The best 3DS games to download before Nintendo closes its eShop – For The Win

The Nintendo 3DS, one of the most joyous little machines to ever grace the games industry, is dead — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say it will be killed very slowly over the next year until it draws its final breath in late March 2023. It is, at the time of writing, fighting for its life. Out of respect for its vigilance, we’ve decided to eulogize it early by collecting 20 3DS games every Nintendo fan needs to download before its ticker winds down to zero. 
We’re not saying these are the best games on 3DS, nor are we exclusively referring to titles that are only available on this platform. We’re not claiming these are definitive handheld editions of certain games either, nor that said certain games were always destined for handheld living.
Instead, each entry on this list is influenced by all four of those metrics, as well as a rigorous scientific protocol developed specifically for this collection that, unfortunately, is strictly confidential. Sorry, but secret science is secret for a reason. This is basically an Illuminati-approved 3DS shopping list.
Here are 20 3DS games you need to add to your library as soon as possible — as in, get up, grab your 3DS, and download them in real time as you’re scrolling through the list. We promise you won’t regret it unless you are a person of unfortunately poor taste.
theatrhythm final fantasy curtain call
As is customary of a list containing a curated selection of games for a notably weird console, we’re kicking things off with one of its especially strange titles. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call — what a name! — is a bizarre little thing that collects characters from the first 13 Final Fantasy games and has them perform songs together. 
Imagine Gaia and Spira crashed into one another, right, and all of a sudden Sephiroth and Yuna are up on stage belting out an a capella version of Fight On! together. That’s what this game is all about — and unless you have an iPhone, you’ll only be able to find it on 3DS. If you do have an iPhone… well, it’s better on 3DS, isn’t it? So there.
Before including Pushmo, we checked Metacritic to see where it landed in terms of aggregate critical consensus for the highest-rated 3DS games of all time. 
Our hunch was right: coming in sixth place, it’s got a higher average score than beloved games like Bravely Default, Pokémon X & Y, and even The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, which… okay, that last one is definitely a bit weird. Still, Pushmo is the kind of intricately designed puzzler that could only ever live on the 3DS — which is funny, because that’s the only place you can play it.
Rune Factory 4
Okay, so technically there’s been an enhanced version of this for Nintendo Switch since 2019, although fans of the Rune Factory series will be quick to remind you that Rune Factory 4 launched exclusively for 3DS in 2013 and was only playable there for over half the years since then. 
Rune Factory is an interesting series in that anyone who likes it loves it, so there’s little point in speaking to anyone who’s already invested in it here. If you’re curious about giving an RPG saga that combines farming, dungeoneering, and romance elements a go though, Rune Factory 4 for 3DS makes for a pretty remarkable starting point. Just don’t blame us when you realise it’s slowly but oh-so-surely sneaking its way into your top three most-played games. You did this to yourself.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Consider this: You’re out and about, just living your life. All of a sudden, your friend pulls you aside — “Chemtrails,” they say. “I’m sure the government is using them to communicate with aliens.” 
You feel it well up inside you — this pure, unfiltered anger that won’t go away until it’s had its fill of vicious debate. If only you were at home and could play Ace Attorney on your PlayStation to blow off some steam…
Oh wait, it’s on your brilliant, glorious 3DS in your pocket. You pull it out, have a few debates on the go, and tell your friend, “Read a book, mate.” You walk off into the sun, glowing. Life is good.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Here, if you haven’t played this… fix that. Now. 
Kid Icarus: Uprising was the first game led by Pit — who most of you probably know from the Super Smash Bros. series — in 21 years when it launched back in 2012. It’s a 3DS exclusive that only exists because Nintendo super-genius Satoru Iwata said to Smash creator Masahiro Sakurai, “Mate, we need a 3DS exclusive for this new console we’re making.” 
Sakurai brought back a beloved character and dropped him into a stunning take on Greek mythology that deserves way more attention than it receives today. We all know about Pokémon and Zelda on 3DS, but seriously — this is a must-play. As if a name as bizarre as “Kid Icarus” isn’t a selling point in and of itself.  
Dragon Quest 8
While Dragon Quest 8 is widely revered as a PS2 classic, it hasn’t been treated as such in terms of porting it to new machinery. At the time of writing, the only way you can play it without owning a console that was discontinued in 2013 is to do so on iOS, Android, or — you guessed it! — 3DS.
The idea of jumping straight into the eighth game of a series might seem a little odd to some of you, but it’s totally fine here. Like Final Fantasy, it’s probably more accurate to consider most Dragon Quest titles as distinct parts of an anthology as opposed to consecutive instalments of the same overarching story. If you’re looking for a charming turn-based RPG with gorgeous cel-shaded art that feels tailor-made for 3DS, Dragon Quest 8 is the game for you. Just don’t pin it on us when you start counting slimes to fall asleep. 
Monster Hunter Generations
To be honest, this entry is a bit cheeky in that we’re going to use it to suggest you download both Monster Hunter Generations and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. In general, Capcom’s beast-slaying series has always lived well on handheld devices, with the 3DS in particular boasting several reputable titles — speaking of which, Monster Hunter Stories is also worth a try.
While games like Monster Hunter World and Monster Hunter Rise have redefined what it’s like to play Monster Hunter on the big screen, going back to the 3DS will reveal a different era of the series during which you could track your prey on the go. Of all the various forms this style of play appears in, the 3DS is kitted out with one of the widest slews of games while simultaneously offering the best experience for each of them. Put plainly: 3DS Monster Hunter good. 
Pokémon X & Y
If you’ve checked out our list of the best Pokémon games, you’ll probably know that X & Y are ranked pretty low — but as we mentioned there, there’s no such thing as a bad Pokémon game. Sure, Gen 6 is relatively weak when considered alongside the likes of Crystal and Emerald, but Kalos still has a lot to offer. If you’re bulking up your 3DS library in anticipation of its imminent closure, X & Y are must-buys.
While Lysandre is a bit of a weirdo and Gen 6 has an impressive amount of bad Pokémon designs, these are the games that gave us Lumiose City, Mega Evolutions, and Greninja, who is overrated but extremely popular for some reason. They’re required reading for any self-respecting Pokémon fan — and pretty soon, you won’t be able to purchase them digitally anymore.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Do you like Persona 3? Do you like Persona 4? Boy, do we have the game for you. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth takes Zen and Rei and puts them on a weird, alternate-dimension collision course with the strange goings on of Yasogami High School. And guess what? It’s 3DS-exclusive.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is weird even by Persona standards, which says a lot. Still, whether you’ve only played Persona 5 or are hipster enough to have been following the series since 1996, Shadow of the Labyrinth is a curious artefact from Persona history that will be digitally unobtainable in just over a year — hell, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth even includes Joker and the gang. Download both, yeah?
Bravely Default
Ten years on, Bravely Default has become an essential part of Square Enix history. After starting life as a sequel to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, the game slowly evolved into its own distinct entity, distancing itself from the Final Fantasy universe while retaining many familiar elements from how Final Fantasy games tend to play.
Looking back now, it’s easy to see how important it was for Square Enix to deviate from Final Fantasy in 2012, taking a sizable risk with a totally new series. While Bravely Default 2 launched for Nintendo Switch last year, the original game and Bravely Second are still locked to 3DS. If you want to play them — which you should — you’ll need to get them pretty soon. 
Go on. Be brave.
Shin Megami Tensei 4
Like all Shin Megami Tensei games, Shin Megami Tensei 4 mostly revolves around an apocalyptic conflict between angels and demons that you are conveniently placed in the centre of. 
Veteran Shin Megami Tensei or Persona players will likely recognise quite a bit about SMT 4’s layout and lineup of monsters, although given that this title is exclusive to 3DS, it’s likely that even a lot of devoted fans won’t be acquainted with Flynn’s fight against the Black Samurai. If you’ve got your 3DS handy, you know what to do: attack and dethrone God.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
It’s an Animal Crossing game, except on 3DS. 
If you’ve been on Twitter recently, you’ll probably recognise it from being the most-played game for around 90% of the people who shared that 3DS infographic thing Nintendo posted after announcing the eShop was closing. This makes sense because it’s really good — you should play it.
Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
While X & Y are worth playing mostly on account of the fact they’re Pokémon games, Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon reside much nearer to the upper echelon of prestige Game Freak titles. 
Alola’s original appearance on 3DS came in the form of vanilla Sun & Moon, although Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon are better by every conceivable metric. Pokémon’s seventh generation transpires in a beautiful region filled with fascinating characters and impressive new creature designs, while also being home to the most unique mainline games in the series prior to Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
And yes, they’re only on 3DS — buy them while you can lest Guzzlord guzzle up the eShop before our very eyes.
Shovel Knight
While Shovel Knight is available on a variety of platforms now, it originally only launched for PC, 3DS, and Wii U — which we’ve also put together a list of essential games for. 
It’s a relatively simple side-scrolling platformer in some ways, complete with basic combat and regular boss encounters, but it’s put together with such eloquence and finesse that it manages to easily supersede the majority of similar games. You can technically play it on a bunch of different machines, meaning that having a 3DS isn’t necessary for experiencing it, but… it’s really good on 3DS. If you’re planning on digging your way through this beloved saga, the 3DS shovel is the sharpest one. 
Are shovels sharp? Who cares? This one is.
Metroid: Samus Returns
After the success of last year’s Metroid Dread, it’s the perfect time for people new to the series to experiment with its previous games. The issue is that Dread was one of the only Metroid games to have come out post-2010 — fortunately, 2017’s Samus Returns has you young’uns covered.
The Metroid series is almost as old as Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, having originally launched all the way back in 1986. Samus Returns is actually a remake of Metroid 2: The Return of Samus, which debuted for the Game Boy in 1991. 
If your bones have not yet started crumbling to dust, the chances of you owning a Game Boy are slim to none. Luckily, Samus Returns is an excellent remake that — you guessed it! — is exclusive to 3DS. 
Super Mario 3D Land
Wow, it only took us 16 entries until we finally included a Mario game — it turns out that it is categorically impossible to meaningfully discuss any Nintendo console without the cursed mantra of “It’s a me!” becoming progressively more violent as it bounces around the inside of your skull, a whirlwind of aural plungers and moustaches.
Look, it’s a Mario game. Obviously it’s good. It’s only on 3DS, so you should probably play it there. Next year you won’t be able to. 
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Do you know Chrom from Super Smash Bros.? Yeah, this is his game. It’s set two millennia after the original Fire Emblem and is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant games to ever grace the 3DS. 
Seriously, even among Fire Emblem games, Awakening is generally considered to be the best one. We’re not going to spoil too much about it, but if you liked Three Houses, there’s a very high probability you’ll like this even more. We usually hate the whole “If you like X, you’ll love Y!” rhetoric, but in this case, when we’re trying to get you to ditch the Switch for a machine that’s seen a few extra hot dinners, we’ve decided it’s an acceptable tactic. 
Majora's Mask 3D
Wow, no Zelda games until the final three, huh? That’s a bit weird. 
Majora’s Mask 3D is a remake of the best Zelda game of all time designed exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS. While we recently stated that it’s not quite as definitive as the original Majora’s Mask in our list of Zelda games that need to come to Switch, it’s still an important part of Zelda history that anyone with even the vaguest interest in the series — or games in general — should play. 
Also, the original Majora’s Mask is difficult to play legally these days, and even when it comes to Nintendo Switch Online it will be tied to a subscription service as opposed to being something you can actually buy to own. At least Skull Kid’s continued presence on your 3DS isn’t at the whim of someone else, eh? Well, until next year.
Ocarina of Time 3D
No Zelda games for the entire list and now we have two in a row — what’s going on? Unlike Majora’s Mask, Ocarina of Time 3D is arguably a better version of the original game in that its changes do little more than improve the overall quality of play.
This is the definitive version of one of the best video games of all time — and guess what? It’s only on 3DS. There’s nothing more to say. 
A Link Between Worlds
Boom, three for three! If there’s one game you download from the 3DS eShop before it shuts down forever, please, please make it The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
A Link to the Past is one of the finest Zelda games ever made, and A Link Between Worlds is a worthy spiritual successor, taking everything that made the SNES classic special and reappropriating it for a new audience with a new story. It’s an astonishing game that far too few Zelda fans get around to on account of the fact it’s only playable on 3DS. 
So, if you don’t have one, this is your cue to check for secondhand machines on eBay. All of the games here are great, but with just a year to go before the 3DS eShop closes, A Link Between Worlds is a bona fide console-seller. Any 3DS without it is like Link without Ezlo.
Nice little Minish Cap superiority joke there for you. Hope you liked it.
Written by Cian Maher on behalf of GLHF.
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