Sure, you can play mobile games on almost any device these days, but if you want the best portable gaming experience possible, then you probably want to go with a dedicated gaming system from a dedicated gaming company, such as Nintendo's 3DS (the latest model of which is the New Nintendo 3DS XL).
Originally released back in 2011, the 3DS got off to a slow start, but since then has come into its own with an impressive library of games in a variety of genres featuring some of the biggest stars in gaming. Here are the top 12 retail games you need to own if you have a Nintendo 3DS system.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you find yourself thrust into the role of a village's new mayor, which means it's up to you to help make the rules and aid in the burg's development. Don't fret, though: it's a pretty chill gig. You'll still have time to go fishing, catch bugs, design clothes, dig up fossils, decorate and expand your home, and hang out with friends doing lots of relaxing stuff. The 3DS's online and StreetPass functionality are put to great use here, allowing you to visit friends' towns see how other players' homes are decorated.
Japanese role-playing games aren't as ubiquitous as they once were, but they haven't gone away - they've simply found new homes on systems like the 3DS. Furthermore, Bravely Default is one of the best examples of the genre in recent years, combining modern technology and excellent storytelling with genre staples like random enemy encounters, turn-based battles, and a job system that lets you choose your characters' abilities. Sure, the game's title sounds weird, but it's actually tied to its deeply strategic battle system, in which you "default" by skipping your turn in battle, then use "brave" attacks that allow you to unleash multiple strikes in one go.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
After being out of action for many years, Donkey Kong finally made his platforming comeback with Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii, and this 3D version could be even better than the original. It contains everything that fans loved about the classic DKC titles: enemies to jump on, bananas to collect, mine carts to ride, secrets to uncover, and wacky bosses to overcome. It may look like a bunch of monkey business, but don't be fooled - the game can be extremely challenging.
Fire Emblem Awakening
The strategy-RPG series Fire Emblem has been around for quite some time, but the 3DS entry is arguably the best yet. With a variety of unique heroes at your disposal, you'll engage in turn-driven, grid-based combat to bring peace to the land of Ylisse. When you're not fighting enemies, you'll work to build up relationships between characters, which allows them to not only cooperate better in battle, but to get married and have children, who also become playable characters. Lots of downloadable extra missions add to the depth and longevity of this game.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Whether you're new to the Legend of Zelda series or a seasoned vet, A Link Between Worlds offers fantasy adventuring at its finest. Though the overhead presentation and narrative connection to 1992's A Link to the Past make this entry something of a throwback, new elements such as the ability to rent items and tackle dungeons in nearly any order - as well as Link's newfound power to merge with walls by becoming a 2D painting - breathe fresh new life into the Zelda franchise. Traveling between Hyrule and its alternate-reality counterpart, Lorule, you'll overcome brilliantly designed dungeons and engage in numerous side quests.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
The original Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64 is one of the most acclaimed games ever made, and this enhanced version is even better. Not only does it feature the same epic, time-traveling tale, packed with puzzles, peril, and sword-swinging action, but it boasts vastly enhanced graphics and more user-friendly gameplay, such as gyroscopic targeting and optional extra hints. If you're up for the challenge, you can tackle Master Quest mode, which features greater difficulty and a mirrored world map.
Mario Kart 7
Like the other games in the series that have come before it, Mario Kart 7 is nothing short of pure, adrenaline-filled, racing excitement. Choose from one of 16 popular Mario characters (or a Mii), pick your kart, your tires, and your glider, then use all your skills (and any items you can snag) to outrace and outwit your competitors in crazily designed courses like Mario Circuit and Neo Bowser City. Underwater and aerial segments introduced in this installment make this one of the most varied Kart games yet, and classic courses from past entries add to the fun. A robust online community ensures you'll never lack competition, too.
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
This title manages to take one of the best home console games of the past decade and repackage it in portable form. Set during the Cold War, Snake Eater 3D casts you as a hardened soldier who must sneak through varied environments - forests, swamps, mountains, and enemy encampments - by relying on camouflage, survival skills, close-quarter combat techniques, and an arsenal of weapons to overcome the enemy and prevent World War III. In addition to stereoscopic 3D graphics, the 3DS version adds custom camouflage patterns you can create with the system's camera.
Pokémon X and Y
The Pokémon series hasn't changed all that much since its inception, but that doesn't mean it's become any less fun or addictive. Featuring dozens of new Pokémon critters, bringing the total up to more than 700, the game sets you on a rollicking adventure as you train your wee beasties and face off against rival trainers. User-friendly new features make it easier than ever to build up a balanced team, and Mega Evolutions make even classic Pokémon feel new again. Although the X and Y versions of the game are mostly the same, each version features exclusive Pokémon, so you'll have to trade with other players (online or offline) if you want to catch 'em all.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
A puzzle-loving archaeology professor and a spiky-haired lawyer might not seem like the most typical video game protagonists, but when they're seemingly transported to a medieval village, a strange and mysterious adventure unfolds. As Professor Layton you'll attempt to solve a number of brain-bending riddles, while as Phoenix Wright you'll present evidence and find holes in witness testimonies in fast-paced courtroom battles. It's different from other 3DS games for sure, and its story will keep you guessing until the end.
Super Mario 3D Land
It's hard to go wrong with Mario, and Super Mario 3D Land is quite possibly the plumber's best handheld outing ever. Featuring the same kind of block-bashing, enemy-stomping, pipe-entering fun that made Mario a household name, this game ups the ante with wonderfully creative level design and whimsical power-ups like a boomerang suit and the Tanooki outfit from Super Mario Bros. 3. The game makes great use of the system's stereoscopic 3D capabilities, and there are surprises hidden around every turn, including a ton of challenging bonus levels that don't become available until after you've beaten the main game.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
If you want frantic action and an endless supply of Nintendo fan service, look no further than Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. Gaming's biggest characters are here (along with a few of the more obscure) - Mario, Sonic, Link, Mega Man, Samus Aran, Little Mac, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, and dozens of others - all duking it out in stages based on hit Nintendo properties. If you've played any previous game in this series, you know the drill: whittle down your opponents with standard attacks and special moves, then send 'em flying off the stage! Naturally, you can play the game solo, or you can fight in matches with up to four players either locally or online.