Glasses? Where we’re going, we don’t need 3D glasses – come with us as we take a look at the Best 3DS Games of All Time!
Though the 3DS series of consoles ‘only’ sold around 76 million units in total – around half of the sales of Nintendo’s DS consoles – that’s still far from unsuccessful; there were numerous titles which sold in huge numbers too.
Naturally, Nintendo’s consoles – and in particular their handheld machines – have their staple franchises which generally help to sell the consoles themselves.
There’s likely to be few surprises with the names on this list of the top selling 3DS games – especially as many of them also feature on our Best Nintendo 3DS Games list – but which sold the most?
Let’s take a look at the Best Selling 3DS Games of all time!
10. Yo-Kai Watch 2 (2014)
Level-5’s charming, Pokemon-esque ghost collecting RPGs were an instant hit. The first game released in Japan in 2013 – so fans itching to get their hands on more supernatural creature collecting action didn’t have to wait long for the sequel, which arrived a year later in the Far East.
It did take a while for the series to reach Western audiences, however, though the first and second titles were still released a year apart in other territories.
Yo-Kai Watch 2 pulled a Pokemon, in that the second game split into two versions – Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls – that were essentially the same game, just with different creatures to collect in each one.
Naturally, this means that the sales for Yo-Kai Watch 2 were pretty high – with two versions on offer for completists, it’s no wonder that the combined sales of Yo-Kai Watch 2’s double versions reached a supernaturally high 6.92 million units – over four million copies higher than the first game’s still respectable 2.78 million sales.
9. Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon (2017)
The Pokemon franchise has been an unstoppable behemoth ever since it first debuted in black and white (or, in game terms, Red and Blue!) on the humble Game Boy in the mid-90s.
Though the franchise has seen its ups and downs over the last few decades, it seems that every new release draws fans back in – because the sales figures of each new game always go through the roof.
Though lower in this list than other titles in the series, the fact that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are merely enhanced versions of titles that launched just a year before makes its inclusion in the top ten even more impressive.
Surely the fans who bought Sun and Moon didn’t need to also get their hands on Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which – while improved over the previous versions – didn’t really bring a huge amount of new content to the game?
Yet it still sold an amazing 9.04 million units combined – showing that the allure of trying to catch ‘em all had not dimmed amongst the Pokemon faithful, even if they had played through almost the exact same game just a year before. This one also made it to our Best 3DS RPGs list too!
8. Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS (2014)
Nintendo have a knack for placing their characters in slightly odd genres that don’t seem to make much sense when you first hear about them – and then absolutely knocking it out of the park to the extent that you wonder why you ever thought it was a weird idea in the first place.
They did it with Mario Kart – which felt like a real curveball at the time, but ended up spawning not just an entire series, but an entire genre. Think about it now – without Super Mario Kart, there are countless games that simply wouldn’t have existed.
The same can be said of Super Smash Bros, a fighting game starring characters from numerous, diverse Nintendo franchises.
On paper, it seemed like such an odd concept – and even screenshots made it look like a bizarre game that may well have just been a bit of a novelty.
Yet the series has become an absolute phenomenon, with each entry selling an enormous number of copies and no doubt helping to shift its host hardware too. Despite being a handheld version of the fighting game, Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS was absolutely packed with content – including over 50 playable characters!
No wonder this entry of the perennially popular series punched, kicked and special moved its way to an incredible 9.63 million copies sold on the 3DS!
7. Super Mario 3D Land (2011)
The first foray into 3D for Nintendo’s flagship character pretty much laid down the template for all 3D platformers to follow from that point on; before then, 3D platformers were often awkwardly 2.5D or strange hybrids such as Namco’s excellent first-person PS1 title, Jumping Flash.
Nintendo – and Mario – showed the entire industry exactly how it should be done, however!
Though the eagerly anticipated follow up to Super Mario 64 – Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube – disappointed, they got back on track with the dazzling Super Mario Galaxy titles on the Wii (and the New Super Mario Bros titles successfully went back to the 2D roots of the series in the meantime too).
Then came Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS; a wonderful melding of 2D Mario style with innovative 3D elements – doing a great job of appealing to fans of each style.
It’s a hugely colourful, playable and inventive game that deservedly sold a frankly jaw-dropping 12.74 million copies.
Not just one of the best selling 3DS games – Super Mario 3D Land is one of the very best games on the console overall!
6. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012)
Nintendo’s Animal Crossing games are in a gentle, therapeutic and compelling league of their own. Though other titles exist that have a similar relaxing tone and open structure, none have had the success or exhibit the seemingly effortless charm that the Animal Crossing games have always had.
Though some features have been lost over the course of the series – the NES emulator, which allowed players to have fully playable NES games in their in-game homes, is a sorely missed feature from the GameCube title – many more neat touches have been added as the Animal Crossing games have evolved.
In this 3DS entry, the player becomes the Mayor of their little town, which allows a bit of customisation over the town itself – a first for the series.
The real time, open-ended and all-ages gameplay is a marvellous fit for the handheld – so it’s no surprise that this 3DS entry in the Animal Crossing series sold 12.97 million units, making it one of the best selling 3DS games of all time.
An update in 2016 (free to download for owners of New Leaf, but also available in a new version of the game, titled Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome Amiibo) surely helped to keep interest high and keep the game’s sales strong, four years after it was first released.
5. New Super Mario Bros 2 (2012)
Though the Super Mario Bros games have a reputation for evolving and including one-off ideas even within each game, let alone different entries in the series, it’s kind of refreshing to play the New Super Mario Bros games, which take a bit more of a back to basics approach than many other games in the Super Mario series.
2D platformers with 3D characters, the New Super Mario Bros games may take an old school approach to platforming, but they do still have enough new ideas to make them feel fresh.
In this second entry in the New Super Mario Bros subseries, there’s a strong focus on collecting coins – with lots of items available in-game that allow the player to collect vast numbers of coins; there’s even a dedicated Coin Rush mode, which sees players attempting to collect as many coins as possible over three random levels.
Unusually, coins are tracked on the game’s title screen and map – pushing the compelling nature of the coin collecting even further as that total rises higher and higher!
Nintendo’s own pile of coins was clearly increased by the sales of New Super Mario Bros 2 as well, given that it sold a golden 13.39 million copies, placing it in the top 5 best selling 3DS titles of all time!
4. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (2014)
As remakes of GBA games Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire (along with elements of Pokemon Emerald), the sales of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire on the 3DS may be surprising. After all, millions of Pokemon fans had likely already played through the original games!
However, never dismiss the determination of a Pokemon fan to catch ‘em all – even if that means catching ‘em all again!
With a twelve year gap between the original games and these remakes, however, there was also plenty of time for gamers to become nostalgic about the GBA titles.
Not only that, but the 3D lick of paint in general made Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire – along with online functionality and other features that the 2002 games lacked – feel pretty fresh and up to date, even for players who’d seen pretty much all there was to see back in the day.
With Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire catching a hugely impressive 14.46 million units in sales, it’s another example of just how big the Pokemon franchise really is.
3. Pokemon Sun and Moon (2016)
Following directly on from the above, do we need another example of how enormously and enduringly popular the Pokemon games are?
With a two year gap between Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire and Sun/Moon, it’s clear that Pokemon fans were very keen to put on their baseball caps and load their backpacks with Pokeballs – because this entry sold an amazing 16.27 million copies! Who knew Pokemon would be in this best selling 3DS games article multiple times, hey?
A completely new chapter for the franchise, Sun and Moon focused more on interactions and relationships with Pokemon.
It also brought Alolan forms of previous Pokemon into the mix, along with Z-moves, Ultra Beasts and much more besides. With so many new and genuinely exciting features, it’s no surprise that this entry sold so many copies that it lands itself in the top 3 best selling 3DS games!
2. Pokemon X and Y (2013)
As the first 3DS Pokemon games, X and Y had a lot to prove. Not only were they the first games in the series for the 3DS, but they were also the first fully 3D Pokemon games ever – so anticipation and expectation was, naturally, huge.
Thankfully, developers Game Freak – who have been in charge of the series since the very beginning – are always looking for ways to refine and iterate on the formula without losing the magic that makes the roleplaying, monster-catching so compelling. They achieved that with Pokemon X and Y to great critical acclaim.
Commercially, of course, only one game sold more copies on the 3DS – but with 16.58 million units sold, it’s clear that very little stands in the way of the success of the Pokemon games!
1. Mario Kart 7 (2011)
Since the very first game on the SNES (which unsurprisingly appears on our list of the Best Selling SNES games!), which was released 30 years ago in 1992, the Super Mario Kart series has been hugely successful from a commercial point of view.
Though not all entries are fondly remembered – Mario Kart 64, for example, has aged particularly poorly – that hasn’t stopped each one selling in enormous numbers.
Mario Kart 7 was both critically and commercially huge though. It had robust, fully featured online multiplayer modes and new features such as kart customisation; as well as this, the ability to glide and drive underwater meant that Mario Kart 7 felt like an evolution of the basic formula that took everything to the next level.
For a series that sometimes stumbled when it tried to do something new – such as the dual characters in Double Dash – it was impressive that everything Mario Kart 7 brough to the series was carried off beautifully. No wonder it finds itself at the very top of the Best Selling 3DS games list, with an incredible 18.95 million copies sold.
Nintendo 2DS VS Nintendo 3DS?
So how did we end up with a 3D Nintendo handheld? Let’s take a look back to the late 00s, just prior to the release of the console.
Largely thanks to the success of James Cameron’s Avatar in cinemas, 3D took off in a big way in the late 00s. Cameron’s film demonstrated the potential of the technique, which – though far from being new – he’d used to stunning effect, causing 3D to become more widely used for a while, even outside the cinema. 3D became available on TVs, but due to the often cumbersome glasses needed for every single viewer, it proved at times less practical than simply going to the cinema and being handed the required lenses to enjoy the effect.
Nintendo decided to get in on the 3D fad with their DS successor: the 3DS. The key difference with their console being that, as players could hold the console in their hands and fix their viewing angle, screen technology that didn’t require any glasses could be used.
It was a stunning effect, made even better by further iterations of the technology with console updates such as the New 3DS – and even more impressive on the large screen of the New 3DS XL. However, 3D technology soon fell out of favour among consumers and Nintendo themselves even released ‘2DS’ versions of the console which couldn’t replicate the 3D at all – not just due to the faddish nature of the tech, but also due to health concerns when the 3D was used by children – but could play all 3DS games.
Though many of the console’s games – particularly first party, earlier titles – made inventive use of the 3D function to enhance games, the majority of titles didn’t lose anything by being played in 2D.
This article may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase an item we may earn a commission. Thank you for your support.
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.