Continuing the legacy of Nintendo’s handheld gaming lineup is no easy task, especially when any hardware has to follow the wildly popular Nintendo DS.
Nintendo’s 3DS portable gaming console was the company’s eighth-generation gaming console competing against Sony’s PlayStation Vita. Differentiating itself from the competition and the gaming market at large, the 3DS offered a stereoscopic 3D display without the need for any 3D glasses. And, while the launch of the 3DS was imperfect, Nintendo would go on and have a massive hit on their hands selling more than 75 million units and counting, thanks to a strong lineup of wonderfully fun games and 3D fun.
Let’s get into the best fighting games for the Nintendo 3DS!
What is a Fighting Game?
Back in the early days of video game consoles, a fighting game was very much considered a one-on-one best-out-of-three match. Today, that format hasn’t changed all that much but the definition of a fighting game has grown broader to start including different types of games.
Beat ‘em ups, for example, involve fighting so they too can now be considered a fighting game. The same goes for wrestling, boxing, or UFC-style games, all of which involve two opponents pitted against each other. Still, when you think of fighting games, Street Fighter is likely the first game that comes to mind, and that’s okay too, but in today’s modern gaming world, game definitions are expanding.
Was the Nintendo 3DS Known for Fighting Games?
As is generally the case with most video game consoles, portable or otherwise, the Nintendo 3DS was not known for a specific genre of games. It’s unlikely that fighting games overall played a strong role in the console’s success, though there is a caveat for the likes of Super Smash Bros. or Super Street Fighter IV.
It’s safe to say that few people would ever look at the Nintendo 3DS and consider it a console best known for fighting games. In the long run, that’s okay, as few consoles are ever really well-known for just one type of genre.
- SVG Distribution Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion (Nintendo DS)
A crossover title published on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2011, emCartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion/em is a fun but not fully fine-tuned fighting game.
Featuring the stars of popular Cartoon Network shows like Ben 10, Dexter’s Laboratory, PowerPuff Girls, Samurai Jack, and Johnny Bravo. With 18 total characters available from the start there’s sure to be a favorite or you can fight your way into unlocking one of the other 19 “secret” characters making cameos throughout the game.
Overall, the gameplay feels somewhat similar to Super Smash Bros. as far as the type of attacks you can unleash. Fans of the Smash Bros. world will recognize copycats of smash attacks and smash-like final moves, which are very common in emPunch Time Explosion/em. The game’s controls work okay which is a plus, but if there’s any downside to this game, it’s that the controls could be smoother. Thankfully, the game is saved by its standout single-player game even if it more resembles a beat ‘em up than a traditional fighter.
emCartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion/em received so-so reviews and only found a 58 Metascore which is a testament to a lack of fighting games on the Nintendo 3DS. If the game had been able to figure out its jumpy controls or add in more relevant characters from shows currently on air (at the time), there’s a good chance the Metascore would have its numbers flipped.
- Upgrade your character to reach the bottom in the new Abyss Mode, create an army to conquer your foes in the new Legion 1.5 Mode.
- With new system mechanics, game engine revisions, and an entirely rebalanced roster it offers a new 2D fighting experience for both veterans and newcomers alike.
- Contains not only the full story of the original, but also brand new Story Mode and Arcade Mode segments for players to enjoy.
- Local wireless multiplayer allows up to 4 players to participate in a single session. Two players will square off while the others are spectators.
More of a brawler than a direct fighting game, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II is a fantastic 2D title.
Released in 2011, the game is the second in the BlazBlue series and saw releases on both home consoles and the Nintendo 3DS. Fights take place between two characters participating in something of a duel rather than a direct “best of three” matchup. Instead, a traditional fighting game round is known in the BlazBlue world as a “rebel,” and to win, players must deplete the health of their opponent by releasing a fury of attacks in up to five rebels.
Throughout each fight, your character of choice, of which you can choose from 18, can fill up their “Heat Gauge” and release a big attack that can quickly decimate your opponent. As much fun as filling up your heat gauge can be, what really helps emBlazBlue: Continuum Shift II/em stand out is its eleven different modes. Everything from a versus mode to arcade, challenge, story, and tutorial modes are all available.
As fun as the different modes are, the graphics are the real highlight of the game as they feel perfect on a portable console and help the game earn its 64 Metascore.
- Classic Tekken fighter with new modes for 3DS
- Utilizes all of the 3DS system features
- Also includes Tekken Blood Vengeance movie in 3D! First time a 3D movie has been included on a handheld
- Runs in full 3D at 60 fps!
- Contains the complete Tekken: Blood Vengeance 3D movie and the intense fighting action of the Tekken game series in one package
Released specifically for the Nintendo 3DS, emTekken 3D Prime Edition/em is a visually beautiful fighting game that took full advantage of the console’s 3D features.
One of the best ways emTekken 3D Prime Edition/em stood out was that it runs at a steady 60 frames per second even when you are playing in 3D mode. With more than 40 characters and stages at your disposal, that’s a great way to experience the game the way Nintendo intended.
For anyone who ever played a Tekken game before, emPrime Edition/em should feel instantly familiar with moves borrowed from other games in the series. There’s a good chance at least one of your favorite special moves is here even though the 64 Metascore was brought down by the game’s smaller D-pad which made it challenging to pull off certain combinations. Similarly, the Metascore can be attributed to the storyline or lack of which could have been a deal breaker for die-hard fans of the Tekken franchise.
On the bright side, as part of your purchase, emTekken 3D Prime Edition/em included a 3D version of the film Tekken: Blood Vengeance on the game cartridge.
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For wrestling fans, emWWE All Stars/em was a must-own for your Nintendo 3DS library.
Best compared to the Nintendo Wii version of the game all the way down to the various venues, match types, and even the game modes. A 3D mode is built-in, though it’s not a major factor in the game as it’s overshadowed by the overall wrestling experience.
The game’s physical buttons are great and work well to assist with striking and grappling, but it’s the touchscreen that really helps the 3DS stand out. The screen is broken into four different sections and a quick tap on any section makes it easy to jump to a different wrestler or you can quickly taunt your opponents by tapping on your wrestler’s name on the touchscreen. Once you get the hang of the touchscreen, it’s a really dynamic and interesting way to play.
emWWE All Stars/em single-player mode offers a variety of different game options like the Path of Champions mode or Gauntlet mode that asks you to beat pretty much every wrestler in the game in consecutive matches. Multiplayer through Streetpass requires you to be in direct proximity to a friend who also has a copy of the game and a 3DS which speaks to the game’s 71 Metascore. It would have been great to have the online option of wrestling against 3DS owners anywhere in the world.
- DOA Evolved: Experience all the high-octane DOA action you know and love, in full 3D and ready to take on the go!
- Danger Never Looked So Good: Experience the series' trademark Danger Zones for the first time in full-on 3D.
- When you're done testing your chops against the CPU, take on a new challenge through multiplayer available through Local Play
- Fans can now take on the world of DOA with a partner, so more experienced fighters can help newcomers learn the ropes first-hand.
- The Comprehensive DOA Experience: Relive the DOA storyline. Chronicle Mode covers all of these storylines and more
Building on the popularity of the Dead or Alive franchise, emDead or Alive Dimensions/em and its 79 Metascore was a standout release on the Nintendo 3DS.
Taking full advantage of the console, the gameplay took place on the top screen while the bottom touchscreen made it super easy to enact special fighting combos. Playing through all of those special moves looks as fun as they are to play, thanks to its 60 frames per second framerate.
There are more than 26 different characters to choose from, some of which are available right from the start while unlocking the rest happens as you win more matches through the various game modes.
Those game modes include a Chronicle mode which doubles as the storyline behind the game. Additionally, you can choose to play Arcade, Survival, Training, Showcase, or Freeplay modes, all of which can be played in glasses-free stereoscopic 3D. All of these modes make use of the touchscreen, making it super easy for both fans of the series to jump in as well as beginners.
Multiplayer mode was available in both local and online modes through Wi-Fi and StreetPass. There’s some real joy in being able to test your skills in emDead or Alive Dimensions/em against players from around the world all while attempting to unlock different characters and costumes for use in future matches.
Arguably the best-known fighting game for the Nintendo 3DS, emSuper Smash Bros./em is a staple title in Nintendo’s lineup.
The unique style of gameplay is truly hectic, but it’s so much fun you just keep telling yourself just one more match. As the first portable entry in the series, up to four players battle locally or online and choose from some of the most iconic characters in Nintendo franchises. Mario, Link, Pikachu, Samus, Mega Man, and Little Mac are all here and ready to smash it up.
This is definitely a non-traditional fighting game but that’s okay because it’s just so much fun. Grabbing an 85 Metascore was due in part to having this beautiful crossover not only of popular characters but also instantly recognizable levels from other titles in the Nintendo universe. Once you selected your character and a level, you experienced 60 frames per second and stereoscopic 3D all while smashing every button on the 3DS to try and knock your opponents out of the level.
The more you attack and use special items that drop in during matches, the more fun the game becomes and that’s even before you get to the “Final Smash” which does some real damage. emSuper Smash Bros./em popularity helped it become the eighth best-selling game for the Nintendo 3DS with more than 9.6 million copies sold.
- Fight your friends around the world or in the same room with the only title to utilize the full capabilities of Nintendo?s online network at launch
- Play as 35 fighters ranging from classic world warriors like Ryu, Ken, Guile and Chun Li
- Figurine Mode - the collectible meta-game allows your chosen figurines to automatically battle those of other 3DS players
- A new over-the-shoulder camera option has been added, offering an exciting new perspective of the action
- Play a game with a friend using the ever-popular Ryu, even when they don't have a cartridge
Selling more than 1.3 million copies on the Nintendo 3DS, emSuper Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition/em makes a terrific case for the crown of the best fighting game on the console.
Released in 2011 and developed by Capcom, this was a launch title for the console that held true to the Street Fighter name in all the best ways. The combination of 3D characters and 3D backgrounds looked beautiful on a portable console.
You have more than 35 different characters to choose from which just made the game all the more special to play. Of course, Ryu, Ken, Guile, and Chun Li are all here in 3D glory or you can opt to see different characters in 3D mode by using the over-the-shoulder camera point of view.
Regardless of which camera setting you use, you can choose to play single-player and work your way through various opponents until you reach the big bosses. There are some surprises as well, including popular bonus stages like the infamous car-breaking stage from Street Fighter II.
Capturing an 85 Metascore, emSuper Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition/em also succeeded, thanks to its excellent multiplayer mode where players could challenge friends or family through StreetPass or online via Wi-Fi.
The Nintendo 3DS is unlikely to be remembered as a console that had a huge array of standout fighting games but the few that are available are well worth playing. Games like Super Smash Bros. and Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition helped raise the bar for fighting games on portable consoles and set the stage for the wonderful gameplay we see for both titles on the Nintendo Switch today.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Zyabich/Shutterstock.com.