In the months before the Switch released in March 2017, discussion was brewing as to whether or not Nintendo’s hybrid console would take the handheld market away from the 3DS, replacing it entirely withing a few months. We proposed that it wouldn’t, stating that the 3DS’ success would keep it going. So far, that prediction is holding true. Nintendo is still releasing plenty of decent games for their darling handheld system. But should they?
The Switch has proven itself to be an excellent handheld system capable of delivering an experience superior to that of the 3DS. Switch is functioning so well in this market that some are actually disappointed when interesting games are announced for the 3DS. The argument against the 3DS cites the Switch’s popularity, sleek design and ease of use as reasons to retire the handheld console. 3DS is also an old system; it’s over seven years old now. The system is only of the current generation because Nintendo is still actively supporting it. Nintendo is keeping the 3DS around as another option for parents and fans to enjoy. Is that all the 3DS is anymore though? Is it really just an extra option stealing cool games from a better platform? Not necessarily.
The Nintendo 3DS is an old system based upon technology that’s largely been abandoned by modern hardware makers. It came out at the height of the 3D craze; 3D was the wave of the future. Movies were eventually only going to be offered in 3D, and 2D televisions were on their way out. As we all know, that’s not what happened. 3D proved itself to be nothing more than a fad and everyone moved on. Nintendo stubbornly held onto the concept longer than most, but they eventually recognized this too. Even the system’s trademark dual-screen setup has proven itself obsolete. While a few games make great use of it, it was treated as an afterthought by most games released for the system. Having two screens is handy, but it’s hardly vital. The system isn’t completely useless though, it still holds a couple of advantages over the Switch.
The Nintendo 3DS has three points in its favor. It’s better suited for travel, Its control schemes make for a more comfortable and smooth gameplay experience, and it has seven years’ worth of excellent games on offer. The 3DS is better suited for travel in that it’s a true pocket system. No cases or screen protectors needed. It even rewards traveling to populated areas and events via its StreetPass function. These features might not stand up in the face of technical superiority, but there’s something to be said for popping the system in one’s pocket in the morning and then pulling it out in the evening and seeing other owners’ Miis relaying their greetings.
The success off the device’s control scheme relies mostly on its touch screen capabilities. The Switch has a touch screen too, but its size combined with the lack of a stylus makes it more difficult to use. The 3DS on the other hand is just the right size to take full advantage of it. Touching one’s way through menus flows a bit better than navigating them with buttons. As for the handheld system’s library, it provides about as much benefit as any long-standing system’s library; buying a 3DS today guarantees access to plenty of standout hits.
This isn’t to say that the Nintendo Switch can’t offer all of these things and more. It most certainly can; it’s just not there yet. The Switch is an excellent option for handheld gaming. Its library is growing every day and it already has several incredible games on offer. It will never be quite as easy to transport as the 3DS and Nintendo doesn’t appear to have any 3DS-esque social features planned. It may very well be that such things are no longer important, though. The Switch will eventually replace the 3DS regardless and that’s fine; it’s even ideal. Until then, there are plenty of reasons to be be excited for new releases on the system. After all, fans are only going to be able to enjoy its unique experience for a little while longer.