2013 was a good year for video games. The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, Super Mario 3D World.
But when it came time to choose my game of the year, I found myself in a strange position. I found myself oscillating wildly between two games, both of which were on an unlikely platform. The games: A Link Between Worlds and Luigi's Mansion 2. The platform: the humble 3DS.
Recently I made an effort to clear up the games drawer beneath my television. It's a graveyard of cracked cases, charger cables, and stray battery packs for Xbox 360 controllers I no longer use. Underneath it all — squidged between a faded copy of FIFA 14 and PES 2013 — my once prized 3DS XL. Covered and dust and scratches. Unplayed. Uncharged. Curious, I pushed the game in the cartridge slot, I wonder what the last game I played was?
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
A tragic realisation: I haven't seriously played my 3DS since the tail-end of 2013. Since that incredible break-out year, back when the 3DS was arguably the most compelling console in the universe.
What the hell happened?
Since 2013 the 3DS has gone from a must have console to a piece of hardware in cruise control and I have no idea why.
Maybe it's just my personal preferences, maybe it's because I don't like Animal Crossing or Pokemon. But I've struggled to find a compelling reason to turn on my 3DS in almost two years. Two years. And I am someone who loves Nintendo games, loves Nintendo platforms.
There was Majora's Mask, an overdue remake one might argue, but not really a must-play title, even for Zelda fans. There was Super Smash Bros. — I'd rather play the big boy version on the Wii U. Pokemon? Not my thing.
More recently? The Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force heroes piqued my interest and by all accounts was very, very good — but that was a game that focused exclusively on multiplayer. I'm a grown man. I don't have three friends willing to sit in my living room and play a Zelda spin-off cobbled together from old textures from A Link Between Worlds. That's just not gonna happen. Particularly when gaming time is limited and Fallout 4, Bloodborne and Metal Gear Solid V exist.
It seems like the 3DS just stopped being a compelling games device — like all of sudden. It wasn't a slow, downward spiral — more like a calculated leap off a cliff. Overnight the 3DS went from the best games console in the world to a clunky, unloved hunk of plastic gathering dust.
The 3DS went from Super Mario 3D Land, A Link Between Worlds, Mario Kart 7 and Luigi's Mansion 2 to Yo-Kai Watch and Animal Crossing spin-offs almost overnight. Kinda like Nintendo rushed out its requisite brand names, dusted their collective hands and said, "whelp, looks like we're done here".
You could argue that I should play [insert your favourite 3DS game here] — that I'm being a stubborn curmudgeon who hates Pokemon and therefore fun — but the truth is that Nintendo hasn't made a world-class, must-play game for its most popular platform in a strangely sustained amount of time.
What the hell gives? There are well over 50 million 3DS units in the wild. By any measure, particularly compared to the Wii U, that's a staggering success. Why ignore that? Why not support the 3DS in the way it deserves to be supported. Maybe it was battlestations in an attempt to rescue the Wii U, maybe it's amiibo — maybe Nintendo is funneling development resources to the Nintendo NX. But regardless, the 3DS feels like an abandoned platform at this point, and that's incredibly disappointing.
Worse: there's no relief from the drought, at least that I can see. Metroid Prime: Federation Force? That's what we get? Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam? Like that is literally what 3DS owners have to look forward to at this point.
Here's the crazy thing: if someone were to ask me today if they should buy a 3DS? I'd say absolutely. It has an incredible and varied back catalogue. Some of the best games released in the last five years are on the 3DS. But for people like me? People who were there from day dot? The 3DS is something we talk about in the past tense.
And that makes me sad. I miss my 3DS.