Ranking The 20 Best Nintendo 3DS RPGs Of All Time

Members of the Retro Dodo team holding 3DS games

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Simply The Best
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The best open world RPG game on the Nintendo 3DS, period.

A Must Play
Pokemon X/Y

A must play for any Pokemon fan, this is THE best 3DS Pokemon game.

An Incredible World
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

A large, open world game filled with dragons and swords… perfect.

If you’re looking to put your Nintendo 3DS through a magical adventure like no other, then check out the best Nintendo 3DS RPGs of all time right here and treat yourself to an epic adventure!

What could be better than playing an RPG with a console that has two screens? These games have so many items, massive maps, and lots of instructions to follow, and having a lower screen that separates all that from the main action just makes so much sense.

It just helps things to flow more too – no one wants to keep pausing gameplay to pull a new item out!

The 3DS enjoyed a nine-year reign and amassed 1,891 titles over that time. That’a a pretty big catalogue for a handheld, though admittedly not as many as the DS with 3,467.

And the question that needs answering today is how many of those 1,891 titles are epic RPG games?

We’ve listed the best Nintendo 3DS RPGs for the system for you below, so check them out, book a month off work, and enjoy gaming to your heart’s content!

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS
image credit: nintendo

We’ve played a lot of RPGs for the Nintendo 3DS, and we can say without a shadow of a doubt that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the best Nintendo 3DS RPG of all time!

Though there’s some debate about whether or not The Legend of Zelda games are RPGs – they don’t feature turn-based battles or leveling up at least in a traditional sense – the strong sense of progression, large open worlds, and upgrading equipment and dungeon conquering does mean it has many aspects familiar to the genre.

And let’s face it, they’re absolutely stunning games for the most part. A Link Between Worlds is no exception, with the game making exceptionally good use of the opportunities afforded by the stereoscopic capabilities of the 3DS.

A Link Between Worlds is a sort of indirect sequel to the beloved SNES classic, A Link to the Past (still widely regarded as one of the best games ever made) and it’s a worthy tribute to its 16-bit ancestor.

Beautifully designed, inventive in terms of its mechanics, and wonderfully absorbing, it absolutely deserves its place at the top of the list for Best 3DS RPGs and sits at the top of our Nintendo 3DS games top picks list.

2. Pokémon X/Y (2013)

Pokemon x 3ds game box in Brandon's hand

The mainline Pokémon series games spent nearly two decades as 2D, top-down RPGs in a very traditional 8-bit/16-bit style; it wasn’t until the arrival of Pokémon X/Y in 2013 that they finally became more contemporary in style, using fully 3D polygonal visuals for the very first time.

Not only were they excitingly up-to-date from a technical point-of-view, but also some mechanics brought the games firmly out of the past too, with trainer customisation and touchscreen interaction with Pokémon too.

Unsurprisingly, the long-awaited Pokémon X and Y were huge critical and commercial successes (though, oddly, the two versions score slightly differently in Metacritic’s rankings, for no obvious reason!).

3. Pokémon Sun/Moon (2016)

Pokemon Sun game case held by Brandon

With Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon already featuring on this list of the best Nintendo 3DS RPGs, it’s probably not a surprise to see their immediate predecessors here too!

Following a tradition set early on with the Pokémon games, which released as a pair of titles, then following up with an enhanced version soon after, the Ultra variation saw Sun and Moon slightly enhanced, though the titles are broadly the same from a story perspective.

The higher ranking on this list for the non-enhanced titles shows that the new elements probably weren’t enough to justify the purchase of both – and with Sun/Moon arriving first, it likely soaked up the critical praise that became slightly jaded when the Ultra versions were released just a year later.

4. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (2015)

monster hunter 4 ultimate game box held by Theo

Unsurprisingly given its enduring popularity, Monster Hunter appears on this list twice – with mainline series title Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate just outranking sister title Monster Hunter Generations.

Though some critics did mention that this particular series entry didn’t do anything new, they did acknowledge that it did everything it set out to do very well indeed.

In fact, at the time of release, it was said by numerous reviewers that this was the best game in the series.

Though since surpassed, it’s undeniable that the 3DS still plays host to more than one fantastic version of everyone’s favourite giant monster slaying action RPG.

5. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (2015)

xenoblade chronicles 3d game case and gameplay
image credit: nintendo

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D impresses – particularly in relation to many of the more traditional Japanese RPGs on the 3DS – thanks to its open, less linear nature, as well as just the fact that it exists at all on Nintendo’s relatively humble (if slightly enhanced) handheld, is in itself a very impressive achievement.

Part of the ‘Xeno’ family of titles – comprising Xenogears (released on PlayStation in 1998), the Xenosaga series (with six games released between 2002-2006, all for PS2), and the Xenoblade Chronicles games – the first game in the Xenoblade Chronicles series was originally released for Nintendo Wii in 2010.

This entry is one of the few games that is only compatible with the New Nintendo 3DS – due to the size and scope of the game, it simply wouldn’t have been possible to include the ambitious port on the original, less technically capable 3DS hardware.

6. Monster Hunter Generations (2016)

monster hunter generations
image credit: capcom

Capcom’s action RPG series, Monster Hunter, began on PS2, with a high level of online functionality at a time when connecting consoles to the web was still fairly uncommon. The 3DS was built with lots more connectivity in mind, however, including innovative and addictive StreetPass features which triggered whenever you came into contact with another 3DS player.

Generations was intended as a celebration of the series, with a ‘greatest hits’ feel and an increased focus on customisation and flexibility. The series is still incredibly popular even today; the latest release, Monster Hunter Rise, released on the Switch in March 2021 and sold 1.3 million units in Japan alone during its first week on sale – demonstrating that the appetite for monster hunting on the move is still as strong as ever.

7. Fire Emblem Awakening (2012)

Fire Emblem awakening Nintendo 3DS
image credit: nintendo

The next title on our list of the Best Nintendo 3DS RPGs is one of my favourite 3DS games of all time too! Fire Emblem Awakening really takes a lot of brain power to get to grips with, and if you’re not tactically minded, then you might struggle.

I’m not saying i’m brilliant at it, but I do like to think like an army commander when playing this game… and definitely sometimes get too much into it!

This is the thirteenth game in the series and features all of the epic turn-based combat that we know and love from this series. Level up characters and get lost in the epic cutscenes that help to push this narrative forward faster than a speeding bullet. And here’s something that might tempt you in if my words haven’t worked – critics have repeatedly heralded this game as one of the best RPGs of all time!

8. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (2017)

dragonquest viii nintendo 3ds
image credit: square enix

Though this list isn’t short of entries from franchises that have been in existence for decades, perhaps one of the best-known and most successful series – outside of Final Fantasy – is Square Enix’s Dragon Quest, which means it’s time for Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King to m

This entry was originally released on the PS2 to widespread acclaim and commercial success way back in 2004 – and, though the turn-based combat remained, it was the first game in the series to feature full 3D environments and characters. The 3DS remake features more content and new features, such as a quick save system, to make this a superior version and by far one of the best titles in the Dragon Quest series of all time.

9. Bravely Default (2014)

bravely default nintendo 3ds
image credit: square enix

Initially starting production as a Final Fantasy title, Square Enix’s Bravely Default became an entirely unrelated, separate title by the time it released – though it does share visual and design elements with the ever-popular Final Fantasy series.

Bravely Default’s strong critical and commercial reception has seen it fondly remembered by players – and there’s even been a sequel released in 2021 on Nintendo Switch.

10. Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (2018)

radiant historia nintendo 3ds
image credit: atlus

Another expanded remake of a DS RPG, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is another highly regarded Atlus title (seriously, can those guys do no wrong when it comes to RPGs?), showcasing their usual sumptuous production values, detailed lore and compellingly deep gameplay mechanics.

Though Japanese RPGs are usually notable for being fairly linear from a story perspective, Radiant Historia attempts to circumvent this with branching, time travel elements – though ultimately, linearity is still a factor.

The turn-based arena battle system was particularly well-received by critics and audiences but despite the game’s reception, it’s never received a sequel, which is unusual for RPGs, let alone ones held in such high regard.  

11. Pokémon Ultra Sun/Moon (2017)

pokemon ultra sun 3DS game box held by Theo

Who’s up for some Pokémon Ultra Sun/Moon action? Since the very first entries exploded onto Game Boy screens way back in 1996 (reaching the West in 1998), the Pokémon franchise has become an absolutely unstoppable juggernaut.

Since then, Pokémon has remained popular with a huge number of audiences across a wide variety of media – encompassing the original medium of video games, as well as animated series (with periodic reboots to keep it fresh), manga, animated movies, toys, a trading card game and even a live-action Hollywood blockbuster (with 2019’s Detective Pikachu).

Central to its appeal is the collecting of a huge variety of creatures, with each release split into two versions – and trading between friends being critical to completing each game’s collection of in-game monsters.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were a refinement of 2016’s Sun and Moon releases on 3DS – and were the last main Pokémon releases before the series shifted over to the Nintendo Switch.

Despite the long-running nature of the series, Ultra Sun and Moon’s sales – it was the highest-selling video game in Japan for 2017 – demonstrated that the series remains hugely popular. 

12. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker (2015)

devil survivor 2 record breaker nintendo 3ds
image credit: atlus

As mentioned in the previous two entries for Shin Megami Tensei games on this list of the best Nintendo 3DS RPGs, the series has always been highly acclaimed from a critical standpoint, so it’s no surprise to see another title from the series on the list of best 3DS RPGs.

This particular title is an enhanced port of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2, which originally appeared on the DS (between 2011-2013 depending on your region).

The Devil Survivor games are tactical RPGs, taking place in modern Japan – featuring demon-summoning high school students fighting off mysterious invaders.

Despite a high difficulty level, the game was critically praised for its depth and addictive gameplay, traits which the Shin Megami Tensei series have long been known for.

13. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey (2019)

mario luigi bowsers inside story nintendo 3d
image credit: nintendo

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey is one of those games that just keeps on giving, and we’re still enjoying playing it today even after completing it dozens of times!

The Mario & Luigi series is just one of the RPG spin-off series that the Super Mario Bros – known most famously for their platforming antics – have featured in.

The Mario & Luigi games first appeared on the Game Boy Advance with Superstar Saga way back in 2003, and that first game received a 3DS remake with a number of enhancements.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey is a remake of the 2009 DS original, which features similar improvements to the Superstar Saga remake – including an entirely new side story (Bowser Jr’s Journey).

Sadly, despite critical acclaim, this game sold poorly and series developers AlphaDream declared bankruptcy shortly after it released.

Though of course Nintendo do own the rights to the series, the loss of the developers and the poor commercial performance of this remake may mean that we’ve seen the last of these RPGs for the foreseeable future.

14. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (2013)

etrian odyssey iv nintendo 3ds
image credit: atlus

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan is up next, and like the Shin Megami Tensei series, the Etrian Odyssey games are published by Atlus.

Though the Etrian Odyssey games are much fewer in number than Atlus’s perennially popular Shin Megami Tensei titles, they’re nonetheless held in similarly high regard by RPG players.

The first three titles in the series were released on the Nintendo DS, with the first game arriving relatively recently in 2007.

The Etrian Odyssey titles are old-school dungeon crawling games, with a high difficulty level despite the beautiful visual design that they feature.

Etrian Odyssey IV was the first to be released on the 3DS and the first to feature animated 3D enemies. The game’s initial release even saw it packaged with a CD soundtrack and art book, showcasing the game’s lavishly designed world and characters. 

15. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (2016)

shin megami tensei iv apocalypse nintendo 3ds
image credit: atlus

With the previous entry being such a huge hit both critically and commercially, Shin Megami Tensei publisher Atlus unsurprisingly released a sequel three years later, again on the 3DS – Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse.

The slightly confusing naming convention is due to the fact that Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is set in the same post-apocalyptic world as the prior game, but in an alternate timeline (and featuring a new main character).

Though many of Shin Megami Tensei IV’s mechanics and enemies were carried over to Apocalypse, critics praised the game for making a number of quality-of-life improvements to the mechanics that gave players a more refined experience.

Sales were unfortunately much lower for Apocalypse, however – perhaps due to the fact that players were confused by the title, which does give the impression that it’s an upgrade or some sort of expansion, rather than an entirely new game.

16. Shin Megami Tensei IV (2013)

shin megami tensei iv nintendo 3ds
image credit: atlus

Shin Megami Tensei IV takes the 16th spot on out list, and it is held in extremely high regard by fans of the series thanks to its outstanding combat system.

So it’s no surprise to see it featured on a list of the Best 3DS RPGs!

The Shin Megami Tensei series is a genuine phenomenon and has been running for a lot longer than many people realise.

The very first entry (based on science fiction novels by Aya Nishitani that are little-known outside Japan) arrived on the Famicom in 1987 – and the latest game in the series, Shin Megami Tensei V, is due for release in 2021.

The series features turn-based battles and a deep, evolving lore that is fairly impenetrable to newcomers – with this particular entry featuring a post-apocalyptic setting that has both medieval and more modern styles represented in the world.

17. Ever Oasis (2017)

Ever Oasis Nintendo 3DS
image credit: nintendo

No here’s something to pique your interest – Ever Oasis comes from the team that brought us Zelda.

If that doesn’t get you motivated to play it, then I don’t know what will!

The gameplay definitely looks as though it’s taken some inspiration from games like The Wind Waker and Ōkami, which wouldn’t be a surprise considering the strong Zelda connections.

There are tonnes of puzzles to solve and some epic battles in a game that really puts the 3DS through its paces. Honestly, the gameplay is fantastic from start to finish, and all of the item gathering will definitely keep you on your toes.

So it’s not the world’s hardest game, but that doesn’t really matter. It makes it way more enjoyable to play, leaving you to just kick back and enjoy the ride!

18. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright (2016)

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
image credit: nintendo

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright takes the 18th spot in this list of the best Nintendo 3DS RPGs.

And while Fire Emblem has made an early appearance, it won’t be the last time you see it in our list.

The gameplay is essentially the same as the title in the 7th spot on our list, and if anything it’s actually one of the easiest Fire Emblem games to get to grips with.

If you’re one of the oddbods that actually enjoy when the Blood Moon rises in TotK, then you’ll enjoy playing the insanely difficult Phoenix Mode.

As you might have guessed, like the Phoenix, your enemies will rise from the ashes on their next turn. It’s not for the faint hearted or those prone to throwing handhelds, that’s for sure!

Birthright has gained a lot of positive fan feedback as it’s one of the only RPGs that lets women have same-sex relationships alongside marriage between male and female characters.

It even has a village building mode for all of the Animal Crossing fans out there!

19. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (2012)

kingdom hearts 3d nintendo 3ds

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is up next, a game that follows directly on from one of the best PS2 games of all time, Kingdom Hearts 2.

As you might expect from these epic games, there’s a healthy mix of Disney characters and locations in this game, with Tron and Fantasia playing host to gameplay antics along with lots of other notable areas!

This game is known for its epic Flowmotion mechanic too, allowing players to move super fast off walls or buildings. It’s something that you’ll see in footage of Kingdom Hearts 4 and a move we’ve come to love from the series.

So what’s the dream drop system in the title all about?

Well, there is a Drop System that allows for automatic changing between characters, with either Riku or Sora taking the lead. The great thing is that they can be in completely different places doing different things when you change too.

Let’s just hope that one of them isn’t having a big boss battle!

20. Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth (2014)

Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth
image credit: atlus

Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth takes the 20th spot in this list of the best Nintendo 3DS RPGs of all time.

It’s a pretty important title to start this list with too as it was actually the first ever Persona title to land on a Nintendo console!

And, here’s an extra little snippet for you – it has all of the characters from Persona 3 and 4 battling together.

The graphics are pretty loud when it comes to the colour scheme. It’s an art choice that not everyone likes, which is why it’s all the way up here in our list and not further down with the big hitters.

And there’s a strong choice that it might kill off a lot of your brain cells. Still, with an amnesia storyline and a mission to conquer a labyrinth, there’s lots to sink your teeth into!

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