Everyone’s talking about the Nintendo Switch. But Nintendo hasn’t exactly forgotten its premiere handheld device, the Nintendo 3DS. This year saw new a Pokémon, Fire Emblem, and even a new Metroid release. Nintendo launched a New Nintendo 2DS XL earlier this year, providing all the functionality but without the almost always ancillary 3D feature, providing the perfect starter set for kids.
Oh, and all the games below are good for all ages, though RPGs like Pokémon require strong reading skills.
The Dragon Quest series is renowned for its classic, cartoony art style and traditional JRPG mechanics – many of which we owe to this venerable series. Dragon Quest 8 is considered one of the best, if not the best, of the series, originally launching on PlayStation 2. The open world design isn’t as amazing these days but the story-telling and gameplay are still rock-solid, and remain some of the best in any RPG.
Not very many people actually owned a Wii U, so I’ll forgive you if you missed out on 2015’s Yoshi’s Woolly World. But rectify that this year with this 3DS version. Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World lacks the cooperative multiplayer but retains the whimsical art style and puzzle-filled level designs.
As it says in the title, the next installment to Story of Seasons features three different towns to visit, socialize, and barter in while growing your own farm. Story of Seasons is by the makers of the beloved Harvest Moon series, which largely inspired last year’s big indie hit, Stardew Valley.
The once niche strategy-RPG Fire Emblem series has surged in popularity on the Nintendo 3DS thanks to 2013’s Awakening and 2016’s Fates. This year we actually got a remake of the second ever Fire Emblem game, 1991’s Fire Emblem Gaiden. It featured the same great chess-like combat while also adding unique 3D dungeon crawls.
With several Zelda 3DS titles under their belt, developers Grezzo branched out with their own original game this year. Ever Oasis combines Zelda-like exploration and dungeon crawling with cultivating your own little town of shops and products. The two halves are well-integrated, as attracting and pleasing customers results in a bigger roster of potential party members to aid you in your quest to bring life to the desert.
The Monster Hunter series is known for being hardcore, challenging, demanding, and nearly inscrutable to newcomers. But this spin-off is nothing like that, instead utilizing a Pokémon formula in letting you tame the beasts to fight with you. The large 3D zones often bring the 3DS to its knees, but Monster Hunter Stories offers a content-rich adventure that expertly combines the best parts of both franchises.
Metroid fans have been clamoring for a new 2D Metroid for well over a decade. For now we’ll settle with this remake of 1991’s Metroid 2. The old black and white Game Boy title has been completely rebuilt to take advantage of the 3DS’ hardware and controls, while still retaining the classic 2D gameplay.
It’s Minecraft. If you have kids and you own (or will own) a 3DS, there’s a good chance they’re asking for it. Minecraft was previously available on every gaming device on the planet, with Nintendo 3DS as the last holdout. Note that it does require either the New Nintendo 3DS or New Nintendo 2DS.
It’s been awhile since the last Professor Layton game. Turns out the poor Professor has been kidnapped, and it’s up to his equally adept daughter Katrielle to solve a series of puzzles and quests to find him in her own adventure.
Pokémon X and Y never did get the formerly common third edition, which served to enhance and remix that generation of Pokémon. We’re returning to form with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, offering lots of new content and a good excuse to return to Alola for Pokémon fans. You won’t find any new Pokémon, but old ones will make new appearances, not to mention the ability to catch every single Legendary Pokémon.
All eyes are on the Nintendo Switch this year, as well they should be. Nintendo has been in a weird place with home consoles over the last decade. The Wii exploded onto the scene as a gimmicky toy, then quickly collected dust in everyone’s closest. The Wii U failed to capture an audience at all, reaching only 10% of the sales of its predecessor. Launching earlier this year, the Switch is faring much better, including a killer app like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and featuring full portability.
It’s the portability that had me worried about my favorite Nintendo product of this century: the Nintendo 3DS. With the announcement and launch of the Switch, I had concerns over how Nintendo’s handheld-only console would fare when stacked up with a device that could do both.
Turns out my concerns were completely unfounded. The six-year old Nintendo 3DS is having its best year ever in 2017.
From the hardware side, this year saw the release of the New Nintendo 2DS XL. While the New Nintendo 3DS XL has failed to garner much of an audience thanks to a lack of Circle pad-requiring games, the New Nintendo 2DS XL should fare much better.
The New Nintendo 2DS XL is the exact same device as the 3DS XL (circle pad and everything) minus the 3D feature, for a much cheaper price. It’s an even better buy-in for parents and kids where the 3D effect isn’t nearly as desired (or even unwanted for younger kids) as just getting access to the amazing library of kid-friendly Nintendo 3DS games.
Over its prolific life cycle the 3DS has been home to all the biggest Nintendo series, including Zelda, Mario, Super Smash Bros, Pokémon, Fire Emblem, Monster Hunter, and Dragon Quest.
Need another reason why the 3DS is having an amazing year? I’ve got 19.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
A remake of one of the best Japanese RPGs of the PlayStation 2 era, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a must play for anyone who loves and appreciates old-school 90’s-style RPGs. The original game was noteworthy for featuring a fully 3D world to explore, which translates perfectly to the 3DS.
Release: January 20, 2017
Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World
With the abysmal sales of the Wii U I’ll forgive you if you missed Poochy’s Woolly World last year. That’s all the more reason to play the 3DS version of this whimsical platformer. With a fun variety of levels, unique yarn art style, and plenty of secrets and unlockables, it’s one of the best 2D platformers I’ve played in years.
Release: February 3, 2017
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns
Farming sim Stardew Valley was all the rage last year. If you like that style the 3DS has plenty of sim-life and farming sim games to tackle. Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns features the same basic but fun routines of tending to farm life while exploring different towns and people.
Release: February 28, 2017
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia gives Western audiences their first introduction to 1991’s Fire Emblem Gaiden. Thank the Nintendo 3DS for popularizing the Fire Emblem series, from Awakening to Conquest and Birthright. Echoes offers unique gameplay features for the series, including dungeon crawling and dual protagonists. Read our review.
Release: May 19, 2017
The 3DS tends to play it safe with big franchise installments, but Ever Oasis is a completely new title. It combines Zelda-style exploration and combat with Animal Crossing-esque town management, as you build up your burgeoning oasis and recruit allies to run stalls and delve into dungeons. Read our review.
Release: June 23, 2017
Hey! Pikmin is a 2D spin-off that represents a significant departure from the main Pikmin series. This time around Captain Olimar using found Pikmin to solve puzzles. It seems particularly suited to younger children, and is noteworthy for supporting all amiibo figures with various in-game bonuses.
Release: July 28, 2017
Do you love those Streetpass mini-games where a bunch of Miis race cars or fish or battle zombies? Miitopia is a full-scale RPG featuring everyone’s Mii avatars. It’s as goofy and fun as you imagine, utilizing a lot of fun design elements from The Sims with a a classic party-based RPG.
Release: July 28, 2017
Monster Hunter Stories
This new spin-off combines all the best elements of Monster Hunter with Pokémon to create a surprisingly special experience. The Monster Hunter series can be especially daunting, but Monster Hunter Stories represents a successful kid-friendly version that retains much of the depth of the classic action series. Read our review.
Release: September 8, 2017
Minecraft: New Nintendo 3DS Edition
Minecraft is the only title here that requires the New Nintendo 3DS (or recently released 2DS). Minecraft was available on just about every platform in modern existence, and the 3DS wasn’t about to be left out. The 3DS version comes with five addtional skin packs and two texture packs.
Release: September 13, 2017
Metroid: Samus Returns
The first new 2D Metroid title in over a decade is cause for much rejoicing. It’s actually a remake of the 1991 Game Boy title Metroid II: Return of Samus. The entire game has been rebuilt with new modern visuals, dual-screen interface, and much-welcomed gameplay enhancements to combat and movement. More Metroid games please!
Release: September 15, 2017
Pokémon Gold and Silver
Pokémon Gold and Silver isn’t a remake or even an enhancement, it’s just the original games, coming to 3DS. Why is that noteworthy? For one, Gold and Silver (Gen 2) are still considered the best generation of Pokémon games, and favorites of many a long-time fan. Second it makes transferring Pokémon from these games into other 3DS games, such as Sun and Moon, much easier.
Release: September 22, 2017
Yo-Kai Watch 2: Psychic Specters
Yo-Kai Watch may be a shameless modern Pokémon clone, but they’re also legitimately fun games in their own right. Psychic Specters is the definitive third version of last year’s Fleshy Souls and Bony Spirits. Aside from the better name it features new locations, new quests, expanded co-op, and more Yo-Kai to befriend.
Release: September 29, 2017
Culdcept has been around for years but mostly flown under the radar for Western audiences. Culdcept Revolt is the first title to reach the West since 2008’s Culdcept Saga. The series is a unique combination of strategy card and board games featuring over 400 different cards.
Release: October 3, 2017
Layton’s Mystery Journey
The Professor Layton series has been captivating puzzle game fans for years on Nintendo DS and 3DS. Layon’s Mystery Journey stars the Professor’s young daughter, Katrielle, now her own private detective, as she investigates the disappearance of her famous father. It’s the first Professor Layon title since 2013.
Release: October 6, 2017
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions
Yet another remake of a classic game, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga updates the visuals of the 2003 Game Boy Advance RPG and combines it with an all-new storyline called Minion Quest. The original Superstar Saga is one of the best GBA games, and the series is beloved by Nintendo handheld fans.
Release: October 6, 2017
Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth
With an old-school RPG flair that tasks you with mapping out dungeons, the Etrian Odyssey series is not for the faint of heart. Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth is the second deep RPG in the series to grace the Nintendo 3DS. You can download a demo on the Nintendo eShop.
Release: October 17, 2017
Fire Emblem Warriors
We last saw a Dynasty Warriors – Nintendo crossover with Hyrule Warriors in 2014, and it reached the 3DS last year. This year both the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch will see the launch of Fire Emblem Warriors, featuring the large-scale action battles of Dynasty Warriors with the familiar anime characters of Fire Emblem.
Release: October 20, 2017
Mario Party: The Top 100
Mario Party: The Top 100 was just announced last week during the Nintendo Direct. It’s a compilation of the best 100 mini-games from all 10 Mario Party games. Let’s skip the laughably unbalanced and random board game portion and jump right into what we loved – goofy, quick, and fun mini-games starring our favorite Mario characters.
Release: November 10, 2017
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon
You can’t declare a great Nintendo handheld year without a main Pokémon title to back it up. Unlike 2013’s Pokémon X and Y, last year’s Sun and Moon is getting a definitive third edition this year, featuring new Pokémon, new areas in the Alola region, and a new storyline.