Hello, friends. We don’t typically cover the Nintendo 3DS around here, despite the fact that it has touch controls. This article is a special exception that I’ve put together after a special request from a very dear reader on the TouchArcade Discord server. In case you didn’t know, Nintendo will be closing the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U eShops in March of 2023. No more purchases will be allowed after that time, so… tick-tock, eh? I don’t know the Wii U well enough to make a strong list of must-haves, but I know the 3DS very well. As such, I’ve put together a list of some digital-only games you’ll want to consider picking up while you can.
Picross 3D: Round 2 ($29.99)
We have a lot of standard Picross options these days, especially on the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, we have very little 3D Picross. The first game in the series came out on Nintendo DS, and the second came exclusively to the 3DS. In North America, it did so via a digital-only release. If you enjoy Picross or logic puzzles in general, you’ll probably really like this 3D variant.
Rhythm Heaven Megamix ($29.99)
Another series whose most recent release happened in digital-only form in North America. Rhythm Heaven Megamix is basically a “greatest hits" take on the series, including a wide range of minigames drawn from the previous games. There are more than seventy to play, and spoiler alert: they are all super-rad. If you like music games at all and you somehow have missed out on this, it’s time to jump in.
Gotta Protectors ($12.99)
The sequel is now available on Nintendo Switch, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get into this amazing 3DS installment. Choose a hero, protect the princess, and enjoy the absolutely wild story. There’s tons to enjoy in this game, and there’s even an extra FM synth soundtrack you can buy as DLC. A lot of people missed out on this one for whatever reason back when it came out. Give it a go before it’s too late!
Pushmo ($6.99)/Crashmo ($8.99)/Stretchmo (Free + DLC)
The early days of the 3DS eShop were pretty barren. One early bright spot came from a little puzzle game made by Intelligent Systems named Pushmo. You play as a little sumo named Mallow as he pushes, then pulls, then stretches 3D puzzles to reach the goal on each stage. What makes these games so fun is in figuring out just how you’re supposed to get where you need to go. I find Crashmo hits the sweet spot in terms of complexity, but all three games are worth playing for puzzle fans. They also look really nice in 3D.
Dillon’s Rolling Western ($9.99)/Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger ($10.99)
It’s wild how many great mid-budget franchises were born and managed to thrive on the 3DS. Dillon’s Rolling Western is an action-packed take on tower defense that sees you playing as a super-powered armadillo as he defends various locations from invading forces. You do the usual set-up seen in games like these, but once the action starts you play it out from down on the field. Dillon can roll pretty well, helping you get around the map and attack enemies as needed. There’s also a third game available as a physical release if you’re hungry for more.
Noitu Love Devolution ($9.99)
Alright, time to venture into the weeds a little bit again. I should first clarify: this isn’t the only place you can buy and play Noitu Love: Devolution. It is also available on computers, at the very least. But this is a really cool game to play on the 3DS, with hot action and absolutely jaw-dropping pixel art. But then again, what else would you expect from Joakim Sandberg, who also brought us the likes of Iconoclasts on the Nintendo Switch? This one is a real sleeper among the 3DS owners I know.
Tokyo Crash Mobs ($6.99)
The final game from Mitchell Corporation before it shut its doors is not-so-secretly a riff on one of its previous games: Puzz Loop, or Magnetica as it was known in some regions. You might know this game’s mechanics best from the game that shamelessly ripped Puzz Loop off, PopCap’s Zuma. But instead of launching colored marbles at other marbles to make them disappear, here you’re launching people in different colored clothes at other people to cut down on the line-up you’re waiting in. The absurdity of the setting and premise help make this classic puzzle gameplay feel fresh.
You probably know Cave Story. You might also know Kero Blaster. But do you know Ikachan? This short and sweet little adventure is the work of Daisuke “Pixel" Amaya, and that’s immediately apparently as soon as you start the game. You play as a little squid who is trying to help its friends escape a terrible fate and find a new home. This 3DS version is slightly expanded over the PC original, so if you’re going to play Ikachan this is the way to go. It’s a brief game, but one worth picking up for those who enjoyed Pixel’s other titles.
Handhelds and rhythm games go together like curry and rice, and HarmoKnight is another great one for the Nintendo 3DS. Developed by Game Freak of Pokemon fame, HarmoKnight follows the adventures of Tempo, a young hero who uses his Music Note Staff to beat drums and enemies alike as he makes his way through more than fifty levels. You’ll meet a couple of extra characters on your journeys, and they bring their own abilities to the table. Great music, great visuals, and a whole lot of fun.
BOXBOY ($4.99)/BOXBOXBOY ($4.99)/BYE-BYE BOXBOY! ($4.99)
It’s probably becoming clear by now that there are a fair number of characters who made their first appearances on the Nintendo 3DS that seem to be destined to die with it. BOXBOY and its protagonist Qbby are a rare exception, having made the jump to Nintendo Switch with BOXBOY + BOXGIRL. But that doesn’t mean the original trilogy of releases on the 3DS is any less worth picking up. These minimalistic games see you playing as a little fellow who can generate boxes from his body. You have to use that skill to make your way through levels full of traps and hazards. Each subsequent game adds new mechanics and characters, but they’re all wonderful little puzzle games with charm to spare.
Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword ($6.99)
Of all of the instances of casting a line that Nintendo engaged in early on in the Nintendo 3DS’s life, Sakura Samurai seems to be the main one that didn’t get a bite. This is a timing-based action game that has more in common mechanically with Punch-Out!! than anything else. The aesthetics, on the other hand, lean heavily into cherry blossoms and Edo-era Japanese art. It’s a unique title that rewards mastery and sits comfortably on the shelf with other loose Punch-Out!! descendants that never quite made it big, like Teleroboxer.
THE “DENPA" MEN: They Came By Wave ($9.99)/THE “DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves ($11.99)/THE “DENPA" MEN 3 The Rise of Digitoll ($9.99)
The 3DS had a lot of interesting features and developers, particularly in the early going, were eager to explore them. The Denpa Men series of RPGs uses its wireless capabilities to generate little creatures called Denpa Men that you can find, collect, and add to your party. You then use them to explore dungeons. The second and third games built on the somewhat simple outline of the original, adding in elements like online play, StreetPass, item trading, and more. You can import your heroes and Denpa Men as you work your way through the series, though if you only have room in your heart and budget for one you can skip right to the third game.
Gurumin 3D: A Monstrous Adventure ($14.99)
Way back in the days when Falcom made games that weren’t Ys or Trails, the developer put out an immensely cute 3D action-adventure called Gurumin on Windows PCs. That game got ported to the PlayStation Portable, which saw it come to the West for the first time. Several years later, a version was made for the 3DS. This is the only Falcom game available on the system, oddly enough. You play as a girl named Parin who uses her drill and a variety of headgear to defeat the evil phantoms that threaten Monster Village. It’s a fun game that seems to have flown under most people’s radar with every release.
The Legend of Dark Witch ($3.99)/The Legend of Dark Witch 2 ($6.99)/The Legend of Dark Witch 3 Wisdom and Lunacy ($9.99)
While the first game of this trilogy of Mega Man-inspired action platformers came to the Switch a long time ago, it doesn’t look like the other two are making the jump. That’s a shame, because all of these games are very enjoyable. It felt like each sequel built on the previous title in a lot of ways. There’s a slight roughness to them and they can be tough as nails, but there’s a lot to love here for fans of action games.
Pocket Card Jockey ($6.99)
Game Freak scores its second notch on this list with this surprisingly enjoyable fusion of solitaire and horse racing. Play cards during the race to make your horse move faster, while also keeping it in a good position. After a while your horse will be ready to retire, but the next generation will carry on. While this game made it to mobile in Japan, the only place to get it in the West is with this version. Historically Game Freak’s non-Pokemon games don’t get rereleased often if at all, and this is certainly one you don’t want to miss out on.
Crimson Shroud ($7.99)
The idea behind Level-5’s Guild Series is that each of these small games is made by a different well-known creator. Crimson Shroud comes from Yasumi Matsuno, best known for Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics. While the storytelling feels a lot like Matsuno’s other works, the game itself is like playing a tabletop RPG. It uses miniatures and dice, lending the game a unique feel that combines with its strategic gameplay and flowery prose to create something very special.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale ($7.99)
Another of the Guild Series, this one sees you playing as a young boy named Sohta as he settles into life in the town of Fuji no Hana. Roughly set in 1970s Japan, at first it feels like a nostalgic throwback to being a kid in a small-ish town back in the old days. But this town is a little different: every Friday, a giant monster appears! This is mostly a narrative adventure, but you can collect hidden items to add to your Monster Card collection, which you can then use to play cards against other people in a little minigame. Probably not something you’ll replay often, but that first trip through is a real ride.
Finally, some quick hits from a few specific corners of the eShop that you may overlook.
A lot of Virtual Console games have since showed up on the Nintendo Switch Online service, but some games and systems may never return after the plug is pulled on the 3DS eShop. Pay particular attention to the Game Gear and Game Boy offerings, as there isn’t currently any other active initiative for rereleasing them.
Summer Carnival ’92 RECCA (NES): A brilliant, rare shoot-em-up that is unlikely to see another rerelease due to the limited engagement of its publisher with the game business.
Catrap (Game Boy): An excellent puzzle game, unlikely to see another rerelease due to the limited engagement of its publisher with the game business.
Mega Man Series (Game Boy)/Mega Man Xtreme Series (Game Boy Color): Capcom usually isn’t shy about reissuing the Blue Bomber’s games, but these ones often get passed over.
Pokemon Series (Game Boy/Game Boy Color): It was a minor miracle these got put on the service to begin with, particularly with changes to make their trade features work on modern hardware. Never count on miracles happening twice.
Lufia: The Legend Returns (Game Boy Color): Given the complicated nature of this IP’s ownership, this challenging but enjoyable RPG isn’t guaranteed to see another reissue.
Dragon Crystal (Game Gear): One of the first Japanese-style roguelikes released in the West, and it’s a fun one. Game Gear games seem unlikely to get reissued.
Shining Force: Sword of Hayja (Game Gear): A robust and satisfying portable installment in the classic Shining Force series. Also unlikely to get reissued.
Defenders of Oasis (Game Gear): An RPG with a lot of rough edges but enough charm to carry it through. Its Arabian Nights theme is a rarity in the genre.
Access to the DSiWare shop from Nintendo DSi units themselves was cut off years ago, but a good chunk of the library remained accessible through the 3DS eShop. When the 3DS eShop goes, so too do these games finally sail off into the night. This honestly could be an article on its own, but for the sake of brevity I will just present a platter to pique your curiosity.
Zenonia: A fun action-RPG with mobile roots, but no longer available on mobile as its publisher realized free-to-play was more profitable.
X-Scape: The successor to the impressive Game Boy game X, itself something of a precursor to Star Fox. One of my favorite DSiWare exclusives.
Trajectile: Somewhere at the intersection between Arkanoid and Puzzle Bobble lies this unique block breaker. Launch the missiles to clear the blocks.
Starship Defense: A tower defense-style game with a sketchbook graphical style. The presentation carries this one, but the mechanics are solid.
Pictobits: The whole Art Style series is worth considering, but this clever puzzler is my favorite. Match the blocks to create a pixel art image. Very tough as it goes on.
SteamWorld Tower Defense: The first SteamWorld game! At this very moment, this is the only place you can get it. A little too tough for its own good, but cool anyway.
G.G Series Ninja Karakuri Den: A compelling arcade-style action game where you have to hop around and slash gears while avoiding enemies.
Aura-Aura Climber: A simple game where you try to climb as high as you can, with various obstacles getting in your way.
Soul of Darkness: Remember when Gameloft used to make neat little clones of other games? This is their take on Castlevania, and it’s not half bad.
Game & Watch Series: If you just want to play Nintendo’s Game & Watch games, the Virtual Console Game & Watch Gallery titles are probably a better way to go. But this line of accurate ports of several Game & Watch games offers a very accurate experience, and I can’t see Nintendo doing this kind of thing again anytime soon.
A broad category encompassing Nintendo’s brief efforts and SEGA’s more sustained burst. These games really use the 3D effect of the system well, but even going beyond that many of the titles include extras and improvements that make them worth picking up. I personally recommend all of them, but that’s not really helpful for our purposes today, is it? Here are a few special picks, and keep in mind I’m not considering the ones you can get physically via the SEGA 3D Classics Collection.
Kid Icarus: Not one of Nintendo’s absolute finest games, but this part of their 8-bit pantheon is at its absolute finest in this 3D version thanks to a number of gameplay improvements. If you’re ever going to play Kid Icarus, this is the way to do it.
Kirby’s Adventure: This game may not have as many gameplay improvements as Kid Icarus, but it does have a few such as allowing you to run across all one-block gaps and removing slowdown. The 3D effect is really fun, and the game itself is amazing.
Out Run: If you’re rolling with a 2DS, you probably don’t need to worry about this one. All of its gameplay improvements and additions are available in the Switch SEGA AGES version, after all. But this is one of the games where the 3DS’s namesake feature really makes a difference. It’s hard to go back to 2D Out Run after you’ve experienced it in 3D.
Streets of Rage 2: One of the best beat-em-ups of all-time and therefore one of the finest you’ll find on your 3DS. The diorama effect when using 3D is really impressive, and there are a number of fun extras included, like playing in sort of a relay mode where each character comes in for one life in turn.
Shinobi III: This excellent action game shines in its 3D Classics form thanks to its extra features, with the highlight being the Expert Ninja mode that gives you access to more granular control of Joe Musashi’s moves.
Well, that ended up being a lot longer than I expected it to be. Frankly, I could write a dozen of these articles and probably still not cover everything. It’s a shame that these shops can’t stay up forever, but I guess that’s business. As of this writing, you’ve still got just under a year to do your final shopping, but don’t leave it to the last minute!