According to Nintendo Life, Limited Run Games shared several Switch announcements at a showcase, including Bloom Tales II launching on Switch this year. Of course, the Switch has long since effectively taken up the Japanese publisher’s console and handheld markets simultaneously (thanks to the Switch Lite), but the Nintendo 3DS had nonetheless built up an impressive collection of RPGs.
The voting community at Ranker put together their list of what they believe to be the system’s titles in the genre. As expected, these games are dominated by JRPGs, with the usual suspects like Fire Emblem, Dragon Quest, Pokémon, and Shin Megami Tensei.
Note: Ranker lists are live and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.
10 Pokémon X & Y
Though the Pokémon games’ mainline series started to dip in quality once it transitioned onto the Nintendo 3DS, it was nonetheless a milestone in other respects. This marked the mainline games’ first transition into fully-3D assets and brought with it some iconic Pokémon species from Generation 6.
Similarly, it also introduced what would become a beloved gameplay mechanic in the Mega Evolutions’ form. It wasn’t the same golden age of games from the Game Boy Advance or Nintendo DS era, but it was a solid first step in this era given what the 3DS was technologically capable of.
9 Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows Of Valentia
The Fire Emblem franchise saw a resurgence after Awakening, which paved the way for more solid titles from Intelligent Systems. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia was a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden (the second mainline game), which was only ever released in Japan in 1992 for the NES.
Shadow of Valentia was well-received for how it applied the gameplay refinements of the tactical combat learned from Awakening, as well as the grand, high-fantasy story carried by its two lead characters. However, it did receive some criticism for being a bit more punishing than its recent predecessors.
8 Bravely Second: End Layer
While it didn’t reach the same heights as Bravely Default, Silicon Studio’s Bravely Second: End Layer was still positively received in its own right. The series recently spawned Bravely Default 2 for the Switch, but End Layer was the direct narrative sequel to the 3DS original.
It largely retains the gameplay strengths that made its predecessor so revered, namely the turn-based combat using Brave Points and Default features to strategically prolong players’ turns. In terms of criticism, Bravely Second: End Layer was mainly docked points for not standing on its own narratively compared to Bravely Default.
7 Xenoblade Chronicles
Technically spinning off of Square Enix’s former Xeno metaseries, Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles was the first in a new focused era. It was an underrated JRPG classic for the Nintendo Wii in 2010, and it was later ported to the New Nintendo 3DS in 2015. The game takes place on the bodies of two massive titans at war with each other, blending elements of sci-fi with fantasy for its inventive setting and premise.
Xenoblade Chronicles was met with critical acclaim for this creativity. Critics praised the engaging real-time combat and party-based mechanics, its ambitious open world, as well as making a compelling story out of a straightforward premise on paper. It has since been remastered for the Switch.
6 Tales Of The Abyss
There’s been a renewed interest in Bandai Namco’s Tales series thanks to the particularly strong reception to 2021’s Tales of Arise, but many longtime fans still hold plenty of the older titles in high regard. Originally released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, Tales of the Abyss was an action-based JRPG ported to the 3DS in 2011.
Both versions of the game were generally well-received, though they were critiqued for a slow-moving plot and generic anime/JRPG genre tropes. The 3DS version specifically was criticized for not enhancing the experience beyond the original PS2 release, but Tales of the Abyss was nonetheless successfully carried by its entertaining combat system.
5 Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
While the Atlus’ Persona series has taken most of the spotlight, the parent Shin Megami Tensei series has had more than its fair share of classics. Last year’s Shin Megami Tensei V proved to be one of the best RPGs on Nintendo Switch, but some older spinoffs had seen some success, too.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor was Atlus’ tactical-RPG spin on their flagship franchise, originally released for the DS. Later remastered for the 3DS as Overclocked, the game retained its warm reception for having a creative aesthetic and gameplay twist on the conventional SMT formula. Devil Survivor was well-received for adopting a tastefully unique art style and engaging tactical combat mechanics, as well as great branching storylines.
4 Dragon Quest VIII: Journey Of The Cursed King
In a somewhat similar fashion to what Persona 5 and Yakuza 0 did for their respective franchises internationally, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age gave Square Enix’s other JRPG titan a well-earned injection of global fame. However, much of what XI succeeded in doing can be attributed to the foundation that VIII laid out, namely in world design.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King became one of the best RPGs on the PlayStation 2, and the 3DS port was similarly well-received. Praises went to the classic turn-based combat, the ambitious open-ended environments complemented by cel-shaded art direction, as well as the simple yet effective fantasy story punctuated by mostly tasteful humor.
3 Bravely Default
Silicon Studio’s original series was one of the Nintendo 3DS’ best JRPGs for fans of the subgenre, and it successfully carved out its own identity amidst the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The story follows four adventurers as they try to reclaim the crystals that keep the world in balance from a dark threat.
Bravely Default was critically acclaimed for its streamlined turn-based combat, effectively mixing traditional features with more modern and accessible innovations. The story was also commended for flipping genre tropes on their heads and tackling darker subject matter.
2 Shin Megami Tensei IV
There was a massive gap and an entire console generation between Shin Megami Tensei IV and V, as the former was released for the 3DS in 2013. SMT IV follows a samurai bound to protect a kingdom, suddenly finding himself along with his companions in a grander battle between angelic and demonic forces.
It continues the turn-based combat system traditionally used in prior entries. The reception was strong thanks to the game’s classic risk-reward combat, with critics feeling like it was accessible enough despite its occasional difficulty spikes. Likewise, the negotiation and fusion system with demons was particularly applauded as some of the most polished in the SMT series.
1 Fire Emblem Awakening
For Intelligent Systems, Fire Emblem Awakening could have been the series’ last hurrah, but the game proved to be the deserved and triumphant revitalization it needed. Awakening reinvigorated the series’ tactical-RPG gameplay to the best it had ever been up, along with optional difficulty and classic/casual modes.
It greatly helped the game become approachable to prospective new fans and veterans alike, becoming one of the best Fire Emblem games in the process. And like any fan would expect, Awakening featured another sprawling high-fantasy story with a cast of characters worth investing in.
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