Update: We've added Bravely Default to this list of best RPGs for the Nintendo 3DS, as it's one of the finest role-playing games available to the handheld platform.
The Nintendo 3DS is home to a lot of games, and in particular, it's home to a host of role-playing games, some of which are among the best the genre has to offer. Though some titles were released on other platforms before, they're equally good on the 3DS, and feature three-dimensional graphics that no other platform has to offer.
You might have seen the 3DS as a lackluster platform when it came out, but it has really come into its own over the 2 years it has been out, not to mention blowing up in unit sales. As a result, more and more devs saw great potential in the mobile platform it offers and brought high quality titles for us to enjoy.
Without further ado, we take a look at the ten best RPGs on the Nintendo 3DS.
#11 Bravely Default [New Entry]
Bravely Default is a traditional JRPG created by Square Enix that offers the elegant simplicity of old-school Japanese RPGs with a new risk/reward system that fans of the genre will certainly find themselves obsessing over. In Bravely Default, players take on the role of a humble shepherd named Tiz, a lone survivor of a cataclysmic event. It’s up to Tiz to assemble a motley crew of heroes to go on a journey and restore balance to the world.
#10 Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Developed and published by Square Enix for the 3DS, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is the seventh installment in the venerable Kingdom Hearts franchise, and is set after the events of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, with a focus on Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery exam in which the duo must protect parallel worlds in preparation of the return of Master Xehanort. Besides controlling the two playable characters across a single scenario, the player is able to recruit creatures known as Dream Eaters able to assist them in fights.
The game takes major advantage of the 3DS' three-dimensional capabilities, and sees an increase in action based on the combat system previously seen in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.
Soul Hackers was originally released in 1997 for the Sega Saturn, and has since seen multiple remakes over the course of two decades, the latest being on the 3DS. As the second game in the Devil Summoner franchise, the video game contains in-depth gameplay systems, occult themes, and the ability to converse with your enemies instead of just fighting them.
The story is set in a grim future where the world is connected to a colossal electronic network. Virtual worlds give people experiences that they can't otherwise get in real life, and everything appears to be hunky dory were it not for the existence of a secret organization known as the Phantom Society, which seeks to steal the souls of every online inhabitant. It's up to a group of amateur hackers known as the Spookies (that's you!) to stop them.
#8 Tales of the Abyss
Originally developed and released on the PlayStation 2, Tales of the Abyss is the eighth title in the "Tales of" series that's been remade for the Nintendo 3DS. Taking place in a fantasy world, the game's story focuses on Luke fon Fabre, a young swordsman whose life turns upside down when he unwittingly becomes the target of a military-religious organization known as the Order of Lorelei, who believe him key to an ancient prophecy. Together with his companions, Luke attempts to discover the truth and significance of his own birth, as well as unravel the mystery of The Score, the prophesy that has bound humanity's actions for thousands of years.
The ported version of the game on the 3DS retains the original game's real-time combat and makes use of the system's dual screen functionality, including the ability register combat skills on the bottom screen for quick access, which is replaced by a world map while outside battle.
#7 Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the fourth entry into the Paper Mario series, and uses stickers as its theme this time around, while retaining the previous titles' use of papercraft for the environment.
The game features a visual style similar to the previous games in the series, in which the characters appear as paper cutouts in a three-dimensional papercraft Mushroom Kingdom, with landscapes ranging from snowy areas and forests to volcanoes.
As the story goes, it focuses on Mario's efforts to retrieve the six Royal Stickers that have been scattered by Bowser at the annual Sticker Fest. Mario is accompanied by Kersti, a sticker fairy, who bestows upon Mario the power of stickers.
#6 Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
Released this month in EU and Japan (coming out in August for the people over the puddle to the west), Mario & Luigi Dream team is the fourth entry in the Mario & Luigi series of Mario role-playing games. Similar to previous titles, the player can control both Mario and Luigi, explore the overworld together and fight in turn-based battles.
The visual style uses 3D graphics for the backgrounds while keeping the characters pixel-based, giving the levels depth when playing with the console’s 3D capabilities turned on. Otherwise, it’s par for the course for a Mario & Luigi RPG.
#5 Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
The first game of the series to be released on the 3DS, Legends of the Titan is a 3D dungeon crawler role-playing game by Atlus. It involves challenging players with vast dungeons to explore and map, similar to how you would play a game like rogue. Time does not pass unless you take an action and combat is entirely turn-based.
Etrian Odyssey IV sets the player in the role of explorers discovering the secrets of the tree Yggdrasil, the World Tree, the roots of which have never been touched. Unlike previous games in the series, enemies are actually moving 3D models rather than the earlier 2D sprites.
#4 Shin Megami Tensei IV
Yet another game in Atlus’ great lineup of portable RPGs, Shin Megami Tensei 4 came out in mid 2013. Since its release it has garnered critical acclaim from both Eastern and Western markets. New to the main series, the game features full voice acting, which is quite something on a portable device.
The game starts out in the country of East Mikado, a seemingly medieval country with strong social stratification, with the populace widely divided into two groups, the nobility who are known as Luxurors, and the peasants who are known as Casualries.
The protagonist Flynn attends the "Ceremony of the Gauntlet" in East Mikado to become samurai. In the ranks of the newly appointed samurai are Walter, Jonathan, and Isabeau, whom Flynn had met in a dream before.
#3 Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The 3DS version of the monster franchise that is Monster Hunter has been released in late 2011 in Japan. As is the case with the Wii and Wii U versions, as well as previous titles, MH3U is an action-RPG with a heavy emphasis on hunting great animals in order to piece together much more powerful gear. That way, you get to fight even bigger and more difficult monsters.
The 3DS version is an expanded version of the original Monster Hunter Tri, adding several features. The rather grindy nature of the games is perfectly suited to the portable console, and the 3D capabilities work rather well with the game.
#2 Fire Emblem: Awakening
Intelligent Systems released Fire Emblem Awakening to the public this year for all of us that aren’t Japanese - it’s actually the thirteenth title of the Fire Emblem series. A turn based tactical role playing game, FEA has you control several characters on a grid in tactically sound positions in order to attack the opposing side until all enemy characters have been taken care of.
The title features more a more heavily customizable “Avatar” system, where the player can create his own playable character to fight alongside the less flexible characters encountered along the way.
The game has also been critically acclaimed in both the western and the eastern market, while also having a huge reputation of an addictive timesink.
#1 Pokemon X and Y
Pokemon X and Y is the latest Pokemon title (or titles, since they’re actually separate games with slightly varying content) from Game Freak. It represents the sixth generation of the Pokemon series of role-playing games and like their predecessors, see players roving throughout the world in search of Pokemon to capture, train, and do battle against Gym leaders, all the while attempting to challenge the Pokemon League Champion. This time around, the game takes place in the Kalos region of the world, which is based on France.
Like previous installments, the games bring a lot of innovation to the franchise—this time in the form of 3D graphics and connectivity to other devices.