Every now and then, I love to dig into a not-too-old system and look for bargains before the “collectors” start increasing the resale values again. The Nintendo 3DS is a great candidate for that. If you’re one of those families that has been holding off on a Switch, or you just like the smaller form factor and better battery life of a 3DS. Regardless, the 3DS has a great library (which can also play lots of inexpensive gems from the DS library)
In this initial installment of the guide, we are mostly focused on games that go for $15 or less in loose cartridge and complete copies for $20 or less (most completes will be in that $15 or less range). We primarily based our prices on average eBay price for US games, including shipping with also local resale some values factored in.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D: $14
If you haven’t already played the original version of this all-time classic on the Nintendo 64, all the more reason to scoop up one of the highest-regarded Legend of Zelda games on the cheap. But as the plentiful sales number of this cartridge showed during its initial print run shows, there’s also plenty of die-hard Zelda fans that were interested in having a high-quality version of the game even if they had played it before.
Even though most of the review scores out there are higher for the N64 original, most gamers would agree that this 3DS cart is actually the better version. Like the Majora’s Mask port, this edition fixed some issues like expanding the inventory slot options via a simple tap of the bottom screen. Majora’s Mask also looks great on the 3DS handheld.
For those interested, the Nintendo Selects version of Ocarina of Time is pretty similar in pricing — currently $13 for loose and $16 for complete
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: $15
You’re going to notice a trend of some Zelda action going on here, but A Link Between Worlds is the first Zelda title developed specifically for the Nintendo 3DS and an indirect sequel to the SNES classic, A Link to the Past. It features the same version of Hyrule as A Link to the Past, but utilizes new characters and gameplay elements. A Link Between Worlds also happens to rank surprisingly well on the best Zelda games of all time and is often regarded as one of the biggest hidden gems of the franchise.
Much like Link to the Past, this new installment is top-down, but is in beautiful 3D graphics. Nintendo switched up the game mechanics a bit as well though — rather than finding new items in dungeons, Link rented and eventually bought them from a shopkeeper. Of course, a change like this will annoy some long-time fans, but keeping an open mind always helps!
The bottom line is that A Link Between Worlds is anything but a carbon copy, and flips many of the linear Zelda conventions on their head to great effect. Now, you’re free to explore the beautifully detailed, stereoscopic 3D world as you hunt down dungeons in any order you choose. There’s also some story elements that will make Zelda fans smile.
Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D: $15
While it might not be quite the beloved classic that Ocarina or Time was or an under-appreciated original game like A Link Between Worlds, Majora’s Mask 3D is still an essential 3DS pickup for Zelda fans.
The original had big shoes to fill after Ocarina of Time and the game mechanics had its challenges. However, after more time has past and a more open mind, its easier to appreciate this darker but beautiful installment that deals with themes of of loss, guilt, and death.
More than just a simple port, Majora’s Mask 3D features improved character models and stereoscopic 3D graphics, along with altered boss battles, and an additional fishing minigame. If you ask me, the cover art on this release is phenomenal as well.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon: $14
The original Luigi’s Mansion was a Gamecube launch title, but was mostly relegated to being a cult classic after getting lost in the shuffle during the Xbox and Halo launch. Luigi’s Mansion was indeed a wonderful game for those with an open mind and the 3DS brought us a follow-up that stepped things up along the way.
Much like in the original, Luigi is tasked with sucking up ghost baddies through five differently-themed settings and given the mission of gathering shards of the broken up “Dark Moon” which is able to pacify ghosts. L
Just as Luigi’s Mansion was impressive with its animation and atmosphere on the Gamecube, the sequel is quite impressive in its design while keeping you entertained with the missions. It’s hard to not have either a smile on your face or be on the edge of your seat.
Super Mario 3D Land: $11
These days, Super Mario 3D World is more well-known than this portable sibling, but 3D Land isn’t a downgraded follow-up to its console cousin. Instead, Super Mario 3D Land actually surfaced before 3D World did on the Wii U (and its more recent Switch incarnation).
The Mario “3D” siblings uses a similar art and gameplay style but they are completely different in almost every other way. And as you might expect, 3D Land is more limited in scope than 3D World. This isn’t to say that Super Mario 3D Land isn’t a good game — just don’t expect the greatness of the more recent console games.
For those interested, you can save some money on the Nintendo Selects version of the game — currently only $6 for the cartridge or $11 complete.
Pokemon Sun & Moon: $13
Pokemon games are often easy recommendations on a Nintendo handheld and Pokemon Sun & Moon is not only the cheapest standard Pokemon release on the 3DS, but is a pretty solid installment in general.
As WIRED magazine shared at the time of the game’s release, Sun & Moon “tone down the harshness of the monster battles, and focus on friendship and camaraderie.”
This installment also introduced some customizable player avatars and some new Alola (region inspired by Hawaii) forms of Generation 1 Pokemon. The new Poké Ride feature also streamlined moving around the map.
The Sun & Moon carts were popular and plentiful and many die-hard Pokemon fans jumped on the Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon follow-up. These releases extended the story and introduced a host of new features. Main downside is those “Ultra” versions are going to cost twice as much — something to consider as a budget shopper.
Super Smash Bros 3DS: $14
Not for Resale Cart: $10
It was an exciting day for fans of the Nintendo brawler when a portable version of the series was released. This wasn’t an especially water-down experience either. It obviously doesn’t boast all the visual refinement of its Wii U and Switch peers, but it holds its own quite well. In fact, I’ve heard some say that this 3DS version feels more “tailored” than compressed and “fits like a glove”.
As you can expect from a modern Super Smash Bros game, this portable version has nearly 50 playable characters and unlockables from games across franchises, universes and publishers. It also has RPG customization systems with shocking depth and a handful of different modes to keep you entertained.
Not surprisingly, many Nintendo gamers have since opted to jump onto the Switch (or at least the Wii U) version for a more polished experience, but the original 3DS version is still technical marvel for the handheld and a great way to play it on the go if you aren’t a Switch owner (or just want better battery life).
Mario Kart 7: $11
Not for Resale Cart: $10
Just like Super Mario 3D Land felt like a 3DS-based prototype for Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, Mario Kart 7 seemed to be a nice rough draft of what would later become the stellar Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart 7 isn’t a bad game — actually quite solid for a portable outing and was a solid course-correction from Mario Kart Wii.
There also aren’t a ton of good racing games on the 3DS (although we will mention some others later down in this guide), so it’s a solid game to have in a well-rounded library.
Its worth noting that Mario Kart 7 came included digitally on a handful of 3DS/2DS models so the demand for the Mario Kart 7 carts have more motivation to stay a bit lower than normal.
Star Fox 64 3D : $14
Not for Resale Cart: $9
Star Fox is a lovable Nintendo franchise, but, overall none of the post-N64 installments quite lived up to the first couple of Star Fox games. As much as we can admire the effort of broadening the depth of a game, sometimes we just really want to focus on flying and shooting.
Star Fox 64 was the pinnacle of this dynamic in the series and is still regarded as the best game in the Star Fox series. It had great controls, enjoyable personalities with full voice acting (a rarity for Nintendo 64), and plenty of surprises down each of its assorted paths. This remake on the 3DS goes the extra mile to add new elements including a visual overhaul that provided showcase of the stereoscopic 3D capabilities through Star Fox’s on-rails system.
This release was printed in generous quantities so there prices have stayed rather low — especially if you’re willing to go for a Not-for-Resale cartridge, which old goes for about $9.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D: $11
Nintendo Selects: $9-$10
After a long hiatus, the Donkey Kong Country franchise made a fresh return to the Nintendo Wii thanks to Retro Studio taking the reins after Rare left Nintendo’s network (in fact, it became one of our picks for Defining Games for the Nintendo Wii). Donkey Kong Country Returns filled Nintendo fans with fresh platforming fun with a great deal of nostalgic touches.
The game was successful enough that Nintendo commissioned Monster Games to rebuild the game from the ground up for the 3DS to be rendered in stereoscopic 3D graphics. This 3DS version also includes two game modes, “Original Mode” which plays the same as the original Wii version, and “New Mode” which introduces a handful of new items to make the game easier, including extra health. This version also includes an extra world with eight new levels not present in the original Wii version.
Despite it being a high-quality game, there’s a lot of Nintendo players that have focused on the Wii or Wii U installments and left a lot the 3DS copies floating on the market at a low price. In fact, you can even find a Nintendo Selects version for only $9 for the cart or $10 complete.
Ridge Racer 3D: $13
The Ridge Racer series is an iconic franchise in the arcade-style racing world, but was heavily focused on the Playstation consoles. It did occasionally make appearances on Nintendo and Xbox hardware and Ridge Racer 3D was a solid showing for the franchise and is one of the best racing games on the 3DS.
Ridge Racer also happened to be a launch title for the 3DS, so there’s lots of those early cartridges floating out there — especially as those early adopters moved onto other things.
Ridge Racer 3D features a variety of single play game modes along with StreetPass functionality in order to race 1-on-1 duels. It has some slippery handling, especially if you’re used to more realistic racers, but it provides a nice sense of speed and is a great pickup to supplement your 3DS library on a budget these days.
Kirby Triple Deluxe: $14
While it might not be as well regarded as another 3DS Kirby game, Planet Robobot, Kirby Triple Deluxe is still regarded as one of the best games in the iconic series. Nintendo wasn’t afraid to lean into the 3D effects when it came to gameplay.
The gameplay of Triple Deluxe plays heavily on the third dimension. As Kirby, you are constantly moving between the foreground and background. This time the dangers come not only from left and right, but also from the front and behind.
Some Kirby fans would have liked Nintendo to push the boundaries of the Kirby franchise a bit more (like they eventually did later on), but Triple Deluxe is a solid value on the aftermarket and fans of the series should not skip it.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 $14
Not for Resale Cart: $10
As we covered in our Best Cheap Nintendo DS Games guide, the original New Super Mario Bros kicked off a renewed enthusiasm for 2D Mario gameplay (we knew Nintendo had it in them, but it was refreshing to see it actually get delivered in a mainstream way) and it eventually carried over to the Wii, the Wii U, and also the 3DS in a proper sequel, New Super Mario Bros. 2.
New Super Mario Bros. 2’s main gameplay focus is on coins, with the primary goal being to collect one million. To help you meet these goals, New Super Mario Bros. 2 introduces some new power-up. The first is the Golden Fire Flower. As with the normal fire flower, this power-up allows Mario to throw fireballs—but now they are fireballs with an explosive blast radius. Moreover, each fireball can destroy brick blocks and even turn them into coins as it does so.
Another new power-up is the coin block hat. This turns Mario’s head into a coin block, so that each jump he makes, turn he takes, or step he runs, gives Mario an additional coin.
Like Super Mario 3D Land, the game also seems to be influenced heavily on Super Mario Bros. 3, as it features Raccoon Mario, the P-Meter, and the Koopalings. This, of course, is a nice way to wrap up the nostalgia trip that makes a blockbuster Mario game. Needless to say, all this plus some new level types and game modes makes for a must-add to your 3DS library. Fortunately, the game sold very well, so there’s plenty of copies to help keep the price ranges reasonable.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star: $14
Up through the Nintendo DS line, the Mario RPG-like games on Nintendo’s portables were in the “Mario and Luigi” series with the consoles having their Paper Mario series that began on the N64. Perhaps, that was mostly due the hardware limitation, but it was refreshing to see a proper Paper Mario arrive on the 3DS. However… with Sticker Star (and the Wii U follow-up, Color Splash), there’s less RPG elements along the way.
“There’s no party system and any kind of leveling and progression (besides a few bonuses that raise Mario’s hit points permanently) is replaced by stickers, that play the main role in almost every aspect of the game. There is a return to turn-based battles, however. Overall, it’s a streamlined system for better or worse. But Mario fans that enjoy these type of humorous and compelling games (like my son, especially) should find Sticker Star to be a great value.
Hey Pikmin!: $12
The Pikmin series, which originated on the Gamecube and made its way to the other Nintendo consoles along the way ended up getting a lone portable installment in the form of Hey Pikmin.
However, it should be noted that Hey Pikmin is a bit of a gameplay departure from the traditional games in the series (and that’s OK if you set your expectations as such).
The “standard” Pikmin games (which we highlighted in our Defining Gamecube guide) are an approachable and engaging take on the real-time-strategy genre and have a mostly top-down perspective. Hey Pikmin!, on the other hand, is more of a 2D side-scroller puzzle platformer with a more zoomed-in perspective. Many of the themes are similar with the rest of the series, but this change of presentation and experience combined with a bit less challenge and slightly slower pace threw off a lot of the fans. As a result, there hasn’t been as much demand for the game as the console Pikmin games.
The silver lining is that you can now pick this up rather inexpensively and add a quite pleasant game to your library. It’s also a solid recommendation for kids — my 7 year old really enjoys all Pikmin game and really was looking forward to picking this one up. Afterward, he admitted it was easier (he was able to beat it himself vs needing assistance), it was different and still very fun. And much like the rest of the Pikmin series, it is filled with charm, humor, and problem-solving, which makes for a wonderful diversion.
PilotWings Resort: $9
The PilotWings series has traditionally been used as a way to show off some technical capabilities of the hardware it shows up on (the Mode 7 effects on the SNES, the 3D strengths of the N64 and then the portable power and then the stereoscopic 3D effects of the 3DS. Obviously, PilotWings games are meant to be fun as well and many Nintendo fans have a soft spot for the series, so it was a welcome addition.
As those familiar to the series might expect, Pilotwings Resort consists of two main game modes, namely mission mode and free flight mode. Mission mode consists of different sets of challenges to test your flight skills. The missions are highly enjoyable and replayable (at least up until you get 3 star ratings on them), and the final Diamond class offers up some fantastic challenges to master. Free Flight mode is always a pleasure to relax, offering something different from your typical gaming fare.
Bit.Trip Saga : $6
The Bit.Trip series started as a handful of downloadable titles that focuses giving some basic gameplay fundamentals combined with rhythm games elements with retro+modern aesthetic. This Saga compilation features Bit.Trip Beat (initially pitched as “Pong with Music” but was eventually fleshed out to be deeper and shows Rez inspirations), Bit.Trip Core (a game inspired by the Atari 2600’s Cosmic Ark, but has many Guitar Hero influences), Bit.Trip Void (a bullet hell shooter, obstacle course, and maze game hybrid), Bit.Trip Runner (a platformer with rhythm elements, Bit.Trip Fate (a rhythm rail shooter/horizontal shootemup), and Bit.Trip Flux (combines many elements of the first five games in the series).
Even though you can get these games elsewhere, the compilation is a great way to experience them all. And the games are so portable friendly. They really encapsulate what mobile gaming is all about — especially for those that like snack-size gaming. They also will appeal to those that have retro gaming leanings.
Sega 3D Classics Collection : $12
I’m always a fan of Sega arcade + console classics. However, I don’t recommend picking up just any Sega compilation — especially since certain games get repeated throughout on a regular basis.
However, this compilation was not only put together by the great team at M2 but it also includes some gems such as Power Drift, which hasn’t seen a lot of ports and wasn’t available previously in the eShop outside of Japan. It also happens to be one of the best racing games on the 3DS. And as you might expect, the game have also been enhanced to take advantage of stereoscopic 3D effects. Oh, and this one might have the best cover art of them — possibly even topping the Sega Saturn’s Sega Ages release.
In addition to Power Drift, Sonic and Galaxy Force 2 the strongest games in this fine collection. On top of those you get Fantasy Zone II W (2008 remake of the arcade game),
Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa (from the Master System) Maze Hunter 3D, Puyo Puyo 2, Altered Beast, and Thunderblade (the arcade version).
Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone: $10
The Art Academy series started off as DSiWare “semesters” before having an enhanced retail release on the Nintendo DS platform. Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone increased the the quality and offered a more complete experience.
The series as a whole is advertised as an art training simulation which can teach and help anyone to develop their art skills and techniques that can be applied with real-life tools and materials. The skills are intended to be transferable to art practice outside the game. The series has received rather solid feedback and is a great opportunity to add a relaxing “edutainment” cartridge to your library — reminiscent of the Brain Age “boom” of the mid DS-era.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: $10
Capcom’s Monster Hunter series has grown greatly since its debut on the PS2 including a handful of installments on Nintendo’s platforms — including more than one on the 3DS.
Players who want a break from fast-paced action titles will appreciate the calm and tactical gameplay of the Monster Hunter franchise. The series transforms players into monster hunters as they perform hunts for the nearby village. Monster Hunter takes players on an endless cycle of honing their talents, hunting monsters, and collecting parts to make more impressive weapons and armor.
It should be noted that the series can be a bit intimidating for newcomers. Monster Hunter’s combat is a deep, richly nuanced, and immensely gratifying affair, full of secrets, details, and evolutions to discover and master tens of hours into the game.
It is up to you if you want to dive into the series on the 3DS — there’s newer installments and the series is available on both consoles and handhelds. For this reason, its pretty easy to find this 3DS version on the cheap.
Check for Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on eBay
Check for Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on Amazon
Bravely Second: End Layer : $13
Bravely Second: End Layer is a follow-up to one of the best RPG games on the 3DS handheld — especially if you like turn-based battles. Unfortunately, you won’t find the original game in the series quite as inexpensively — its in the $35 to $50 range based on the condition.
We put this installment further down on this guide based on the fact that it is highly recommended you opt for the original as a prerequisite play — even if End Layer has a number of improvements over the original.
Regardless, both games blend the best of what you can expect from PS1-era Square/Enix RPGs with lots of modern innovations. This includes adjustable random encounters, augmented reality cutscenes, and its innovative Brave/Default battle system that makes leveling up different job a joy.
Other Cheap Gems:
- Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition: $11-$14 (eBay)
- Zelda Tri Force Heroes: $9-$11 (eBay)
- Hyrule Warriors Legends: $11-$13 (eBay)
- Fire Emblem Warriors: $10-$12 (eBay)
- Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance : $12-$16 (eBay)
- Harvest Moon: A New Beginning: $13-$14 (eBay)
- Super Mario Maker: $12-$15 (eBay)
- Scribblenauts Unlimited: $6-$7 (eBay)
- Ultimate NES Remix:$9 -$11 (eBay)
- Mario Tennis Open: $11-$12 (eBay)
- Rayman Origins: $15-$16 (eBay)
- Pokemon Rumble Blast: $9-$10 (eBay)
- Mario Party Island Tour: $12-$14 (eBay)
- Mario Party Star Rush: $15-$17 (eBay)
- Sonic Generations: $14-$16 (eBay)
- Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games: $9-$10 (eBay)
- Chibi-Robo Zip Lash: $3-$5 (eBay)
- Angry Birds Trilogy: $6-$7 (eBay)
- Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer: $14-$18 (eBay)
- Harvest Moon: The Tale Of Two Towns: $14-$16 (eBay)
- Yoshi’s New Island: $14-$18 (eBay)
- Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion: $9-$10 (eBay)
- Rayman 3D: $11-$14 (eBay)
- Angry Birds Star Wars: $4-$5 (eBay)
- Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed: $10-$12 (eBay)
- Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice: $12-$15 (eBay)
- Super Monkey Ball 3D: $11-$12 (eBay)
- Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay: $5-$6 (eBay)
- Frozen & Big Hero 6 Disney 2 Pack: $15-$18 (eBay)
- Myst 3DS: $12-$17 (eBay)
- Kirby Planet Robobot [Not for Resale]: $14-$16 (eBay)
- Mario Tennis Open [Not for Resale]: $13-$14 (eBay)
- Mario and Luigi: Dream Team [Not for Resale]: $13-$14 (eBay)