Best Nintendo 3DS eShop exclusive games to buy before they're gone for ever

eShop game Mario and Donkey Kong Tipping Stars
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The long, slow march to the big console graveyard in the sky has begun for the Nintendo 3DS, with Nintendo announcing that the 3D-capable handheld’s eShop for digital downloads will close for good in March 2023. Purchases made from credit cards on the store will cease to be accepted after May 23, 2022, and the same will be the case for eShop gift cards from August 29, 2022. And, if you’re a Wii U owner, those dates apply to the Wii U eShop too, which is also set to close.

While the best of the Wii U has slowly made its way across to the Nintendo Switch, we are pouring one out for the Nintendo 3DS here in particular as so many games unique to that console will be lost when the store shuts down. There are some 1,000-odd titles exclusive to the eShop, unavailable elsewhere, that will be unavailable to access (by legal means, at any rate) once Nintendo shutters the stores for good. And while lots of great 3DS games are available in physical cartridge form, they’re increasingly rare on store shelves and online, driving up the price of ownership to collectors’ item levels.

It’s sure to raise arguments once again about the provenance of digital game ownership, and also fuel those pushing for better historical game preservation. But for now, time is of the essence – these are the Nintendo 3DS eShop exclusive games you simply can’t afford to miss. Grab ‘em while you can.

Pullbox / Pushmo

This one is definitely too cute to be killed, Nintendo! Pullbox (known as Pushmo in the US) mixes platforming with puzzle solving, as you star as Mallo, a squidgy little… pig thing (?) that has to physically pull at the world around him to create the platforms required to reach his goals. It made great use of the 3D screen, and should have seen Mallo become a breakout star. Alas, no – that’s what the confines of eShop exclusivity would do to your mascot heroes.

Make sure you check out the soon-to-disappear sequels too Fallblox (AKA Crashmo), and Fullblox (AKA Stretchmo), while a Wii U exclusive (Pullbox World) is ready for the chop too on Nintendo’s last-gen home console.


The 3DS eShop, as you can see, was the secret home of many great puzzlers, and BoxBoy! was one of the finest. Its simple monochrome line graphics belie a fiendishly smart puzzler, seeing you summon boxes to navigate the gauntlet-like array of traps and chasms between you and a level’s exit.

A Japan-exclusive physical release did happen – but it was only made in small numbers, with the cartridge region-locked to Japan. On top of that, it shipped with what’s now perhaps the rarest of all amiibo, Qbby, meaning that the resale value of the game is sky high, and likely forever out of reach from all but the most ardent collectors. So snap it up while you can – and pick up the equally excellent sequels BoxBoxBoy and Bye-Bye BoxBoy, too.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies / Spirit of Justice

The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series is safe, happily living out its best life on all sorts of different platforms these days, from iPads to the Nintendo Switch. However, two deep cuts – Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice, are set to be lost to the eShop nuke.

Strong continuations of the series’ core deduction loop for case solving, they’re admittedly best serving die hard series fans. But Dual Destinies’ darker plot, and the super-weird supernatural memory pool (admissible in court) of Spirit Justice are curios worth a quick look at the very least. 

Attack of the Friday Monsters

You may better know developer Level-5 for its Professor Layton puzzle games, but it used the Nintendo 3DS for more than just Sherlock Holmes-inspired brain teasers. Level-5’s ‘Guild Series’ was one of the more ambitious and interesting moves by a mainstream developer at the time, releasing a compilation of smaller, more experimental titles for the 3DS.

Our pick of the bunch is Attack of the Friday Monsters. Somewhere between an RPG, visual novel and card battler, this short adventure sees you playing as a child whose hometown lives in the shadow of regular kaiju (giant monster) battles. It’s cute and heartfelt, and a really interesting premise – just what does go on in the minds of those running scared between Godzilla’s humongous feet? We’d love to see the premise resurrected.

Though Japan saw the physical release of the Guild01 and 02 compilations, pulling a few of the Guild series games together, they never hit brick and mortar stores in the rest of the world, meaning these curious titles will be all but lost in the west.

Nintendo Pocket Football Club

Nintendo Pocket Football Club is the Japanese company’s own spin on the popular football manager sim genre – and it’s a real winner. 

You begin by selecting your own flag, kit, and team name, and are tasked with putting together a squad that can rise through the divisions and win the championship. You’ll be able to tinker with formations, sign new players, and train your team with the hopes of transforming them from a sorry bunch of amateurs to world-class pros.

Matches play out in a surprisingly rich, sped-up version of the beautiful game that shows each team battling it out, including reactions from the crowd, goal replays, and more. 

Nintendo Pocket Football Club may seem like a watered-down version of Football Manager at first glance, but don’t be fooled – it’s just as addictive as other management sims, and a must-have for any 3DS owner who has even the faintest interest in football (or soccer, as it's also known). 

Pick it up before it gets relegated to the annals of history on March 2023.


The 3DS also allowed Pokemon developers Game Freak to spread their wings a couple of times with some experimental titles, too. HarmoKnight is, perhaps, the most fun game on this list – or at least the most fun 3DS game you’ve never heard of. Mixing rhythm action elements with platforming tropes, you’ll run jump and sword slash through an Adventure Time-like fantasy land, keeping your leaps and attacks in time with the beat of the fantastic soundtrack. It wasn’t really sung about too much upon its release, making it very much a hidden gem of the 3DS catalogue. 

Nintendo 3D Classics

We’re lumping this lot together as they’re all worthy in their own right. Over the course of the Nintendo 3DS’s life span, Nintendo used the console to introduce (or re-introduce) players to classic cuts from its back catalogue. The majority of these games came from the heady days of the NES, but were updated to make use of the 3D effect that was the handheld’s hallmark. Excitebike, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure, TwinBee, Urban Champion and the lone arcade title, Xevious, were all reworked to factor in stereoscopic 3D effects. The 2D pixel-art nature of the games meant that these proved surprisingly successful, breathing new life into old games with superb depth effects. Excitebike is particularly good – with no other console offering the 3D feature, it’s sad to see these truly go for good.

3D Out Run

It wasn’t just Nintendo revisiting its classics on the 3DS, but Sega too. It also reworked many classic titles to take advantage of the 3D effect. Around 30 titles got the update treatment, and though a good chunk of those remain Japanese exclusives, the majority, including classics like Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Harrier and Echo the Dolphin, went global.

Our pick of the bunch though has to be Out-Run 3D. Based on the Master System version of the arcade racer, it made an already super-fast driving game feel positively nitro-fueled by giving the impression that you were literally driving into the 3DS’s screen. Great stuff.

Dillon’s Rolling Western

A truly weird one this – weird was a bit of an eShop theme, really – Dillon’s Rolling Western mixes 3D exploration with tower defense mechanics. I’m going to be blunt here and state that I’m not sure that Dillon’s Rolling Western is actually all that good – I’m no tower defense fan generally, but the mix of strategy and adventuring just doesn’t gel that well. However, published by Nintendo, it’s worthy of saving if only to remember a time when Nintendo was prepared to put its money behind some seriously weird stuff to see what would stick on its relatively new console. This one celebrates its tenth birthday today!

Mario vs Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

Even Nintendo superstars Mario and Donkey Kong aren’t safe from the eShop chop. While it’s not either character’s best-known role, Mario vs Donkey Kong remains a fun puzzler in its own right. It’s pretty much Nintendo’s take on Lemmings, with Mario guiding toy versions of Nintendo’s characters to safety through a level by placing ramps and bridges across obstacles.

This one got a Wii U release too, and was Nintendo’s first attempt at cross-purchase allowances – buy it for one machine, get a version for the other. Too bad both will soon be lost for good. 

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.

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