Nintendo Finally Says Goodbye To 3D

Few video game systems have had as strange a journey as Nintendo's 3DS. The spunky portable console flopped, got a massive price cut, gradually built up a spectacular library of games, and received several bizarre (and confusing) hardware models throughout its six years on store shelves. And now, it's ditching its biggest selling point. Farewell, 3D.

Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime presents at E3 2010. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Yesterday, Nintendo announced the New 2DS XL, a sleek $199.95 piece of hardware that is essentially a New 3DS XL without 3D. This is an iteration on 2013's 2DS, a cheaper model that also ditched the 3D but felt uncomfortable and lacked the convenient clamshell design of other models. With the button configurations of the New 3DS XL and the price cut gained by killing the autostereoscopic display, the New 2DS XL is the best of both worlds. Though it won't replace the New 3DS XL on the market, it will be the better and undoubtedly more popular version.

It's also a final goodbye to glasses-free 3D, a feature that was once the 3DS's crown jewel but has long been rendered irrelevant. We've come a long way from March 2011, where I watched Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime lead a small crowd of loyal fans in grabbing 3D glasses and tossing them up in the air during a launch event on the streets of Manhattan. "The era of 3D glasses ends right here and right now," Fils-Aime proclaimed.

What he didn't know was that the era of glasses-free 3D was never going to start. It took less than a year before the 3DS's sluggish sales forced Nintendo to slash its price from $349.95 to $249.95, a bona fide fire sale, in part because nobody cared enough about 3D to buy it. By mid-2012, Nintendo had removed all mentions of 3D from its marketing materials, choosing wisely to focus on what people actually wanted -- good video games -- and bolstering the system's library with great Marios and Zeldas.

There's no way to tell how many people use the 3DS's 3D slider -- Fils-Aime admitted in an interview today that the company doesn't have usage data -- but Nintendo stopped talking about it circa 2012. Watch a Nintendo event from the past five years and you're as likely to find mentions of 3D as you are Wii U sales numbers.

There are certainly those who liked, and still like, playing Nintendo 3DS games with the 3D slider turned up. Kotaku staffers like Stephen Totilo and Mike Fahey vouch for 3D, and who am I to tell them that they're wrong, even if I've always seen it as a headache-inducing distraction? (Yeah, they're wrong.) But in six years, whether by choice or inability, Nintendo never developed a single video game that required or was even enhanced by 3D. The closest it came was with 2012's great Super Mario 3D Land, which was ostensibly designed so that you'd have an easier time spotting secrets with the 3D turned on, but in reality offered no such thing, much to the relief of those who get nauseous when the slider is on. (Super Mario 3D Land's depth was just as visible without the 3D.)

Some games have ditched 3D entirely. Hyrule Warrior Legends takes massive performance hits when you put on 3D, and the 3DS port of Mario Maker doesn't even bother giving you the option. Of this year's upcoming games, Nintendo tells me that Fire Emblem: Echoes, Ever Oasis and Miitopia all use 3D in some way, but Hey Pikmin won't, and it won't be a surprise to see future 3DS games follow Captain Olimar's trend.

Meanwhile, the New 2DS XL appears to be the premier choice for anyone in the market for a 3DS, assuming you can get past the baffling nomenclature. Here's a little trick: 3DS minus 3D equals 2DS. Further, 3DS minus 3D equals a better, cheaper system -- one without a gimmick that was obsolete before it even launched.


    My usage of the 3D effect is usually -

    *Click* So that's what it looks like in 3D, that's cool... My eyes hurt *Click*

    Well I for one am disappointed that Nintendo are moving away from 3D as I play all my games with it on. The 3D got better with the new 3DS and I believe games are better with it on.

    The "New" 3DS improved the 3D due to the tracking camera, but it was still just a thing I'd turn on occasionally.

    I only ever turn it on because I bumped the slider and when I've finally realised what I have done I'm basically having a seisure. Really though who ever used this feature and who can use it without feeling disgustingly sick?

      I always played with it on, around 75%. Never really had issues with it. No longer have the device however, it sort of fell by the wayside and I gave it away after realising I wasn't going to pick it up again.

    I always quite enjoyed the 3D function of the 3DS, I seldom turned it off of the original one and when I upgraded to N3DS with the head tracking I never turn it off.

    For me I find that it helps to discern distance in a game so much easier. I think I always understood it would be a fad though..

    I have one of the "New 3DS XL"s and I always play with 3D 100% on. I never actually turned it off and I don't see why people didn't like it. Maybe it's because I didn't jump in until they released that specific model that had the tracking camera but the 3D just enhanced the system to me.

    Preordered New 3DS XL when they were announced, sold it after a month. Will definitely pick up a New 2DS though. Cannot pass on that price, especially with the current library of games for it.

    I think the 3D is great and my use of the feature is limited only by how much it impacts battery drain. I obviously can't argue with others' experiences but I've never found it a strain on my eyes either. I'm probably just fortunate in that regard. Still this seems like a prudent decision given that most people seem not to care for or utilise the feature at all.

      Like you, I never had eye strain with the 3DS. In fact, Nintendo's move to use eye tracking was smart as it mean one no longer needed a iron brace attached to one's head to make sure the angle was always right.

      At the same time though, 3D on the 3DS - the with 3D TVs - suffered a slow death and regression into becoming a gimmick due to minimal (if any) content that used 3D as a mechanic.

      A lot of what I said with 3D on TV also applies here. The main fault was 3D was added as an after thought rather than explored as a new mechanic. It would have been nice if the space between my eyes and the screen was used as part of the mechanic rather than be a last minute 3D presentation on the otherside of the screen.

      Like a few others, I never saw 3D as a gimmick. But I'm not kidding myself - due to decisions by game developers, 3D became a gimmick and died as such.

        I think the 3DS was tainted by the overt crapiness of 3D TV, despite the effect being much better.

          A lot of sad truth there.

          For 3D on TV to be stable, one basically had to pay a premium on top of hyper inflated pricing on the 3D capability.

          And even when one got over that hurdle, again the feature was not fully realised, became a gimmick and suffered a slow death.

          Again, the issue was content. Live action often suffered as 3D was just simply put in as an after thought and/or the technology being used was ineffective. The worse offender being the tech developed by Cameron for Avatar and was later used in other films.

          CGI faired better in stock (they easily could make the two angle need for the stereo image) but again was more of an after thought than meaning an independent mechanic/means.

          Naturally, I think 3D will simply evolve and become more a vital component in VR and AR but at the same time the potential was always there. It just went unused.

          For example, if I made a 3D version of Five Nights at Freddy's 3 (please hear me out) the 3D would have given more creative uses of it's jump scares.

          I could have used typical 3D where the TV acted as a window into the office but then have things like SpringTrap running in front of the screen, not behind it with the rest of the environment.

          But those times have passed. I enjoy 3D but I know its time has come. I just wish it got the attention it needed before suffering the fate of a gimmick dying from 1,000 cuts.

        I found the n3DS's "super stable 3D" to be anything but. The most annoying thing was the way it would take a moment to click back on whenever I'd look back from turning away for a moment, but it can't seem to face track well enough to be "stable" at all. Always get this weird flickering where it can't decide how it wants to align things and just... nup. Had to turn it off, regular 3D is way more stable. And much better on non-XL units anyway, the large ones don't have a very good sweet spot in comparison.

    I always keep my 3d on quite low, it adds a little depth to game which I appreciate. As for the age of 3d is over? Is this just because they're launching a cheap no 3d version? Was the age of 3d over when they launched the original 2ds?

    Another Nintendo gimmick dies another death.

    What's that Nintendo are hardware innovators ? Then why is this another death of a gimmick. AGAIN. Wiimote, 3dS, powerglove...wii u tablet.....You can't argue against that fail rate, but Nintencultists sure will try.

      What are you talking about. Wiimote didn't fail. It was a huge success.

      The thing you're missing is the fact that they never died at all. For every piece of tech Nintendo designs, it takes the good from the bad and stores it away until it's needed again. The powerglove became the Wii Remote, the Wii U Tablet became the Switch, etc. Hell, the Switch is essentially a collection of 'gimmicks' rolled into one console ... and it works.

      For every true failure, like a Virtual Boy, there's a success story. The Rumble Pak, cartridges, dual screen technology, motion control (which still exists through the Switch), etc.

      Besides, you can't argue that at least there's someone out there willing to take genuine risks, win or lose. The fail rate may be higher than most, but there's a clear reason why.

        Even the Virtual Boy was basically just a 3DS progenitor.

      They're trying things out and they have the funding - 'Nothing wrong with that.
      Look past Nintencultists, Apple fanatics etc, and just focus on the actual company and what they're trying. They're providing options for developers. You telling me there's no good in that?

      Isn't failing what makes them innovators? Not even companies are perfect - they make mistakes too, the important thing is that they learn from the mistakes, and Nintendo definitely is doing that, as you can probably see from the Switch

    Have a 3DS, like it fine, but the 3D adds nothing of value. Good games need no such embellishments.

    I usually set the 3d slider to half way. Some games just don't look very good without 3d turned on. It makes up for detailed characters on the low resolution screen.

    Outrun 3D, Space Harrier 3D and Streets of Rage 2 3D more than justified keeping the slider on.

    3DS minus 3D equals a better, cheaper system
    Cheaper...yes. But why is it better? If you couldn't turn it off on the 3DS that'd be important, but given you can turn 3D off to achieve the same outcome at best you're getting a more or less equivalent experience. As far as I could tell the new hardware is a New 3DS XL with one feature dropped.

    Granted, the physical appearance is a bit sleeker but that's not a huge point in its favour IMHO, they're still quite similar.

    The 'new' line of 3DS also did fairly well with the 3D on.

    Last edited 29/04/17 3:27 pm

    It looks sleek, but I can't see any reason to get one when I already have a N3DS XL, also sadly don't have much gaming opportunities at the moment.

    Love the 3ds and depending on lighting conditions I love the 3D effect in some games but not others, but can never play it in dark conditions.

    3D mode just made my head turn and eyes roll backwards from pain.. so I've always had it off. If processing power is the same or better than the N3DSXL, this new 2DSXL will be the replacement.

    Screw the haters, 3D on max all the time. I want all my games in 3D, everything just feels so flat without it. Give me depth.

    lol ok
    I guess I was one of the weirdos that always had 3D at max for every game. I had no problems with the 3D and quite enjoyed it when the dev took advantage of it (like Bravely or Fire Emblem). I'll miss it. It was an interesting gimmick to have. At least its fared better than VR which seems to have died off

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