The 3DS And Wii U Games You Should Buy Before Their eShops Shut Down
The closure of digital storefronts for two Nintendo platforms is coming soon, and there are a number of games that will no longer be for sale or will require paying a huge premium for a physical copy.
We're just days away from the shutdown of the eShop for two Nintendo platforms: the 3DS and Wii U. Both systems are home to a variety of great games, a number of which are only available through the eShop (or can otherwise only be purchased physically at high prices). That wasn't necessarily a huge issue before now, but with these two eShops being closed, that means the simplest route for buying such games is going away.
Digital storefronts shutting down is nothing new; we previously saw it happen with Nintendo's Wii Shop, which still allows you to download and play your purchased games, but does not allow you to buy any new ones. That will also be true for the 3DS and Wii U eShops as of this Monday, March 27, 2023.
For an industry that already struggles with preservation, that's disappointing to see. The closure of both eShops will mean losing the ability to buy digital-only games released for the two platforms, as well as a means for buying games at a reasonable price that have seen their physical versions dramatically increase in value. The latter scenario may only get worse once the shutdown happens, as fans scramble to collect games they were never able to get their hands on previously--just the sort of situation that profiteers look to take advantage of.
But it's not too late to stock up on the eShop while you still can. Purchases will no longer be possible as of March 27, so you have until then to buy anything you want or redeem codes (which can be purchased through stores like Amazon). Other deadlines have already passed: credit cards can no longer be used to add funds directly to your 3DS/Wii U eShop account, nor can you redeem eShop card funds. However, if you have a Nintendo Network ID wallet connected to your Nintendo Account wallet, you'll be able to use your balance (including money you might have in your account for buying Switch games and DLC) up until the eShops close.
With all of that in mind, we've taken a look at what the eShops have to offer to recommend games you should be sure to buy while you still can. Some of these will still be available physically after the shutdown, but unless you like paying a huge markup, the eShop may be your cheapest route--and Nintendo has said you'll still be able to redownload these games for the foreseeable future. Since originally publishing this feature last year, we've updated it with several more of our picks for the games you should consider buying.
Picross 3D Round 2
Picross 3D was a revelatory take on the familiar nonogram puzzle game when it released in 2010. Instead of revealing a hidden image, it was more like abstracted archeology, chipping away at layers of dust and rock to reveal the antiquity hidden inside. The formula was compelling, but it took six years before it finally received a sequel, and in North America, the sequel was exclusive to the 3DS eShop. More of the same would have been enough for hungry puzzle fans, but Picross 3D Round 2 fleshed out the concept even further by introducing curved blocks. This both allowed the puzzles to represent more complex shapes and introduced a wrinkle to the puzzle mechanics themselves by requiring you to mark the blocks accordingly as you chip away at them. Once the eShop goes away this gem will be significantly harder to find, so get it now and give your spatial reasoning a workout. -- Steve Watts
Pokemon Bank + Poke Transporter
If you like Pokemon and own a Nintendo 3DS, I highly recommend downloading Pokemon Bank and Poke Transporter. These apps are required if you want to transfer Pokemon from the DS and 3DS games to Pokemon Home and modern entries in the series. After March 27, your Pokemon will be permanently locked to those games. The good news is that Pokemon Bank is now free, so as long as you have it installed, you can access it whenever you want. Meanwhile, Poke Transporter can be downloaded within the Pokemon Bank app, but you'll still want to snag it before the eShop shuts down. -- Jake Dekker
Tracking down and finding working copies of the original Pokemon games is not an easy feat. Even if you do manage to find one, chances are, the internal battery is dead. Fortunately, Game Freak and the Pokemon Company released all six of the Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for $10 each. Not only are these games a crucial part of Pokemon's storied history, but they all hold up surprisingly well. They may not be as streamlined as their modern-day counterparts, but the fundamentals are as solid as ever: catch, train, and battle Pokemon. Better yet, all of them are compatible with Pokemon Bank. This means that anything you catch can be transferred to other compatible games. Just make sure you also download Pokemon Bank before the eShop shuts down. -- Jake Dekker
Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario 3 (Wii U)
Super Mario Bros. 3 is among the very best Mario games ever, but there are numerous places you can play it. What makes this Wii U Virtual Console release notable is that it includes all of the additional courses and content that were designed for the GBA port, which required using the e-Reader. This was essentially Mario DLC, but it was gated behind card-collecting. On Wii U, you can play all of it without ever needing to bother swiping cards, and this was the only place to do so unless you go the costly route of tracking down the necessary items to play it on GBA. (The addition of the game to Nintendo Switch Online recently broadens its availability, but I'd personally rather not rely on a subscription service to maintain access.) The idea of there being 2D Mario content effectively lost to time for most people is just unthinkable, so it's not a risk worth taking. Pick this up now and ensure you'll never be without it and never have to deal with an e-Reader again. -- Chris Pereira
Pocket Card Jockey (3DS)
Pocket Card Jockey shouldn't work as well as it does. The bizarre mash-up combines solitaire and horse racing, as you play speed rounds of the classic card game to build up energy for your horse mid-race and then carefully position yourself to pass your opponents. It is, in short, very strange. But it's also extremely endearing, with adorable horses and a powerfully compelling gameplay loop. You can even retire your prize-winning horses and then let them live out their days on a farm breeding the next generation of thoroughbreds. Nintendo fans will also be tickled by the various references sprinkled throughout, especially to other games from Game Freak, which made this oddball a cult classic. A semi-sequel called Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On has since been released on Apple Arcade, which sports some new features and a revised graphical style. That's a great way to race as long as you have access to Apple Arcade, but if you want to experience the original, and you absolutely should, the eShop is the only way. -- Steve Watts
Rusty's Real Deal Baseball (3DS)
Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is a collection of baseball-themed minigames, all of which are pretty fun--there's something satisfying about stripping baseball down to its basic elements and hearing the crack of an aluminum bat on the ball in various contexts. But part of what makes this game still stick out in my mind almost a decade after its release is the way in which you pay for it: The basic download itself is free-to-play, but each of the minigames needs to be purchased individually. However, the stated price isn't necessarily what you have to pay--by playing and haggling with Rusty, you can get him to lower the actual price you pay (to a certain point). It was a unique setup, and it's one that will presumably be broken by the shutdown of the eShop (not to mention that the game was only available digitally). Still, there's time to enjoy the original, intended experience before that happens. -- Chris Pereira
Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS)
This spin-off from the regular Mario franchise took the long way around. It started with Donkey Kong on the Game Boy, which was a very different platformer than the arcade games and had more puzzle and adventure elements. That resulted in a spiritual successor, Mario vs. Donkey Kong on the GBA, which added tiny robotic Marios. Then that birthed its own sub-series of spin-offs, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, which presented Lemmings-like puzzles that had you guide your little Mario-bots to a goal. Finally, Minis on the Move took the idea into the 3D realm with track-based puzzles for your little miniature Mario to walk along. The game was budget-priced as a download-only game, but packed a whopping 180 puzzles and even a custom puzzle-creator. With a deceptively simple concept that has loads of variation and complexity, this one gives your brain a workout. -- Steve Watts
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker & Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)
While both Nintendo 64 Legend of Zelda games have at long last made their appearance on Switch, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess unfortunately remain locked to the GameCube, Wii, and Wii U. What makes picking these games up on Wii U more enticing than their alternative iterations, however, are all the upgrades and quality-of-life improvements seen on the newer system. For starters, both titles were given the HD treatment for Wii U, which makes the games look more polished and true to their intended aesthetic, as different as they may be. The games also boasted a more streamlined experience and tacked on Hero mode, ultimately eliminating more tedious tasks while also offering greater challenges in their stead. Last but not least, while not all Wii U titles made the GamePad work for them, The Legend of Zelda series did so with flying colors. Having your map and your inventory so readily available made both games' dungeoneering more simplistic and immersive than ever before. All said and done, the Wii U was a fantastic home for the Zelda series, and one worth ensuring you have access to. -- Jessica Howard
Kirby Planet Robobot (3DS)
Kirby Planet Robobot is one of the best Kirby games of all time, but it was just one of several games in the series to release on 3DS, and it arrived fairly late in the handheld's lifecycle. Considering that Kirby had been playing it relatively safe for years, it would have been easy to overlook this colorful and charming platformer. All fans of Kirby or side-scrolling platformers should play Kirby Planet Robobot.
Look, it's cool and all when Kirby copies enemy abilities by inhaling them, but none of those tricks compare to the mech suit in Planet Robobot. Stomping various forms of Waddle Dees under your giant robot feet is a joy, and you can also scan enemies to give the suit new abilities, including a flamethrower, bombs, dual swords, and giant stone hands. Utilizing the suit's various possible forms allows you to uncover the secrets of each sprawling level. This is Kirby level design at its best, with a massive amount of variety, clever puzzles, and awesome boss battles. There are even a handful of levels that play like shoot-'em-ups. Kirby Planet Robobot is an utter joy, and it's a great game to play now ahead of the release of Kirby and the Forgotten Land. -- Steven Petite
Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
The Xenoblade series has seemingly begun to get more attention in recent years thanks to multiple releases on Switch, but X, a Wii U exclusive, is the standout in my eyes. It's a standalone game from other titles in the series from a narrative perspective, presenting a vast open world that is truly impressive in scope, especially for a Wii U game. Most importantly, you eventually get your own mech to use for exploration and combat, further expanding on the already deep progression and customization systems. Unfortunately, due to the use of the Wii U GamePad as part of the interface, the odds of a port to Switch is unlikely (Monolith Soft has indicated it would be too expensive to make). Physical copies are still available at a reasonable price, but with a port unlikely, a $60 digital copy is still palatable. -- Chris Pereira
The Starship Damrey (3DS)
The Starship Damrey from Level-5 is a neat little mystery set in the far reaches of space. You wake up from cryogenic sleep, with zero information regarding what's going on around you. You soon find out you're aboard the Damrey, a research ship that's experienced some sort of terrible fate. Unfortunately, you're stuck in your cryogenic pod, but you can control a maintenance robot that will guide you through the ship in order to figure out what happened. The game gives no clues or hints on how to succeed; it's just you and your wits against the unknown dangers of the Damrey's dark halls. Part puzzle-solver, part environmental horror, The Starship Damrey is not a long game--taking a few hours tops--but the "a ha!" moments you'll experience while leading your robot friend through this spooky adventure are definitely worth the $8. -- Jason Fanelli
Attack Of The Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale (3DS)
This charming adventure game takes place in 1970s Japan, following a young boy named Sohta living in a small rural village. There's not a lot of action--you'll mostly be talking to the other residents of the village to solve puzzles--but this Tokyo tale is buffered by the strength of its story. It's a tale of the innocence of a child, rooted heavily in authentic Japanese culture, and it will lift your spirits in a way few other games can accomplish. Millennium Kitchen crafted quite a narrative with Attack of the Friday Monsters, making it a fantastic--and inexpensive at only $8--hidden gem for the 3DS. -- Jason Fanelli
Fire Emblem Fates (3DS)
Most Fire Emblem games are generally one-off affairs, but Fire Emblem Fates was different in that it took the Pokemon route. Fates initially released as two games, Birthright and Conquest, which provide alternate perspectives on two warring nations. However, the story wasn't really finished until the third storyline, Revelation. And the big problem? It had a very limited physical release. The only way to play Revelation on a cartridge is to have bought the physical special edition containing all three routes. These days, if you're buying off of eBay, that will set you back over $360, and it's not even that easy to come by. The complete edition with all three storylines is available on the eShop, but once that's taken down, it's bye-bye Revelation. Fire Emblem games are already difficult enough to play as it is. Not only that, but having two separate games with unique perspectives on a war, and for that to culminate in a third storyline revealing the origins of the conflict, is a unique experience that few games offer. So unless you want to fork out hundreds of dollars, I would consider picking up Revelation now. -- Oisin Kuhnke
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies (3DS)
A great Phoenix Wright game mixes wit, mystery, and courtroom suspense together into an unforgettable legal thriller, and Dual Destinies is a prime example of this. While you can grab the game on mobile now, Dual Destinies is an eShop exclusive that plays best on the 3DS thanks to its tasteful use of three-dimensional graphics to enhance the experience. It's a Phoenix Wright game that features the ace attorney back in the spotlight after Apollo Justice had wrapped up his cases, impressively layered characters, and court cases that'll test your aptitude for solving mysteries. It’s all held together by a superb art direction and execution of 3D technology that few people will object to. -- Darryn Bonthuys
Some of the best 3DS games were a combination of enjoyable gameplay and rhythm, an idea that HarmoKnight captured with harmonic elegance. Another example of Pokemon studio Game Freak creating a fun and original IP--just look at Pocket Card Jockey or Tembo: The Badass Elephant for others--HarmoKnight's adventure is short, sweet, and has a fantastic tempo. It's all about listening and responding to the danger ahead of you, and with a soundtrack this catchy, you'll be eager for an encore once the end credits roll. -- Darryn Bonthuys
Pushmo and Crashmo (3DS)
Leave it to Advance Wars and Fire Emblem developer Intelligent Systems to come up with one of the best killer apps on 3DS, as Pushmo was one of the console's first digital-only productivity killers. The idea of rescuing kids from playgrounds constructed out of colorful blocks by shoving your way to the trapped toddler was genius design on the 3DS, amplifying the strengths of the handheld to deliver a unique puzzle experience with each level. There's nothing flashy about Pushmo, but the elegant simplicity lets the gameplay do all the talking and sell you on sinking time into hundreds of puzzles. A year later and Intelligent Design managed to one-up itself with Crashmo, a sequel that evolved the ideas of Pushmo shake up the formula to deliver a distinct experience. When it comes to downloadable 3DS games, Pushmo and Crashmo combine to form a knockout one-two punch. -- Darryn Bonthuys
Mario's Picross (3DS)
There are lots of Picross options on the 3DS and Wii U, and the included stylus in both makes them ideal platforms for nonogram puzzles. While you can't go wrong with most Picross games, many of them--like the fantastic Picross 3D--are still readily available in retail stores for a reasonable price. What's much more difficult to find is a classic like Mario's Picross. This port of the Game Boy original is part puzzler, part museum curio, letting you witness the birth of the Picross craze that has now lasted across multiple Nintendo platforms. Since it's officially from Nintendo, it has all the window dressing of a Mario game, including puzzles that unlock Nintendo-themed pictures. While it doesn't use a stylus like its contemporary counterparts, it's an interesting way to see how Picross began to gain mainstream popularity as a handheld mainstay. And it's only four bucks on 3DS, as opposed to around $40 for an original Game Boy cart on eBay, so it's worth picking up at this price while you can. -- Steve Watts
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