The 10 best Nintendo 3DS games

UPDATED: Pokémon Sun and Moon shake up our portable picks

We're more than five years into the lifespan of the 3DS, but it's never too late to start enjoying the best of Nintendo's quirky little handheld.

Pokémon Sun and Moon are the latest and greatest reasons to power up this portable, whether you have the standard 3DS, the streamlined 2DS, or the enhanced New Nintendo 3DS, but there's plenty more worth investigating.

Yes, classic series like Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda are present and accounted for, but dig a little deeper and you'll find more reasons to stay glued to this dual-screened device. Here are 10 of the absolute top games you can play today on Nintendo 3DS.

 

POKÉMON SUN AND MOON

Got Pokémon Go to thank for your newfound (or revitalized) interest in monster-bagging? It's time to turn your attention to Pokémon Sun and/or Pokémon Moon instead. These fully-fledged series entries augment the classic collecting and battling approach with some nice tweaks.

The tropical Alola region and its inhabitants give the game a sunny disposition, while dozens of new monsters, glossier graphics, and fresh Z-Move attacks boost the familiar formula. While not a dramatic change from the classic template, it's arguably the best Pokémon has ever been.

Buy Pokemon Moon from Amazon

Buy Pokemon Sun from Amazon

Super Mario 3D Land

Finding the perfect middle ground between the series' equally brilliant 2D and 3D platform-action templates, Super Mario 3D Land is bursting with creative stages and scenarios. It effortlessly shifts between side-scrolling and free-roaming moments, with the camera framing the action a little differently in each new area, making the whole game feel fresh – and really tailored for the 3D effect.

It's one of Mario's top adventures, even in a series marked by some of the best-loved games of all-time. 

Buy Super Mario 3D Land from Amazon

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Rather than release another Zelda remake for 3DS, Nintendo opted instead to return to the world of fan-favorite A Link To The Past from the SNES and design a whole new adventure.

A Link Between Worlds has the familiar charm of the 16-bit entry, but also modern touches, not to mention a big twist: the ability to turn into a 2D drawing and slide along walls and around hazards.

The less-linear quest is bright and memorable, making for yet another classic action role-playing entry. And if it's remakes you want, don't miss The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D and Majora's Mask 3D, which update the respective beloved N64 adventures. 

Buy The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds from Amazon

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

It'd be difficult to describe Animal Crossing without it sounding like a lot of time wasting and busywork, yet Nintendo's adorable life simulation manages to suck players in for hours and hours.

New Leaf is arguably the best of the series, with the handheld design making it easy to pop in and out of your colourful city, increased social functionality adding to its appeal, and your new role as mayor giving you more say over the town's development. Among addictions, it's an awfully cute one. 

Buy Animal Crossing: New Leaf from Amazon

Mario Kart 7

While its Wii U successor is a more memorable affair, Mario Kart 7 remains an essential play for 3DS owners of all stripes. As ever, it's about whipping the portly plumber and his allies and enemies alike around cartoonish racetracks, with a nice selection of new locales and remastered favorites from past entries.

You'll occasionally glide through the air or propel ahead underwater here, but although neither option hugely changes the familiar formula that isn't a problem when it's this much fun. 

Buy Mario Kart 7 from Amazon

Super Smash Bros.

Same-screen multiplayer brawler Super Smash Bros. hardly seemed worth bringing to a handheld, but credit Nintendo for proving naysayers wrong. While it lacks that hook of having a bunch of friends crowd around a console and a TV, you can take the battle online and command a corral of classic Nintendo characters in combat.

The 3DS version also has single-player modes for solo play, and while the fighting gameplay is simple, the abundance of fan service is nearly impossible to dislike. 

Buy Super Smash Bros. from Ebay

Fire Emblem: Awakening

One of the finest modern tactical role-playing games on any platform, Fire Emblem: Awakening delivers turn-based battles with real stakes: if you play on the "Classic" setting and lose a character in combat, he or she is gone forever. Simple as that.

Of course, you can settle for an easier route, but the extra investment in your heroes adds weight to this fantasy experience, which also shines thanks to an intriguing narrative and ample character customisation.

Buy Fire Emblem: Awakening from Amazon 

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

There's a long tradition of fighting games being neutered for handheld release, but Super Street Fighter IV bucks that trend on 3DS, delivering an essentially complete version of the revitalised modern favorite.

True, die-hards aren't going to settle for tiny buttons and no arcade stick, but for the common gamer, it has everything you need for fighting action on the go: finely tuned fighting mechanics, a massive roster, smooth presentation (with a nice 3D effect), and even on-the-go online play. 

Buy Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition from Amazon

Shovel Knight

The 3DS eShop has plenty of old-school games available to purchase, but if you're seeking something that looks and plays like a retro classic, but is actually totally new, grab Shovel Knight.

It's one of the best games to attempt a total throwback design, delivering not only pitch-perfect NES-level graphics, but also the kind of simple-yet-challenging platform-action that evokes all kinds of memories from nostalgic gamers. It's a great fit for a portable screen, too. 

Buy Shovel Knight from Amazon

MONSTER HUNTER GENERATIONS

Generations is the apex of Capcom's hack-and-slash favourite, pulling together top content from the entire series to create the ultimate, on-the-go action role-playing experience. And it's a lot friendlier to newcomers than past entries, in case you've been stymied before.

You'll also find a lot more customization as you choose from Hunting Styles and specialize your character, but the series' main thrill remains teaming up with online allies to take down hulking beasts – and then collecting the loot.

Buy Monster Hunter Generations from Amazon