12 3DS games to buy before Nintendo shuts down the eShop

12 3DS games to buy
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Update: We finally know the official date that Nintendo is shutting down 3Ds and Wii U eShops.

After 11 productive years, the Nintendo 3DS eShop is on the chopping block. Earlier this week, Nintendo announced that it would shut down the 3DS and Wii U eShops, meaning that if you want to buy games for those two systems, your only option will be to hunt down a physical copy. And, if past experience is any indication, those physical copies may be about to skyrocket in price.

To be clear, you have until May 2022 to buy 3DS and Wii U games normally, and until March 2023 to buy them with a few workarounds. But either way, the clock is ticking. If you have a 3DS and want to stock up before the closure, here are our very favorite 3DS games that you can still buy via the eShop. Once you buy them, you can redownload them any time you choose, as Nintendo has no plans to shut down servers entirely. Yet.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate

12 3DS games to buy

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series went off the rails pretty fast, but for a moment there, it seemed like we had a smart reboot of a classic franchise on our hands. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate plays like a classic Castlevania title, as you guide a variety of vampire hunters through a series of side-scrolling levels, fighting all sorts of supernatural creatures and gathering special items as you go. As Castlevania games go, Mirror of Fate is probably not in the upper echelons. But it is arguably the last traditional Castlevania title before the series went into hibernation, and it’s not a bad way to kill some time on a plane or train. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Dragon Ball: Fusions

12 3DS games to buy

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Yet another “not great, but you’ve got to see it for yourself” game, Dragon Ball: Fusions is one of those strange digressions that could have happened only on the 3DS. In this turn-based RPG, you create your own character in the Dragon Ball universe, then set off on a quest to befriend a variety of characters from the anime. As you progress through the game, you can “fuse” characters together to combine their abilities, just like Gotenks or Gogeta in the show. The game can get a bit repetitive, and it has a pretty niche appeal, even among Dragon Ball or RPG fans. But there’s nothing else quite like it. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: N/A

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past

12 3DS games to buy

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Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is one of the few Dragon Quest games that you can’t buy on either Android or iOS, at least not in English. As such, the 3DS is your best bet, unless you feel like tracking down an even more expensive copy on the PlayStation. In this expansive (and very, very long) RPG, you create your own protagonist, then set off on a time-traveling quest to rebuild the whole world, from a single small island to a whole network of towns and countries. There are plenty of playable classes to master, which can be a big boon if you choose to tackle the tough postgame quests. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: PlayStation

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

12 3DS games to buy

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One of the most beloved Dragon Quest titles, Dragon Quest VIII is one of the few games in the series to develop a deep cast of party members. While you can customize your own silent protagonist, your party members each have their own personalities, ambitions and skills. The brash Yangus, the plucky Jessica and the suave Angelo all contribute something special to the story, and you can build up their abilities to complement your hero any way you like. Like other Dragon Quest games, the gameplay here consists of turn-based combat and open-ended exploration, but it’s the story and characters who will stick with you for a long time to come. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: PS2, Android, iOS

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

12 3DS games to buy

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If you miss your chance to buy Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance on the 3DS, don’t worry; it’s also available for most modern platforms. But there’s something undeniably charming about the original version of this game, particularly since it makes excellent use of the 3DS’ second screen. The game takes place after Kingdom Hearts II, and follows dual protagonists Sora and Riku as they hone their skills to become Keyblade Masters. As in other Kingdom Hearts games, the big draw here is the various Disney worlds you’ll explore, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron: Legacy and a particularly memorable level based on Fantasia. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Mario Kart 7

12 3DS games to buy

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In a lot of ways Mario Kart 7 is the outcast of the Mario Kart franchise. Yes, it’s the best selling 3DS game of all time at nearly 19 million copies shifted, but it never seems to rank when the series' best entries are debated.

Mario Kart 7 is usually overshadowed by the likes of Double Dash and Mario Kart DS, but it’s an important entry in the series nevertheless. For starters, 7 introduced the glider and underwater driving mechanics that have now become franchise staples. It also added a novel first-person mode which was unfortunately omitted in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.  

The game offers a fantastic selection of new and returning courses, and looks great on the 3DS’ smaller screens to boot. Its sequel may have surpassed it, but Mario Kart 7 is still an essential inclusion in any 3DS library — Rory Mellon

Available on other platforms: N/A

Metroid: Samus Returns

12 3DS games to buy

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Metroid has an interesting history, but after the controversial Metroid: Other M for the Wii, Nintendo went basically silent until it announced the upcoming Metroid Prime 4. But that was a ways off yet, so in the meantime, we got Metroid: Samus Returns. This complete remake of Metroid II from the original Game Boy was a welcome thing for starved fans of the franchise.

Samus Returns sees the eponymous heroine travel the planet of SR388 to exterminate the parasitic species that give the franchise its name. As you progress further into the planet, the Metroids get more intense until you reach the climax. The events at the end of the game have lasting consequences throughout the following Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, and Metroid Dread.

This game is a must-have on the 3DS if you love the side-scrolling sci-fi adventure series. It’s a stellar game full of mechanics that would later trickle down to Metroid Dread. It’s a total blast. — Jordan Palmer

Available on other platforms: N/A

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Dual Destinies

12 3DS games to buy

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The Phoenix Wright series is something of an acquired taste, but if it hooks you, you’ll probably be hooked for life. In this series of adventure games, you play as beleaguered defense attorney Phoenix Wright, as he defends his clients against seemingly airtight murder charges. (Every case eventually becomes a murder trial, even if it doesn’t start off that way.) What sells Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Dual Destinies is its bizarre cast of characters, from rookie attorney Athena Cykes, who uses analytical psychology to expose her enemies, to the intimidating prosecutor Simon Blackquill, who practices law as though he were a samurai. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: Android, iOS

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Spirit of Justice

12 3DS games to buy

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If you play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Dual Destinies, you’ll probably want to check out its sequel as well: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Spirit of Justice. This game shakes up the series’ status quo considerably, bringing Phoenix to the fictional kingdom of Khura’in, where spirit mediums can extract testimony from murder victims. Trials there progress quite a bit differently, and this time, you’ll need to spot contradictions between sights, sounds and physical sensations, in addition to the more traditional logical inconsistencies. Granted, Phoenix Wright games are easy enough to find on other platforms, but Spirit of Justice works wonderfully on the 3DS, particularly if you want to shout “Objection!” into the mic. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: Android, iOS

12 3DS games to buy

(Image credit: Nintendo)

There are going to be a lot of Zelda games on this list, but that shouldn’t be surprising. The Legend of Zelda is arguably the best series that Nintendo makes, and A Link Between Worlds is arguably one of the best entries in that series. In this sequel to A Link to the Past, Link travels to the alternate dimension of Lorule, where he must rescue a princess named Hilda from an evil sorcerer called Yuga. Unlike most Zelda games, A Link Between Worlds lets you tackle the dungeons in any order, thanks to a clever item-rental system. With gorgeous graphics and clever gameplay mechanics, A Link Between Worlds is one of the 3DS’ star attractions. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: N/A

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

12 3DS games to buy

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One of the weirder games in the Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is arguably a better experience on the 3DS than it was on the N64. With a handful of quality-of-life improvements and improved graphics, this cult classic is now more accessible than ever. After the events of Ocarina of Time, Link sets off on a quest to find his lost fairy, Navi, and winds up in the twisted world of Termina. There, Link has three days to prevent the moon from crashing down and obliterating all life. It’s a strange experience, but the time loop mechanics are intriguing, and there are plenty of interesting masks to collect. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Switch

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

12 3DS games to buy

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is perhaps one of the best games ever made, and its 3DS remaster is likewise a thing of beauty. This game features smoother graphics than the N64 original, as well as handy second-screen features. For the most part, though, it’s simply a faithful remaster of an excellent game. In this action/adventure classic, Link must travel through time to stop the evil Ganondorf and save Princess Zelda, traversing eight deadly dungeons as he does so. With plenty of interesting gear to collect and lots of optional quests to pursue, Ocarina of Time deserves a spot in your 3DS library. — Marshall Honorof

Available on other platforms: N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Switch

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

With contributions from
  • Aiodensghost
    SMT IV, SMT IV: Apocalypse, SMT Strange Journey Redux. All the GB/GBC/Game Gear games. Devil Survivor duology, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. All the 3DS Fire Emblem games, all 3DS Pokémon games. Unfortunately Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance was game cartridge only, but if you use Luma3DS you can use a cartridge from anywhere you can find one.
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