The Best of the 3DS

A new system owner with no idea what to buy? Consider yourself covered.

Nintendo may be having a rough time of it with the Wii U (it’s a shame really), but their handheld system has had yet another great year thanks to its strong software line-up. Despite a rocky start back in 2011, when no one thought it could ever outdo the success of the DS Lite, the 3DS has found its feet by catering to a wide audience and focusing on diverse, high-quality titles. Below is a list of the most noteworthy in no particular order. Take a look to see if your favourite made the cut…

Ocarina of Time 3D

I once said that Ocarina of Time would one day reach a handheld system and that such a thing would be amazing to play – that was about 14 years ago now. The re-release has been out for some time now yet the game remains just as playable and dramatic as ever, if not more so thanks to its brightened visuals and rebuilt character models.

OoT introduced Z-targeting and included one of the first true day/night cycles, and is still seen as one of the greatest adventures of all time. Whether or not you agree with that particular sentiment, there’s just no denying the game’s high quality. Time-spanning hijinks at their most epic.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

The original Donkey Kong Country Returns was brutal on the Wii. Thankfully, Nintendo grew a conscience and reconsidered its strategy when ported it over to the smaller screen. It had been a long time since Donkey and Diddy went on any kind of jungle japes beyond Super Smash Bros, so it’s great to have them back and ready to take on the banana-thieving forces once again.

It’s not without its problems (an entire world made up of mine cart madness? Really Nintendo??), but with more forgiving gameplay and helpful items up for purchase to aid you in your quest, this 3D iteration is actually far stronger than its initial release. Here’s hoping the upcoming Tropical Freeze can be ported over with just as much attention… that is if it does at all.

Super Mario 3D Land

What do you get when you combine the goomba-hopping frolics of old with 3-dimensional trickery courtesy of modern technology? A damned fine game, or so it would seem. The portly plumber might have recently made home consoles purr with his latest cat-suited adventure, but it’s in the handheld market that he’ll be seeing the greatest return.

The familiar formula of running, hitting blocks, leaping, collecting coins and fighting end bosses was made fresh once again due to a little imagination and a whole lot of know-how, then there’s the return of the tanooki suit. Just when you thought you had bested the final boss, an entirely new set of challenges unlocked. Nintendo didn’t even have to go that extra mile either, revealing how much love went into crafting this memorable platformer.

Mario Kart 7

Another system, another Mario Kart game. While the series might not always warrant an immediate purchase (home console editions, I’m looking at you), the bite-sized nature of karting makes it the perfect choice for the journey home. It’s a staple that continues to print money for The Big N as gamers lap it up year after year. Online multiplayer aside, you’re now looking at kart customisation, underwater driving and momentary air gliding. It’s bright, colourful and utterly harmless, serving as a fantastic choice for 3DS owners on the go.

Pokemon X + Y

Whether you adored Red and Blue or began with later iterations such as Ruby and Sapphire, there’s no denying the lasting appeal of the Pokemon franchise. True enough, its days as the obsession of the playground have passed, but Pokemon X and Y prove that with a little effort and the occasional change to the formula can still make Pikachu relevant.

The adventure takes place in the new region of Kalos, a land with more than a passing resemblance to France. There are a few neat additions such as Pokemon Amie – which allows you to interact with the little monsters directly – and an entire host of new creatures to collect and battle. You may just be tempted to catch’ em all, all over again.

Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon

It’s been a pretty good year for Luigi, all things considered. He’s continually in the shadow of his infatuated brother, rarely playing anything more than second fiddle in pursuit of the princess. This sequel to Gamecube’s forgotten launch title shows just how charming the mascot’s sibling can be as he journeys through a number of haunted mansions brandishing the Poltergust vacuum cleaner.
This is very much a game of detail, expecting you to scour each room in search of ghastly ghosts and collectible items. It’s far from clear of frustration – with a little too much backtracking and repeating objectives – but forgiving players will likely consider it among Nintendo’s recent best.

A Link Between Worlds

In a throwback to the SNES classic, A Link to the Past, our elfin hero once again battles evil from a top-down perspective. It’s great that the game hasn’t continued on from the Windwaker titles, appealing to old-school fans and newcomers alike by presenting another version of Link altogether.

A Link Between Worlds allows you to either rent any item you choose – but losing them as penalty for defeat – or purchasing and upgrading them for extra cash. This opens up the dungeon-crawling formula by letting you decide what to do and when, generally speaking. Link also has the ability to flatten himself against walls to avoid obstacles and reach new areas, which is a brand new mechanic for the series.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

There’s something to be said for a game without goals, massive battles or exciting set-piece moments. Leave it to Nintendo to create such a game and make it so whimsical in the process, providing a place to escape to and leave your real world troubles behind.

Animal Crossing puts you in the shoes of mayor, giving you free reign over the town and the events of your life. The game is all about choice and the freedom to do as you wish; the sedate pace might not appeal to everyone, but those searching for a break from the norm won’t likely find much better elsewhere.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Pit is back and he’s ready to take on the flying forces of Medusa once again. Kid Icarus was among the first titles to really show off what Nintendo’s shiny new handheld could accomplish in terms of graphical prowess, coating the screen in a sparkling hail of bullets, arrows and lasers.

Controls take a while to master and some levels could have done with being shorter, but with amusing dialogue between the hero and goddess, Palutena, plus a challenging quest that takes many hours to see through to the end, Kid Icarus: uprising might just spell a new beginning for the bow-wielding angel.

Coming Soon! Yoshi’s New Island

Many a Ninty fan will have high hopes for this one. Traipsing the colourful world as a squeaking dinosaur, baby Mario in tow has an undeniable appeal, though I quietly hope that it’s a fair bit easier to get through than its DS Lite counterpart.

The egg-throwing Yoshi has yet to really take the spotlight on the 3DS, and this instalment would be his third true ‘Island’ adventure, Yoshi’s Story notwithstanding. The pretty pastels return as does the core formula that made famous the franchise. One new move involves swallowing a giant enemy to lay an enormous egg, hurling it skyward to open the way forward. We’ll have to wait a few months to see what other tricks Nintendo has in store.