While Wii U limped through its final year as Nintendo’s main console, the same could not be said for the Nintendo 3DS. In 2016, the system played host to some of Nintendo’s biggest franchises. While the faces were familiar, the titles themselves offered unique experiences, further proving what it is that makes Nintendo’s stable of franchises so enduring.
With the Nintendo Switch apparently ushering in an era of unified console and handheld gaming, it will be interesting to see what 2017 holds for the 3DS system. Unlike Wii U, 3DS still has a number of titles that have yet to release in North America, including Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World and Yo-Kai Watch 3. Rumors seem to indicate that the handheld will see support throughout the year, but more information will likely become available after next week’s upcoming Switch event.
If 2016 proves to be the system’s swan song, it certainly was a strong one. Here are the best titles to grace the 3DS in 2016.
BEST 3DS GAME
Pokémon Sun and Moon
Nintendojo’s 3DS Game of the Year should come as little surprise. Pokémon Sun and Moon offered the same great gameplay that the series has long been known for, yet developer Game Freak found new ways to tweak and refine the formula.
What’s most notable about Pokémon Sun and Moon is just how different they are from previous games in the Pokémon series. The twin titles gave players some of the boldest deviations the series has seen to date. Archaic items like HMs were scrapped, and Pokémon Gyms, a staple since the days of Red and Blue, were replaced, as well. As a result, the titles felt familiar enough for lapsed fans that returned to the fold with Pokémon Go while also feeling fresh for the fans that have been there all along.
With tons of new Pokémon, a strong storyline, one of the best soundtracks in the franchise, and an island setting used to great effect, Pokémon Sun and Moon isn’t just the year’s best 3DS game, it’s also one of the best Pokémon games ever released.
BEST 3DS GAME RUNNERS-UP
Kirby: Planet Robobot
Kirby: Planet Robobot very nearly edged out Pokémon Sun and Moon at the top of our list this year. Planet Robobot offered the kind of strong platforming the Kirby franchise has always been known for, while pushing the 3DS hardware in unique and interesting ways. The title’s strong use of 3D was a refreshing change of pace at a time in the system’s life when most developers had all but forgotten the feature. It wasn’t just a visual choice, either. The game’s stereoscopic 3D was used to pull off some impressive puzzles. The game’s brand-new Robobot armor could have proven gimmicky, but instead it provided some interesting new gameplay opportunities, as well. Developer Hal Labs gave Kirby’s overall world a mechanical makeover to match, providing the game with an aesthetic far different from the way fans typically see Dream Land and its denizens. Where Kirby: Triple Deluxe failed to provide Kirby fans with a truly unique experience that lived up to the potential of the 3DS platform, Planet Robobot truly excelled.
Fire Emblem Fates
The team behind the highly successful Fire Emblem Awakening returned to develop a trio of new titles comprising the latest title in the franchise, Fire Emblem Fates. Birthright, Conquest and Revelation offered fans a more balanced and robust storyline than previous titles, while also providing different levels of difficulty based on version. Like this year’s Pokémon and Kirby releases, Fates retained and refined the gameplay of its predecessors. The game also incorporated Amiibo support, allowing series veterans such as Marth and Lucina to join the game’s main campaign. The addition of the game’s “My Castle” mode also provided additional customization options. The title may have caused a bit of a debate regarding the concept of censorship in video games, but Fire Emblem Fates still had good reason to make the list of the best 3DS games of 2016.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
The Dragon Quest franchise has often struggled to see release in North America. More than three years after the title released in Japan, the 3DS version of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past finally made its debut in Europe and North America thanks to an outpouring of fan support. The remake added new features, including a streamlined opening and enhanced visuals. While the portable remake proved to be well worth the wait, fans of the PlayStation original may not find enough reason to revisit the title, especially given the commitment required just to finish the game. Still, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is a robust JRPG experience for the 3DS platform that lives up to the franchise’s storied legacy.
This wrap’s up our list of the best 3DS games of 2016! What games would you have preferred to see on the list? There are a number of options in the poll, or you can let us know in the comments below!