# An In-Depth Showcase of the Top Nintendo 3DS Platformers
Gamers fondly remember when the glasses-free stereoscopic 3D capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS awoke new possibilities in 2011 for dynamic side-scrollers and action-platformers. While plenty arrived as quick cash-ins meeting launch quotas, the handheld‘s lifespan brought masterpieces pushing creative bounds for their legendary mascots alongside new icons carved from daring indie studios.

This article will countdown the seven definitive 3DS platformers that either lifted franchises to new heights through re-invention or sheer craftsmanship – while celebrating nostalgia for retro classics that laid sturdy genre foundations built upon by visionaries understanding Nintendo‘s strengths better than Nintendo themselves at times!

You‘ll discover what engrained these instant classics into the 3DS library through their stories, controls, visual flare and overwhelmingly positive critical reception. Whether leaping between gravity-flipping dimensions as VVVVVV‘s Captain Viridian, hoarding gleaming gems across Rolo‘s island as Shovel Knight or stomping the nefarious Tiki Tak Tribe into submission through Donkey Kong Country Returns, let your inner child‘s imagination run wild remembering why Mario‘s first handheld outing in 3D stands tall alongside his greatest adventures.

#7 Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure – Toys Come To Life

Released: October 2011
Price: $29.99
Metacritic: 83%
Total Units Sold: Over 30 million across all Skylanders games

Part of Activision’s revolutionary Skylanders "toys-to-life” franchise converging real-world collectible figures with virtual counterparts able to transfer between games retaining all accrued experience and upgrades, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures marked the poor purple dragon’s forced reset after reigning during previous generations.

Rather than confronting regular antagonist Kaos, the reset reimagines Spyro guarding the Radiant Isles from a skeleton sorcerer named Hektore. Its storyline, while secondary to the blissful gameplay, fuels the adventure across four elemental zones and nasty Nefarious Cloudcracker Prison each housing around 6-8 conventional levels bookended by bombastic boss encounters.

Swapping Skylanders alters players’ movesets during 2.5D exploration mixing platforming and combat requiring mastery of every character‘s mobility limits. Levels hide secret mini-games and puzzle rooms providing replayability for completionists. While on the shorter side, Spyro‘s Adventure rewards replaying stages with distinct Skylanders by basing end-level gem rewards on speed and damage benchmarks.

Critics praised how the NFC (near-field communication) reader integrated beautifully with spy toys. Characters leveled up evenly so no Skylander felt wea upopularity. Most reviews remarked on its family-friendly charms and simple but increasingly strategic combat demanding mastery of movement capabilities for each Swap Force figurine.

TitleRelease DatePriceMetacriticTotal Units Sold
Skylanders Spyro’s AdventureOct 2011$29.9983%30+ million (Series)

If not the deepest adventure, Skylanders endures through Toys for Bob‘s clever gimmick understanding children‘s love unleashing imaginative power fantasies collected on bookshelves. Its breezy platforming played second fiddle to the joy of transplanting leveled-up characters into new games or friends‘ save files – Sony and Microsoft took notice for their next-gen consoles after Skylanders commercial success!

#6 Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse – Genie Without A Bottle

Released: October 2014
Price: $19.99
Metacritic: 82%
Total Units Sold: Over 1 million (Series)

After losing her magical genie powers, spunky half-genie heroine Shantae struggles adjusting living as an ordinary village guardian. Things go awry quickly when she notices her old nemesis Risky Boots attacking with weapons supplied by resurrected Pirate Master! Forced into an uneasy alliance with Risky against a common enemy, Shantae must scour Sequin Land to crush evil by gaining new Pirate Gear abilities replacing her familiar hair whip and magical transformations.

Through 22 expansive stages, players alternate between wreaking havoc with Risky’s overpowered pirate weapons and using Shantae’s slick hair maneuvers to access secure locations. Your quest is enriched by Sparky, a pet pygmy battle elephant aiding Shantae on her quest. Secret collectibles unlock hero modes encouraging replays to beat personal speed run times or self-imposed challenges.

WayForward Technologies returned the series back to its Metroidvania roots after previous installment Shantae: Half-Genie Her dove into a fully interconnected world. Their understanding ensuring any character upgrade fed logically into the next flashy attack or opened new paths for backtracking cemented Shantae’s revered status among indies. Destructoid praised its demanding level design not shying from difficulty spikes. Brain-teasing layouts avoid frustration through checkpoints and Sparky’s optional navigation hints.

TitleRelease DatePriceMetacriticTotal Units Sold
Shantae and the Pirate’s CurseOct 2014$19.9982%1+ million (Series)

Shantae’s fluid animations and varied level themes overflowing with oddities like an entire zombie-filled desert displays incredible effort by Matt Bozon’s team. It modernizes the series through a balanced risk-reward system making every hairy encounter potentially fatal but conquerable through mastery of Shantae’s abilities. Even minus her iconic magic, WayForward proves genies adapt when worlds collide unleashing greater evils!

#5 VVVVVV – Flipping Out In Pocket Dimensions

Released: November 2012
Price: $7.99
Metacritic Score: 83%
Total Units Sold: Over 2 million

After separating from his crew when a spaceship teleporter malfunctions, the appropriately-named Captain Viridian suddenly becomes trapped alone in the shockingly-named alternate dimension known as VVVVVV. Quickly discovering local monsters programmed behaving uniquely hostile towards outsiders, survival depends mastering ability to manipulate personal gravity flipping between walking on surfaces or ceilings.

With no actual jump button for vertical movement, Viridian’s transcendental physics defiance fuels the entirety of VVVVVV open-world traversal and puzzles. Sparse imagery and environments channels 1980s era atmosphere with oddly named rooms hiding essential trinkets. Abstract modern chiptune melodies pumping adrenaline underscore the oppressive isolation. Players must discover teleport gates warping across the otherwise sprawling, interconnected dimension of entirely promises severe punishment for a single misstep.

Kotaku hailed VVVVVV as “one of the most soulful indie games”. IGN infamously declared its uncompromising demands the 12th toughest game ever. Level layouts teach one simple lesson – prepare to die often and quickly. With ample checkpoints saving progress, developer Terry Cavanagh maximizes replayability through perfectly placed gaps seemingly begging foolish attempts before crushing hopes without hesitation. Only exercising extreme patience pays dividends earning additional Crewmate power-ups granting abilities that better the odds of survival!

TitleRelease DatePriceMetacriticTotal Units Sold
VVVVVVNov 2012$7.9984%2+ million

For devoted retro enthusiasts orathode-chasing thrill seekers, VVVVVV distills tense platforming essentials down to reflex challenges dependent on instinctively inverting gravity’s fundamental forces when least expected. 20 deviously designed levels will push mental fortitude and controller dexterity beyond any perceived limits in this timeless tribulation!

#4 Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D – Barrels, Bananas and Blast Processing!

Released: May 2013
Price: $34.99
Metacritic: 83%
Total Units Sold: Over 1 Million

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D brought Retro Studios 2010 Wii revival smash to Nintendo’s newest stereoscopic handheld with an enhanced visual polish. After the Tiki Tak Tribe invades Donkey Kong Island hypnotizing wildlife stealing bananas, the tie-wearing titan and his nephew Diddy Kong unleash primal rage reclaiming 400 coveted gold collectibles amidst layers of lush jungle canopies.

Players leap between rickety ruins, erupting volcanoes and beaches with graceful grace smashing mini Tiki bosses.Levels incorporate mine cart and rocket barrel transportation segments platforming perfection. Signature collectibles return hidden deviously out of sight rewarding diligence mastery. Two-player local co-op lets a second person control Diddy for shared hijinks hurling each other into enemies and secrets uncovered through teamwork.

While the 3D remake omits multiplayer campaign option, it introduces eight new stages taking advantage of added depth perception from handheld’s parallax barrier wizardry. Nintendo also remapped ground-pounding onto its own intuitive button improving responsiveness. Critics applauded keeping Kong’s signature style intact while enhancing audiovisuals. GameTrailers awarded DKCR 3DS Best Retro Design 2014.

TitleRelease DatePriceMetacriticTotal Units Sold
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3DMay 2013$34.9983%1+ million

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D reignited the inner child of nineties gamers weaned on Rare‘s SNES trilogy initiating today’s collectathon platformer doctrine. Retro Studios wisely built upon foundations cementing its beloved brutish leading gorilla as an icon while introducing threatening Tiki rivals now welcomed in his expanding jungle kingdom!

#3 Super Mario 3D Land – Reinvigorating Reinvention in the Third Dimension

Release Date: November 2011
Price: $39.99
Metacritic Score: 90%
Total Units Sold: 14 million

The acclaimed console-quality debut 3D Mario platformer bundled with Nintendo 3DS systems following 2011’s major price cut renewed dwindling launch window interest through imaginative linear stage concepts propelling portly Italian plumbers towards flags with as much finesse governing navigation whether stepping sideways or peering downyawning abysses.

Whimsically vibrant backdrops displayed the new autostereoscopic display’s prowess incomplements Mario’s signature jump-heavy acrobatics. Tight controls introduced subtle motion inputs letting players gently tilt handheld guiding Mario atop tilting propeller blocks or rope swings. Levels constantly introduce fresh gameplay concepts keeping challenges varied until climaxing against Bowser’s castle assault filled with booby traps.

Power-ups return expected items alongside new Boomerang Flower and Propeller accessories lifting environmental interactivity. Star Medals unlock Mario’s dinosaur brother saving secret Special Worlds packing remixed stages with amplified difficulty. Critics adored 3D Land embracing hallmark qualities pushing improved hardware letting Nintendo’s mascot shine brighter than ever against his first 3D backdrops. Famitsu awarded a nearly perfect 39/40 praising its refined platforming prowess considered a must-own among 3DS’s best exclusives.

TitleRelease DatePriceMetacriticTotal Units Sold
Super Mario 3D LandNov 2011$39.9990%14+ million

Super Mario 3D Land rejuvenated Mario‘s gameplay innovation slump exiting the Wii era in spectacular fashion matching generations raised on NES and SNES classics. Nintendo EAD Tokyo‘s clever gauntlet of collectathon rich stages constantly surprises while maximizing 3D depth. Five years later, the Super Mario Run mobile sensation embraced its design philosophies cementing iconic stages like World 1-1 into legend for another 25 years!

#2 Shovel Knight – Indie Darling Digs for Retro Gold

Release Date: June 2014
Price: $14.99
Metacritic: 90%
Total Units Sold: Over 5 million

Shovel Knight became an overnight indie sensation when the Kickstarted love letter to 8-bit platformers launched in 2014 after repeatedly smashing crowdfunding records. Players guide the eponymous hero wielding his signature gardening tool in hopes of defeating evil sorceress shielding tower reaches. Paired with an equally adorable moveset bouncing on enemies, slashing away projectiles and digging up delicious foreboding secrets, it captured gaming zeitgeist fawning for basic NES era hop-and-bop done right unlike misguided contemporaries.

Stages introduce elements challenging dexterity such as pixel-perfect jumping between instant death spikes lining checkerboard battlefields against menacing knight bosses with personalized second phases preventing repetitive grind tainting cartoonishly cute veneer. Fair checkpoints prevent punishing drawbacks when risk-reward exploration for collectible curios backfires. Gorgeous chiptune composed by Jake "Virt" Kaufman accompanies the beautifully-animated fantasy adventure splicing Capcom’s “NES Greatest Hits”.

Critics universally praised how Shovel Knight distilled retro platformers through a modern lens with meticulously calibrated difficulty finely tuned over numerous fan feedback beta versions. Its masterful 8-bit aesthetic and precise gameplay made instant devotees. Winning several Game of The Year awards in 2014, Giant Bomb proclaimed Shovel Knight “platformed to perfection”.

TitleRelease DatePriceMetacriticTotal Units Sold
Shovel KnightJune 2014$14.9990%5+ million

Blending DuckTales pogo jumps and Mega Man carefully crafted boss order, Shovel Knight‘s bespoke NES-style graphics and pixel-perfect controls made oldheads reminisce about their first Mario adventures defeating Koopalings. Any gamer needs this instant classic in their collection!

#1 Cave Story – The Godfather of Indie Platformers Arrives At Last

Release Date: October 2012
Price: $9.99
Metacritic: 93%
Total Units Sold: Over 3 million

Daisuke Amaya spent over five years crafting Cave Story‘s brilliance alone through blood, sweat and tears. His freeware magnum opus gems eventually reached Nintendo handhelds letting a wider audience experience its poetic triumph coalescing retro sensibilities coveted during subsequent indie booms.

In Cave Story, players adopt amnesiac protagonist Quote exploring naturalistic caves and technorganic bases blasting enemies with upgradable firearms searching for purpose while uncovering touching narratives about star-crossed village residents he encounters frequently. Its profound Metroidvania mechanics interconnected regions filled with initially inaccessible areas until collecting key weapon upgrades smash barriers. Players retrace steps wielding new powers meeting colorful characters revealing poignant plot points.

Cave Story mastered dread ambiance through music dynamically shifting encountering threats working in service enriching its isolation. Critics applauded Amaya, known as “Pixel”, successfully channeling quintessential Nintendo magic worlds crafting an emotionally resonate adventure destined influencing subsequent indie darlings like Shovel Knight. hailed it among Metroid’s elite company never wasting playtime on filler quests like modern AAA folly.

TitleRelease DatePriceMetacriticTotal Units Sold
Cave StoryOct 2012$9.9993%3+ million

Cave Story‘s profound Metroidvania foundation catalyzed the entire indie gaming revolution still felt today. Its meticulously polished game design encapsulating the entire NES era‘s memorable moments woven into an unforgettable adventure ripe for revisiting countless times makes this an essential classic!

The 3DS houses platforming excellence from Nintendo mascots at their inventive best to daring indies reviving genres once thought lost. We witnessed legendary mascots reborn through re-imagined level concepts and new strategic intricacies in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D and Super Mario 3D Land while scrappy Shovel Knight and Cave Story etched icons rivaling established household names through sheer indie passion.

Challenging grapes like VVVVVV tested veteran‘s reflexes to the brink mastering altered physics for simply moving about exploring curiously named caverns. Charismatic Shantae shed her magical genie past for pirate prestige teaming with longtime nemesis Risky Boots preventing a cataclysmic evil resurrection. And kindly dragons like Spyro harnessed real-world toy integration rarely seen before or since to create family-friendly adventuring eager fans still adore today.

The 3DS platforming library rewards all gamers whether leaping between goals with casual joy discovering every Nintendo mascot‘s new tricks or mercilessly sharpening thumbs against unrelenting indie gauntlets filled with grueling frame-perfect leaps of faith chasing speedrunner glory.

We witnessed many ambitions never dared on DS predecessors or even contemporary rivals. What treasured memories emerged from your favorite Nintendo 3DS platformers over the years since 2011‘s breakthrough release? Let the comment sections know your top choices amongst our seven selected smash hits!

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