The RPG genre attracts some of the most passionate and devoted fans – and with good reason, as RPG titles often require a massive amount of time to complete, and reward those who stick with them and explore all they have to offer.
Nintendo consoles have traditionally done very well when it comes to RPG representation (with the possible exception of the N64), and the 3DS doesn't buck this trend; it is positively swimming in role-playing action, ranging from tactical RPGs to action RPGs and more traditional turn-based adventures.
What are the best RPGs on 3DS?
Our list includes some of the best RPGs on the 3DS, showcasing franchises such as Dragon Quest, Fire Emblem, Bravely Default, Mario & Luigi and more. These games aren't presented in any kind of ranking; instead, they are titles we feel that every RPG-loving 3DS owner should make sure they have in their personal collection.
Bravely Default stands as an absolute triumph of both game design and the reinvigoration of old concepts, claiming its rightful place as a giant in the JRPG genre that will surely be remembered as a classic in years to come. Any 3DS owner with even a fleeting interest in role-playing games and a desire to get lost in an incredible, engaging adventure would be doing themselves a huge favour by picking up Bravely Default without delay.
Dragon Quest VIII is something special. It tells a lovely story with memorable characters in a captivatingly colourful style, features fun combat and a beautiful world to explore, and — most importantly — sparks a true sense of adventure and wonder throughout. This isn't just one of the best RPGs on the 3DS, it's one of the best RPGs full stop — and one of the best Dragon Quests to dive into for the uninitiated. Perfectly paced, well written and superbly scored, it's a trip worth taking for any RPG fan, and the updates in this 3DS remake — from faster battles and on-field enemies to a fantastic photography mode — make it a worthwhile return journey for veterans. A true classic.
Ever Oasis isn’t just a brilliant adventure, it’s also one that’s come at the right place and the right time. For 3DS RPG fans, who’ve had an unthinkably rich array of JRPG greats to choose from over the system’s lifespan, Ever Oasis is a nice reminder that there’s still plenty of room for innovation on the handheld. Its addictive main gameplay loop, fun combat, amazing (and truly different) sense of style, and kindhearted nature make it feel like nothing else; this really is its own experience, and one we’d recommend to any action-RPG aficionado.
Whether it’s your first foray into Yggdrasil or your fifth, playing Etrian Odyssey V is a true pleasure. Its addictive central gameplay loop combines engaging exploration, strategic combat and DIY cartography, all wrapped up in a charming presentation and a lush, organic aesthetic. It’s gorgeous to look at it, beautifully balanced, and polished to a sheen, but perhaps best of all Etrian Odyssey V feels like the culmination of a concept that’s uniquely tied to the 3DS. With its touchscreen mapping and masterful use of stereoscopic 3D, it feels utterly at home here, and while the little handheld may have plenty of life in it yet, we still can’t imagine a more fitting swan song for this extraordinary era of dual-screened RPG wonder. A must for any aspiring adventurer.
Monster Hunter Stories is an excellent adventure that channels the colourful world of Capcom’s storied series into a joyous JRPG. It suffers from performance issues on non-New 3DS hardware, but it’s still full of personality, beautifully presented and fun to play, with combat that’s easy to grasp but engaging throughout. Longtime MonHun fans will appreciate Stories as a thoughtfully-made spin-off, but the gameplay template and tone are so different that you don’t need to be familiar with — or even enjoy! — mainline Monster Hunter to have a great time here. Regardless of whether you’ve been hunting Hornetaurs since the beginning or couldn’t tell a Felyne from a Fatalis, Stories is yet another charming 3DS RPG that’s well worth your time.
The style and characters of the Persona series fit perfectly into the Etrian Odyssey mould, and this entry in the Q sub-series seems to be a bit surer of itself than the last. The movie aesthetic is clever and well-handled throughout this lengthy adventure, the exploration and combat remain as gripping as ever, the Persona system is pleasingly deep and flexible, and the stellar soundtrack ties it all together extraordinarily well. If you consider yourself to be an RPG fan and you still haven't sold off the old 3DS, we’d highly encourage you to look into picking this one up; as the final release on a platform that’s enjoyed a proud and successful run, what a way to go out.
As a sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer does everything right. It improves on its predecessor in nearly every way, shakes things up enough to still be exciting for players who may have recently poured sixty hours into the first game, and offers a meaningful chance to reconnect with beloved characters. Even better, it's a nearly-perfect JRPG in its own right. Beautiful, well-written, and endlessly engaging in gameplay and story, this is a wonderful example of why people fall in love with the genre. Simply put, Bravely Second is a must-play for JRPG fans, and one of the 3DS' finest games to date.
As an RPG sequel, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is just about perfect. It lets players revisit a familiar world from a new perspective, keeps what made the original so special, and adds in several small but significant mechanical improvements that make for a smoother, better game throughout. We recommend playing through SMT IV first if possible, both to get the most out of Apocalypse and to experience one of the 3DS' finest JRPGs, but however you arrive at it, this is a game that begs to be played. It's a delightfully dark adventure that's dripping with dystopian charm, and between the personable demons, deeply satisfying combat and killer aesthetic, we couldn't get enough — the end times have never been so good.
From its demon collecting and killer combat to its sci-fi South Pole setting, Strange Journey Redux is a fantastically engrossing adventure, and an excellent reason to get lost in your 3DS once again. As a remake of a DS classic, Redux adds in enough new content to make a replay worth your time, along with plenty of welcome accessibility tweaks to help let newcomers in on one of Shin Megami Tensei’s best-kept secrets. The lack of stereoscopic 3D and English voiceover is disappointing, but these are small complaints; Strange Journey is a can’t-miss trip for JRPG fans.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a top-shelf JRPG, with an engaging time-travel hook, brilliantly fun, puzzle-like combat, and a genuinely likeable cast of characters. While it’s far from the first adventure to draw on parallel timelines, it smartly integrates its world-hopping into both gameplay and narrative, and the result is a unique, beautifully-paced experience that’s a joy to play. This 3DS release doesn’t feel drastically different from the DS original, but the new additions - especially a third ‘what-if’ timeline - make excellent replay incentive. Whether it’s your first trip through time or you’re reliving a prior playthrough, Radiant Historia is well worth a wind of the watch, and another stellar addition to the 3DS’ RPG collection.
Taking the original games and bombarding them with a whole host of crazy ideas, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon have easily achieved their goal of becoming the definitive versions of the series’ final generation on the 3DS. Combining all of this with the fact that a small handful of new, non-mythical Pokémon have been added mid-generation for the first time in the series, and that the Pokédex has been expanded to natively include over 400 Pokémon catchable in the games without trading, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon have managed to make the region of Alola feel even more alive than it did before – and that’s quite the achievement.
This is the best version the franchise has offered yet, throwing in every extra monster and mode into one portable package. With a more nuanced battle system, larger sandboxes to explore, even more Yo-Kai to battle and add to your Medallium, this two-and-a-half-year-old game is a fresh as the day it first launched in Japan, and has given western 3DS owners one of console's best RPGs in the twilight of its years.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is a classic, and this new version is arguably the definitive version. Yes, Bowser's Minions is a harmless but shallow add-on, but the Superstars are the real attraction. This is a series that has a distinct and special place within Nintendo gaming, and after experimentation and not-always-popular approaches in the 3DS era of games, this takes us back to the IP's roots. What a treat it is, too - funny, smartly designed and pure unpretentious joy, this is a great start point for those that missed the original in the Game Boy Advance era, and should also be tempting to those with fond memories of the adventure.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a high-quality port of one of the Wii's most demanding yet brilliant experiences. A sizeable and stunningly diverse world, full of wildlife and fantastical cultures, is admirably recreated for the small screens of the New Nintendo 3DS. Its natural home may be on the TV, but this release gives more gamers an opportunity to set off on a lengthy and dramatic adventure. A brilliant portable version of a true classic, fans of RPGs willing to commit themselves to the task of saving Bionis shouldn't hesitate to pick this up - it is, quite simply, the biggest world we've experienced on such small screens.
Given that the Etrian Odyssey series depends so heavily on the dual-screen design of Nintendo’s departing family of handhelds, it’s not entirely clear what form (if any) the series will take going forward. Even so, if Etrian Odyssey Nexus is to be the final entry in this much-beloved series, we can’t think of a better way for it to go out. Staggering amounts of character customization, a beautifully arranged soundtrack, dozens of hours of content, and excellent usage of stereoscopic 3D all combine to make this the definitive Etrian Odyssey experience. We’d recommend Etrian Odyssey Nexus to both longtime fans and newcomers looking to see what all the fuss is about; this is one of the deepest and most involved RPGs you’re likely to find on the 3DS, and it stands as a compelling reason to dust off Nintendo’s handheld once more.