3DS XL “launch” guide: the best of the 3DS library so far

August 20, 2012

With this week’s release of the 3DS XL, many are picking up the system for the first time. (Some of them are picking up that regular 3DS from the ones upgrading, too.) Want to know what you should play on it? We’re here to help! Here are the five best so far (plus two eShop games to download).

Mario Kart 7: What makes the game truly great? Two things. The first: MK7 didn’t have to be playable by your grandparents. There’s a little more game here than in MK Wii, like the revival of coin collecting, more interesting and competitive alternative modes and the aforementioned statistics fiddling. It’s still not that hard to get into, but the extra layer of depth is appreciated. The second? The track list. The original ones include special long tracks that are broken up into sections instead of laps, breaking up the repetition of a standard cup. There’s also a cool one made up of music instruments, one designed like 8-bit Mariolevels and one with goats. (Goats!)  - Graham Russell (Full review | Buy on Amazon)

Want more? Try Ridge Racer 3D for a traditional take on the genre with solid controls and nice depth.

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance: Kingdom Hearts is one of the oddest collaborations in gaming. For a game that began through a chance encounter in an elevator, it’s become one of Square Enix’s most beloved games, and one of Disney’s most successful forays into the industry (despite a good track record). While the series has had a few ups and downs, it remains a clear example of how a collaborative effort can lead to great success, and this remains true in this first entry on the 3DS. - Jeff DeSolla (Full review | Buy on Amazon)

Want more? If you like exploring, have you played Ocarina of Time recently? Because it’s still good on the 3DS.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars: Shadow Wars is really a turn-based strategy game, in the vein of X-COM or Fire Emblem. While this makes sense to those who know that X-COM creator Julian Gollop was lead designer on the project, it’s probably not what most expect from a Ghost Recon game. You take a small squad of characters, each with their own abilities, weapons and roles, and move them across a grid-based map to complete objectives. There’s covering fire from allies, foliage and buildings to hide in, ammo pickups and other things, and each step has to be pondered carefully. - Graham Russell (Full review | Buy on Amazon)

Want more? For more tactical shenanigans and just a bit more demons and magic, we suggest you pick up Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked.

Super Mario 3D Land: Another system, another Mario game. This long-anticipated adventure brings back a favorite item from our past, the Tanooki Suit, the classic Fire Flower power-up and a new ability, the Boomerang Suit. I found myself liking both Super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Bros. and was hoping that Super Mario 3D Land would be a great middle ground between the two games. Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint. – Eric Albuen (Full review | Buy on Amazon)

Want more? It got buried in the system’s release schedule, but Crush3D is a fun platformer that really uses the system’s depth to its advantage.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: While many of us have differing opinions on which iteration of Final Fantasy is our favorite, most generally agree that the music has been incredible since the very beginning. It’s surprising, then, that it has taken this long for a game centered around the music to be released. The basic mechanic of the game follows after the examples set by Elite Beat Agents and other portable rhythm games: a series of notes moves towards you, and you must execute the required action with proper timing.  - Jeff DeSolla (Full review | Buy on Amazon)

Want more? How about we take that rhythm gameplay and add some story and Napoleon to it? Yeah, that sounds pretty great. Try out Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure.

Best of the eShop

Pushmo: The premise of this puzzle game is simple. Well, sort of. There are formations of blocks in a wall, and you can pull out (or push in) these blocks to create platforms and climb up to rescue stuck kids. The concept creates a different sort of brain-teasing experience than we’ve seen before. You have to know when to prepare by pulling blocks out, jumping around and generally getting all the processes done in the right order. There are even a few platforming tricks, like jumping around corners and traversing gaps, that you may not be expecting in a puzzle game like this. - Graham Russell (Full review)

Bomb Monkey: With an easy-to-learn gameplay mechanic and a ton of replay value, it is hard to find weaknesses in Bomb Monkey. For $5, you’re getting what amounts to a full commercial release with a ton of originality and game play modes. The simplicity of the box types keeps the learning curve short, which appeals to a number of gamers (myself included), although hardcore puzzle aficionados may look for a little bit more there. - Brad Woodling (Full review)

Want more? Here are some other solid eShop releases: Mutant Mudds, Mighty Switch Force, Art of Balance TOUCH! and Zen Pinball 3D. Also check out the (small, for now) Virtual Console library! Start with Mario’s Picross, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX and Metroid II: Return of Samus.

There are a lot of other interesting releases for the system. Want to know about them? Check out our 3DS archive. Oh, and don’t forget: you can totally still play all the best DS games