15 Must-Have Games for 3DS Virtual Console

Love classic games on the go? Not sure where to start? Obviously, you should start with the best. Here's our top 15 picks — plus five great imports!

Article by Jeremy Parish, .

Note: This feature is obsolete! Please check out our comprehensive buyer's guide to all games on Virtual Console for 3DS and New 3DS!

Today marks the final day of Mega Man May, an entire month of Nintendo actively acknowledging both classic games on Virtual Console and bringing gamers highly sought-after releases that have become very expensive due to their scarcity. It was such a nice event that I'm even willing to forgive the extra dollar that they tacked onto Mega Man V's price just because they could. What are you gonna do, buy it on eBay for $100? Sucker.

While we often complain about Virtual Console on a week-to-week basis, over time Nintendo has actually built up a pretty respectable catalog of old games for 3DS. It's a much more limited library than the Wii enjoyed, of course; given its limitations, 3DS Virtual Console only includes Game Boy, NES, and Game Gear titles. Those Game Boy Advance "ambassador" titles don't really count, because you can't buy them, and Nintendo clearly has decided to move GBA to Wii U instead. But, if you want to be generous, you can also count Arika and M2's 3D Classics remakes, too.

All told, that's about 150 classics for download — not all of which are, you know, classic. Where to start and avoid the duds, you may wonder? Enter your friends at USgamer. We've whittled that lengthy list of old games down to 15: The top 10 percent, basically. If you're looking to build a collection of Virtual Console titles, this is where you should start.

Note: Apparently I'm terrible at counting and this list is only 14 games. This is why every stops at top 10 lists! For the heck of it, let's say #15 would have been... hmmm... let's say 3D Classics: Sonic the Hedgehog. Gotta run fast, my friends.

Bonus: The best 3DS Virtual Console imports

If you ever happen across an import 3DS or 2DS from Japan, you can have access to an even wider array of games than in America. Here are five games worth checking out on the import Virtual Console... or, better yet, that you can pester Nintendo to bring over to the U.S. While you're at it, you should start a letter campaign to bring PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) games to the U.S. — they're on 3DS in Japan, after all. Life just ain't fair.

Final Fantasy (NES)
This one is bound to show up in the U.S. sooner or later — why wouldn't it? And while it may not enjoy some of the niceties of the PlayStation remake of Final Fantasy that appeared on FF Origins (such as graphics and a non-horrible shop system), it still manages to be a seriously great RPG despite its age. Those who only know Final Fantasy from the recent games might even be surprised by just how familiar the skills, monsters, and story themes of this bygone classic prove to be....

Gargoyle's Quest II (NES)
The original Gargoyle's Quest made our list of greatest original Game Boy creations of all time, so naturally we'd love to see the sequel — which, weirdly enough, jumped from Game Boy to NES. In Japan, Gargoyle's Quest II was also reverse-ported from NES to Game Boy, but it's the NES version that's up on Japan's Virtual Console, and it's the NES version that came to the U.S. So let us all rise up in revolt and demand Capcom grace us with this 8-bit classic. We shall overcome!

Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (Game Boy)
Sometimes, Nintendo makes games and only releases them in Japan. Sometimes those Japan-only games are kind of dumb and we don't really care, but just as often they're really interesting and good and their absence leaves a void of despair in our lives. Such is the case with Karu no... you know, let's just call it "For the Frog the Bell Tolls." A simple, lighthearted take on the RPG, completing this game requires some light Japanese reading skills, but there are guides online — and it's worth it just to see the GameBoy adventure that laid the groundwork for Link's Awakening.

Madoola no Tsubasa (NES)
The Japanese 3DS Virtual Console is packed with old B- and C-tier Famicom (NES) games that never made their way to America because they just weren't good enough to bother localizing. Madoola No Tsubasa — aka The Wings of Madoola — is one of those. But as second-rate Famicom games go, it's actually pretty decent. It's a proto-Metroidvania kind of thing, and it even has a lady protagonist. It's basically a 2014 indie game designed in 1986!

Trip World (Game Boy)
I've already made a case for this one, but seriously: Trip World sells for hundreds if not thousands of dollars; it's about three bucks on both the Japanese and European eShop; it's wonderfully fun and utterly gorgeous for a monochrome game; and it requires no language skills to master. If you ever end up in possession of an import 3DS, this should be your first purchase — you'll love it.

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 21

Comments on this article are now closed. Thanks for taking part!

  • Avatar for Thad #1 Thad 4 years ago
    Holy crap, Mega Man 5 goes for $100 on eBay?

    Man I am so glad the guys who robbed my house last year had no concept of which things were and were not worth real money. (They didn't touch my copies of Suikoden 2 or Mega Man Legends 2 either.)

    Course, I think the box and manual are in storage somewhere, so that's where the real money is.

    Per the rest of the piece: thanks, I just got a 2DS and could always use some recommendations. (I've already picked up LBW and SMT4 based largely on your reviews.) I think I'd have preferred an article I could skim over a video, but maybe that's just curmudgeonly me.Edited 4 times. Last edited May 2014 by Thad
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #2 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    @Thad If we post a text list, no one watches the video, and then all our hard work is for naught!

    Mega Man V goes for $75-100 for the cart only. With box, it doubles its value or better.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for kidgorilla #3 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    I wish all three Genesis Shinobi games were there. III is probably the best, but they're all good in their own way
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Thad #4 Thad 4 years ago
    @nimzy Not likely, unfortunately. I don't think the 3DS does SNES games at all -- presumably that's because it wouldn't be able to emulate it at full speed without frameskip. So it would have to be a real port (like the 3D Classics games) rather than straight emulation like on the Wii U VC.

    I'd love to SEE a 3D Classics release, though -- if only so they could take out that tedious 8-bit throwback "select Talk from a menu" nonsense.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for metalangel #5 metalangel 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Please caption the video so everyone can enjoy it, then. Thanks.

    As soon as I have enough money, I'm buying my favourite GB game ever, Radar Mission. I have enough money, I just don't have enough for the tax they add on when you actually hit 'PURCHASE'. Grrrr.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for tsamba #6 tsamba 4 years ago
    Nice read. I've played a lot of good games for the first time on 3DS virtual console. It's one of my favorite things about the system. Pretty sweet having Mega Man 1-6, Mega Man I-V, Super Mario Land 1/2, Wario Land 1-3, SMB 1-3, every pre-Wii Zelda excepting Majora's Mask and ALttP, all the GameBoy Kirby games like pinball and breakout and star stacker, Ninja Gaiden NES trilogy, Castlevania 1/2 and probably 3 soon enough, all on 3DS. Virtual Console on 3DS may be lacking, but it's got at least these "big" series covered. Would be a lot of work to put together a physical collection like that.

    From your list, I'll probably check out Life Force. Don't have much experience with shooters. And why doesn't everyone just accept that while Mega Man 2 and 3 may be "the greatest of all time," but the entire NES series is better than pretty much everything.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for MetManMas #7 MetManMas 4 years ago
    While I'm a little disappointed by the lack of Wario Land games on the list, I was thrilled to see Shinobi 3 and Mole Mania on there. Both of those games really deserve more love.

    As for the imports I expect we'll see Final Fantasy and Gargoyle's Quest II in due time. As for Trip World, I'm still hoping we'll see it as an import release.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Stealth20k #8 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    I wish there was more synergy between VC, I also wish 3DS had mroe games.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #9 link6616 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish I think he (metalangel) meant captioning in the video for the deaf readers.

    On a different note, I know the cover image is just editing but what I would give to use the bottom screen for playing VC games...Edited 2 times. Last edited May 2014 by link6616
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #10 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    @metalangel Ah, captioning? I see. I'll speak to our video production people about that. I have no idea how to do that, but I assume it probably shouldn't be TOO hard since I always send the video team my script along with my VO file.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #11 link6616 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Thank you. While It's not something that helps me, it's certainly the bane of the few deaf gamers I know that so much good video content isn't captioned.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for XyzzySqrl #12 XyzzySqrl 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish If you know people are going to prefer text over a video, then maybe don't bother posting the video?
    Sign in to Reply
  • i'm usually so sick of these top 10 lists but at least your doing unique and interesting ones
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for TotalHenshin #14 TotalHenshin 4 years ago
    I enjoyed this video, despite Jeremy sounding like he has a cold. As long as the future videos are like this, but with a healthier Jeremy Parish, I've no real problem with you guys doing video content.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for metalangel #15 metalangel 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Thank you! I am pretty sure your video people will know how. For the record, I'm not deaf, but I know a lot of gamers who are, and also use captions myself for surreptitious video watching at work sometimes. Bad me!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for abuele #16 abuele 4 years ago
    Do you think there a possibility Trip World will ever come to the US eShop?
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for secularsage #17 secularsage 4 years ago
    I just wish the 3DS Virtual Console was a little less retro and a little more up-to-date. It kills me that I can play PSX-era and PSP games on my Vita, but I have to settle for Gameboy and NES 8-bit Mega Man games on my 3DS.

    Given that the Gameboy Advance was able to capably handle 16-bit SNES games over 10 years ago (and that modern mobile phones can easily emulate 3D games from later generations), one would hope the 3DS Virtual Console would be a little further along by now.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for johnbrandon66 #18 johnbrandon66 4 years ago
    I'm kinda bummed that there's no GBA / DS games on the eShop, but Nintendo's retro strategy is just as weird as Square. The Game Gear Shining Force was pretty neat, for what it was, although it was an odd choice to import only the 2nd chapter of the portable series, so you start in media res. Confusing to fourteen year old me. The Sega CD version remedied this (it combined all the Game Gear games with new content and better graphics), but who knows if Sega CD games will ever show up in a retro gaming service.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Thad #19 Thad 4 years ago
    @secularsage There's a big difference between ports and emulators. The Game Boy Advance was able to handle PORTS of SNES games, but porting a game takes a lot more work than just loading up a ROM. My cell phone can emulate SNES games just fine, it's true, but it's also got a much faster processor than the 3DS, and it still needs a frameskip, and in many games the audio's not quite right. I can understand Nintendo being unwilling to settle for that level of quality; when an emulator like that is developed by hobbyists to run on generic hardware, it's impressive as hell, but if it were written by Nintendo to run on authentic Nintendo hardware, then compatibility issues would seem a lot less forgivable.

    Of course, the GBA is a different story; the 3DS doesn't HAVE to emulate a GBA, because it runs on the same architecture. Now, that means you don't get fancy emulator features and you're stuck with what the GBA itself supported out of the box, but it still should mean more GBA games than what we've got. And of course the 3DS will play DS games just fine directly off the carts, so it's a pity they haven't just made them downloadable in VC.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for mganai #20 mganai 4 years ago
    Life Force (NES) is so underappreciated. It's right up there with Gradius Gaiden and Contra among the pantheon of Konami classics. I even have a boxed copy of Salamander for Famicom. Gotta love that clear cart. (That version being available to us on VC would be kinda cool too.)
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for The-Fool #21 The-Fool 4 years ago
    You mentioned Link's Awakening... I feel you should have mentioned Link's Awakening DX in its place.
    Sign in to Reply