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The 25 best Nintendo 3DS games

The 3DS is the home to the latest installments of long-running franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario, and while these games are among the handheld’s best, there many more titles that don’t fit within the confines set by Mario, Link, or other first-party characters. The 3DS has gone on to become a breeding ground for niche genres, especially role-playing games and 2D platformers, as well as something of a catch-all for some Japan’s best exports. There’s even a growing presence of indie development on the system, not to mention an extensive catalog of NES and Game Boy classics available through the system’s virtual console. This makes for a surprising breadth and depth of content on the portable system.

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With such a wide variety available, however, finding your next on-the-go gaming fix can be more than overwhelming. To help make your decision easier, we’ve built this list of the best games on the Nintendo 3DS.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ($35)

In many ways, there are two types of Zelda games. One type is the 3D adventures the began with Ocarina of Time, which have gone on to become the standard for subsequent home console Zelda adventures. The other type are the classic 2D adventures of games like the original Legend of Zelda and it’s SNES follow up, A Link to The Past, the latter of which is often cited as the best game in the series. Serving as a sequel to A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds returns players not only the the 2D perspective, but to A Link To The Past’s map of Hyrule as well. The kingdom has been relatively peaceful in the decades since the previous game. That peace is threatened when a dark sorcerer, Yuga, traps the young Princess Zelda — a descendant of the princess from A Link to The Past — in a magical painting. Link, a young apprentice Swordsmith with no relation to the previous game’s hero, then embarks on a quest to save the princess. Fans of A Link to the Past will enjoy the familiarity, but A Link Between Worlds also turns the Zelda formula on its ear, opening up the entire world from the outset and offering all items through a rental shop. This allows players to choose their own pathway through the game’s numerous dungeons and challenges.

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Monster Hunter Generations ($25)

The Monster Hunter franchise has found its home on the Nintendo 3DS, and Monster Hunter Generations is proof. Featuring the classic, open-ended monster slaying and online cooperative multiplayer the series is known for, the game’s “Hunting Styles” let you customize your combat to suit your gameplay preference — including more aerial or ground-based attacks, for instance — and “Hunter Arts” allow you to unleash especially powerful attacks at your prey.

And did we mention that you can play as a cat? You can totally play as a cat, with special gear and questlines only available to the four-legged, furry creatures in “Prowler” mode. Should you own the “New 3DS” with a built-in C-stick and extra shoulder buttons, you’ll be able to control the action even more easily, and the 3DS’ touch screen can be used to quickly lock onto new enemies.

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D ($40)

Few games command the longevity and reverence that has defined The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s legacy. When the game originally launched on the Nintendo 64 back in ’98, it was heralded as on of the greatest — perhaps even the greatest — game ever made. The title has gone on to frequent many best-of lists, but going back to the N64 title can be, admittedly, a bit difficult given the outdated visuals and presentation. Ocarina of Time 3D, however, addresses many of these shortcomings with updated visuals, a sleeker and simpler interface, and even subtle mechanical changes that improve some of the game’s more tedious moments, including a hint system and dedicated quick-access buttons for certain items. Perhaps the best part about these changes, though, is how well they mold into the existing framework of the game.

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Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS ($33)

Fighting games on the 3DS are few and far between, but as luck would have it, one of the best fighting games in recent years is available on the handheld. Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS brings together a massive roster of fighters from Nintendo’s franchises and pits them in frenetic combat that spans multiple arenas taken from different games. You’d be hard pressed to find a Nintendo character absent from the game at this point; gaming icons like Samus and Fox Mccloud share the stage with lesser-known brawlers such as Ike, Paulina, Shulk, and others. There has even been several new characters added via DLC, including Bayonetta, Street Fighter’s Ryu, and Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife.

That said, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS is essentially the same as the Wii U version of Smash Bros., but with a few notable differences. The handheld version features a different graphical style and a control scheme tailored toward the 3DS’ hardware, as well as a handful of exclusive stages and a special gameplay mode called “Smash Run.”

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Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon ($39)

As the long-awaited sequel to the Luigi’s Mansion, Dark Moon capitalizes on what made the original so great while adding a few fun additions of its own. The game tasks players with investigating five haunted mansions in search of the shattered pieces of a ghost-quelling object called the Dark Moon. Like so many of Nintendo’s self-developed titles, Dark Moon is an inventive adventure title, one that’s packed to the brim with amusing and entertaining gameplay. Nintendo hit another home run this Luigi-centered franchise; let’s just hope it doesn’t take the company another 10 years to produce the threequel.

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Picross 3D: Round 2 ($30)

Puzzle games have always had a home on Nintendo’s handheld systems, and with the Nintendo 3DS’s technology and dual-screen display, Picross 3D: Round 2 is a perfect fit. The game’s 3D interface offers a unique take on the number and geometry-based puzzles we’ve seen developed in recent years, and the rewards for completing them — which range from a virtual cat to a diorama of Mario jumping into a block — offer enough Nintendo-themed charm to keep you coming back.

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