The Nintendo Switch might be just over the horizon, but that doesn’t mean the 3DS is about to see its final sunset. As Nintendo’s portable rolls into its seventh year, the remaining months of 2017 still look bright for this popular platform. And regardless of whether you’re an early adopter or a 3DS newcomer, plenty of great digital-only games you’ve never played lurk behind the clumsy interface of the eShop. If you’ve explored the world of physical releases and crave smaller, more inexpensive experiences, check out our list of the best 3DS digital eShop games you can buy.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
If you’ve never dabbled in Capcom’s over-the-top lawyer sim series, this stands as the best place to start. Though it’s a bit pricier than other eShop-only releases, Ace Attorney Trilogy collects the best three games in the Phoenix Wright series—previously released in America as individual DS games—and adds some nice graphical and quality-of-life enhancements. The result is a package containing Phoenix’s most memorable cases taking place within an interconnected narrative full of ups, downs, and constant cliffhangers. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself exploring the rest of the series once you get this first trilogy under your belt.
When Nintendo released the simple, charming puzzler BoxBoy, no one knew what to expect. And we definitely didn’t expect to see a brilliant sequel so soon. BoxBoxBoy borrows the original’s intuitive formula—where protagonist Qbby can generate boxes out of his own boxy body—and simply adds an additional layer. So, instead of materializing a mere one set of boxes, Qbby now has the power to make two appear. This new angle may not sound like much, but it gives BoxBoy’s original premise enough of a spin to justify a new collection of puzzles. And if you enjoy this one, there’s always the first game to dig into.
Crimson Shroud definitely has quite the pedigree behind it. Yasumi Matsuno headed up this RPG, and if you’re familiar with the genre, his name should ring a bell—he’s the guy who directed Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, after all. Crimson Shroud takes the form of a mini-Dungeons & Dragons campaign, right down to the inanimate game pieces and the various-sided dice you have to virtually “roll” in order to attack enemies. This inspired creation amounts to a short-but-fulfilling RPG experience with a great battle system that really rewards you for planning ahead. If you’d like to play a game full of swords and sorcery, but don’t have the dozens of hours typically required, steer yourself towards Crimson Shroud.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
If you’re looking for something to scratch that old-school platformer itch, look no further than Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. This WayForward release combines everything you love to see in these kinds of games: abilities to unlock, secrets to find, and great 2D art to sell it all. And the soundtrack, by the always excellent Jake Kaufman, will give you a reason to play this one with headphones on and cranked to max volume.
SteamWorld Dig basically takes the premise of the arcade classic Dig Dug and amps things up by a factor of 100. You’re still a dude (in this case, a robo-dude) tasked with digging, defeating enemies, and collecting treasures, but SteamWorld adds a ton of complexity, along with an addictive loop. You can only collect so many items before making a return trip to the surface, making each dive underground an exercise in careful decision making. And since you can continually upgrade your gear and abilities, each spelunking trip brings new possibilities—some hiding in places you’ve already been.
Dillon’s Rolling Western
Dillon’s Rolling Western takes the idea of tower defense and adds that Nintendo touch. As the titular character, you’re tasked with protecting a town from an onslaught of rock monsters over the course of three in-game days. Every day allows you to plan, find treasure, and set up defenses, while each sunset brings an encounter with hordes of foes. While you can rush into things haphazardly, Dillon’s ultimately rewards getting to know your current environment and making the most of your resources during daylight so you can effectively attack your enemies later. And if you enjoy this one, the sequel carries the same addictive charms.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth falls into the category of “roguelikes:” games that typically rely on randomized levels and set your character back to square one with every game over. Isaac adapts this formula for use in its Zelda-style dungeons, full of countless enemies, power-ups, and secrets. With The Binding of Isaac, no two games are ever the same, making each session in its grimy labyrinths full of surprises. Its grim aesthetic may not be for everyone, but Isaac really hits the spot if you’re looking for some short bursts of intense gaming.
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball
One of Nintendo’s earliest free-to-play experiments, Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball features a unique take on microtransactions. Though it amounts to a series of great baseball-related mini-games, Rusty’s also features a framing device that has you helping the titular protagonist get his shattered life back on track. And you do this by buying mini-games from him, though, in a stroke of genius, Nintendo lets you haggle and use cost-saving items like coupons to lower the price. If done correctly, most of Rusty’s mini-games cost a negligible fee, but more importantly, they’re extremely fast, fun takes on baseball. Plus, it’s one of the few games to make the 3DS’s 3D function absolutely vital to your success.
If you somehow haven’t played Shovel Knight by now, the 3DS version remains a complete, uncompromised version of this 2014 hit. Essentially, Shovel Knight presents the 8-bit gaming experience not how it actually was, but how we remember it. Meaning, it’s a lot more fair and thoughtful than the games of the past, whose designers had no idea they’d still be played decades down the road. And despite its retro appeal, Shovel Knight stands as one of the best-looking and sounding games on the 3DS, with its absolutely timeless visuals and chiptune soundtrack.
Ever since the original Game Boy’s version of Tetris enchanted the world in the late ’80s, handheld gaming devices have been forever associated with puzzle games. And while many releases from this genre can be found in the 3DS eShop, Pushmo stands out as the best. Its premise is simple: Pull out the various shapes—designated by color—from a seemingly flat background object in order to reach the top. Pushmo gradually builds on this basic concept, but never so much that you can’t wrap your brain around the mind-benders filling your screen. And even when a puzzle frustrates you, Pushmo has a way of calming the nerves with its mellow music and cutesy, colorful graphics.