The Best 3DS Games of 2012

There were a number of great 3DS games this past year, but which was the best of the best?

By Kevin Knezevic. Posted 01/08/2013 10:00 6 Comments     ShareThis

After a rough first year on the market, it seems the 3DS has finally hit its stride in 2012. With high-profile showings from the likes of Capcom, Square Enix, and Nintendo gracing the handheld in the past twelve months, not to mention a plethora of other notable releases on its digital store, last year’s software drought (which ultimately culminated in a significant price drop for the system) feels more like a distant memory than the ill omen that so many proclaimed it to be. So, which of these games was the best of the best?


Kid Icarus: Uprising

Any of the titles on this list would have made a worthy game of the year, but few of them left as much of an impression on us as Kid Icarus: Uprising. Pit’s first adventure in over twenty years had impossibly high expectations to meet, and early previews of the title seemed to cast doubt on it ever living up to two decades’ worth of anticipation. Fortunately, a year-long delay gave developer Sora the chance to iron out any kinks in the gameplay, and that extra gestation time really shone through in the quality and breadth of the final product.

Under the careful guidance of Masahiro Sakurai (the creator of Kirby and the director of Smash Bros.), Nintendo’s fallen angel received a loving makeover in the vein of Mario, Link, and Samus before him, bringing the forgotten 2D icon into the brave new world of three-dimensions. The resulting game was more rail-shooter (with some dungeon crawling for good measure) than platformer, but this shift in play styles proved to be an inspired decision; not only was the new emphasis on flight a perfect fit for the winged hero, it gave rise to some of the most dazzling moments on the console thanks to the imaginative set pieces and gorgeous stereoscopic visuals. Best of all, the humorous storyline fleshed out Pit’s world like never before, expanding the Kid Icarus mythos without betraying its history. Top that off with a beautiful orchestral soundtrack and a surprisingly addictive multiplayer mode (what else would you expect from the mind behind Smash Bros.?), and it’s easy to see why Uprising took the top spot in our category. Here’s hoping it only leads to bigger things for the series, despite what Sakurai may say.


Pokémon Black 2 and White 2

We know Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 may technically be DS games, but that didn’t stop them from becoming our runners-up for the best 3DS title(s) of 2012. Notwithstanding the fact that they were the only notable releases for the aging handheld this year (sorry, Pokémon Conquest), the pair utilized 3DS’s backwards compatibility in a clever way thanks to Pokémon Dream Radar, a supplementary download only available through the eShop. With this app, aspiring Pokémon Masters could capture rare creatures, including entirely new variations of the kami trio, and transfer them over to their Black 2 and White 2 save files, making it the ideal way to experience the games (and giving Pokémon fans a nice incentive to upgrade to the newer hardware).

Of course, even without Dream Radar, Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 are fine titles by any standard. Picking up two years after the events of the first Black and White versions (which, incidentally, were crowned our best DS games of 2011), the pair puts you in the role of a new Pokémon trainer, whose journey to become the Pokémon League Champion takes you once again through the region of Unova, which has changed dramatically in the wake of N’s departure and the apparent dissolution of Team Plasma. While the overarching quest hewed closely to the traditional Pokémon formula, the highlight of the experience was seeing the cast of the first Black and White return in new and expanded roles, giving the storyline a sense of continuity not felt since Gold and Silver. What’s more, new features like Join Avenue and the Pokémon World Tournament added a great deal of longevity to the games, offering fans hundreds of hours of play time. In terms of sheer scale, Black 2 and White 2 are unmatched on the handheld.

New Super Mario Bros. 2

It seems only obvious that a Mario game would land somewhere on our “best of” list, but the decision wasn’t quite so clear-cut this year. There was actually a bit of controversy surrounding the announcement of New Super Mario Bros. 2, most of it hinging on the game’s aesthetic similarities to its Wii and DS predecessors. Even more worrying was the fact that it would be launching a mere three months before the Wii U installment (and less than a year after Super Mario 3D Land), its quick turnaround time suggesting a sense of desperation at Nintendo.

Fortunately, these concerns proved to be largely unfounded. New Super Mario Bros. 2 may not differ all that radically from the New Super Mario titles that preceded it (and it may not quite match the creative strides of its Wii U sibling), but it was still another great installment in the long-running series. Each of the game’s levels was expertly designed, drawing fans in with their nostalgic callbacks, like the return of the Super Leaf, and their devious secrets. Its most interesting feature, however, was the new Coin Rush mode, which challenges you to complete three sequential stages as quickly– and with as many coins– as possible, all on a single life. Throw in clever StreetPass support and additional level packs via the eShop, marking Nintendo’s first foray into paid downloadable content (at least in the modern sense of the concept), and New Super Mario Bros. 2 proves that the old plumber still has what it takes to defy expectations and deliver a fun and engaging 2D experience.


Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Sticker Star may be different from Mario’s earlier papercraft adventures, but that doesn’t mean it still wasn’t a whole lot of fun. The new world map divided each area up into individual, bite-sized levels that cut down on backtracking while making the game more suitable for a handheld, and the touted sticker mechanic infused the battle system with a nice layer of strategy. It may be a little obtuse in places, but it’s still another fine addition to the 3DS’s library.

Theathrhythm Final Fantasy

Who’d have thought Final Fantasy would lend itself so well to a rhythm game? With over 80 classic tracks to enjoy, not to mention additional ones in the form of DLC, Theatrhythm is a veritable love letter (or should that be mix-tape?) that all fans of the series, whether you’ve been following it since its humble, 8-bit inception or simply appreciate its sweeping melodies, will not want to miss.

Resident Evil: Revelations

While Wii owners were waiting in vain for a mainline Resident Evil title, handheld gamers were treated to one of the finest entries in the entire franchise with Resident Evil: Revelations. The smaller hardware did nothing to dull the series’ characteristic tension, as the derelict cruise ship the Queen Zenobia made the perfect backdrop for its taut scares. With a new episodic structure, plus the most impressive visuals on the handheld to date, Revelations is a must-have for all 3DS owners.


Do you agree with our choices? Vote for which game you think should be number one, or choose “Other” and tell us in the comments below!

[poll id=”145″]

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

  • 39 points
    SebaZav says...

    I completely agree – Kid Icarus Uprising was AMAZING; addictive, with great graphics, effective gameplay and memorable dialogue. I didn’t find it as uncomfortable to play as many people did – sure, they could’ve used the Circle Pad Pro as an actual second stick, but that didn’t damage the experience for me at all.

  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    RE:Revelations was my favorite portable game of 2012 by far.

    A mature game that pushed Nintendo’s handheld hardware with top notch graphics and sound design, offered very strong online play, and was released by a third-party? This is exactly what many gamers claimed they wanted, but the sales figures were unimpressive. Makes it hard to blame third-parties for not wanting to invest in the system…

  • 702 points
    Matthew Tidman says...

    For me, the best release of 3DS is finally being able to download full games from the eShop. Since I don’t have to switch out the cartridge, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve booted up NSMB2 to run through a couple of levels for coins.

  • 132 points
    gekslupis says...

    I guess I really do have to buy Kid Icarus Uprising now

    • 1 points
      Kevin Knezevic says...

      It really is a great game. The controls do take a bit of getting used to, but it’s definitely worth sticking with (and you can manually adjust the difficulty for each level, so they’ll never hamper your performance).

  • 1379 points
    xeacons says...

    Tough one! Kid Icarus and RE: Revelations definitely showed off the 3DS’s power and potential (pedometer coins, MMO, graphic power, etc) more than any other game. But KI:U I think, showed more (i.e. AR cards).

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