Nintendo 3DS

The Best RPGs on the Nintendo 3DS (According to Metacritic)

The DS has one of the best libraries of RPGs out there. Plus, handhelds just work out better for the genre. That is to say, it’s easy to grind out some levels in something turn-based while catching up on the latest binge-worthy series rather than slogging it out in front of a console.



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Its successor, the Nintendo 3DS, also has a massive library thanks in part to the portable being backward compatible. Now that the system is being discontinued by Nintendo, there has never been a better—or, probably, cheaper—time to pick up one of these little miracles. Here are the very best Nintendo 3DS RPGs out there, ranked according to their Metacritic scores. Only one title per series was used just to keep things more diverse.

Updated June 8, 2022, by Michael Llewellyn: During a time when the PS3 and Xbox 360 were pumping out first and third-person shooters with brown and yellow color palettes, the Nintendo 3DS became the go-to system for RPGs. Like its predecessor, the DS, Nintendo’s 3D handheld system held some of the best RPGs of its generation. Many of these games still hold up today, with one or two becoming collector’s items for fans. Here are some of the best RPGs on the 3DS according to Metacritic’s scoring system


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17 The Alliance Alive

  • Metascore:
    74

  • Released:
    2018

  • Developer:
    Cattle Call

Released in 2018, The Alliance Alive is a traditional JRPG and a spiritual follow-up to The Legend of Legacy which also gained a cult following on the Nintendo 3DS after its launch in 2015. Its art design won’t be for everyone but it’s a fun game with a good combat system and interesting characters.

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Fans of the Suikoden series may be interested to know that the creator of that series Yoshitaka Murayama also wrote the scenario for The Alliance Alive. It doesn’t quite reach the complexity or maturity of that series but it’s still a worthwhile JRPG to dive into. The better version of Alliance Alive is available in HD for the PC, PS4, and the Switch.


16 Tales Of The Abyss

  • Metascore:
    75

  • Released:
    2011

  • Developer:
    Namco Tales Studio

A direct port of the PlayStation 2 original, Tales of the Abyss on the Nintendo 3DS performed perfectly on the handheld system. Since its original release in 2006, Tales of the Abyss has long been a favorite among fans of the Tales series. It’s a perfect port with clean visuals and great character and environment designs. It doesn’t have any gimmicky 3D features but as one of the best PS2-era JRPGs Tales of the Abyss sells itself.

Its release on the 3DS also meant that fans could finally get the game in European territories as it was never released outside of Japan and the US. Its protagonist Luke grows from a spoiled rich and frankly unlikeable boy to a full-blown hero by the end of the game. It has a great battle system, a likable supporting cast, an excellent script, and a lengthy story.


15 7th Dragon 3 Code: VFD

  • Metascore:
    76

  • Released:
    2016

  • Developer:
    Imageepoch

Released in 2018, 7th Dragon 3 Code: VFD is a JRPG set in the year 2100 after Dragons destroyed the Earth in 2020. The remnants of civilization have managed to rise again and the threat of the dragons has long been forgotten.

The game’s protagonists manage to beat a VR game that simulated the attack from the dragons making them the perfect candidates for the inevitable next attack from the Dragons. The game takes its players on an epic journey through time to defeat the legendary 7th Dragon. It’s a very imaginative JRPG that transcends the limitations of the 3DS and is a worthwhile entry in any JRPG fan’s library.


14 Ever Oasis

  • Metascore:
    76

  • Released:
    2017

  • Developer:
    Grezzo

Released in 2017, Ever Oasis is an ambitious action-adventure RPG from the same team that created The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D. It’s an action game that also features a variety of different gameplay elements that focus on looking after the protagonist’s Oasis.

There are farming elements, shop building, town management, and more. As the player’s community grows more characters will be introduced opening up new areas that need exploring. All these elements come together to make the perfect game for short or long bursts on the handheld system.


13 Rune Factory 4

  • Metascore:
    78

  • Released:
    2013

  • Developer:
    Neverland

A spin-off from the Harvest Moon series, Rune Factory is a life simulation, farming game, and dungeon crawler all rolled into one, with some relationship mechanics thrown in there just for good measure. It’s the perfect fit for fans of the genre thanks to the handheld’s drop-in and drop-out features.

One could easily lose themselves for hours playing on their sofa at home or having a quick game on the commute to work. It was also released on home consoles, but, as with Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, the handheld is the best way to play the game.


12 Yo-kai Watch 3

  • Metascore:
    80

  • Released:
    2015

  • Developer:
    Level-5

Games can either have an increasing effect or a degrading one over time with sequels. With the third entry in a formulaic series like Yo-Kai Watch, one would assume reviews would go down over time.

While every main game on 3DS has similar scores making the increase or decrease in numbers not too important, it is worth noting that this is the best one. Catching ghosts instead of Pokémon in the real world has its appeal!

11 Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth

  • Metascore:
    83

  • Released:
    2014

  • Developer:
    Atlus, P-Studio

Released in 2014, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is an old-school JRPG in the style of the Etrian Odyssey games. It brings together characters from both Persona 3 and Persona 4 in a way that doesn’t just feel like a throwaway spin-off title but another worthwhile chapter in the saga.

Just like the Etrian Odyssey, Persona Q has challenging puzzles and a steep learning curve when it comes to battles. That doesn’t take away from the fun, however, and there will be a moment where everything will just click and players could potentially lose themselves in it for hours. It’s also worth checking out its sequel Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth which brings together a dream of characters that features characters from Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5.

10 Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan

  • Metascore:
    84

  • Released:
    2013

  • Developer:
    Atlus

Etrian Odyssey is another series that is getting better over time. Part of the reason why it keeps getting better reviews is that it manages to stay true to its hardcore, challenging roots while at the same time inviting new players in. It is the turn-based dungeon crawler equivalent to something like Darkest Dungeon.

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The only difference here is that Etrian Odyssey is evolving, while similar games in the genre mostly stick to traditional gameplay mechanics. It’s hard to grow a series without trying new things.

9 Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey

  • Metascore:
    84

  • Released:
    2009

  • Developer:
    Alpha Dream

This is a remake of the third Mario and Luigi game on the DS. That alone is reviewed as one of the best, and it remains true for this version, as well.

It’s just that this port doesn’t do much new besides some extra quests which don’t add much to make it a better game. Extras aside, the core turn-based time attack RPG combat feels as fresh as ever. Plus, Bowser finally got his adventure.


8 Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse

  • Metascore:
    84

  • Released:
    2016

  • Developer:
    Atlus

The original Shin Megami Tensei IV got an 83, while its sequel did only slightly better. Both games are highly regarded as some of the deepest RPGs on not just the 3DS, but consoles everywhere.

The reason why the sequel may have been reviewed better is due to its story and overall tweaking of the mechanics. Like Etrian Odyssey, this game wasn’t afraid to double-down on the hardcore, as well as open its gates for new players.

7 Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology

  • Metascore:
    85

  • Released:
    2017

  • Developer:
    Atlus and Headlock

Originally released on the DS, Radiant Historia was expanded and reworked with new character designs and cutscenes for the 3DS in this definitive version. The game was developed by a team comprised of members that worked on the Shin Megami Tensei series and Radiata Stories.

The art design and storytelling are reminiscent of those aforementioned JRPGs, but the Perfect Chronology expanded its content with new scenarios and gameplay mechanics. There aren’t many games that the complexities of time-traveling right and Radiant Historia is easily up there with Chrono Trigger​​.

6 Dragon Quest 8

  • Metascore:
    85

  • Released:
    2016

  • Developer:
    Level-5 and Square Enix

This port comes from the PS2. That said, the graphics are basically on par with the original, although perhaps a bit brighter. Either way, the cel-shaded art design gives the game a timeless cartoon-like aesthetic that translated well to the 3DS system,

Besides the obvious boost in portability, making it easier to grind and multitask, it also added a fast-forward button to make battles go by faster. The quality of life improvements went a long way in improving Dragon Quest 8‘s pacing and randomized battles.

5 Bravely Default

  • Metascore:
    85

  • Released:
    2012

  • Developer:
    Silicon Studio

Bravely Default isn’t even a remake and it not only has a fast-forward feature but a meter controlling random battles. Want to get into combat with every literal step, or want none at all?

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The choice is up to the player. This was a reboot of Final Fantasy in all but name. Other RPGs should have learned their lesson from the innovative steps this release took.

4 Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

  • Metascore:
    86

  • Released:
    2015

  • Developer:
    Monolith Soft

At the time, getting Xenoblade Chronicles to run on a handheld system was an impressive feat. Unfortunately, the 3DS port was only available on the enhanced “New Nintendo 3DS”. So owners of the original 3DS couldn’t run it. The HD remaster of Xenoblade Chronicles on the Switch is the definitive version of this game, however.

Aside from blurrier visuals, and some issues with the framerate, the 3DS version holds up and implements the use of the Amiibo figurine. If one does have access to the New 3DS then Xenoblade Chronicles would be a worthy investment for JRPG fans that are looking for an epic adventure. The Xeno franchise began with the iconic Xenogears on the PS1 so that should give fans an idea of the quality and lineage behind the studio.

3 Pokemon Y

  • Metascore:
    88

  • Released:
    2013

  • Developer:
    Game Freak

A few notes about this Pokemon entry. One, the Pokémon X version got an 87. Pokemon Sun & Moon got 87s, as well, so this entry is almost tied with some of the other games on this list. What makes this generation stand out, though, as the better pick to grab on the 3DS is its innovations.

The series has come a long way since, but this is the first new-generation game for the 3DS, and it added a lot. Play it for the historical value as well as to catch ‘em all.

2 Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate

  • Metascore:
    88

  • Released:
    2015

  • Developer:
    Capcom

Before the Monster Hunter series achieved mainstream success with Monster Hunter World, the franchise was considered a niche action RPG series. Of course, that didn’t prevent several developers from releasing their own Monster Hunter clones.

However, none have quite matched the scale and moreish nature of the Monster Hunter franchise. The visuals and performance pushed the little handheld to its limits and the online multiplayer was both seamless and fun.


1 Fire Emblem: Awakening

  • Metascore:
    92

  • Released:
    2013

  • Developer:
    Intelligent Systems

Fire Emblem: Awakening is not only the best-reviewed RPG on this list, but it’s also among the top ten highest-ranking 3DS games overall on Metacritic. Speaking of series learning to invite new players in, this game was the king at that thanks to its casual mode.

Because of that, along with a laundry list of other innovations, this series exploded. If not for the right decisions made, it was almost the final game in the series similar to Final Fantasy’s fate and Square.

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