Similar to previous entries in this franchise, Super Monkey Ball 3D's primary mode involves leading a monkey in a ball through a maze to a goal while collecting as many bananas as possible. This version includes two side games - Monkey Race, a go-kart racer in the Mario Kart
style, and Monkey Fight, a 2D fighter in the vein of Super Smash Bros
SMB 3D's classic mode consists of more than 70 stages across 8 worlds. These are original stages not featured in previous SMB games. Guide the monkey ball through the stages using the 3DS Analog Slide Pad or motion controls to tilt the maze. The stages for this iteration are somewhat simpler than other, notoriously difficult SMB games to accommodate the tilt control options. Players are graded on time used to reach the goal, and bananas collected for increased replay value.
As mentioned above, Classic Mode can be controlled in one of two ways: With the 3DS's analogue pad, which functions much like the original Gamecube
game's analogue controls, or with tilt controls utilizing the 3DS's built-in accelerometer. The former is typically cited as the preferred control scheme because tilt controls by nature break the game's 3D effects.
Monkey race is a kart racer that can be played single player or with up to 3 other friends for local play. It features 3 circuits with 3 tracks each. Players collect boost by drifting and collect weapons and powerups on the track to use against other racers. As with Nintendo
's flagship Mario Kart franchise, the AI karts utilize rubber-banding
as a way to keep the races feeling tight.
Monkey Fight also can be played with up to 3 other players locally or in single player. Each character has various fighting moves and special attacks. Points are scored based on damage dealt and bananas collected. Taking damage from other players drops bananas that other players can then collect. The player that collects the most points at the end of the time limit wins.
SMB 3D has been praised for it's use of the 3DS's 3D effects, with the shifting, twisting, and tilting courses and high speed motion showing off this effect very well. It was also one of the only 3DS launch titles to support full 60FPS gameplay with 3D enabled.