmented perfectly as a handheld title; each mission throughout the five different haunted locations feels like a very satisfying bite to take out of the game, and Luigi’s Mansion is built around slowly exploring rather than making a mad dash to the end of each stage.

Luigis Mansion Dark Moon 2It’s very atmospheric, with beautiful visuals detailing each environment – including shadows, particle effects, and many different colorful characters. Dark Moon is also loaded with humor, though it stays far from being too nostalgic – in fact, I really praise the team at Next Level Games for keeping all the classic Super Mario Bros. references to a minimum, and allowing the Luigi’s Mansion brand to materialize into something special of its own. In fact, this one is really all about those small details; for instance the ringtone on Luigi’s DS (used to communicate with Professor E. Gadd) is so catchy that I decided to download it and use it on my own real-life cell phone.

Luigis Mansion Dark Moon 1Though I haven’t completed the game (and I would still like to play much more of its online/local multiplayer mode, ScareScraper), I fully believe that Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is one of the very best Nintendo 3DS games out there – it’s full of content, both single- and multiplayer; it looks utterly fantastic, and its charming style combined with its soundtrack and audio effects make it one of the best-presented games on the handheld to boot. If you own a Nintendo 3DS, don’t hesitate to check this one out – even if you weren’t a big fan of the original Gamecube game (like myself), you will fall in love with Luigi like never before.

#1 Super Mario 3D Land
Developed and Published by Nintendo
Released November 13 2011

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Original 3DStination.com Review Score: 10/10
Adjusted 3DStination.com Review Score: 10/10

Full disclosure; when compiling my Top 10 Nintendo 3DS Games article, I had a lot of trouble filling in the exact spots, and took a lot of time figuring out exactly which game deserved which spot on the list. There was just one exception; my #1 pick - Super Mario 3D Land.

Super Mario Land 3D - 1When I think critically about video games, I consider many different things – the pure entertainment value, the direct comparisons to previous installments or similar games, the impact of each particular game at its time of release – and for the very first time in my reviewing career, I landed on utter perfection when I reviewed 3D Land. From its satisfying mash-up of classic Super Mario Bros./Super Mario Bros. 3 stage designs and Super Mario 64/Super Mario Galaxy gameplay to its beautiful visual style and nostalgia-inducing soundtrack, Super Mario 3D Land was the definition of a video game that deserved that lofty 10/10 review score. Just the re-introduction of the Tanooki Suit was enough to cause fits of nerdy joy within me when it was originally announced.

Super Mario 3D Land - 3The game started off with eight worlds, all varied with different level designs, but that was just the beginning. Once you found all of the Star Coins in each level, there were eight more worlds that unlocked, which served as the true challenge of 3D Land. Not long after finishing the first secret world, players could unlock and use Luigi instead of Mario – which changed the game even more, with Luigi’s lofty jump and slippery movement. By the end of my time with Super Mario 3D Land, I had gone through each and every stage – in both the 8 regular & secret worlds – collected every single Star Coin, and unlocked more secret worlds to explore. The amount of content was astounding, and perfect for bite-size playthroughs rather than long-winded experiences.

Super Mario 3D Land didn’t feature any sort of multiplayer, at least not in the regular sense – but it definitely used the StreetPass function of the Nintendo 3DS in an interesting way, sending high scores for each stage to other players, and encouraging players to go back to beat their friends’ top marks. This extended the replay value even further, making it into a game that could be played for dozens of hours without really getting stale.

Super Mario 3D Land - 2Perhaps the most important reason that 3D Land deserves the #1 spot on my Top 10 list is because no Nintendo 3DS game to date has used the most important feature of the handheld – the 3D effects – to such an amazing degree. Stereoscopic gameplay wasn’t just a gimmick here; it was absolutely essential to enjoy the game the way it was originally designed. Depth was a huge factor in the design of each level, so playing without 3D was possible, but just not as enjoyable. There aren’t really any Nintendo 3DS games to date – not even the others on this Top 10 list – that I can say that about.

In conclusion, Super Mario 3D Land is the very best Nintendo 3DS game to date – and I would personally go a step further, putting it at the top spot on my list of all-time favorite Mario games. If you don’t already own a copy of it, stop what you’re doing – you really need to play this game. If the rest of the Nintendo 3DS’s life cycle goes without anything topping 3D Land, I would still be content knowing that Nintendo provided the very best Mario experience possible on the handheld.

This concludes my Top 10 Nintendo 3DS Games list, thank you for taking the time to read through it all! What do you think? What are your very favorite games on the handheld? I highly urge you to leave a comment in the box below.

Keep in mind that some notable exceptions from the list - Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Professor Layton & The Miracle Mask, and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy were highly considered, but personal circumstances kept them from making the list. This doesn’t mean I think they’re not some of the best games out there – maybe it’s just a sign that there really are a lot of great Nintendo 3DS games, even at such an early stage in its lifespan.