It can be frightening to buy into a new system at launch. The inevitable hiccups, price-drops and months between releases scare many prospective consumers away, and that’s completely understandable; who wants to live with buyer’s remorse for a day, let alone a year? The launch of Nintendo’s 3DS was met with similar apprehension, mainly due to its unattractive $250 price tag, but also because many didn’t expect much success or longevity from a glasses-free 3D handheld. Four years, three hardware iterations and dozens of incredible releases later, however, and the 3DS is an absolute must-own.
Nintendo’s latest dual-screen handheld will never be able to compete with Sony’s PlayStation Vita on a hardware level, but the 3DS blasts past the competition in a much more important category: its software library. In fact, many of Nintendo’s flagship series are the best they’ve been in years on 3DS. The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem each boast at least one system-selling entry apiece, but with all of those and more on one platform it’s clear to see why Nintendo’s 3DS has grown to be so desirable. Nintendo’s handheld development has long been second to none, crafting console-quality experiences for the more compact portable platforms it’s produced since 1989, but with 3DS the Japanese company is able to flex its creative muscles like never before, producing unique and unforgettable titles like Super Mario 3D Land and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds that take excellent advantage of the system’s stereoscopic 3D to quite literally add another dimension to the action.
Third party developers have also warmly embraced the 3DS, filling in the software gaps occasionally left by Nintendo with their own superb offerings. Capcom brought Resident Evil, Street Fighter and Monster Hunter, Atlus provided Shin Megami Tensei, Persona and Etrian Odyssey, while even Square Enix has contributed with the critically acclaimed Bravely Default and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy series. The 3DS library is staggeringly varied, but also maintains a consistent quality unlike any other system available, handheld or otherwise. Its broad appeal and massive install base make it an obvious choice for third party development, and has also made it a home for a number of top-class indie games. Shovel Knight, Xeodrifter and Gunman Clive are only a few of the excellent downloadable experiences available on Nintendo’s handheld, and more arrive on the system each month. Between the stellar third party support, the blooming indie scene and Nintendo’s own incredible creations, the 3DS has managed to accumulate a massive library of quality software that is simply a cut above the competition.
Since its launch in 2011, the 3DS family has grown to include the original 3DS, the larger 3DS XL, the more affordable 2DS and the super-charged New 3DS XL. With a price range from $129.99 to $199.99, there’s a system to suit just about anyone, but what does Nintendo’s handheld have over the arguably more affordable and accessible iOS and Android devices that have taken the world by storm? It’s a hard comparison to make, primarily because the differences between the 3DS and mobile platforms are so fundamental. Nintendo’s 3DS is a dedicated gaming handheld, easily the best the Japanese company has ever produced, while mobile devices are gaming platforms only after nearly every other function they offer. As such, games on 3DS are almost always going to be more robust and of a higher quality than their competition on mobile (at least until Nintendo itself starts releasing its own mobile offerings) because they’re what the machine is built to play. They can utilize touch controls, traditional button inputs and even glasses-free 3D to create unique and captivating gaming experiences, making 3DS the obvious choice for anyone who doesn’t want to miss the best of modern handheld gaming.
Of course, the 3DS is also the perfect platform for playing an ever-expanding selection of Nintendo classics. NES gems like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Metroid line up alongside Game Boy favorites like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX and Wario Land II, making the 3DS Virtual Console the ideal venue to experience the titles that helped forge Nintendo as one of the most influential figures in the video game industry. Whether you’re returning to a game you grew up with or discovering the roots of your favorite franchise there’s something for everyone on 3DS, and with such a vast pool of classics to pull from the fun and nostalgia is always there when you want it.
The Japanese company has even begun to implement its own form of cross-buy between 3DS and Wii U with titles like Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars and OlliOlli, and those kinds of value propositions are sure to become more and more common as Nintendo and other developers tailor their software offerings to suit both platforms simultaneously. Nintendo’s recent partnership with DeNA also promises to give birth to a brand new membership service to replace the retiring Club Nintendo, perhaps signaling the beginning of the unified account system fans have dreamed of for years. The Nintendo ecosystem is stronger than ever, and with a wireless amiibo reader bringing amiibo functionality to older members of the 3DS family this fall, 3DS owners can look forward to all sorts of inventive implementations of Nintendo’s incredibly popular line of NFC figures in the near future.
Now amiibo support and stereoscopic 3D are cool and all, but the 3DS’s most unique and important feature is undoubtedly StreetPass. Whenever your system is turned on, whether open or closed, you can StreetPass with other 3DS owners you come across and enjoy boosts, bonuses, and battles in a range of 3DS games. It really makes you feel like part of a global community of players, and encourages you to bring your 3DS on each of your journeys with the promise of meeting new allies along the way. All sorts of developers continue to take advantage of the handheld’s unique feature, and with Nintendo recently releasing another set of StreetPass minigames and the new V.I.P. room it’s clear the Japanese company still believes in it as well.
After four years on the market some might worry the 3DS’s tenure at the top may be drawing to a close, but Nintendo has been absolutely adamant in communicating its commitment to the system for the foreseeable future. If blockbuster releases like Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Majora’s Mask 3D weren’t enough evidence of that then the refined and enhanced New 3DS XL should be; the latest version of the 3DS boasts some considerable upgrades both on the surface and under the hood, and the potential for more expansive and ambitious software has clearly been demonstrated in the marquee New 3DS-exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. New 3DS XL also adds amiibo support, a gesture that sets the 3DS line up to remain relevant alongside the Wii U and Nintendo’s terrific NFC offerings for years to come. And with exclusives like Yo-Kai Watch and the next Fire Emblem scheduled for release in 2016, along with whatever goodies the Big N announces at E3, the 3DS shows no signs of slowing down.
Anybody who’s held out this long to get in on the 3DS fun has a lot of catching up to do, but one benefit of their almost inhuman patience is that they can start their affair with gaming’s current greatest handheld with any number of incredible titles. Nintendo possesses the unique ability to capture the imaginations of players of all ages, and that talent is emphatically alive and well on 3DS. With the release of New 3DS XL reiterating the company’s commitment to the handheld and yet more promising games, features and cross-functionality on the horizon, there’s no better time to dive into the glorious handheld experience Nintendo has created.