The State Of The 3DS In 2015

The State Of The 3DS In 2015

Though it launched with a whimper, the 3DS has long since roared to life. Even after a soft 2015, Nintendo’s DS successor remains great: If you like Nintendo games, there’s really no reason not to have a 3DS these days.

This is part of our 2015 “State of” series, a look at how the five major consoles (and PC) are doing this year.

Back in 2013, I declared that the 3DS was the best gaming system you could buy. Thanks to new Zeldas, new Marios, and a great library of both first- and third-party software, it had become my favourite way to play games. These days, I’m a bit cooler on Nintendo’s system. Other than a port of Majora’s Mask and the underappreciated platformer Box Boy, the big N failed to put out any 3DS must-haves in 2015. In fact, they had some big whiffs, like the disappointing Code Name STEAM and Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, which is fun in small doses but ultimately a letdown. The competition for my gaming time, meanwhile, has gotten much stiffer.

Still, the 3DS is a strong gaming platform, and even with the mysterious NX on the horizon, Nintendo is showing tons of support for their dual-screened handheld. By the end of February they plan to put out Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Fire Emblem Fates, and Final Fantasy Explorers, with games like Bravely Second and two Dragon Quest ports to come later in 2016. (JRPG fans, rejoice!) In stark contrast the way Sony is treating the Vita, Nintendo has doubled down on their portable system, rather than letting it flail.

Anyone who picks up a 3DS for the first time in 2015 is in for a good time. Nintendo has stuffed it with great, original games both big and small. Some of these games draw from their bigger console siblings, like Super Mario 3D Land and Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Others are more specific to handheld play, like Fire Emblem Awakening and Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies. Some of the system’s best games you might have never even heard of: Pushmo, Picross, BoxBoy, and so on. Add the large library of Virtual Console games and DS backwards compatibility and you’ll have enough to keep you staring at two screens for years.

One of the 3DS’s coolest features is something you won’t find anywhere else: StreetPass, a strangely addictive tool that lets you digitally collect avatars from anyone you pass on the street. These avatars, called Miis, will pop up on your system, say hi, and then gather in a big digital plaza, where you can examine all the folks you’ve collected and use them to play all sorts of weird games. You can also collect puzzle pieces from bypassers and use them to build pictures based on various Nintendo games. It’s soothing and bizarrely fun, and in some slight ways it changes the way 3DS owners approach the world. Ride the subway or attend a gaming convention with a 3DS and you may find yourself captivated by some of the strangers you encounter — even if you have no idea who they are.

There are a bunch of different models for the 3DS, some of which are significantly better than others. The 2DS, for example, is a less expensive 3DS that ditches the 3D functionality and clamshell design. It feels uncomfortable, like cheap plastic. A better bet is the 3DS XL or the more powerful New 3DS XL, both of which are an ideal size and form. If you’ve got smaller hands or want something that can fit into your pocket, the original 3DS still holds up just fine, too.

Early this year, Nintendo launched that aforementioned New 3DS, a confusingly named hardware upgrade that is actually not a new system. It’s a decent upgrade, with a new thumbstick and more powerful guts that supposedly make some games run better, but right now it’s not essential. The New 3DS is only required for two games — Xenoblade 3DS and The Binding of Isaac — both of which are also playable on other platforms. As we go into 2016, there are no other announced exclusives for the New 3DS.

So, to be clear: The 3DS plays 3DS and DS games. The 3DS XL is a bigger version of that. The 2DS plays the same games but doesn’t have the clamshell or 3D, while the New 3DS and New 3DS XL are inessential but nice hardware upgrades. Make sense? Great.

Years ago, Nintendo wisely gave up on “glasses-free 3D” as a selling point for the 3DS, choosing instead to focus on what people actually care about — good video games. Since then, their system has gotten increasingly better. 2015 was a slow year for the 3DS, but Nintendo’s handheld is still in great shape.

Illustration by Sam Woolley


  • Mine still sees a lot of love. The New 3DS was a really nice overhaul too. My backlog of unplayed games is still a bit shameful, but it’s a great system with some great games.

  • My only gripe with the 3DS is that the games never seem to get cheap. Everything goes on sale eventually… Unless you’re Nintendo.

    Also, Binding of Isaac was mentioned, which hits a sore spot for me because I’ve been looking forward to a portable version of that game since it was announced, but there’s still no word on an international release. ๐Ÿ™

    • I’ve found games on ebay for decent prices if you don’t mind second hand. I usually only go there if it’s way past release and not in stores anymore.
      Also, some of the overseas games shops have cheaper copies.

    • The pricing is an issue, was lamenting this just yesterday. First party, or ‘big’ titles never seem to go down in price. Games that are years old, like MK7, SM3DL, FE:Awakening, etc are all still full price, seemingly regardless of where you shop too. They’re all still $50-$60, it’s crazy. Avoided buying FE:Awakening for the longest time, because I was waiting for it to drop in price. Ended up picking it up yesterday for $55. Expensive.

  • I dunno, I’ve been finding the graphics quality of the 3ds to be really getting to me lately and so I haven’t picked mine up for a while, even though I really enjoy the games on it.

      • Depends on the game, turning 3D def makes edges look smoother, but in some games it just doesn’t work well.

        • They’re two games I don’t have the 3D turned on because it looks worse.

          And by smoother I don’t mean AA I mean blurry.

          • My comment wasn’t really in relation to your first one, more just that some games do look nicer without 3D.

            In relation to what you have been saying: Yeah, the 3DS can be hard to get used to when switching form something higher resolution/ fidelity like PC, Vita or console. The games look blurry because there just aren’t enough darn pixels. In 3d the resolution is only 400ร—240, and that’s IF the game is running at full resolution. There’s not much detail to be had and even on the smaller models I can see lines that look like bad ‘interlacing’. On top of that, textures etc are pretty low as well.

            It’s got great games, but I think there’s just no denying that it’s pretty outdated. I’d debate it wasn’t really cutting edge to start with.

            Still had a good run with mine though, but I get where you are coming from.

          • Yeah back when the 3ds first came out, I didn’t really have much issue with how it looked as it was a nice bump up from the DS. Then later I got an XL and the poor resolution is even more noticeable on that.

            I’ve always been a Nintendo gamer/PC gamer (not a high end PC).

            Then I got a Vita a while back and a ps4 and have gotten very used to nice visuals, even the wii u gets very little love from me for most games because I’m so used to things looking nice now, it can be very jarring with some games.

          • Yeah, I have many platforms as well (incl. WiiU, PC, PS4, X1, Vita, 3DS etc) and I don’t really consider myself a ‘graphics whore’ because I just play on the system that the game is on lol. But there is a point where something is too low res/ fidelity to just jump back into and not have it be a little jarring.

    • Gotta say the 3DS’s biggest drawback is the screen resolution IMHO. There is a point where its just not enough and the 3DS, especially XL, is way past it.

  • Finally got a 3DS (new XL version) during one of Target’s eBay sales early in the year and I have barely put it down since. Bought the other half her own 3DS as a gift shortly after I got mine and she loves it too. We’ve pretty quickly amassed a sizeable library of 3DS and older DS games we missed out on. Best bit being that we jointly purchase a lot of stuff, unlike most other games where I’m often on my own.

    I have had more fun playing through stuff like SMT4, Bravely Default (despite the terrible grindy time-loop repeating content nonsense), Fire Emblem, Pokemon, DS Castlevanias and various Zelda games this year than pretty much any AAA games outside of Bloodborne and MGSV. My other consoles and gaming PC have gotten very little love this year at all. Its a brilliant little machine and even if support starts dropping off there’s just so much awesome in the 3DS and DS back catalogue that its well worth picking one up if you have any love for Nintendo stuff and Japanese games in general.

    As others have pointed out, the games can be fairly pricey and really great deals on them are hard to find, but the bright side of that is that resale value is pretty high on eBay etc. Secondhand games are a great option too, especially given the hardiness of the cartridges vs optical disc.

  • “It feels uncomfortable, like cheap plastic”

    No way the 2DS is the most comfortable DS for me and the plastic feels really solid compared to the other models.

  • There’s just under a dozen 3DS games coming out next year that I’m keen on, can’t say the same thing for the WiiU though

    • There are? I can’t think of anything coming up for 3DS at all, let alone anything interesting.

      Well, there’s Paper Jam. But that’s this year.

      • I might have got some of my dates wrong coz i counted paper mario as 2016 but dragon quest vii viii, fire emblem, ff explorers, story of seasons, zero escape, stella glow, legend of legacy, bravely second, etrian odyssey, pokemon dungeon, project x zone 2…wether they’re going to be good or not is another thing haha

  • The Binding Of Isaac is pretty annoying. I was waiting and waiting for it to pop up on the 3DS and couldn’t see anything saying it wasn’t available to Australia… until it didn’t show up on the store. I purchased it on the PS4 later that day. Put some good hours into it too. Nintendo misses out.

    I don’t understand why Nintendo haven’t put so much of their library onto the 3DS. Especially the NES and SNES games. It’s a perfect fit. Some of those games that are available on the Wii/Wii U. I love them but haven’t purchased them. But if they were available on the 3DS, it’d be a snap purchase.

    It’s turning too much into a market for the Amiibo and god forbid the free/pay to play stuff takes hold on the 3DS.

    • This boggles many minds. NES/SNES VC titles being ported to 3DS en masse would effectively be a license to print money. Not sure why Ninty don’t do it – unless there’s some obscure licensing issues from those older titles. I have VC titles on my Wii U, but rarely play them – whereas if they were available on my 3DS, I’d probably happily throw an entire paycheck at the eShop if I could.

      • I imagine licensing deals would be a factor in some, but for the games already on the Wii/Wii U store that could also go on the 3DS store, or hell just on the 3DS store. I just shake my head.

  • I love my 3DS, I love all the free to play games it has, I love the virtual console game selection, I love the great co-op games I get to play with my partner, and I love the fact that I can download games from the eshop so I can switch my games on the fly.

    Out of all the consoles and computers in the house, the 3DS gets the most love.

  • Mate gifted me an original model 3DS to play MH4U. Loved it so much that I went and bought a new 3DS XL, and I’ve been slowly amassing a catalogue of games (Luigi’s Mansion 2 is so brilliant).

    From memory the 3DS has been my best purchase/gift of 2015, and I’m yet to get my hands on Fire Emblem, Tri Force Heroes, or the eagerly awaited Federation Force.

  • I brought my first 3ds at release and onto my 3rd (new 3ds) one now. It may just be one of my favorite consoles (hand-held or otherwise) That I’ve ever had. The sheer amount and variety of games is amazing. Having spent 1000+ hours alone on MH3U and 4U alone I’d say paying for the console 3 times was worth it ๐Ÿ˜›

  • I firmly believe the NX is going to be a new handheld to replace the 3DS, keeping in mind it’s still several years away.

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