Nintendo 3DS

Best Nintendo 3DS-exclusive games to download before the eShop shuts down

The Nintendo 3DS was Nintendo’s final “true handheld” hardware before the Nintendo Switch merged the company’s two models into a hybrid console and was a more than worthy successor to the massively popular Nintendo DS system, selling 75.94 million since launching in early 2011.

Production on new models ceased in September 2020, and soon the 3DS will officially be retired. Nintendo plans to close the system’s eShop entirely in March 2023, along with the Wii U eShop. This means players will no longer have access to the digital storefront or the hundreds of games that have launched on the handheld, including many system exclusives. 

That March 2023 is the date set for the actual eShop shutting down entirely, but players have an even smaller window available to make their final purchases on both the 3DS and Wii U. It will still be possible to redownload games and DLC, receive software updates, and play online on Wii U and 3DS for the “foreseeable future” after that, however.

On May 23 this year, both storefronts will stop letting users add funds from external payment options like debit cards. Nintendo eShop cards can still be used to add funds through Aug. 29, but that is more of a hassle than simply adding the exact amount and could leave you with leftover, unused funds. 

If you have ever wanted to experience certain games and franchises on 3DS, now is the time to grab them digitally, as they won’t be available for much longer and several publishers are hosting massive sales on the platform before external payment options are discontinued. And, if you need some recommendations on 3DS exclusive games to try, here are some of the best options. 

3DS games you need to grab before the eShop closes

Liberation Maiden

Do you like any of Suda51’s over-the-top action titles like No More Heroes? Then Liberation Maiden is a must-have as a Grasshopper Manufacture 3DS-exclusive shooter published by Level-5.

The entire plot is based around a high-school girl who becomes the President of New Japan and needs to fight off an alien invasion in her mecha. Typical Suda content crammed into an easily consumable title. 

Pocket Card Jockey

It is rare to see Game Freak’s name attached to titles not including Pokémon in some form, but Pocket Card Jockey is another example of the studio’s knack to create interesting smaller experiences when it has the time to do so.

In an odd marriage of horse racing and the traditional Golf/Solitaire-style card game, players will be tasked with clearing rounds successfully to help their horse win races. The better they perform, the better the horse can do as they go through a rather compelling gameplay loop. 

Phoenix Wright/Apollo Justice/Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 

This is a no-brainer for anyone who likes Phoneix Wright or Apollo Justice since multiple titles from the franchise are featured as digital-only games on 3DS in the West. Spirit of Justice and Dual Destinies, along with their DLC, should be a top priority for those trying to fill out their 3DS libraries. 

The Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney crossover is also a 3DS exclusive that is incredibly expensive to get physically, so you might want to grab it digitally while you can. 

Level-5 Game Jam Gems

Level-5 has already been mentioned twice on this list if you count that it developed Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The company did incredible things on the 3DS, releasing dozens of games of varying sizes. However, one thing that can’t be overlooked is the collection of smaller games developed by several famous developers like Keiji Inafune and Yasumi Matsuno as part of its game jam Guild series. 

All of these games are worth taking a look at for the price, and you are bound to find at least one that was worth the time, so here is a full list. (Not including Liberation Maiden, which was also part of this initiative.)

  • Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale
  • Crimson Shroud
  • Bugs vs Tanks!
  • Aero Porter
  • Weapon Shop de Omasse
  • The Starship Damrey

Pushmo, Crashmo, Stretchmo

A trilogy of innovative and creative little puzzle-solving platformers centered around pulling and pushing blocks. The simple concept plays with your expectations and can be pretty tricky, but the games are definitely worth a look, especially if you love cute and colorful aesthetics. 

The Denpa Men series

Possibly the weirdest trilogy of titles ever published on a Nintendo console, The Denpa Men series uses the 3DS’ signature augmented reality (AR) features to their fullest by having players capture Denpa Men to form a party to explore dungeons using the system’s camera. 

It would be a disservice to leave such a creative set of games off this list because it they have to be experienced to understand. They likely won’t be coming to a future console anytime soon, though, especially given the mobile version was shut down in 2019.

These are just a small selection of games featured on a massive eShop, and don’t even include many of the staple games from the 3DS library like Kid Icarus Uprising or the system’s Pokémon games, but those can also be purchased physically. Here are some additional digital-only suggestions you can take a look at while browsing before they are gone. 

  • Nintendo Pocket Football Club
  • Siesta Fiesta
  • Dillon’s Rolling Western
  • Sega’s 3D remaster titles 
    • Includes gems like 3D Gunstar Heroes and 3D Out Run
  • Nintendo’s 3D Classics series
    • Includes Kirby’s Adventure and Kid Icarus
  • Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball
  • HarmoKnight
  • Any and all Picross titles
    • Including the 3DS-exclusive My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which is only available on MyNintendo for 1,000 Platinum Points
  • Gotta Protectors
  • Ikachan
  • Pokémon Virtual Console releases

Don’t forget to take advantage of the publisher sales going on to grab some of the games that might be easier and cheaper to get digitally than physically.

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