The Best 3DS eShop Games of 2012

3DS’s eShop is full of surprises!

By Po-Yi Ho. Posted 01/09/2013 10:00 6 Comments     ShareThis

Much like the real world, the video game industry is polarized to the extreme so that middle-sized developers no longer exist. On one end, AAA developers are making games like Mass Effect 3 and New Super Mario Bros. U. On the other, small indie teams are making games like Cave Story and Trine 2. The big brand names give us polished gameplay and stunning graphics; the small cult hits give us some innovation and some fresh air. Nintendo already possesses blockbuster franchises like Mario, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda, but in 2012, Nintendo ventured to the other side with 3DS’s eShop and ended up striking gold because we now have some of indie’s best on our hands. For less than $10 a piece, all of the following best 3DS eShop games are asolute must-buys.



Created by Terry Cavanagh, VVVVVV is like the Ocarina of Time of indie games. No, really, hear me out. Ocarina of Time revolutionized gaming by showing us the boundless possibilities of a large three dimensional world and its release catapulted gaming to new heights. Likewise, VVVVVV turned the indie world on its head, as it showed us the boundless possibilities of the indie game market. Made by just one man, this brilliant retro platformer takes away your ability to run and jump and instead replaces it with the ability to flip gravity. Simple, you might think, especially with 3DS’s second screen displaying the map of the large, complex world– that is, until you arrive at an optional multi-screen challenge known as Veni Vidi Vici. This infamous challenge pits you against zig-zagging spikes and elusive footholds. The reward? Nothing, really.

Veni Vidi Vici embodies what VVVVVV is all about: simple fun. With no fancy graphics, (but with an absolutely tripping soundtrack), the game hones in on the challenges and the fun. I don’t need broccoli or carrots or potatoes or onions with my steak. I just want a seasoned, medium-rare, juicy piece of meat. The game was released for PC in 2010 and the 3DS version contains extra levels for simply more fun. When ambitious projects succeed, people call them great, but some projects are more than just great. Some projects inspire and instill ambition in others. People call these projects historical. Needless to say, VVVVVV is historical, and it is easily the Best 3DS eShop Game of 2012.



When the awesome Pushmo showed up in 2011, it gave us hope for the 3DS’s eShop’s future. In 2012, the release of its sequel, Crashmo, cemented the validity of the eShop. Created by Intelligent Systems, Crashmo has you pushing and pulling boxes to solve devilishly difficult puzzles. Like VVVVVV, Crashmo focuses on the fun. There isn’t much to be said about the cutesy graphics or the forgettable soundtrack, but there’s tons to be said about those maddening yet rewarding puzzles. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a Crashmo puzzle would be worth a million. Its puzzles are so ingenious, so absorbing, and just so fun that you easily lose track of time while trying to solve them. Honestly, if I can focus on other things as effortlessly as I can on these puzzles, life would be a piece of cake. When something draws your attention like this, you can be sure that whatever it is, it’s really, really good. Though not as revolutionary as VVVVVV and not as groundbreaking as its predecessor Pushmo, Crashmo demonstrates that 3DS’s eShop offerings can achieve high degrees of polish and class and it is one of the best eShop games ever.

Mutant Mudds

Clearly, there’s a theme here. All of the eShop’s best games focus on simple, challenging fun. While VVVVVV demands some hardcore skills, a dose of patience, and Crashmo requires nothing but a whole lot of brains, Mutant Mudds strips away everything that makes platformers easy, and packs in everything that makes them hard. You don’t get power-ups like the Propeller Suit in Mario that let you avoid certain death, but you do get disappearing platforms and enemies that are conveniently placed below ready to grind your bones into mincemeat. In other words, Mutant Mudds is rather challenging. Jokes aside, though, this game requires nothing but perfect timing and pixel-perfect precision platforming. You may have access to a water gun and be able to hover for a short period of time, but platforms conveniently disappear when you need them and enemies will always appear when you least expect it. Its multi-layered levels also make great use of the 3D, allowing you to jump in and out of the screen, and this opens up even more opportunities for enemies to surprise you.


Liberation Maiden

Unlike the games above, Liberation Maiden doesn’t lack in graphics. To be sure, this title is a looker. It’s a classic bullet hell shooter with a dash of Star Fox combined with Kid Icarus, and it has a tendency for considerable panache with its screen filling fireworks of explosions. Sadly it only clocks in around two-hours of not-so-replayable gameplay, but Level-5 and Suda51 show us what’s possible for eShop’s titles in terms of production value.

Dillon’s Rolling Western

The tower defense genre is something of an anomaly in gaming, but Dillon’s Rolling Western combines it with a little exploration, a little action, and a little role-playing to create something really quite enjoyable. It definitely feels the most incomplete game on this list– as it often feels like a quickly assembled collection of minigames more than anything else– but this is definitely a game worth checking out.


You probably don’t agree with our choices. Heck, sometimes we don’t even agree with our own choices! So vote for which game you think should be number one, or choose “Other” and tell us in the comments below!

[poll id=”146″]

6 Responses to “The Best 3DS eShop Games of 2012”

  • 39 points
    SebaZav says...

    I haven’t bought any of those games, but they do look incredible. Maybe it’s time…

  • 1 points
    Kevin Knezevic says...

    I’m so behind on eShop games. I think the only ones I played this year were Ketzal’s Corridors and Crimson Shroud, both of which are great (especially the latter; I’m really surprised I enjoyed it so much considering I’ve never played an old tabletop RPG before)! I still need to get Crashmo, NightSky, Dillon, and Denpa Men before the next great batch of eShop games comes out.

  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    All the games listed here are valid choices, but the reason I’m impressed with eShop is that there are other choices worth considering too.

    Other 2012 games that I would strongly consider in a “best of” list include:

    Crimson Shroud
    Cave Story
    Zen Pinball 3D
    Colors! 3D (my personal choice, even if it’s not really a game)

    Not all of those games will appeal to everyone, but each is an excellent title worth playing.

  • 132 points
    gekslupis says...

    Crimson Shroud and Cave Story are my personal favorites this year. Unchained Blades looks like a wonderful game as well.

  • 1379 points
    xeacons says...

    VVVVVV I’m putting in 2011. I’m going with Crimson Shroud.

  • 57 points
    Po-Yi Ho says...

    Looks like I need to play Crimson Shroud ASAP!

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