The Best (and Worst) of the Nintendo 3DS Ports

In spite of the fact that the 3DS has now been on the market for almost 10 years, it seems that the flow of software has finally dried up. Nintendo’s last title on the system was a remake of the well received Wii game Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and not long before that we had a Luigi’s Mansion remake. Throughout it’s lifespan a significant amount of great titles have been remastered for the handheld powerhouse, so it’s time to look back at the titles that have really benefited from being redone for the 3DS – or not so much. The 3DS is a great little system with a solid library, and the main reason I still play it is to play retro games that you can’t easily play anywhere else. Titles from the Nintendo 64, Gamecube, Playstation 1 and Playstation 2 have made the jump across, and are some of the best experiences on the 3DS. Some other ports haven’t been so lucky, and are bogged down with poor frame rates, blurry textures and a lack of modes.

Ocarina of Time 3D
Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D – A great port that includes updated graphics and new content.

The developer Grezzo is responsible for some of the best 3DS remakes out there. The company is a second-party developer for Nintendo and was tasked with remastering the Nintendo 64 classics The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The former hit the 3DS in 2011 and included updated graphics including character models and textures, as well as the inclusion of motion controls and a boss rush mode. The original is one of the best games in the adventure genre, but the 3DS update really refined everything; Ocarina of Time 3D controls better, and looks just how we would have imagined it. Unfortunately, the music is the same as the original, and it would have been great if they had added some remixes or a fully orchestrated soundtrack. Ocarina of Time 3D really shows what Grezzo is capable of as a developer, and it is currently the highest ranked game on Metacritic for 3DS. If you even just slightly liked the original, then the 3DS remake is a must buy.

In 2015 after many rumors and hints from Nintendo, we finally got Majora’s Mask 3D. It received more of a mixed response than Ocarina of Time 3D, but I actually think it’s a better game than the original because of the quality of life upgrades. Majora’s Mask 3D is so much more accessible because of the more detailed bomber’s notebook, streamlined swimming mechanics and updated controls. The remake also lets you travel to any hour of the three day cycle you wish, as well as having many more save points which make the game ideal for playing in short bursts on a handheld. This combined with updated graphics mean it is the definitive version of Majora’s Mask. It is without a doubt my favorite game on the system.

Luigi's Mansion
Luigi’ Mansion 3DS – Grezzo did a great job porting Luigi’s Mansion to the 3DS. Graphically the title is impressive, but the lighting effects aren’t quite as good as the original.

In 2018, Grezzo also ported the Gamecube launch title, Luigi’s Mansion, to the 3DS. Again, new features were added, and the game was made slightly easier in that the player has more time to collect coins after being damaged. While the fact that the game is easier could be seen as a negative, the updated controls and use of 3D make Luigi’s Mansion on the 3DS a great remake. Grezzo’s work on the 3DS can be seen as a great positive for the system, and every game they’ve worked on really pushes the console’s graphical capabilities.

There are also a few great RPGs that have been ported over to the 3DS from past consoles. Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed Kind, Tales of the Abyss and Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology are a few. They are good examples of solid ports and all three have great graphics for the system, although Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology uses sprites (not that that is always a bad thing) and isn’t that different from the DS original. The other two titles are ports from the PS2 and it’s great to finally be able to take them on the go.

rayman 1
Rayman 3D – Although the original was a good early 3D platformer, it hasn’t aged well and this was a lazy port.

The porting of Nintendo’s own IP onto the 3DS usually goes really well, and the titles are top quality, but there are some titles that have released with minimum changes or additions. While these titles might have been great on the original systems, they don’t always transfer across well. Rayman 3D is a remake of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, and while the original was a good title, the 3DS version is a straightforward port of the Dreamcast version with added 3D visuals. If you have nostalgia for Rayman 2, it’s probably worth picking up; otherwise, there are much better titles from that era on the system. It’s a bare bones port, with no new features poor frame rates. Splinter Cell 3D is another title that was a direct port with no additions and even less modes than the original. It is basically Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory but with worse visuals and dodgy controls.

The 3DS isn’t as powerful as current or last generation home systems, so you’d think a port of the Wii U game Hyrule Warriors wouldn’t be possible. Nintendo did bring it across to the little handheld though, and the game is great to have in handheld (although now we have the full version on Switch), but unfortunately it really suffers in terms of frame rate and textures. It should have been a “new” 3DS exclusive. It does run on a regular 3DS, but barely. In terms of ports, it just shows developers should focus on the 3DS’s strengths and build games from the ground up for the system. Resident Evil: Revelations is a great non-first-party example of what the 3DS is capable of.

Overall, the 3DS has a wealth of great remakes, and particularly, the work Grezzo has done on the system really adds incentive to pick up a 3DS. Ubisoft made some lazy ports, but with nostalgia you’ll probably still get some enjoyment out of the titles. The 3DS is about as powerful as a PS2 and the opportunity to play classics from that era, and before, on the system shouldn’t be missed! Maybe the 3DS is dead, but it’s still the best place to play some old Zelda and Dragon Quest titles.

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