What Happened To The 3DS? And Why Didn't We Notice?

In July 2011 I looked across at my desk and there was a 3DS. The first version. Not the 3DS XL that would be released in 2012, the old one. It was gathering dust. It had been sitting there for so long. It was part of the furniture. I wasn't even sure why I noticed it but there it was, forever alone.

It was such a tragic sight that I took a picture for posterity.

In 2012 moving into 2013 that image seemed like a laughable memory. Like a bad teenage beard. The 3DS was in the throes of life and — for a while — was legitimately the greatest console on the planet bar none. It had the best games. Super Mario 3D Land, Luigi's Mansion 2, Fire Emblem, A Link Between Worlds. There was a period of time there when the 3DS was my actual platform of choice — over the PC, Xbox 360, PS3, whatever you care to name.

Now we're in a strange place. Unlike in 2011, the 3DS is still a console I would recommend to anyone looking for a handheld. In 2011 there were — almost literally — no games to play on the console. Today there exists an incredible back catalogue of video games to discover. If you don't have a 3DS, you should totally get one.

But what about us poor fools who have been here from the start?

Because there's a strange little truth here, one that I wasn't even aware of until I sat down and thought about it for a second: the 3DS has been coasting on past glories for the better half of 2014. I haven't turned on my 3DS since I finished The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and that was December 2013. After an absolutely stellar 2013, there have been — for my tastes — precisely zero substantial releases on the 3DS.

And it's almost as though no-one has noticed. Almost as if we've just been happy to let things slide. Almost as if Nintendo and consumers alike have been content: 'there are lots of games on the 3DS,' we seem to say — that's the common knowledge — but there is nothing new and hasn't been for quite some time.

Why haven't we noticed?

I suspect it's because our interest in handheld consoles in themselves is generally passive. They are rarely our primary console devices, they tend to supplement our gaming. We snack on handheld consoles, we don't think of them as substantial life-sustaining meals. So when a handheld doesn't deliver in terms of new games, we don't openly complain in the way we might if, say, our PlayStation or Xbox went through a similar drought. In short: we talk up when handhelds when the going is good. "Don't forget about the 3DS/Vita," we say, but when the going gets tough? We actually do forget. They begin to gather dust.

Why is the 3DS going through such a drought? It's difficult to tell. Nintendo, clearly, has been so busy focusing its resources on facilitating a Wii U revival that its taken its eye off the ball — the ball in this case being the 3DS. Just like consumers, I suspect Nintendo has the feeling the 3DS will take care of itself now that it has a library of evergreen titles in the tank.

And it probably will.

But for us folks who've been there from the start and want new games to play? It's slow going. It's almost the kind of thing I don't want to be aware of. I want to forget that the 3DS exists, then be pleasantly surprised when the games start rolling in. But every once in a while it catches my eye. I open the drawer where my games are kept and it sits there, staring at me. Unmoved. Sometimes I remember about the 3DS for the wrong reasons. A console gathering dust is a sad sight indeed.


    Aw come on, I just bought a 2DS, don't make me regret that decision.

      The back catalogue of awesomeness is huge, there's no shortage of games.

      You Wont. As the article mentioned there is a mountainous back catalog of content to keep you happy and there is a stellar lineup for summer this year.

      To butcher Game of Thrones epic saying....

      "Smash Brothers is coming..."

    I know what happened - I bought one. & then immediately, out of spite, Nintendo stopped making stuff for it.

    & having just bought a Wii U, I fully expect them to do the same with that now.

      There's so much cool stuff in the coming months!

        for the Wii U?
        yeah, I know. I was being silly. that new Zelda game.... *swoon*

        Edit: and as far as the 3DS goes, I've got such a backlog on that thing, an extended dry-spell isn't gonna be very noticeable.

        Last edited 31/07/14 3:05 pm

          Yeah, I've just got the new Kirby and dove into Spirit Tracks for the first time. This article should rather be about the Vita IMO, owning both I can honestly say which of mine looks like the picture in the article.

            haven't really touched Fire Emblem, Monster Hunter or Bravely Default.
            so i'm sorted :D thats 3 decent RPGs that are gonna take up plenty of down time between releases.

            Ratchet and Clank Collection and Rogue Legacy both came out for Vita this week. Rogue Legacy is amazing fun (many hours on PC version), and Ratchet and Clank look and play great.


              I have it, it crashes and has A LOT of issues. The digital version is apparently OK though.

              Last edited 31/07/14 4:36 pm

                i have the physical copy and I haven't had a problem at all on my Vita

                The physical version also doesn't feature cross-buy does it? :L

                  No, and after about a week Sony raised the price of the PS3 version on PSN to match the Vita version on PSN (It was on sale before the Vita version came out, then it was about $10 cheaper after the sale, now they are both the same price.)

                  Personally I bought the physical version because the cartridge versions of Vita games normally have better load times and my 32GB card is full. I will NEVER buy another Sony collection on the Vita, especially not the physical version. A pity because I also have some of the others. Sly is the only good one.

        Didn't you hear? that cancelled that.
        All of it.
        On the Nintendo website they gave a list of 35 reasons.


    I have been having a ball with tomadachi life
    Mario golf got released not for my taste but its there other than that the last game i bought was fire emblem which i havent touched yet. I find the price point for new release games on the high side too. $65 for a game is pretty steep IMO

      Same, was worried it'd go the way with Animal Crossing and getting burned out, but still enjoying the heck out of it. Got a friend coming back from Japan soon, can't wait to get him to make a Mii so then I can give him a graduation gown and finish my musical about Harry Potter to go with my Pirates of Penzance one.

      Who pays $65, seriously?
      You can get any new game upon release for $49 or there abouts.

    Curtain Call is due soon. That will do me quite well for 12 months or so.

    Yeah it is kinda weird that last year was so good and this year so quiet.

    Shame Nintendo are such stingy f*ckers when it comes to lowering the price of anything, because there’s a fantastic back-catalogue of games that I *almost* bought when they first came out. I could still be playing new games because there’s tons that I missed.

    The games may have dried up, but if you buy a 3DS right now don’t expect to be picking anything up for anything less than full retail unless it’s Dick Smith getting out of the business of selling Nintendo stuff entirely.

    A copy of 2012s Pokemon game is still going to set you back the same amount as the DS version from 2010…. Which is to say upwards of $50 the vast majority of places.

    I felt this way about the 3DS through 2013 as well. Not into the majority of Nintendo's franchises, so it was basically Fire Emblem and then Bravely Default and since that, not much at all. The bulk of Nintendo's stuff always feels incredibly insubstantial, archaic and overpriced to me.

      I concur

    Personally I've had a pretty good (half)year with the 3DS. Between new releases like Tomodachi Life, Mario Golf, and that Layton/Wright game, I also finally got around to playing the Ocarina of Time remake. I've sunk a lot of hours into it this year, and I've been really happy with it.

    But maybe most of those aren't groundbreaking titles. I guess it just comes down to what games you enjoy. For my taste, it's been pretty good.

    Have you actually played Fire Emblem? Bravely Default? Pokemon? Animal Crossing?

    pretty much nothing except for smash bros and Monster Hunter 4 that i'm looking forward to....

    and i'm only getting smash bros on 3DS because it comes out earlier on it, if the WiiU version was coming out at the same time, i probably would have just gotten that version and maybe picked up the 3DS one when it was cheaper (however i assume it wont go down in price for years, brawl is still like 50 bucks)... damn you nintendo!!!!

    The eShop always has something to keep me entertained. So even if Nintendo is slacking with retail releases this year, the system is still alive and well.

    Here are some of my own personal 3DS gaming stats this year:

    Nintendo Pocket Football Club - released & purchased on 17/04/2014, time played so far: 65 hours and 38 minutes (and this was a downloadable game I bought off the 3DS eShop for about $10)

    Pokémon Link: Battle! - released on 13/03/14, purchased on 26/07/14, time played so far: 2 hours and 30 minutes

    Tomodachi Life - released & purchased on 07/06/14, time played so far: 12 hours. 36 minutes

    Steel Diver: Sub Wars - released on 13/02/14 - free to play, but purchased premium edition, time played so far: 17 hours

    As usual there are a lot of older games which I'm still enjoying, Animal Crossing 100s of hours in, Pokémon, same deal. Yet to touch Inazuma Eleven eShop port which I also purchased recently.

    Adding to this are some great releases such as the original Pokémon Trading Card game for Game Boy Color and Mario Golf. On the horizon we have Smash Bros. 3DS and the Pokémon remakes to look forward to.

    Last edited 31/07/14 3:27 pm

      Was pretty much going to mention all these. Also Kirby and Layton vs Phoenix Wright. And soon enough there'll be Smash Bros.

      Always got to remember that @markserrels is bad at being a gamer nerd, etc. He's probably been too busy watching sports ball and climbing things. It's OK though, WoW will fix that.

    Really? Between Mario Kart, Pokemon X, Zelda OOTS 3D, Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, Super Mario 3D Land, and a Nuzlocke here and there, I haven't been putting my 3DS down since last year. I may be just a slow player, I dunno.

    Without amazing titles the 3DS quickly loses out to other devices.

    If I am playing with my iPad I can check Facebook, then read the news and then fire up Hearthstone and play a few games. It is a device that lets me do lots of things on a big screen and has a 10 hour battery life.

    Tablets are just better suited to keeping with you for those few moments you have to play. Unless there is something good you just can't get on a tablet, like a Pokemon game.

      But it's a different kind of gaming - it's a rare game made for a tablet that tells you a story - handhelds have that over their tablet brethren (plus miles better control schema, but that's another story altogether...)

    The only thing I dislike about my poor beat up 3dsXL is that the lids dont cleanly close and seal like my DSlite. It has annoyed me since purchase.

    I bought a 2DS when Pokemon X came out last year, since then I've only purchased A Link Between Worlds and out of nowhere I found Rhythm Thief which I'll be purchasing tonight. Other than that I can't think of any games I want to purchase because first party Nintendo games almost never come down in price.

    I can't justify $50-60 for the games.

    Last edited 31/07/14 3:52 pm

    My 3ds is basically a pokemon machine at the moment. It annoys me that i don't play it enough but no games really grab my interest.

    I'm waiting for Persona Q and Curtain Call :D In the mean time I've been playing DS games on it.

    I love, love LOVE the system. The 3DS is great. I had the original and upgraded to an XL about 6 months ago. But it's true, though the games have dried up, it's more than that. In my case, it's a lack of variety. The DS had such a broad range of games. Lots of quirky niche titles, blockbusters, even racers. The 3DS doesn't seem to have as much variety. Sure, almost every genre is represented, but when there's only a few shining examples of each genre, it gets a little stale.

    I love arcade racers - but the only 2 really worth playing are Mario Kart 7 and Ridge Racer (Sonic Racing Transformed is better on a multitude of other platforms). RPG's are well represented, but almost every other genre comes up woefully short. No real CastleVania's to scratch that deep platforming itch. No crazy Ouendan to eat up my time. No surprising sequels like The Legend of Kage 2 that came out of nowhere and were brilliant. Sure we got the sequel to 999 on 3DS, but before, you couldn't walk two steps without finding something new/wacky/fun on the DS. The 3DS just doesn't seem to have that kind of support.

    And it's especially apparent because of the region locks again. I imported so many DS games back in the day (again, that's how I sampled the delights of Ouendan), but that's pretty much out the window now.

    Last edited 31/07/14 4:10 pm

    Super Smash Bros on 3DS comes out soon ?

    I still have Project X-Zone, Etrian Odyssey IV and Etrian Odyssey Unlimited to play through plus a bunch of VC and eShop titles. I've never been a huge spender on the DS series, but whenever I get around to picking them up again there's usually something I can catch up on. Though Mark is right, there have been very few titles this year that have made me write them down on the list of things to buy when I get the urge to play a handheld.

    Last edited 31/07/14 4:12 pm

    I finally ordered a 3DSXL to replace my 3DS today! Looking forward to Curtain Call & Persona Q this year.

    I got my 3DS late last year for Pokemon, which held my attention until June (293 hours played). I played Ace Attorney Dual Destinies and Steel Diver sub-wars in-between Pokemon competitions. Once I finally decided to take a break from Pokemon, I borrowed Kid Icarus and A Link Between Worlds from two friends. I would have bought these games had I not been able to borrow them. Recently FE:A arrived in the mail so I've started up on that. I suppose if I had been here since 2011, then yes, I would have noticed "where are all the games", but I'm a happy customer for now.

    I just saw how dusty my PS4 was. I realised that I hadn't even turned it on since Second Son. My PS3 and 3DS get the biggest workout from me.

    OH! And in the case of my wife she adores her 2DS.

      Not being up on the PS4's media capabilities, is it because the PS3 is a better media system and more likely to be used as such? From what I could gather the PS4 was limited in this functionality, but as I've never come across one, I've never had the opportunity to check for myself and our PS3 is used daily as a media centre but only rarely as a games console.

    I have one of those old little gunmetal grey 3DS's too... currently playing Ace Attorney Dual Destinies on it. The old 3DS is simple and quaint like those Game&Watch thingies... I wasn't super hyped about the XL and less so about the 2DS.

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