The 3DS XL Shouldn’t Make Any Sense, But It Just Does

The 3DS XL Shouldn’t Make Any Sense, But It Just Does

From a distance, the 3DS XL has problems. I hate it and I think it’s stupid. Why don’t you have an extra analogue stick, 3DS XL? What’s the point of this upgrade? Why do you even exist? Why would I spend my hard earned dollars on such a thing. Then I get my sullen paws on it and I wilt. My resolve withers. It’s difficult to understand precisely why the 3DS XL makes sense as a product, but it just does.

Today our Nintendo representative made a crucial error. Today a man came to our offices to show us New Super Mario Bros. 2, an early copy that wasn’t playable on the 3DS XL, and, of course, the 3DS XL itself. Nintendo’s error was simple — they showed us the XL first… and then forced us to go back to the original 3DS to play NSMB2. That was very, very difficult indeed.

I was never a fan of the DSi XL. After the DS Lite and the DSi, it felt like an extraneous upgrade, a cash grab. I understood the concept — it was designed for families, for older people with bad eyesight, blah blah blah. The size made sense, but I simply had no interest, having purchased two different versions of the same console already. I didn’t need or want the DSi XL.

But I really want the 3DS XL.

In a strange way the 3DS XL feels like a brand new console. It plays the same games at the same resolution, but it feels like a new thing. Playing old games on the XL feels like a new experience. It’s a product that makes far more sense an a post-smartphone/tablet universe.

I wouldn’t dream of taking the 3DS XL on the train. I wouldn’t carry it around the city trawling for street pass hits either. But you know what? I don’t do that with my original 3DS either. And my PS Vita sits at home completely unloved. The fact is I don’t carry any dedicated handheld devices with me nowadays — I have no real reason to. But the 3DS XL is not designed to be carried in a handbag or a pocket. The 3DS XL is a console that, to me, seems designed to be played at home, in a bubble bath, with a hot chocolate, maybe some nice music in the background. Maybe light some candles if you’re feeling frisky…

The 3DS XL Shouldn’t Make Any Sense, But It Just Does

Alright easy Tiger, let’s dial it back. My point is this: handheld gaming as we know it has to evolve or die. I’m not entirely convinced that the 3DS XL is the answer to all problems, but it’s most certainly a step forward. It doesn’t feel like a device that’s attempting to encroach on the smartphone/tablet space — it’s more like a Kindle. A handheld that does a single thing well and caters to a more niche audience. When I think of playing the 3DS, I don’t think of sitting on the train for five minutes, I think of settling in on a comfortable couch, or tucked up in bed. It feels more like a book than a tablet. And I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s a smart thing.

The size of the 3DS XL is its only real point of difference compared to the original 3DS — aside from the higher quality of the individual component/design — its feature list is the same, but somehow that is enough. The size difference is truly massive. It’s like upgrading from a 40 inch screen to a projector. The difference in scope is significant. It feels less like a diversion and more like a high-end, quality gaming experience — which is precisely the sort of distinction Nintendo needs to be making if it wants to distinguish itself from the smartphone market.

I’m going to buy a 3DS XL, and when I do, I fully intend to replay games that felt a little restrained within the old 3DS. Games like Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 3D Land. Games like these are going to make more sense on the 3DS XL, they’re the kind of games I want the space, comfort and time to indulge in.

Smartphones have changed our lifestyle patterns, and they’ve changed the way in which we interact with handheld gaming devices. The 3DS XL feels like the device Nintendo should have given us the first time — the proper response to an itch that remained unscratched.

The 3DS XL shouldn’t make any sense — it’s the same thing only bigger — but it does. It changes the way the games feel, but more importantly it changes the context within which those games will be played and, for that, it feels like a significant upgrade.


  • It’s great to see what a couple of years and lessons from the 3DS can do for another model of the same console. This is why I think they should change the 3DS, not radically but tweak and improve and keep the price the same. The 3DS now a year old is getting old quick (the build quality).

    In before second stick whiners.

  • I kind of thought the same thing before I got a DSi XL, but after I got one I couldn’t play the smaller dsi’s any more. Tis why I’m so keen for this!

    • I’ve purposely held off buying a 3DS cos i knew they would release a larger screened version.
      I hate the tiny screen on the current 3DS.

  • my main complaint with the 3ds has always been and still is that it is uncomfortable to play.
    im not blind but i am also not a kid and holding the console the required distance from my eyes is not a position i find comfortable to hold for more than 20-30 mins.

    i want somethig that isnt a tv console that i can hold and play for hours.
    i dont know if this is that device but it sure does seem to be the closest.

    though with with the wii u coming soon maybe that is actually what im looking for

  • How did Nintendo manage to make such a stupid mistake? Surely they would’ve made sure that everything worked?

    Anyway, I’m seriously considering trading in my 3ds for an xl. It’s a bit of a waste of money though I think.

  • Maan, I can’t wait! Great article. I plan to get one too, there’s just something that said “buy this” when I saw it. I skipped all the handhelds since the ds lite, but this is a must!
    Which (to Jason above) the difference between the wii u and the 3ds XL is the games. 3d is optional, the games shine like old school games do, by themselves. The wii u seems gimmicky to me. It won’t be games based, it’ll be (of what is shown in videos) to be “what can we make a game out of using this new controller??” so instead of great game play, story, playing fun…we’ll get “now swipe, now touch, now draw” …and soon it’ll feel like “wait, I’m doing so much, why is this fun again?”
    Watch the Rayman demo, there’s no point to even have it connected to a tv. You can’t look away from the controller for a second. I know that’s just one game, but from what I’ve seen, it killed it for me. It’ll either be all about the controller, or barely used.

  • I’ve held off buying a 3DS because, like almost everyone, I assumed there’d be a hardware upgrade pretty-damn-soon after the original model – one which would address some of the design issues of the 3DS. Now, with the 3DSXL, it’s clear that Nintendo won’t be adding a second analog stick to this, or to any future iterations of the hardware – despite the largely unanimous opinion that it needs one.
    And so where are we? A better screen, a more comfortable console, a similar price-point. It looks like this will be the premium model for the next couple of years, so I’m getting one.
    Another handheld 2D Mario really is what’s selling it for me, to be perfectly honest.

    • Actually no, the verdict that the 3DS needed a second stick were nowhere near unanimous.
      There are only a select few games that currently us the CPP, and it wouldn’t exactly be a pretty revision.

      • I disagree. Ask gamers who understand the use for one, and chances are the answer will be “yes, it should have a second stick”. The argument that few games actually use it is totally superfluous – if it was there from day one more games would utilize it, no question about it.
        And if it was integrated into the hardware from day one, it would look fine.

    • Seriously, I reckon the gyroscopic aiming is just as good as what you’d get with a second stick, if not more accurate.

  • this is exactly how I felt about my DSI XL upgrading from a DS lite, very excited about picking up the 3DS variety! comfy bed and couch gaming has always been where it’s at for me with handhelds, who could enjoy a proper game on a bus or out and about?!

  • So for someone who hasn’t bought a 3DS yet, would you recommend going for the XL or picking up the original for cheaper?

    • Thats easy – get the XL!!! Once I upgraded to my DSi XL I could never go back.. My original DS screen seems like a joke in comparison.

      Im going to guess the same will be true for the 3DS XL. I dont have a 3DS yet as this is exactly what I was waiting for – the XL. So its going to be my personal choice .

  • I wound up with a DSiXL thanks to NAL. But I hated it. It feels comically oversized, like you’re a baby playing with some baby toy simulation of a grownup’s object. Plus it’s damn uncomfortable it is to hold, Not like the curvy luxury of the DS Phat.

    The 3DS I still find uncomfortable to use for long periods of time (in terms of holding, viewing is fine). I like that this one appears to have curves, so it could be nicer to hold. But even if it is, I doubt I’ll spend the money on an upgrade. Pretty sure a friend is gonna go for it though, so I’ll check his out just to make sure it doesn’t change my mind.

    • I loved the DSi XL. Yes, the pixels were huge (I believe they are actually the biggest of any Nintendo handheld ever, even bigger than the original Gameboy). But it works really well for a lot of games, in my view. It gives games as of SNES feel to them, like 16-bit era was back again.

      At the same time, I also like ultra high resolution displays on other devices. My iPhone would probably need at least 16 pixels to recreate one single pixel of the DSi XL. But that’s okay, they both look great at what they do. I like the low res stylings of the DSi XL just as much as I like the high res display just as much as I love the 90s era 16-bit stylings of the DSi XL.

      After playing the DSi XL, everything else felt positively tiny, even the normal 3DS.

  • What do you mean NSMB2 wasn’t playable on the 3DS XL? It was a non-working model? I don’t understand. Are they not the same thing? The games have to be made to work on both models?

  • I’d be happy with something that doesn’t make my hands cramp up.. the regular 3DS is too small to play with comfortably

  • If anyone has ever seen the videos for Monster Hunter 3G you will know that the youch screen can be easily made into a 2nd analog stick or any other type of input device you wish and it works perfectly. ( ) and is in a great place. So no, the 3ds does not in anyway need a 2nd analog/circle pad. But it is nice that Nintendo offers the choice for those who want one just like they did with the Classic controler Pro for the wiimote.

    Now, the 3DSxl, Again… Nintendo is offereing a choice. You can choose to get either a regular 3DS or a 3DSxl. I think that is great. Most companies say, “This is the device we offer and that’s all you get.” and add a whole bunch of stuff that isn’t even needed. Now I know people are always gong to complain and be unhappy but myself and for myself I am happy to have a choice and be free to decide what options are best for me. If I want to have more control or feel it’s needed the option is there, if I feel it’s just a waste and un-needed I can choice to not have it. To me I think that was a pretty good move on Nintendos part.

  • Give it larger buttons that I can actually press with my fingers, and move them a bit further away from the top so I don’t get hand-cramps when I try to press the L/R buttons, and then I might think about it.

    • I looked at the comparison pictures before I posted, the buttons look just as small and awkwardly placed as the original 3DS, so I’ll probably pass.

  • it would be US $ 199 on 18 Aug 2012, and of course, you know, because of the insane Australasian retail , it would be AU $315 in Australia after tax, therefore, we recommend you order 3DS XL via Amazon from US.

    • Just remember to order all of your 3DS games from North America then, what with the region locking at all.

  • i really love nintendo and the ds, but are they seriously so stupid they made a new one and still couldn’t add a second thumb stick…. haven’t they learned anything!?!? no they’re just make it an add on that you have to buy separate. horse manure!!

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