The best 3DS games to grab before its eShop closes
The Nintendo 3DS eShop closes on March 27, 2023, and with it, games will be much harder to legally obtain. In the next week or so up until its closure, you may be scrambling to figure out how to add funds to your account and which games you should lock in before they’re gone. We’ve got your back.
We initially planned to include Wii U games on this list, as the Wii U eShop is also closing on the same date. However, in scouring the list of Wii U games, we realized something: Most of the iconic ones have already been ported to the Nintendo Switch. (Though we’re still waiting on ports for The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. Ahem.)
While you can haggle on third-party marketplaces for physical copies of some 3DS game, you’ll no longer be able to wait two hours for your 3DS to struggle to download a new game from the comfort of your own home.
Below, we recall some of our favorite 3DS games that we had the pleasure of playing on this miraculous console, some of which do not even have physical copies to buy. Is this list definitive? No! It’s just a collation of our opinions (and what we could remember within the time we had to write this). Thanks for understanding.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Before Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there was Animal Crossing: New Leaf. (OK, technically, there were also three more titles that came before this one, but …) New Horizons dropped us on a beautiful but empty island, and gave us free rein with customization options, deciding where to put each individual building, bridge, and floor pattern. New Leaf was the blueprint.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf kept all the things we loved about the previous titles while toning down the horrendous parts of the game, like grass wear. Nintendo really did say, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” and gave us this wonderful gem.
While lacking the ability to place furniture outside and terraform, New Leaf is seen by many die-hard Animal Crossing fans as the best one, due to its sheer amount of customization, villager dialogue, and other fun shenanigans that New Horizons lacked. —Julia Lee
Attack of the Friday Monsters
I didn’t appreciate what I had in 2013. I initially brushed off Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale as too short, too thin on gameplay, and too boring. I was, of course, wrong.
To be kind to be younger self, the premise is far simpler than its contemporaries. A kid named Sohta wanders around his new hometown, makes friends, plays a trading card game, watches TV, and overhears his parents’ squabbles. Each Friday, giant monsters (that may or may not be real) fight on the outskirts of the city.
There’s very little game in the traditional sense of the word. But like most folks reading Polygon, my idea of what is and isn’t a game – what a game should and shouldn’t be – has exponentially expanded over the past decade. As has my understanding and appreciation of games and game makers doing something different. Something precious.
In 2013, I hadn’t heard of Boku no Natsuyasumi, a vibe-forward series that shares the same designer as Friday Monsters, and one that I now covet. Nor did I appreciate publisher Level-5’s determination to create some of the most creative video games of that moment, and also to bring them to English-language markets. Far from a guarantee at the time!
Back then, I preferred games with violent action, gaudy visuals, and big maps full of nearly unlimited stuff to do. These days, I’m grateful for a game that respects my time, provides me a fresh perspective, and yeah, still manages to fit in some kaiju kicking each other’s ass — but with a message! Don’t just listen to me. Attack of the Friday Monsters has been getting the love it’s deserved as gaming podcasts like Insert Credit and Into the Aether bid adieu to the 3DS eShop.
Way back in 2013, gaming podcaster (and Polygon co-founder) Griffin McElroy wrote our review. He saw what I couldn’t: “Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale is not nearly big enough to hold the amount of affection I harbor for it, which isn’t the worst problem for a game to have.” —Chris Plante
Fire Emblem Awakening
When did Fire Emblem break into the mainstream? Some might credit Super Smash Bros., and they might be right. But Fire Emblem Awakening played a huge role in, ahem, awakening the interest of both long-time fans and new ones. And personally, I credit this 2013 game with setting the tone for future Fire Emblem games that would release over the next decade and change.
This 3DS-exclusive game delivered the classic turn-based gameplay backed with good stories, memorable (yet footless) characters, and perhaps, more fine-tuned playback control over than was necessary over your battle animations. For instance, I loved hitting pause on an attack animation, or going into slow-motion, right before I delivered the fatal blow to a tough character. If you enjoyed Fire Emblem Engage’s more battle-focused package, this is a must-buy. —Cameron Faulkner
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Like most of the handheld Legend of Zelda games, A Link Between Worlds often goes overlooked when talking about the best dungeons, bosses, and mechanics in the series. But the reality is, the 3DS game has some of the best of all three: its dungeons nail that perfect balance between challenging and empowering; its bosses are as inventive as they are strange (I’m looking at you, Moldorm); and its overworld expertly builds on the light/dark world dichotomy first introduced in the momentous A Link to the Past. What’s more, Link Between Worlds also allows you to tackle many dungeons in any order you please, slowly building up your arsenal of tools and weapons as if it were a survival kit Link actually had to piece together himself. Throw in Link’s ability to transform into a painting, and it sounds like a recipe for clashing ideas. But Link Between Worlds balances each of these plates with verve and grace. It’s not just the best 3DS game, but one of the best games in one of our most beloved series. –Mike Mahardy
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are two very fine video games, yet it’s unfortunate that their best versions are only available to view on the 3DS’ small-ass screens. Both feature enhanced graphics that smooth out some of the rougher parts of their N64 counterparts, which are available to play if you have the Switch’s Online + Expansion Pack service. Better graphics are nice, but that’s not what really makes each of these wildly different games a must-play. What does, however, are the many thoughtful and subtle tweaks that Nintendo made to each game.
The controls are better, and so are their user interfaces. For Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo made tweaks to the infamously confusing Water Temple to make it a little more logical to proceed through without a walkthrough. And for Majora’s Mask 3D, there’s an added Bomber’s notebook mechanic that makes it easier to keep tabs on daily occurrences that you might want to investigate on the next run. (Note: Those examples are, by no means, an exhaustive list of changes.)
Porting these unique, two-screened reimaginings to the Switch doesn’t sound easy, but it’d be great to see them live on outside of the 3DS someday. —CF
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (and other Mario & Luigi titles)
If you love AlphaDream’s Mario & Luigi games, you should grab them before the eShop goes. Almost the entire series is available via the 3DS eShop (either as an initial release or as a remaster), and they’re all so delightful.
Dream Team is my favorite among them, though that doesn’t mean the other titles are bad. It just means that I think seeing inside Luigi’s noggin is charming and cute. These games add so much personality to beloved characters that I consider them must-plays on the Mario franchise list.
It should be noted that the original GameBoy Advance version of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is available to play if you have Nintendo Switch Online’s Expansion Pass, so the remake of that one should be the lowest priority on your shopping list unless you really, really want the remastered version. Or if you don’t have NSO. —JL
Metroid: Samus Returns
Nintendo entrusted developer Mercury Steam to recreate Metroid II: Return of Samus for the 3DS, and the results were (and still are) fantastic. In 2017’s Metroid: Samus Returns, the flow of the game is nearly identical to the original Game Boy game from 1991, but with surprisingly lush graphics, fast gameplay, and some of the same quality-of-life tweaks, like melee counters, that made their way into 2021’s Metroid Dread. Surprise, surprise: Dread was made, in part, by the same studio.
Samus Returns obviously belongs on the Switch (it even came out months after the Switch was released), and that re-release might happen someday. Who knows with Nintendo? Maybe it won’t. But, as of the 3DS’ eShop going offline, the 3DS is the only place to play this awesome remake. —CF
It’s free, guys. It’s free. Just download it.
Picross is the perfect “I’m sitting in the airport while sipping a coffee and now I’m playing a cute little puzzle game” type of game, and this Pokémon version is quite good! While it does have a stamina system (like modern mobile games) that doesn’t let you play too many puzzles in one day, it’s a nice daily exercise that can eat up a couple minutes of your time when you’re bored. —JL
Pokémon X & Y (and any other Pokémon titles, honestly)
Listen, I’m a Mega Evolution apologist and I think the Pokémon X and Y legendaries are cool. This is the generation that introduced character customization and 3D graphics, so for some Pokémon cynics, this was the beginning of the end. But to me, this was the beginning of a shift to something exciting and next-level.
I personally think that Pokémon X and Y are the best of the 3DS bunch of titles (which includes Omega Ruby, Alpha Sapphire, Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, and Ultra Moon), but given how expensive physical copies of Pokémon games are, I can’t help but to maybe warn you to just grab one game from each generation.
If you ever want to backtrack or replay old games in the future, you’ll want to make sure you have them on lock. —JL
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
Professor Layton games have never failed me. I love to exercise my enormous brain and give it a good workout while playing these games, and the Miracle Mask is no exception.
The puzzles are all fairly simple (though tons of them will leave you scratching your head), the music is soothing and beautiful, and the general aesthetic is just … calming. In a world of chaos, I love to crack open a Professor Layton game and just dive into solving simple puzzles for my good pal, Layton (and Luke, his apprentice). Yes, these mystery games typically have a little bit of chaos happening in there, too, but a masked villain using dark magic isn’t as bad as what we got going on IRL now.
There is also another game, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, for the 3DS, but I’ve never played it, so I can’t confidently promote it. (I will be getting it before the eShop goes down, though). —JL
Rhythm Heaven Megamix
Folks, this one is dire, as this game did not get a physical release and is only available via the eShop.
Every Nintendo Direct, there are two games that I pray for a port or sequel to, and Rhythm Heaven Megamix is one of them. This is the definitive Rhythm Heaven, including almost all of the minigames from the previous titles and it plays so smooth and so perfectly.
If you have never played a Rhythm Heaven game in general, but you love music and rhythm games, then you need to grab this. Between the catchy tunes, the delightful character designs, and the vibrant colors, this is the perfect rhythm game.
I still remember when Nintendo shadow-dropped this game during E3 2016, causing me to rip out my debit card immediately. Please, Nintendo, I am begging you. Please port or sequel-ify this game. —JL
If you are reading this list of blurbs in order, then this is the second game that I constantly beg Nintendo for a port or sequel to. (If you are not reading it in order, please read the Rhythm Heaven Megamix blurb and then come back here. Thank you!)
“Unhinged” is the only accurate word I can use to really describe Tomodachi Life, a life sim that allows you to make Miis, put them in an apartment building, and then observe them like a benevolent god. Sure, you feed and clothe them, but you can’t really control what the Miis ultimately decide to do. This means you might be forced to watch your friend-turned-Mii confess to your Genshin Impact character-turned-Mii on the roof. Or maybe you’ll see your parent-turned-Mii get into a brawl with your Final Fantasy character-turned-Mii.
Sometimes we crave a little bit of chaos. Sometimes we just want to make a Mii of ourselves and then make them marry a Mii of Y’shtola from Final Fantasy 14. It is what it is and we thank Nintendo every day for allowing us to do this in the past. —JL