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The Nintendo 3DS is part of the eighth generation of video game consoles, and Nintendo’s successor to the Nintendo DS.

Being released 7 years later in 2011, the key difference between the two consoles is the inclusion of stereoscopic 3D effects with the 3DS; this offers a 3D experience to players without the use of 3D glasses or other accessories. The 3DS was one of Nintendo’s most successful releases; this was partly due to it being packaged with a selection of free Game Boy Advance (GBA) games upon release, and also for its massive contribution to the world of RPGs. When listing the best 3DS RPGs, there’s a lot to consider.

First-party game development for the 3DS stopped in 2019, but the console continues to be supported alongside Nintendo’s newest offering, the Nintendo Switch home console. Several incarnations of the 3DS would eventually come to fruition, such as the 3DS XL, a model with bigger screens, and the Nintendo 2DS, which lacked 3D functionality but was compatible with 3DS games. A successor to the 3DS may be in the works, as Nintendo has hinted this is something they’re considering.

Mostly known for games that could take full advantage of its 3D effects, the 3DS is renowned for having a wide selection of games ranging from several genres, but the most popular are definitely the action-adventure and RPG genres. Today, we’re going to discover exactly what the best 3DS RPGs are and what made them so great.

Let’s jump in!

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker - Nintendo 3DS
$64.94
  • Tactical Combat with a Side of Demon Fusion: The elements that make the Devil Survivor series great are back and better than ever with robust, turn-based strategic combat.
  • Choose Your Own Fate: The line between life and death is razor-thin. Actions have their consequences, and in the wake of the apocalypse, a wrong choice can result in the permanent death of a...
  • New Personalities to Discover: For the first time, Devil Survivor 2 is getting fully voiced English story dialogue.
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01/28/2023 08:21 pm GMT

While the original Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 was released for the DS in 2012, an updated version for the 3DS, emShin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker/em, came out in 2015.

Set in the entire country of Japan, Devil Survivor 2 centers around high school students, like many of the Shin Megami Tensei games, who have made a pact that allows them to summon demons and fight creatures that are threatening the country. The story branches out differently depending on the choices the player makes during the game.

As a tactical RPG, Devil Survivor 2’s battles involve fighting enemy forces or completing certain objectives such as helping out other characters. Once battle commences, a traditional turn-based system is deployed, where the player controls one human character and two demons. New demons can be obtained by fusing demons or winning them in a demon auction.

A new feature in the Record Breaker version is the Fate System, where the player can develop relationships with other characters; this makes the character more effective in battle as the relationship strengthens, as well as unlocking demon fusions unobtainable in any other way. The updated version also includes a new scenario that’s instantly accessible and set after the events of the original ending.

While the game’s difficulty came under fire from various publications, Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker was positively compared with its predecessor, with the improved story and gameplay being commonly cited. If you’re a fan of the simulation elements and split choices common to this game series as well as challenging gameplay, Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is a great addition to your collection as one of the best 3DS RPGs on offer, evident in its 84 Metascore.

Check out emShin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker/em on Amazon right here.

Bravely Default For the Sequel (Japan Import)
$93.30
  • This item is Japanese edition.
  • As this game is NOT compatible with 3DS consoles sold outside Japan, you need a Japanese console or appropriate adapter/converter to play.
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01/29/2023 08:46 am GMT

Initially released in Japan in 2012, the U.S. version of Bravely Default, emBravely Default: For the Sequel/em (released in 2014), expands upon the original.

While Square Enix decided to branch out from their Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series with this game, the story remains rather typical for the company; the story follows four adventurers on their mission to restore the four elemental crystals from darkness and defeat a great evil.

The gameplay utilizes both screens, with the top screen being used to display the environment being explored (with a third-person overhead perspective) and the bottom screen being used for maps, menus, and party stats. Battles use a traditional turn-based system with the expected commands (attack, using magic, or using items), but with some new features.

Brave Points (BP) indicate how many actions a character can take, as well as used for the execution of special abilities. Sleep Points (SP), on the other hand, are used to activate Bravely Second, an ability that temporarily freezes time for the enemy. These are replenished through microtransactions and also while the 3DS is in sleep mode.

A job system is also used, leading to a lot of customization, as learned skills of two jobs can be combined, very similar to the system used in Final Fantasy V. Jobs also allow the use of special skills which grant buffs to the player’s party. Enemies that appear are also influenced by the day/night cycle present within the game.

Famitsu and Edge Magazine particularly praised the game’s narrative, with its twists on traditional storytelling tropes and darker elements. The social mechanics and the microtransactions weren’t seen in a positive light, but the engaging graphics, soundtrack, and gameplay were hits with many reviewers. For fans of the Final Fantasy series looking for something a bit different, Bravely Default offers many hours of fun and customization and deserves a place as one of the best 3DS RPGs.

You can find it on Amazon here and discover why it earned an 85 Metascore.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D - New Nintendo 3DS
$60.29
  • Compatible with New Nintendo 3DS.
  • Discover the amazing story of Xenoblade Chronicles.
  • Claim the sword. End the war.
  • All hope is lost, save for the sword in your hand.
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01/29/2023 02:46 am GMT

emXenoblade Chronicles 3D/em is a 3DS port of Xenoblade Chronicles, initially released for the Nintendo Wii in 2012.

The 3DS version arrived in 2015 and is part of the Xeno series while telling its own story. The game is set in a rather strange world consisting of the frozen bodies of 2 titans, Bionis and Mechonis, where an eternal war is taking place between the human-like Hom people of Bionis and the mechanical Mechon race of Mechonis. The protagonist Shulk discovers he can wield the legendary sword Monado, a key to fighting against the forces of Mechonis and starts his journey with the intention of avenging his best friend, Reyn.

The game features an open-world exploration style, with players able to effortlessly travel between expansive environments at will. Mechanics are influenced by a day/night cycle, such as enemies being stronger at night. Exploration is a key element of the game, as well as collecting items and completing quests, which affect something called the Affinity System; Location Affinity dictates how various towns within the game view the player, and Party Affinity affects how well party members participate in battle together.

Battles take place in real-time, where abilities called Arts can be used after a certain number of auto-attacks are performed. The Party Gauge also gradually fills, which allows for more powerful chain attacks. Battles afford experience points, and new Arts are gained upon leveling up, much like skills and spells in other RPGs.

While graphics weren’t particularly seen as impressive, the open-world gameplay was considered a fresh and unexpected addition to what was initially viewed as being very similar to a Final Fantasy game. As well as this, the quest system was seen as being intuitive and user-friendly. The 3DS port was positively critiqued for the same elements as the original, but the downgrade in graphics wasn’t received very well, although the capacity to even port an RPG of such a grand scale to the handheld console was highly praised.

With that said, the 3DS port was the fifth best-selling 3DS game in the week of its release and does a good job of making a much-loved game portable. For fans of the original game and those seeking out the best 3DS RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles has a lot to offer, and its 86 Metascore makes that super clear.

Grab your own copy on Amazon here.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Standard Edition - Nintendo 3DS
$57.97
  • Online Play - Connect with up to three other hunters online over the Nintendo Network for the first time ever, or local wireless, to join up and take down larger than life beasts.
  • Two new weapon classes - The Insect Glaive is a long staff type weapon accompanied by a powerful flying insect which can be customized with various attributes; the Charge Blade is a hybrid that...
  • More vertical environments - The action expands with more fluid climbing motions and the addition of jump attacks from walls or ledges.
  • New gameplay mechanic - For the first time ever, hop on to monsters and hold on to deliver a burst of attacks
  • Returning favorites and fresh challenges - Brand new monsters such as the dark and menacing Gore Magala as well as hordes of returning favorites including the primal Tigrex, players have access to the...
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01/28/2023 01:52 pm GMT

The U.S. release of emMonster Hunter 4 Ultimate/em was in 2015, and the narrative is similar to its predecessors, focusing on a relatively inexperienced Hunter eager to join the Hunter’s Guild and defeat various monsters within different locations.

Most of the gameplay revolves around completing quests and missions, which afford the player new items and money, which is used to craft new weapons, armor, and items to buff the player in battle. The game doesn’t rely on experience points, but rather on improving armor and weapons and equipping them with abilities as they progress through the game. Quests are usually completed when a large monster is defeated, before which the player can gather materials and fight smaller enemies as they wish.

Monster Hunter 4 adds some mobility improvements to the series, such as easier scaling of walls and the use of height differences to gain advantages over the enemies. Monsters can also use the environment against the player, however, adding a tactical element to the gameplay. A Guild Quest system was also implemented, which makes use of the 3DS’ StreetPass function in order to grant the player access to new equipment upon trading quests with other players.

The original release sold more than double the copies of any other game in Japan by the end of 2013, excluding Pokemon X and Y. The Ultimate rendition was considered the best in the series to date by several critics, particularly Famitsu and Metro. While requiring a large time investment from the player, the game is noted for not really feeling like much of a grind, while refining and improving upon the gameplay of the series as a whole.

Gamers who aren’t afraid to sink many hours to fully engross themselves in the game will not be disappointed with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, as the game sits squarely among the best 3DS RPGs and even the best 3DS games overall and you can see it in its 86 Metascore.

Check it out on Amazon here.

Pokémon Moon - Nintendo 3DS
$42.00
  • Pokemon Moon will launch in the US November 18th, 2016 exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
  • Embark on a new adventure as a Pokemon Trainer and catch, battle, and trade all-new Pokemon on the tropical islands of a new Region and become a Pokemon Champion!
  • Games in 2D. Some areas also playable in 3D.
  • Rated “E”; Everyone w/ Mild Cartoon Violence
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01/28/2023 05:01 pm GMT

Being part of the first installment in the seventh generation of Pokemon games, emPokemon Moon/em hit the U.S. market in 2016 along with Pokemon Sun.

The region where the game is set differs significantly from previous entries, which largely focused on settings involving a lot of cities; Moon, however, is based on Hawaii and heavily features islands as the main environment. The player is a pokemon trainer with the objective of stopping the plans of Team Skull and also the Aether Foundation, who are studying mysterious and powerful beings known as Ultra Beasts.

Most of the mechanics remain unchanged from previous Pokemon games, with gameplay revolving around the training, evolution, and battling of Pokemon acquired through capture. Still presented in 3D polygonal graphics, Sun and Moon make a departure from the chibi-styled models from X and Y by incorporating more realistic graphics and proportions for the characters. The trainer’s appearance, such as gender, skin tone, and hair color, can also be customized at the beginning, as well as outfits and accessories being obtainable as the game progresses.

New versions of pre-existing Pokemon are also included, known as Alolan forms, as well as a new form of powerful moves, called Z-moves, which can be used only once per battle. The removal of Hidden Moves (HMs) required for navigating terrain is also notable, being replaced with summonable Pokemon specialized for these uses. As well as this, gyms were essentially replaced with island challenges, a big departure for the series.

All in all, Pokemon Sun and Moon were lauded for their change from the gym system, as well as the engaging story and the design, which felt organic according to Nintendo Life. The games were the fastest-selling titles in Nintendo’s history at the time of their release, and as of 2022, are the third best-selling 3DS titles of all time. This game is a no-brainer for loyal Pokemon fans and those looking for the best 3DS RPGs alike, as they take a time-tested formula and improve it for the better while adding a fresh twist.

You can find it on Amazon here.

pokemon moon
Pokemon Moon is a fan-favorite for a reason!

©Pe3k/Shutterstock.com

Pokémon Y
$46.50
  • All-new Pokemon and past favorites come to life with detailed graphics and intense 3D battles.
  • Become a Pokemon Trainer and set out for adventure in a vast and wondrous new region filled with new Pokemon to catch, trade, and battle.
  • In Pokemon-Amie, you can pet, feed, and play with your Pokemon to form a deeper bond, which may benefit you in future battles.
  • Connect and communicate with players around the world at any time. Challenge them to a battle, trade Pokemon, and much more.
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01/28/2023 05:06 pm GMT

Pokemon X and emY/em were Nintendo’s first entries into Pokemon’s sixth generation and came out in 2013.

The region of Kalos is where the games are set, which are based on France, with a gym based on the appearance of the Eiffel Tower even featuring in the game. The evil organization this time around is Team Flare, and the ultimate goal of battling the Pokemon Champion is still a focal point.

Pokemon X and Y were noteworthy for including a new Pokemon type, the Fairy type; as well as new Pokemon being created with this type, some older Pokemon were also revamped to include this typing, such as Clefairy (previously Normal type, but now Fairy type). As with whenever a new type is created, this has implications on the gameplay, as the strengths and weaknesses of the new typing had a big impact. Mega Evolution, a new form of evolution, also debuted in this game, allowing further evolution of certain Pokemon which increases their power even more.

Battle mechanics remain largely the same, but Pokemon X and Y were the first Pokemon titles to utilize 3D polygonal graphics, as well as the customization of the player’s appearance. New battle types known as Sky Battles and Horde Encounters were also added, which are airborne battles (where only airborne Pokemon can participate) and 1-vs-5 battles with increased difficulty respectively. Pokemon Bank was also a new feature, which is an online cloud storage system used for storing up to a massive 3,000 Pokemon –– a huge benefit for those players determined to catch them all.

Overall, the games received a near-perfect score from Famitsu, and were highly rated for their rich visuals and successful implementation of a 3D world, such as in its 88 Metascore. While not completely breaking the mold of the Pokemon experience, X and Y take the formula and execute it excellently, while fully utilizing the upgrades possible with the 3DS. Being the second fastest-selling 3DS title ever, just ahead of Pokemon Sun and Moon, X and Y deliver a great experience for new and experienced gamers, and as far as 3DS titles go are up there among the best 3DS RPGs.

You can get emPokemon Y/em for yourself on Amazon here.

Technically being a successor to the acclaimed SNES title The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, emThe Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds/em was released in 2013 with much anticipation.

Several years after the events of A Link to the Past, this time Link sets out to defeat the evil sorcerer Yuga, who has abducted Princess Zelda and plans to resurrect Ganon by using the power of the Seven Sages.

While utilizing stereoscopic 3D graphics, the gameplay is very similar to its predecessors, with the collection of items, heart containers, and the solving of puzzles being core elements. Many of the items from A Link to the Past make a reappearance, but exploration and progression are more open-ended than is typical for a Zelda game, as the dungeons can be completed in any order. Items are also purchased or rented from a merchant rather than being obtained in dungeons, a big change for the series.

This game also introduced the mechanic of Link being able to merge into walls and move horizontally through the use of a magic bracelet. Unique mechanics are often a feature of Zelda games, particularly on handheld consoles. The StreetPass system of the 3DS is also used to create shadow versions of Link on the field, which reward the player with Rupees upon defeat.

A Link Between Worlds was universally acclaimed upon release and was the top-selling game in its first week in Japan. The graphical style split critics, with some praising it and others condemning it. Nevertheless, the difficulty, puzzles, and wall-merging mechanic were positively praised, along with the darker storyline and ability to travel between Hyrule and its parallel dark world of Lorule, and all that praise is shown in its 91 Metascore. Another game to add innovative features while remaining true to its original series in the best ways, A Link Between Worlds is an essential play for 3DS gamers and those after the best 3DS RPGs.

Find it on Amazon right here.

The 7 Absolute Best Nintendo 3DS RPGs of All Time FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When did the 3DS come out?

The 3DS was released in the U.S. in March 2011. The 3DS XL arrived in August 2012.

What was the first RPG released for the 3DS?

The first 3DS RPG was Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, released in August 2011.

What was the last RPG released for the 3DS?

The last 3DS RPG was Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, which came out in June 2019.

Which 3DS RPG was the best?

It’s not the easiest question to answer, as the 3DS had an extensive library of RPG games. Many gamers would consider its Pokemon entries to be up there with the best, however, along with its addition to the Zelda series, A Link Between Worlds. If you’re a fan of social interaction and simulation elements, the Shin Megami Tensei games will be up your alley, likewise, if you’re after something similar to the Final Fantasy series then Bravely Default will be a worthwhile play. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate also delivers a vastly enjoyable experience and even hundreds of hours of gameplay, particularly for Monster Hunter lovers.

Which 3DS RPG sold the most units?

The best-selling 3DS RPG is Pokemon X and Y, selling 16.65 million units.

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  • Metacritic Available here: https://www.metacritic.com/browse/games/genre/date/role-playing/3ds?view=detailed
  • Fandom Spot Available here: https://www.fandomspot.com/best-3ds-rpgs/
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  • Game Rant Available here: https://gamerant.com/history-nintendo-3ds/