This article has been updated to reflect the upcoming closure of the 3DS eShop at the end of this month, as well as to include another game for you to nab before we say goodbye to the 3DS eShop.
Nintendo announced last year that the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U eShops will be ceasing operations indefinitely on March 27th, 2023. One terrible consequence of this is that a number of games that are exclusive to the 3DS eShop simply won’t be available to purchase, anywhere.
Of course, this sucks immensely for game preservation. In a now-deleted FAQ answer about the eShop closures, Nintendo mentioned that some legacy games are available via the Nintendo Switch Online libraries and that more will be added, but stated that “We currently have no plans to offer classic content in other ways.”
Currently, those libraries are made up of games for NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo 64, and given the dual-screen format and 3D technology of the 3DS, it’s unlikely many games designed for that platform will make the leap to Switch Online any time soon, if at all.
It also sucks that whether or not you’re able to access older games largely depends on the whims of major corporations. A lot of eShop exclusives are from lesser-known franchises, so Nintendo isn’t financially incentivized to port them to the Switch (which is a difficult and resource-intensive development process on its own).
As of writing, you can still add funds to your account by linking your Nintendo Network ID with your Nintendo account and merging your funds. Then, through your Nintendo Switch or on the ‘add balance’ area of the Nintendo website, you can top up your account, which will be available to use on your 3DS.
To highlight what’s being lost as a result of the eShop shutdown, why it matters, and what you should grab before the closure, here are some picks for some of the more noteworthy and enjoyable games for which the 3DS eShop has been the exclusive home.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies (3DS)
This 3DS-exclusive entry in the cult-favourite lawyering series takes advantage of the system’s unique three-dimensional visuals while weaving another labyrinthine story. You know what to expect.
Pushmo / Crashmo / Stretchmo
It’s hard to go wrong with any of Nintendo’s trilogy of block-pushing, block-pulling puzzlers. Climbing each tower with just your modest manipulation abilities proves an increasingly bedeviling challenge.
Dillon’s Rolling Western
It’s pretty rare for the franchise-happy Nintendo to create an all-new character action game, but that’s just what it did with this odd action / tower-defence hybrid starring a roly-poly western varmint. An acquired taste.
Crimson Shroud distinguishes itself from most Japanese RPGs with a focus on recreating tabletop gameplay conventions, most notably using dice to determine many outcomes. If it clicks for you, you might just love it.
Possibly the least-known game on our list, Wakedas is a pretty no-frills package. But it nails exactly what a puzzler should by delivering a series of really engaging, but not overly strenuous, tests of logic. Go in peace and slide some tiles.
Fluidity: Spin Cycle
Fluidity: Spin Cycle is one of those experimental motion-based games Nintendo was so into a decade ago, and a neat one: You have to manipulate water (and thus your 3DS) to complete objectives and clear each course. Pretty hard to emulate this one properly.
The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave
Remember when Japan went crazy over barcode battling in the ‘90s? (No? Well, it was a thing.) The Denpa Men gave a 21st century makeover to the concept by letting you generate your little warriors be scanning your real-life environment for Wi-Fi signals or QR codes. Then you send them into dungeons to do battle for you. If you like the first game, the eShop also hosts two sequels that expand the concept further.
Kokuga’s unusual mainly because the 3DS never exactly drowned in original shoot ‘em ups, and this one has a better heritage the most being from the ace arcade developers at G.rev. It looks nice and provides bite-sized bits of workmanlike, tank shooting action.
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball is notable not just for its surprisingly enjoyable series of baseball-themed minigames, but also for being one of Nintendo’s first experiments with free-to-play microtransactions. That may not exactly make you wanna rush and play it, but really, the arcade-like minigames on offer are good and the writing’s funny.
BOXBOY! and its two sequels stand with the Pushmo games as prime examples of less-is-more puzzle design. Here, a unique mechanic lets you spawn free-form piles of boxes out of your character, which you’ll need to utilise every which way to clear the sometimes mind-bending physical puzzles. A real original.
Attack of the Friday Monsters!
Attack of the Friday Monsters! is a brief but evocative portrait of a time and place long past: 1970s Japan, as experienced by a child. The lines between reality and TV fantasy blur as you play cards with your pals and (possibly) defend your town against intruders from space. Not for everyone, but cool vibes for sure.
Picross? Nah brah, this is something totally different. Link-A-Pix puzzles have you strategically connecting numbers on a grid to form pictures. However, there’s only one right way to snake out all the lines, so thinking cap definitely required. This one’s actually available on later consoles too, we just like it a lot. For a similar but probably tougher challenge, also see Slitherlink by Nikoli.
Tower defence? Nope, this is princess defence. This wild multiplayer game has you levelling up different heroes to protect a hapless royal from an onslaught of ever-spawning foes. This is one of those games that looks like a NES production but throws way more crap on the screen than was possible 35 years ago, with vintage-sounding tuneage from Yuzo Koshiro completing the charming mish-mash.
Picross e (series)
Look, if you love Picross, you’re already well aware, and the 3DS is a gosh darn motherload of the stuff. Nintendo’s “e” series offers nine entries itself (e9 is Japan-only). Gorge yourself accordingly.
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move
The on again, off again Mario vs. Donkey Kong series saw two entries on 3DS, with Minis on the Move being an exclusive. Your goal is to guide mindless little robots to safety, and as ever, the devil’s in the details. You may also want to check out Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, though that’s also on Wii U.
Sometimes, Game Freak gets to step out of their Pokémon bubble to develop some neat little experimental titles. Pocket Card Jockey is a great example of that, as is HarmoKnight. HarmoKnight sees you smashing and bashing monsters to the beat, akin to an endless-runner version of Hi-Fi Rush. Easily a highlight in the 3DS eShop-exclusive library.
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