10 of the Best Ways to Spend $50 in the Nintendo 3DS eShop

Getting the biggest bang for your buck.

Earlier today, a friend of mine approached me with what I found to be an interesting but not uncommon conundrum. New to the world of Nintendo 3DS by way of the New Nintendo 3DS XL, he professed to be out of the loop where must-play games are concerned, specifically those from the Nintendo eShop.

With a long internet-less trip coming up in a week and about $50 to invest into this new venture, he noted that the Nintendo eShop itself was cumbersome when it came to finding good titles, and wanted to know what I had to recommend. After a month and a half of ownership, he’s already invested in some prime choices in the forms of Gunman Clive and its sequel (which I maintain to be the best values on the entire eShop if you like platformers), Mighty Switch Force (which I reviewed here) and its sequel, and one of the Phoenix Wright games.

So, what does that leave? Lots! However, there are a few restrictions to this list. First, there are no racing games (he prefers to race people in person) and no first person shooters– which is fine, as I rarely play those enough to offer a solid opinion on any existing ones, anyway (unless you count Steel Diver: Sub Wars). On that note, second is that I am by and large recommending games I’ve played myself and have personal experience with, so no hearsay here. Finally, no Virtual Console or retail titles, because I trust he has a decent idea of what’s good and what isn’t from those catalogs.

Starting off, we’ve got one he brought up and was curious about…

vvvvvv01VVVVVV by Nicalis – $7.99

With graphics inspired by the Commodore 64, VVVVVV is a very challenging, but very fun game. Though it looks like a regular platformer, the catch is that your character cannot jump to avoid the many spikes and obstacles which litter the space station he’s trapped in. However, what he can do is invert his personal gravity at any time he has his feet planted on the ground, allowing for ceiling-walking and some funky acrobatics. The game is all about trial and error; fortunately, with limitless lives and frequent checkpoints, you can try as many times as you need to get it right.

For my full review, click here.

gameplay_2aNightSky by Nicalis – $9.99

As long as we’re talking about games by Nicalis, here’s another I’ve rather enjoyed. I find NightSky to be a relaxing game, something you might play before going to bed for the night. You’re in control of a sphere, and you have to use your weight and momentum to advance from one section to the next. There are “no enemies, no bosses, and no violence” here: Just you and your destination, along with your desire to reach it. Despite that, it nonetheless manages to feel intelligently designed.

You can find my full review of it here.

3DS_DRWLastRanger_022013_Scrn07Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger by Nintendo – $10.99

One of my favorite new franchises to come out of Nintendo is Dillon’s Rolling Western, a mix of tower defense gameplay with some action-role playing game elements. The Last Ranger is the second game in the series, but I nonetheless recommend it as the starting point for anyone who is interested, as it pretty much features everything the first had and then some. The only reason to go back to the first– which is a great game in its own right, don’t get me wrong– is if you either desire more content after finishing the sequel, or you’re eager to follow the story the whole way through.

You can find my full review of the game here.

steamworld_2SteamWorld Dig by Image & Form – $8.99

This is kind of an odd inclusion on my list, as I’ve not actually played this game– the Nintendo 3DS version, that is. I have played the Wii U version, however, which is for all intents and purposes the same game. This Metroidvania-ish title takes you further and further underground as you use your tools to forge your own path in subterranean worlds, discovering secrets of a lost past. Better still, the worlds are randomly generated, adding to its replay value upon completion.

For my full review– you guessed it– click here.

retrocityrampageRetro City Rampage: DX by Vblank Entertainment – $9.99

I’m not a huge fan of the Grand Theft Auto style of sandbox crime spree gaming. Despite that, I found myself rather enjoying this NES-styled demake that was once known as “Grand Theftendo” in another life. You’re still a criminal in an open-world sandbox, but the world itself is constructed of numerous amusing and sometimes clever references to movies, television shows, and video games from the 80’s and 90’s. Plus, the characters and story are so wildly over the top that the whole package just works.

My full review can be found here.

zenpinball3dZen Pinball 3D by Zen Studios – $6.99

If you’re into pinball, or even just miss the days when every skating rink and pizza joint seemed to have a table, this is the game for you. The tables are well crafted, and enhanced by the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS enough to feel as close to playing the real thing as you can possibly get on a handheld device. Zen Studios must be doing something right, as they’ve released a console sequel and a long line of additional tables and versions.

In fact, the Nintendo 3DS also has a Star Wars version for $6.99, and there is a Marvel Comics version for $7.99, which also has a free demo. That said, I’ve only played the original, but since you can try it for yourself at no cost, it’s hard to go wrong.

For my review of the original, click here.

Pushmo2Pushmo by Nintendo – $6.99

There is something that’s just so pure about Pushmo, one of the best values in the Nintendo eShop. A puzzle platformer of sorts, you’re basically charged with sliding out pieces of giant, 3D pixel art in such a way that you can make it to the top to rescue the child that’s trapped there. It’s low-pressure, and you can even skip a puzzle and come back to it later if that’s what suits you. And should you tire of the 200 puzzles that are included in the base game, you can even create and share your own through QR codes.

A sequel is also available for the Nintendo 3DS in Crashmo, but that one’s a little more complex, so it’s probably better to start off with the original.

My full review of Pushmo can be found here.

WiiU_Shovel_Knight_gameplay_2Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games – $14.99

For those who grew up in the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Shovel Knight is like a return to that period in gaming. I dare even say that had development for the platform not ceased in the early 90s, this title feels like what would have eventually been made had developers just kept going. It mixes elements cherry-picked from all manner of classic titles, from Mega Man to DuckTales to Super Mario Bros. 3 to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and more, in a way which feels perhaps less derivative and more evolutionary.

More than just a simple game which tries to cash in on the retro-style craze, this game truly has that “it” factor that makes it feel genuine. It’s cliché, but playing Shovel Knight really did make me feel like a kid again, playing a brand-new NES game for the first time.

My full review for this one belongs to Nintendo Force, but I will share that I gave it a 9.5 out of 10. This game succeeds in what it set out to do, and then some.

azurestrikergunvolt001Azure Striker Gunvolt by Inti Creates – $14.99

Capcom may have seemingly given up on the Blue Bomber, but that hasn’t stopped developer Inti Creates from making more Mega Man games. At least, that’s what a first impression will tell you, as Azure Striker Gunvolt does bear similarities to the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX developers’ previous work. But while there is a surface resemblance to be noted, Gunvolt differs more as you dig beneath the surface, bringing its own style and substance to bear as you play. One thing is for certain, though: Inti’s hunger for providing a challenging experience is definitely the same as it ever was, at least when you square off against one of the uniquely-powered bosses.

Like Shovel Knight, my full review belongs to Nintendo Force. However, in addition to my 8.5 rating, I can direct you to James’ review on The Mega Man Network, where he also touches on the last item on my list…

MightyGunvolt001Mighty Gunvolt by Inti Creates – $3.99

Originally a freebie with the purchase of Azure Striker Gunvolt, Inti Creates has gone on to release this title on its own in the Nintendo eShop, complete with some downloadable content. Whereas their Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX experience was apparent in Azure Striker Gunvolt, so too is their experience developing Mega Man 9K and Mega Man 10 apparent in this very similar-looking retro-styled title. While much simpler to learn than Azure Striker, Mighty Gunvolt features three playable protagonists– Gunvolt, Ekoro from the Japan-exclusive Gal Gun, and Beck from the upcoming Mighty No. 9— each with their own weapons and abilities, like you do.

So those are the top ten Nintendo 3DS eShop releases I can best recommend from personal experience– not counting Virtual Console or retail releases, of course. That said, there’s still the matter of the $50 budget to deal with, of course. So to fit within that limitation, my picks would be:

  • Shovel Knight – $14.99
  • SteamWorld Dig – $8.99
  • Pushmo – $6.99
  • NightSky – $9.99
  • VVVVVV – $7.99

Strictly speaking, that comes out to $48.95 (in U.S. dollars, as per the Nintendo website), leaving $1.05 to spare. It provides a nice bit of variety, and lots of value for your gaming dollar. Of course, if you’re not so strict about adhering to the $50 limit and are willing to go over a little, then you could easily slot something else into the spot I placed VVVVVV in.

But with these ten games, it’s really hard to go wrong.

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About the author

David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.