The 3DS Is Even Dying Better Than The Vita

The 3DS Is Even Dying Better Than The Vita

People have been calling PlayStation Vita a dead console for years. Now, Nintendo’s 3DS seems poised to join it, with hardly any new games on the horizon for the rest of 2019. Yet even in death, Nintendo’s clam-shelled handheld still feels more alive and vibrant than Vita.

The 3DS’s annual lineup has grown thinner with each passing year. It had a sleepy fall 2018, punctuated only by a port of 2001’s Luigi’s Mansion and a Yo-Kai Watch spin-off, with nothing notable releasing in November and no new games at all in December.

Since last September, 21 games have come out for the 3DS. That’s less than a game a week. The Vita has gotten 43, including the Persona 3 and Persona 5 dancing games over the holiday. Despite that asymmetry, the 3DS continues to do more with less.

Both devices have barely any games coming this year, but while Sony prepares to cut off all remaining life support to a portable console wasting away on its deathbed, the 3DS feels like it’s soaring into the grave, by comparison, thanks to Nintendo’s continued commitment to it. It turns out great games can make for a great console, a lesson Sony seems to have learned in the era of the PlayStation 4 and unfortunately too late to change the Vita’s fortunes.

Considering where it ended last year, Nintendo’s handheld started 2019 off with a relative bang. 3DS owners are currently benefiting from a last gasp of first, second, and third-party games this winter in the form of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey, Etrian Odyssey Nexus, Yo-Kai Watch 3, and Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn.

As Kotaku editor Chris Kohler pointed out on Twitter yesterday, the rest of the year is a desert. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is the only retail game currently confirmed to come out in North America for the 2019 fiscal year, which begins in April.

It’s also still possible Nintendo could announce further games in its next Direct, especially given all of the recent remasters and ports.

Vita owners should be so lucky. While players in Japan will see the Catherine: Full Body remaster come to Vita later this month, North American owners will have to settle for physical releases of old games like Spelunky thanks to Limited Run Games. The Vita’s only notable upcoming new release is Fate/Extella Link, a JRPG due out in March.

After that: who knows, but those physical cartridge games will dry up since Sony won’t make any more carts after March.

Though both portable consoles came out only a year apart, the 3DS in 2011 and the Vita in 2012, it became clear early on that Sony’s handheld was going to pale in comparison to Nintendo’s. Nintendo doubled down on the 3DS despite a rough launch. Years of Mario, Pokémon, and Zelda games turned it into a worthy successor to the DS, Nintendo’s best selling console of all time.

Sony eventually abandoned the Vita after it failed to find momentum with early first-party games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Killzone: Mercenary and mediocre ports of big console games like Borderlands 2.

As of December 2018, the 3DS had sold 74.84 million units. Nobody knows how much the Vita sold since Sony stopped releasing sales data early on in its lifecycle, instead combining it with sales of the PlayStation TV and PSP. 7 million sales were reported for that part of the business by the spring of 2013, followed by an additional 4.1 million in 2014.

Sony stopped reporting even those combined numbers by 2016.

As a result, Vita owners have spent the last few years watching the handheld continue to crawl along, buoyed almost exclusively by the occasional monthly PlayStation Plus game and indie developers who continue to port their wares due to the console’s reputation for players who will buy lots of games.

February marks the end of that PlayStation Plus support. The end of physical Vita cards is also here. All remaining purchase orders are due in to Sony by February 15. Rather than any sort of memorable send off, the company has moved on in relative silence.

No physical, special edition re-releases of first-party games, a not-ridiculous idea given Vita owners’ love of collecting and the fact most of the games are unlikely to resurface in the future outside of emulation. No slew of free digital first-party releases through PlayStation Plus, either. Just one more firmware update to “improve system performance.”


  • Funny, I feel the opposite. Also, the Wii U died far harder and faster than the Vita and that was a mainline console.

      • It was even faster than that: Nintendo killed production of the Wii U a couple of months before the Switch launched.

        • Goddamn, that’s even worse! But I do have to admit, the Switch is Nintendos best console since the SNES in my honest opinion. I absolutely freaking love it 🙂

          • Hope yours lasts. I’ve already had to have mine replaced due to a bad main board.

            Needless to say, all progress loss as there is no ability to transfer saves outside of the online service Nintendo offers.

  • I still play my 3DS, my wife just got one too so we’re able to play some stuff together. Picked up some new games at the latest EB sale for cheap. It’s dying, but it’s still great.

  • I disagree, the Vita has been “dying” for years despite still getting a steady flow of games. Once the Switch hit its second year though everyone began asking why Nintendo keeps the 3DS around since all the new games are coming to Switch. Even Nintendo don’t really seem to know what they want to do with the 3DS any more, palming off the question with a wishy washy response of it being a good entry level system despite the Switch getting many games aimed at a younger audience. (eg. Labo)

    That’s not to say there isn’t a trove of great games for the 3DS that would make it a good purchase on sale, it’s just that in comparison to the Vita’s slow decline the 3DS support dried up the instant the Switch started selling like hotcakes and we’re just getting the last trickle of games as people wrap up projects in progress.

    • Yeah, people acted as if the death of the Vita was a foregone conclusion even 12-18 months after it came out. I think that Sony’s decision on the proprietary memory cards made a lot of people hope for the Vita’s demise as a form of punishment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much negativity surrounding a console. Even the Wii-U didn’t get that much hate.

      As for why the Vita died, it never had that ‘game that all the kids want to play’ on it. Sony doesn’t really have any properties that do Pokemon type numbers in Japan (or anywhere else). Nintendo money-hatted Monster Hunter away from Vita. The rest is just the Vita slowly circling around the drain while people gleefully watch from the sidelines. There were moments of heroism, sure, and Vita fans are some of the most supportive customers of any console ever, but it would never be ‘mainstream’ in the way that the Switch has evolved.

  • I started feeling like my 3DS was getting primed for retirement when the Street Passes started slowing down. I don’t even bother taking it everywhere I travel to anymore, come to think of it.
    Getting Street Passes was one of the best things about leaving the house. It even made Sydney traffic pay off to a degree (at least I got hits and therefore puzzle pieces!).

    Man, I will mourn 3DS life.

  • Looking forward to picking up a Switch & a 3DS when I go on my road trip in a few months. Loved the DS back in the day but cannot remember why I never picked up a 3DS. At lease I can just grab a bunch of the best games for the system straight up now : P

  • The 3ds is the house of pretty much the whole Nintendo videogame history and when you look at the catalog is just incomparable with anything other system made before.

    It’s sad to see such fantastic systems dying but the discounts we’ve seen the last week are just fenomenal. Come on guys, It’s the time to buy 3ds games right now.

  • I really liked my old DS, but foud that I never ended up finishing anything for it because it was just a “travel” device, same with my psp (despite wanting to finish alot of psp games), I picked up a 3ds and just did nothing with it, I only ended up buying 5 games for it. My vita on the other hand became my go to place for ps1 games and games like dangangropa, however tbh it ended up as just a p4g machine by the end. I love the concept of the switch but I just find myself less and less drawn to handhelds (I know it can be a console, but im not a nintendo guy so the first party games dont do anything for me and 3rd party stuff usually runs better on something else)

  • I don’t think we’ll see more 3DS games arriving later this year but who know maybe the Nintendo 3DS might still live on or maybe not we’re just going to have to wait and see.

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