The Nintendo DS and 3DS handhelds were RPG powerhouses, delivering tons of immersive adventures to players worldwide. While the dual screens may have seemed gimmicky at first, they truly shined in the RPG genre. Having a separate screen for a map or inventory screen while being able to keep an eye on the actual game world was fantastic.
Furthermore, whether or not you were a “Nintendo kid,” the DS and 3DS had a long successful run and built a massive library of third-party titles. There is plenty of RPG gaming to do without ever touching a Zelda game (though why wouldn’t you want to?)
So let’s rank the 10 best RPGs for Nintendo DS and 3DS. Just note that you’ll need a 3DS or a 2DS to play the 3D titles. The original DS won’t be enough. If you’re emulating, then don’t worry about any of that, and just jump into the games!
Read More: The Best Nintendo 3DS Games of All Time
10. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (Nintendo 3DS)
Etrian Odyssey IV invites you to embark on a dungeon-crawling adventure as a guild of explorers mapping the uncharted Yggdrasil Labyrinth.
Your objective is to reach the mythical tree’s apex and uncover its secrets. The play combines first-person dungeon exploration and turn-based combat. It also has the unique feature of drawing your own map on the touchscreen.
Players appreciate this game for its difficulty. It’s captivating with its sense of exploration as you map out dungeons. It draws you into its world with deep character customization through different classes.
9. Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (Nintendo 3DS)
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a time-traveling RPG.
You’ll walk in the footsteps of Stocke, a soldier with the power to traverse alternate timelines. Your objective is to prevent a cataclysmic war by manipulating time and making critical decisions. The play works around turn-based combat and a grid-based timeline system. The narrative is rich with intricate branching paths.
What makes this game beloved are its engaging time-travel mechanics. Players love the strategic depth of its combat system. It’s memorable for the way it weaves a complex narrative that keeps players hooked until the end.
8. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (Nintendo 3DS)
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is the epitome of the action RPG genre, throwing you into a world filled with colossal beasts to hunt and conquer.
Your objective is to become a skilled hunter. As such, you’ll have to track and defeat massive monsters. The gameplay involves a lot of real-time combat. You’ll have to craft gear from defeated monsters. Furthering the fun are cooperative multiplayer hunts.
Players are drawn to this game for its satisfying combat mechanics. You’ll experience a big rush from the thrill of taking down gigantic creatures. The cooperative multiplayer experience adds a rewarding social element to the monster-hunting madness.
7. Shin Megami Tensei IV (Nintendo 3DS)
Shin Megami Tensei IV plunges you into a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
You transform into a samurai. But not just any samurai — one who must navigate the conflicts between angels and demons. Your objective is to uncover the mysteries behind the ongoing chaos. You’ll make decisions that shape the fate of the world. The play involves turn-based demon negotiation and fusion. There’s a branching narrative with multiple endings. You will be engaged in challenging battles against a variety of mythological creatures.
What makes this game rise above others is its mature and complex storyline. It pulls at your emotions with the moral choices that impact the narrative. It stands out with its addictive demon-collecting mechanics.
6. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (Nintendo DS)
Dragon Quest IX takes you on a grand quest.
You walk in the shoes of a Celestrian who has fallen to earth. You’ve lost your wings and memory. Your objective is to regain your wings by helping humans and thwarting a malevolent force threatening the world. The gameplay is traditional turn-based combat. You’ll explore a vast world with character customization as part of your toolset.
What players love about this game is its charming art style. Gamers also appreciate the depth of character customization with different classes. They especially love the cooperative multiplayer feature that lets friends join your party.
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a captivating action RPG.
You play as Link on a quest to rescue Princess Zelda and thwart the plans of the villainous Yuga. The play is a combo of exploration, puzzle-solving, and real-time combat. It all works from the top-down perspective of classic Zelda games.
What makes this game stand out is its innovative merging mechanic. This allows Link to turn into a 2D painting to traverse walls. Gamers appreciate the way it pays homage to the classic A Link to the Past. However, it introduces new elements that keep the adventure fresh.
4. Bravely Default (Nintendo 3DS)
Bravely Default is a throwback to classic turn-based RPGs with a modern twist.
You walk in the shoes of Tiz. Your objective is to save parallel worlds from impending doom by manipulating time and space. The gameplay is turn-based combat. It features a unique Brave and Default system. There are job classes for character customization. The narrative is filled with surprising twists.
Players are drawn to this game for its strategic depth. Its charming art style is reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy titles. Gamers love the way it pays homage to RPG traditions while introducing innovative mechanics.
3. Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
Fire Emblem: Awakening is a tactical RPG that thrusts players into a gripping tale of war and destiny.
You play as Chrom. Your objective is to defend the kingdom of Ylisse from a mysterious threat known as the Risen. The play is centered around turn-based battles on a grid, character recruitment, and development. The narrative explores themes of sacrifice and friendship.
What players appreciate about this game is its challenging tactical battles. They love the inclusion of the Casual mode for a more forgiving experience. This game revitalized interest in the Fire Emblem series.
2. Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver (Nintendo DS)
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are the definitive versions of the Johto region, and they remain fan favorites for good reason.
Your objective is to become a Pokemon Champion by capturing and training creatures. You’ll also battle Gym Leaders, and work toward thwarting the nefarious Team Rocket. The gameplay involves turn-based Pokemon battles. Plus, there’s the exploration of the Johto and Kanto regions. Best of all, there’s the joy of bonding with your Pokemon.
What makes these games beloved is the nostalgia of the Johto region, the addition of the PokeWalker accessory, and the sheer joy of seeing your Pokemon follow you in the game world.
Read More: The Best Nintendo DS Games of All Time
1. Chrono Trigger (Nintendo DS)
Chrono Trigger on the DS is a timeless classic that takes players on a journey through time.
As Crono, your objective is to prevent a world-ending catastrophe by navigating various eras. Along the way, you’ll meet memorable characters, as you work at unraveling a complex plot. The play is a mixture of turn-based combat, time-travel mechanics, and multiple endings based on your decisions.
What gamers love about this title is its innovative combat system. It’s legendary for the depth of its characters. It’s memorable for the way it blends an epic narrative with multiple paths and outcomes.