10 Japanese 3DS Games Worth Importing

Now that the RegionThree exploit makes region-free 3DS gaming a reality*, you may be wondering how you should utilize this newfound power. Well, what better way than to import some cool Japan-exclusive 3DS games? Keeping import friendliness in mind for those who know little to no Japanese, I’ve compiled a list of 10 great Japanese 3DS games worth checking out!

*Before reading on, head over to the full news post to learn how to use the RegionThree exploit on your 3DS and whether your system is compatible. While this isn’t a complete region-free gaming solution, it’s a great way to try out a few Japanese games before you decide to commit to importing a whole system! Note: RegionThree no longer works, but there are other exploits available for playing region free games on 3DS.

1. Taiko no Tatsujin: Don to Katsu no Jikuu Daibouken – It’s hard to go wrong with a Taiko no Tatsujin game. If you like rhythm games, Japanese music, and cute characters, any titles in the series are sure to please. The song list for this one includes “Mottai Night Land” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the iconic opening theme from the Attack on Titan anime, a number of famous Vocaloid songs such as “Senbonzakura,” a Monster Hunter 4 medley, and much more! While it’s the latest in the 3DS Taiko no Tatsujin games, its predecessor, Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb, is also worth checking out and is generally cheaper. [Japanese level: Easy]

Sega CD Archives Japanese Box Art

2. SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives – While the 3DS ports of classic SEGA titles are available for individual purchase digitally outside of Japan, you can’t deny that this boxed release, featuring art by none other than Ken Sugimori of Pokémon fame, is something to be jealous about. Since the games included, 3D Space Harrier, 3D Fantasy Zone, 3D OutRun, 3D Streets of Rage, 3D Shinobi II3D Ecco the Dolphin, and bonus Master System titles Outrun 3D and Streets of Rage 3D, are all classics, it’s likely you already know how to play them, making it a relatively easy compilation to import. [Japanese Level: Easy]

Photo by my pal The Gay Gamer, who also has a great writeup on the game!

3. Zoo Keeper 3D – Aside from Zoo Keeper‘s adorable art style, what’s the reason to pick up this game over any of the previous iterations? Well, as always, it’s a great match three game, but this time it adds new modes and graphical updates that keep the game fun and fresh. And would you believe this 3DS game even comes with a manual?! It’s a darn shame that it was never localized, but thanks to RegionThree, you can now play it anyway! [Japanese Level: Easy] 
4. Oresama Kingdom: Ikemen Kareshi o Getto Shiyo! Moe Kyun School Days – Yes, that’s this game’s complete title, and yes, I really am recommending it on this list. There aren’t very many dating sim-type games on the 3DS, but this game adaptation of a shojo manga series is both cute and uses relatively easy Japanese, making it great for learners. Even if you can’t speak a lick of Japanese, swooning over cute anime boys transcends language boundaries. And you can’t tell from the above image, but the cover sparkles[Japanese Level: Easy/Medium] 

5. Inazuma Eleven Go: Galaxy Big Bang and Supernova – For those looking for a relatively entry-level JRPG, the Inazuma Eleven series is a great place to start. The first game is available on the 3DS eShop in North America, so you can always try it out to get the gist of the games before importing, but keep in mind that it was originally developed for the DS, whereas Go: Galaxy is exclusive to the 3DS. Big Bang and Supernova have minor differences, similar to Pokémon games, so just pick the one with the characters that appeal to you most. Both games are available for less than $8 each, so either would be a great place to start your Japanese 3DS import collection! [Japanese Level: Medium]

6. Girls RPG: Cinderellife – This game, while not generally regarded as being particularly good, is the kind of title that just begs to be experienced. Developed by Level-5 of Yokai Watch and Professor Layton fame, this cute title is a hostess simulator, meaning you spend your time dressing up your avatar and doting on male customers while making conversation and pouring expensive drinks. Hostess clubs, while not as seedy as some westerners may imagine, are not exactly kid-friendly venues, making it particularly strange that Level-5 aimed this title at young girls. Really, it needs to be played to be believed. [Japanese Level: Medium]

7. Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3: Daikaizoku to Shippodan Dragon Quest has been hit really hard in recent years on the localization front. There are a whopping five Dragon Quest titles for the 3DS that have not come out in English, with at least one more on the way. For the purpose of this post, however, I’m going to recommend the most recent Slime Mori Mori title, which is the most accessible title available on the 3DS for those who have limited Japanese knowledge. Unlike the last game, which was the only title in the series to get an English release, this time Slime protagonist Rocket is in charge of his very own ship, which he sails around, battling enemies. Otherwise, gameplay is very similar to Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime for the DS, so if you have experience with that, you’ll have no trouble getting the hang of this one. [Japanese Level: Medium]

8. Pretty Rhythm: My*Deco Rainbow Wedding – If there’s one genre of games that has found a home on the 3DS in Japan, it’s sparkly dress-up titles with rhythm game elements. Pretty Rhythm and Aikatsu!, both extremely popular series for young girls in Japan, have a number of titles available on the 3DS, but I’m recommending this one because it’s generally on the cheaper side. For all its silliness, I had good fun with the Japanese eShop demo, so if you like light rhythm games mixed with fashion and cute mascot characters, this one might be worth picking up.  [Japanese Level: Medium]

9. Maple Story: Unmei no Shojo – Fans of the Korean MMORPG Maple Story will unfortunately most likely never get to see the second portable iteration in English, so if 2D side-scrolling RPGs are up your alley, this game should be on your list. While it is an RPG, making it difficult to recommend to players without at least a little Japanese knowledge, it may be possible to power through the action-based combat if you have previous Maple Story experience and a little tenacity. [Japanese Level: Medium/Hard]


10. Dragon Quest VII: Eden no Senshitachi – Did you really think I could write an article about import 3DS games without including Dragon Quest VII? While I almost didn’t want to include two Dragon Quest games, it’s clear that this is one of the most-requested 3DS games for an English localization, and sadly, based on Square-Enix’s response so far, it’s very unlikely to happen. [Update: An English version is now available] If you’re a Dragon Quest fan you may have already played the original Dragon Quest VII, but for those who haven’t, I’d suggest a higher level of Japanese proficiency before attempting to tackle an RPG like this. The game does have furigana, though, so it may be a good pick if you’re looking to try your first RPG in Japanese. [Japanese Level: Hard]

Well there you have it, 10 great Japanese 3DS games worth importing! There are definitely many more titles out there, but hopefully this list helps you start your importing journey.

Note: All games on this list are 3DS-exclusive titles that have already been released and have no announced or anticipated plans to be released in English in the future. For the purpose of this post, I’ve decided not to include titles that can be bought on platforms that are already region free, or haven’t been released yet. Using the RegionThree exploit disables online play, so I have not included games with a heavy online component or titles that rely significantly on access to DLC (such as Daigasso! Band Brothers P).

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About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.

  • finchiekins

    I always forget about Girls RPG! It’s an extreme example of a “Who was their audience?” games, but maybe it’s just that different in Japan that it’s kind of okay? I think they had Lupin and other anime characters in it! What a strange concept in any case and a game i’d really like to play.

    Youkai Watch has a seemingly imminent US franchise release, but i really wonder how much of that will survive intact, with that dog cross drunken middle-aged man youkai and youkai that make your parents fight, among others. I’m determined to play through the jp version, especially since it has the furigana that’ll make it so much easier to figure out the kanji.

    😀 I ordered Pretty Wedding through your link since it was so inexpensive! Rhythm + Dress-up means it’ll probably be right up my alley!

  • RetroKingSimon

    Well, they certainly all have lovely cover art 🙂 I especially like any artwork featuring those funny drum things and blue water drip things 😉 I am also highly intrigued by the collection of 3D Sega games. Are they normal conversions? Also, Zoo Keeper is awesome 😐

  • apricotsushi

    Yeah, Girls RPG does have anime characters in it, like Lupin and Kaiji! I’m not 100% sure if they’re DLC or not though, so I didn’t want to include that as a selling point in case people using the RegionFree exploit can’t access that content >_< I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy for myself, though!

    Youkai Watch is definitely a great import pick, and I would’ve included it if it weren’t for the fact that it seems to be getting an English release. I have no idea how they’ll localize some of that stuff, haha

    And thanks! I actually JUST ordered a copy of Pretty Rhythm too before posting, as I didn’t know it was so cheap right now!

  • apricotsushi

    Japanese box art is always great, isn’t it? The SEGA collection are the 3D versions of the games that have been released individually on the eShop in North America/Europe. Does that answer your question? I’m not sure what you mean about “normal conversions,” sorry!

  • RetroKingSimon

    I don’t have a 3DS (or indeed a DS) so I don’t know anything about any of these releases. I just wondered if they’re straight conversions of the original games but making use of the 3D effect, or if they’ve been snazzed up in any way. New graphics, new play modes, etc? 🙂

  • Great list, Anne! I just nabbed (another) copy of the first Taiko no Tatsujin game for 3DS, so I’m really looking forward to diving into that soon–and Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives, too.

    Oh, and thanks for the shout-out RE: Zoo Keeper 3D! I really do like that one, and as such it’s a shame no one ever picked it up for release outside of Japan. It would make a great eShop game, IMO!

    Finally, I can second your call for people to pick up Slime MoriMori DQ 3. I wouldn’t have complained if the folks at SE had made it a little more unique than it is (it’s *very* similar to its predecessor, Rocket Slime), but even in its current state it’s a lot of fun.

  • Simon, the games included on Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives are arcade ports, yes. They have been enhanced/reworked to offer 3D visuals, though, and some have new play modes, too. Also, they feature a TON of options. As far as I’m aware, most in-the-know folks consider these versions to be the best versions of the respective games.

  • I really want Girls RPG, too, for some weird reason. Not sure if I’ll actually pick it up, but it’s on my wish list 🙂

  • Julio César Mendoza

    My japanese level is “Saying a bunch of Sentai roll calls*

  • Rowan Carmichael

    Now that I have my own Japanese 3DS I am having to try so hard and not just spend all the money on all the games I have been eying off for the last 5 months or so…
    DQ7… DQ7 you are within reach but yet it cannot be.

  • apricotsushi

    Thanks! I had a really hard time not buying 5 new 3DS games while compiling this list, haha

  • RetroKingSimon

    Great, thanks Bryan! Another reason to get a 3DS I suppose 😛

  • Oh, really? Which five were you eyeing up, if you don’t mind me asking?

  • Yep 🙂

  • Great list! I think I have most of these and the rest are on my wishlist haha 😀

    SAMI★SPOON

  • Rowan Carmichael

    How are the Taiko games on a handheld? I would think they would be kind of miserable without the full taiko set up. But then I am probably the exception in that I am used to the arcade set up more than anything else. (I am also the exception as I am really bad at series despite spending an embarrassing large amount on the game over the years)

  • Rowan Carmichael

    I will am looking forward to it.

  • apricotsushi

    Maybe try downloading one of the demos? I think they’re quite fun, but that would be a great way to try them to see if you like the controls before shelling out money 😉

  • apricotsushi

    That is cheap! And boo, I literally just ordered from them! Haha

  • Rowan Carmichael

    Yokai Watch… I feel I should buy it just to know what these kids are talking about these days. It’s tough including the characters in the worksheets without knowing anything about it…

    Pokemon had a lot of fairly specifically Japanese creatures, and no one thought it would succeed… I wouldn’t be surprised if they become a big success, but I can’t imagine them managing to be almost the pokemon 2.0 it seems in Japan. (I do really mean 2.0. I see way more Yokai than pokemon)

  • klkAlexar

    I’m trying to learn Japanese so I bought Oresama Kingdom thinking it must be easier than the otome games in the vita, and added Vitamin X since it was so cheap. I also preorder the rerelease of DQ7 last week, but now I’m thinking of just canceling since it’s way above my level. I’ll add Girls RPG, Pretty Rythm, and Aikatsu to my wish list (well, I already had Aikatsu). Thanks for the list!

  • apricotsushi

    Oh haha well I already ordered a copy of Pretty Rhythm: My Deco Rainbow Wedding when I saw how cheap it was, and I was kind of tempted to grab the Inazuma Eleven games because they’re so cheap! Then I also wanted a Taiko game, plus Touch Detective 3… (though I had a look at Amazon Japan and the reviews seem really negative!) I told myself to stop and play some of the games I already own first! Hehe

  • Ha! I love it, Anne 🙂 Not to make you change your mind or anything, but Play-Asia was selling copies of the two Taiko 3DS games pretty cheaply as of a couple of weeks ago. I nabbed a new copy of the first Taiko 3DS game for something like $31, while the second one was maybe $38? Crazy!

  • Sadly, I don’t yet know, Rowan. I’m going to start playing the first Taiko DS game tomorrow, though, and then write about the experience on my blog probably Tuesday of next week? So, you may want to keep an eye out for that, if you’re at all interested.

  • Al Ramirez

    You forgot to mention “bravely default for the sequel” with full English text and audio, “SENRAN KAGURA 2” super easy to play no need for big Japanese knowledge, the spinoff Lost Planet “E.X. Troopers” very easy story to follow & easy Gameplay , “Phoenix Wright Trilogy” also can the text be changed to English and the pokemon 3ds series also comes with the option of changing the text to English. All the following games are for beginners that want to import, I buy most of these games on the Japanese eshop since sometimes they are on discount, some of these run on the regular price of ¥4,937 and get a discount of 40%, so the discount price is ¥2,960,that would be around from $20.00 to $25.00 USD depending on the value exchange at the moment of purchase. I hope this helps for those who want to import 3ds games, for those who made the 3ds hack for play imported games getting games it’s a little more expensive since shipping price, but for those who own a Japanese 3ds,the eshop always have great games with discount, for those who have the hack, amiami.com and playasia.com are trusted sites for importing games.

    • apricotsushi

      Thanks for the comment! I didn’t “forget” anything though, this is just my own personal list 🙂

      • Al Ramirez

        Awesome, now my list and yours just expanded, I’ll keep searching for more future games, I play more on my Japanese 3ds than on my NA 3ds, btw the new dragon ball z game it’s really good and easy, just downloaded the demo, it’s a Marvel vs Capcom 2 with a Dragon Ball z skin, here’s the image QR code if anyone is interested in downloading the demo *WILL ONLY WORK ON JAPANESE REGION 3DS

  • Cool list, I just pulled the trigger on importing a Japanese 3DS (Monster Hunter X got me…) and I’d like to start learning some Japanese. So your list is very apropos!

    • apricotsushi

      Awesome! If the Monster Hunter Diary game isn’t released in English, that might be another good one to pick up 🙂

      • Oooh, yeah, I think that would be cool. Hopefully the reading level is not too high.

  • GeneralSteps

    WTF is with this list!? How could you talk about dragon quest and not talk about Dragon Quest Monsters Terrys Wonderland or Iru and Lucas Mystical Magical Key?

    • apricotsushi

      If I included every awesome Dragon Quest game on the 3DS, this list would be nearly half DQ titles! In the end I decided to just pick two. Sorry if I didn’t include your favorites

  • NotshaneTM

    Definitely getting Maple Story. I have yet to see any 2D 3DS games that look so well animated and the main anime girl looks very entertaining to watch. I only rely on someone far away to translate the text for me right now, but one day, I might try to learn Japanese. Given the impossibility of that happening due to nobody in my town being remotely skilled at the language at all, I will just have to blaze through it and hope for the best.

    • Enjoy it! It really is a lovely looking game. If you want to start learning Japanese, there are a lot of great free resources online. I’m a big fan of this one: http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/ Best of luck!

      • NotshaneTM

        If my memory wasn’t so bad, I could fully study Japanese. But sadly, the language is much to hard to master for me 🙁 I can live with understanding it in very, very little douses, though. I only have one of the syllabaries memorized, but not any means to understand it myself in English.

  • somebox

    do you know how popular the inazuma series is in japan?

    • I think it’s pretty popular! There have been a ton of games, as well as an anime and manga. Maybe it’s not quite as popular now as it was a few years ago, but it seems to still be going strong 🙂

  • j0eeyy_p

    Thanks for your list! I know I’m late but I have been eyeing up Japanese 3DS games and this list has been great. Always eyed up Mori Mori 3, and never knew Zoo Keeper had a 3DS version. Maple Story looks cool, and I intens to get Taiko no Tatsujin, but on the Vita first.

    Speaking of which, do you have a smilar list for the Vita too? That’s got a very good Japanese library as well. Would love to eye stuff up that aren’t rhythm games, ecchi games or other otaku-oriented titles.

    Thanks again 🙂