So, 3D, huh? Is that what you like? Leaves and papers and stuff hovering in front of you?
Ok, takes all kinds, we guess.
So, of course, there’s only one gaming handheld for your kind and there you are, unboxing it as we speak. The young 3DS needs care and feeding. Here are six essential gaming experiences that will help it — and you — grow strong. Remember to rest those eyes!
Cave Story 3D
Consider Cave Story the godfather to latter-day indie games like Braid or Super Meat Boy. Developer Daisuke Amaya (a.k.a Pixel) coded the whole thing in his spare time over the course of five years, with the end result being a poignant old-school platformer/shooter adventure centered an amnesiac character named Arthur. Without spoiling the story, let’s just say that this 3DS port lets you experience a great fusion of old-school aesthetics and some modern mechanics wrapped up in a whole bunch of cute.
A Good Match for: Collectors of re-mastered masterworks. Let’s say you played Cave Story before in its 2004 form as a PC release. You should still take another look as the graphics have been polished, the soundtrack remastered and an option to play as supporting character Curly Brace has been added.
Not for Those Who Want: True old-school graphics. While the character and gameworld design still evince a love of the NES era, Cave Story 3D‘s shift to polygons creates some animation inconsistencies and visual disconnects that might have some pining away for the blocky sprites of old.
Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars
This entry in the Tom Clancy-licensed military games doubles down on the tactical decision making at the heart of the series.
A Good Match for: People who pine for the original X-Com. As in the mid-1990s classic, you’re tasked with moving the Ghost soldiers through enemy terrain via turn-based combat. And also like X-Com, you’ll be able to deploy special skills like cloaking to fire on bad guys without them knowing where to shoot back.
Not for Those Who Want: Actual 3DS feature implementation. The stereoscopic depth doesn’t really add anything to Shadow Wars and the Ubisoft release doesn’t take advantage of StreetPass or any of the other cool tricks built into the 3DS.
The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time 3D
Let’s be honest: the gloss of 3D adds very little to this 13-year-old video game. But it’s still Ocarina of Time, arguable the best entry in the best franchise of all of video games. Being able to play it in your hand thanks to this new remake makes picking it up a no-brainer.
A Good Match for: Zelda fans who don’t mind a little evolution. Small tweaks change the way this Ocarina plays: you’ll be able to use the gyroscope for first-person aiming and can equip items by tapping the touchscreen. These may not be canonical controls but they are helpful and different.
Not for Those Who Want: Visual Continuity. While the characters all benefit from graphical upgrades, only some of the environments got that new coat of paint. The result is that you’ll have a shinier, sharper Link running through dull blocky environments, an awkward reminder of the distance between then and now.
Mario Kart 7
The Mario Kart formula wasn’t broken so you can’t say that Nintendo needed to fix it. What they did need to do, though, for the franchise’s 3DS debut was find a way to add new elements that would tap into the device’s key features. Hence, the addition of glider wings, aerial sections, submersible karts and underwater detours. You can steer usng the gyroscope while airborne and the will get the benefit of a nice 3D pop when you’re soaring or submerged. Just goes to show that your wheels don’t have to be in the ground for a Mario Kart to still be great.
A Good Match for: Bumper car addicts. The wild unpredictability of Mario Kart races are what make them so fun. Just like the theme park staple, there’s only a loose connection to these vehicles and actual real-world automobiles. Until Toyota includes a forcefield as a standard option, that is.
Not for Those Who Want: customisation choice. While the ability to swap out bodies and add on details is a new one in MK7, new parts get doled out to you automatically.
Oh, boy! It’s a game about pushing blocks. Aren’t you glad we’re here to help you recommend fresh, wonderful games? Trust us. This one is phenomenal. All you’re doing is climbing elaborate piles of blocks — piles that may just happen to resemble iconic shapes and characters. The challenge is to push and pull the right blocks to create a staircase that gets you to the top. It’s way tougher than it sounds.
A Good Match for: People who like both solving puzzles and making them, thanks to the game’s elaborate level-creator. It’s easy to snag new levels by taking photos of special QR codes that Pushmo proponents constantly publish on the Internet.
Not for Those Who Want: Triangles.
Super Mario 3D Land
Of course, it’s a Super Mario game that validates the decision to base Nintendo’s newest hardware around glasses-free stereoscopic 3D. Even with the gameplay as familiar as always, the mid-air blocks and moving hazards seem more dreamlike and surreal than ever, floating somewhere between the device and your brain.
A Good Match for: Folks who need a little bit of help. 3D Land riffs on the play-assisting Guide features that Nintendo’s been putting in games for the last year or so with the Super Tanooki Suit, which makes you nigh-invulnerable
Not for Those Who Want: The rug to stay right where it is. If Super Mario 3D Land‘s rug is warm nostalgia, then it gets ripped out from you once you finish it the first time. A whole new level of challenge opens up for subsequent playthroughs and there’s nothing warm about it.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Editioneasily debuted as the best third-party games when the 3DS launched last year, with smart layering and 3D effects that really enliven an already familiar experience. For example, a Guile vs. Chun Li match can happen from two camera positions: the traditional profile view and an angle with a slightly forced perspective. The latter option enhanced the 3D effect, making it even seem natural and the action seem even more larger-than-life.
A Good Match for: Lazy brawlers. SSFIV 3D makes clever use of the lower display, too, letting players execute the series’ iconic super moves by tapping a spot on the touchscreen. It’s smart thinking for a platform where the many buttons of an arcade stick or gamepad aren’t available.
Not for Those Who Want: The fastest portable Shoryuken possible. Playing in 3D seemed to introduce a bit of slowness to this version Capcom’s marquee fighting franchise, something no die-hard SF player would ever stand for.
Note: The 3DS can also play the original DS’s entire library of games. Check out our list of “Best Games on the DS” list for more game recommendations.
This list will be updated if and when we discover better games. We will only ever list 12 games, at the most.