AR Games are short for Augmented Reality Games, which are games that can be played on certain devices with the use of special cards that the device can respond to, thereby generating a playable environment wherever they are.
The reason I decided to review some of these games is because they were the first ones I ever played on my 3DS, and I found them to be a slightly strange idea upon first glance (particularly when you don't automatically know what "AR" stands for, like me). When I started getting deeper and deeper into them, though, they proved to be a really fun way to kill time. So, I'll go over the different things you can do with the 3DS AR Cards, outline my likes and dislikes, and then give you guys the verdict on whether or not they're worth your time (spoiler alert, they pretty much are).
Now, there are only six cards that come right with every 3DS. The way you use them is, you select the "AR Games" option in the Home menu, and then go through the short tutorial (which they make you click through every time) until you're prompted to hold the 3DS camera lens about 14 inches away from the card, and in a well-lit area. As long as you keep the proper conditions going, you'll be able to use the cards and view them in 3D (of course).
The card with the "?" block on the front is the one with most of the content, so we'll go over the five character cards first, just so you know what they do. The five characters on the cards in question are Mario, Toon Link, Samus Aran, Kirby, and some Pikmin (which is very weird considering the fact that there has never been a Pikmin game for the DS. The more you know.); these cards can only actually be used by accessing a specific program through the "?" card, but once you have them read, you can use this fun 3D posing program to put the characters in different stances, adjust their sizes, and take pictures of them in different places if you want.
All in all, this is a pretty darn fun little program to use, especially if you can use more than one at a time or arrange it so that the pictures you take make it look like the figures are right in the room. Considering how little you can do with the program, though, I don't spend much time on them. I think a major improvement would have been to have each card offer not only posing, but also a little minigame based on the respective character's series. Even if it would cost more money, I would have been willing to pay that much more.
Now, the "?" card is really where it's at in this situation. You start off with a good few options. You have Star Pics (the picture program I described earlier), Mii Pics (essentially the same thing, except you only need the one AR Card and you take pictures of Miis), an interesting little Archery game (basically where you shoot a series of targets with arrows, and you have to find the targets by moving around the system), a game called AR Shot (sort of a game of pool where you shoot a ball along a track and land it in a certain spot), a quick Fishing game (similar to the one in Wii Play where you try to catch the biggest fish you can and rack up the highest score possible), and finally Graffiti (where you can draw a 3D picture with the stylus and make it move and jump around; it's one of my personal favorites).
Mii Pics is roughly the same as Star Pics, and it's just as good, so that's out of the way. About the Archery game, it's OK. The problem with it is that it's a bit short, and it's really just a small minigame. It's quite frankly very forgettable, even though you can buy a second level in the AR Shop, and even though you fight a dragon both times. Regardless, it's something you should try out, but I wish that instead of two minigames, you got a target that you could shoot at as much as you want and see how many bullseyes you could get.
AR Shot is similar in nature to Archery, but it's more like pool as I said earlier, and obviously the physics are different. Again, you fight a dragon at the end of every stage, and there is also a second harder stage that you can get if you want. I'd say this game is definitely more replayable than Archery, because you can try to finish the round in as few shots as possible, which can be very challenging.
Now, Fishing is by far my favorite of these games, for you see, I'm the odd-one-out to the extent that I'm probably the only game reviewer in history who actually enjoyed the Fishing minigame from Wii Play. I thought it was a fun little game to kill time with, and it was always exciting for me to rack up a huge score by catching rare species. In fact, I wish this minigame was carried over more precisely to the 3DS; I liked the way you could see what type of fish you were getting on the Wii version, whereas in this version, all you see is a silhouette, with no knowledge of what you'll catch. While the element of surprise was nice, it could get annoying once you caught every single type of fish.
However, it's not the 2-minute minigame I like best, but rather the Free Fishing that you can buy in the shop. When you combine it with the Fish Gallery, it's a definite adventure and a fun time killer to fish for a while and see if you can get every species. The only real problem I have with this one is that it is only controllable by moving around the 3DS, and considering the fact that the game only works by using an AR card, it's easy to accidentally move out of range. This can be very frustrating, especially considering the fact that to catch fish, you have to keep the line steady right near their faces.
If I were to pick any of the games to be my second favorite, though, it would definitely be Graffiti. I really like its ease of use and the various fun features that are part of it. Predictably, one of my favorites among these features is the ability to use the buttons to make whatever you draw (which appears on the upper screen as you draw on the lower one, which is amazing, I might add) jump and move around the top screen. You could perform some pretty epic maneuvers with these controls, and when you get right down to it, who doesn't like performing trick shots with a smiley face? No one. That's the point. In addition, you can choose different colors of drawing, different drawing sizes, templates, and all that great stuff. Now, it doesn't have quite as many options as a tried and true paint program, but the fact that you can control what you draw makes it well worth your time in my opinion.
So now we return to the subject of whether or not the AR Games on this system are worth your time and worth unlocking to the fullest extent. My opinion is that these are definitely worth your time. I think some are certainly more fun than others, but the most enjoyable ones make it all worthwhile. Therefore, I recommend that you buy all of the AR Games regardless of the Play Coins it takes, and give them all a try. They're not perfect, but considering how relatively new they are, they're superb. Thanks for reading!