Nintendo Badge Arcade is a downloadable free-to-play game available exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Players attempt to earn a variety of virtual pins called "badges" from one of several arcade-style crane games, which can then be used to decorate the 3DS Home Menu. The game was originally published only in Japan in late 2014, but later received localizations for North America and Europe in November 2015.
Nintendo Badge Arcade is presented as a virtual arcade exclusively stocked with "badge catcher" claw machines. Players are introduced to the arcade by its attendant, a talkative pink rabbit who describes the various badges that can be obtained, as well as their decorative function on the 3DS Home Menu. The rabbit also explains the game's microtransaction system for purchasing additional "plays" on the badge catchers with real money. After receiving instructions on basic gameplay, the player is initially given five free plays to win badges from a special Super Mario Bros.-themed badge catcher.
All badge catchers consist of a single-screen play area containing several badges and one or more prize chutes. By pressing and holding down the A button, the player can position a claw attached to a crane that moves from right-to-left along the top edge of the badge catcher. Upon releasing the A button, the claw opens and descends as far as possible towards the "floor" of the machine. It then closes again, ideally grasping onto one or more badges in the process. The crane then retracts and returns to its original position in the upper-right corner before opening once more to drop any obtained prizes into the chute below. Badges can also be pushed or knocked into chutes, both by the crane or by any other badges moving around inside the badge catcher. Certain badge catchers may be equipped with a bomb or hammer attached to the crane instead of a claw.
Although the game encourages the purchase of plays with real money, players can also use a "practice catcher" once per day with five free practice plays. The wooden badges inside the practice catcher cannot be kept for use on the Home Menu; however, accruing ten practice badges will earn one free play on the real badge catchers. Certain specially-marked practice badges can be redeemed for additional free plays, but these are not revealed until the end of the practice session. The game also occasionally offers free plays based on certain events, such as the introduction of new series of badges.