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Feature Article

The 5 Best 3DS Games Of 2017

Still kicking.

Despite the release of Nintendo Switch, this year still gave us plenty of top-notch 3DS games. The popular handheld maintained a strong lineup this year that consisted of new and exciting entries from iconic series and remakes and reissues of existing popular games. With the year about to come to a close, we've narrowed down a list of 2017's five best 3DS games that you need to add to your collection. In no particular order, here's our Best of 3DS from 2017.

Metroid: Samus Returns

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It would certainly be an understatement to say expectations were high for Metroid: Samus Returns. It had been seven years since the last proper game in the series, Metroid: Other M, launched for Wii, and its story and portrayal of Samus were so divisive that it led to a temporary hiatus for the franchise. Just as worryingly to many fans was the news that Samus Returns was being developed by MercurySteam, the studio behind the equally divisive Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series.

Fortunately, any concerns these factors may have raised were quickly dispelled once the game was released. From the moment Samus touches down on the surface of planet SR388, it's clear that Samus Returns is a triumphant comeback for the beloved series. Like Metroid: Zero Mission before it, Samus Returns isn't an entirely new game but a remake of a previous title, in this case Metroid's sophomore installment, Return of Samus. But while the core remains the same as the original, Samus Returns builds on it smartly with a wealth of new areas, power-ups, enemies, and more, making it a unique adventure that also points the way forward for the series.

While exploring the depths of SR388 and acquiring new tools are as satisfying as ever in Samus Returns, the best aspects of the game are the new elements it introduces, particularly the Aeion abilities. These grant Samus new powers, such as the ability to slow down time or scan the environment for invisible walls, which are utilized cleverly through the game's level design. Just as notable is the new melee counter, which makes combat more satisfying and important than before. The result is not just the best 3DS game of the year, but one of the finest to grace Nintendo's dual-screen handheld to date.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

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Remakes were a recurring theme on 3DS in 2017. Many of the handheld's biggest releases this past year were reworkings of older titles, but few were as exceptional as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Despite being based on one of the series' earliest games, the Japan-exclusive Fire Emblem Gaiden, Echoes feels remarkably refreshing thanks to its beautiful visuals, memorable soundtrack, and some compelling new gameplay mechanics.

As with another big 3DS remake this year, Metroid: Samus Returns, Fire Emblem Echoes isn't a straightforward update of the original game, but a complete reimagining of it--though it retains many of the elements that made the original Gaiden unique. Echoes features dual protagonists, Alm and Celica, who each have their own army and parallel storylines, which players can freely switch between at almost any point in the adventure. Similarly, along with the usual turn-based battlefields, the game features a handful of explorable dungeons, which help break up the gameplay and give players a chance to hunt for rare loot.

Echoes also upends some of the series' oldest conventions, namely the weapon triangle, forcing even Fire Emblem veterans to rethink the way they approach battles. But its biggest addition is a new feature called Mila's Turnwheel. This item allows you to effectively rewind a battle a limited number of times to undo a potentially disastrous move, making the series even more accessible than before without diluting any of its appeal or challenge.

Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth

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Atlus' RPG series, Etrian Odyssey, enjoyed a 10-year anniversary this year along with a new entry. With Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth, the tradition of first-person dungeon crawling is intact with a few new gameplay elements and quality-of-life improvements. This game can be rather difficult, but it provides a unique RPG experience you can't get elsewhere.

Beyond the Myth sets you up in the fantastical Arcania, where the Yggdrasil tree's branches grow all the way up to the heavens. This is where exploration happens; the labyrinths within the tree are like mazes made up of several square blocks on a map that you have to draw yourself. In proper Etrian Odyssey fashion, you have to keep track of points of interest and passageways on the bottom 3DS screen, otherwise you'll be lost.

One of the things that makes the series special is its turn-based combat system where commands for each party member are decided upon before anything happens within that turn. Once every command is set, the turn unfolds in order of character agility. It forces you to think ahead and sharpen your planning skills when facing new enemies. Don't be surprised when an enemy knocks down an ally before they get their move in. With this entry, new races and classes add another layer of depth to combat and character development. You'll be focused on hyper-specializing and min-maxing party members since effectiveness in battle is key to getting through this challenging game.

Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth isn't easy, but it's rewarding to execute perfectly planned turns in the face of powerful enemies as you explore the games gigantic, beautiful dungeons.

Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions

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Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga could have been ported from the Game Boy Advance to the 3DS and nobody would have complained. It's a game that still looks, plays, and sounds great today. Yet, when Nintendo decided to release the game on 3DS, it saw fit to go the extra mile and revamp it in small ways from top to bottom. Thankfully, the game's original charm remains intact; it's just been improved in the process.

Graphics are the most obvious place to look for upgrades, and people familiar with the original game will notice enhanced animations and redrawn sprites, which add a dash of new personality to the already energetic game. Likewise, the soundtrack has been expanded, with tracks running a bit longer thanks to new material from legendary composer Yoko Shimomura.

Nintendo also saw fit to add a new move in combat, adopting a mechanic from more recent games in the Mario and Luigi RPG series. Traditionally, you could opt to press a button right at the moment of impact to add a little extra damage to your attacks, but you now also have the option of pressing X before an enemy hits you to help soften the blow and save a few HP. It's a small change on paper, but one that makes the turn-based combat feel more active than before. And when you add all of these tweaks and improvements up, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is the best it's ever been--another win for 3DS.

Pokemon Ultra Sun And Moon

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The latest Pokemon titles, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, may not technically be new games, but they stand as two of the best releases for 3DS this year thanks to their lengthy adventure, charming cast, and loads of new content. Like last year's Sun and Moon versions, the pair are set in the tropical Alola region, and while their story follows the same general narrative beats as their predecessors, it has been expanded with many new narrative threads and characters, which puts a new perspective on the adventure.

More importantly, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon fix up some of the lingering issues from the original Sun and Moon versions, namely their pacing. That has been tightened up, making the opening portions of the game much brisker and easier to get into. Developer Game Freak has also introduced a variety of new areas to explore, Pokemon to capture, and features to play around with, such as the surprisingly addictive Mantine Surf mini-game, making the pair two of the most robust entries in the series.

But what fans will like best about Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are all the callbacks they make to the series' history, particularly Team Rainbow Rocket. Being able to face Giovanni and all the other leaders from past villainous teams again is a wonderful addition that reinforces how far the franchise has come in the past 20 years. Not only are Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon the definitive versions of the seventh generation titles, they're a fitting capstone for the Pokemon series' tenure on 3DS.

GameSpot will be unveiling its picks for the best games of the year throughout all of December. Check out our Best of 2017 hub for even more.

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