Top Five 3DS Games of 2011

Poor unloved 3DS. It's been a rough year for you, with your rudely exclusive Ambassador's program, limited releases, and controversial add-on nub. You could use a little positive press to balance out all the negative. Gamers who are desperate for another title to justify buying Nintendo's troubled handheld should look no further than the five below. These are some of the best games from the 3DS's first year on the market.

5. Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

super street fighter iv 3d

In general, I'm not a proponent of fighting games on handhelds. What are the chances, especially in today's market when almost no one owns a 3DS and few people have or use a PSP, that you'll be able to play against anyone other than the computer? And for most people, the joy of fighting games lies in beating the pants off their friends, not outsmarting AI.

Still, this 3D Edition of a Street Fighter game is perhaps as good as one can hope, and the touchscreen interface brings a fresh angle to the long-running series—and that's an invaluable advantage in itself.

4. Mario Kart 7

Mario Kart 7 3DS

Complaints practically came packaged with the latest version of Mario Kart. Some people were bored by the familiar design and seemingly recycled tracks, even with the addition of gliders and the return of stunts from Mario Kart Wii. To make matters worse, the same argument that pertains to handheld fighting games like Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition can theoretically be applied to handheld racing games, too.

But it's hard to dismiss what is arguably the most played and favored kart racer, especially when good ones are now so hard to find. If anything, Nintendo deserves support for keeping the otherwise largely abandoned genre alive. Not everyone wants to race around in cars as expensive as their house.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

ocarina of time 3d

I'm always reluctant to give re-releases precedence over new titles: Whether or not these games are classic ports or noteworthy updates, a game should be honored for being an achievement in its time period—not flaunted around decades later when we should be focusing on the games of here and now. Ironically, Ocarina of Time bottles both ideas all in one game, teaching players that to advance in the future, sometimes you have to seek answers in the past.

Even if you're not a fan of Zelda or a believer that the game has aged nearly as well as people think it has, Ocarina of Time will undoubtedly remain one of the most revered games even produced. The 3DS version offers excellent assistance in making the original game accessible to this and subsequent generations. With smoother graphics and more functional controls, the game leaps a few old hurdles often found in the Nintendo 64 era of games—and it's the right kind of improvement as far as re-releases are concerned.

2. Pushmo

pushmo 3ds

As a puzzle-platformer, Pushmo involves, well, pushing and pulling blocks to clear a path to the finish. Much like Catherine, players can rewind to undo wasteful moves (unlike Catherine, you won't have to rearrange and ascend blocks to outrun angry babies) and will complete each of the 250+ challenges by flipping switches, traveling through pipes, and hopping around imaginative stages shaped like a dinosaur or giant pixel representation of Link. Your goal? Rescue small children. How adorable is that?

You can find this one in the Nintendo eShop.

1. Super Mario 3D Land

super mario 3d land

Super Mario 3D Land is one of Nintendo's finer achievements of the year. Unlike Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 3D, 3D Land isn't an spruced up re-release—and it isn't like Mario Kart 7, either, the company's latest effort at fine-tuning the same successful kart racing game they've had for years. Super Mario 3D Land is a game all its own that makes smart use of the 3D capability and revolutionizes the basics of both 2D and 3D Marios of old. As a bonus, players can explore sixteen worlds instead of the standard eight, proof enough that Nintendo is honoring the greatest facets of Mario's past (themed worlds, flagpoles, the Tanooki suit) while allowing him to climb higher still.

If you need more convincing, check out our five reasons to be excited about the game.