The Nintendo 3DS Family – A Buyer’s Guide

I’ve been promoting the Nintendo 3DS to several friends, trying to get more people to play the same games that I do and based on my experience, there’s definitely some confusion as to the different 3DS models that are available. Simply put, they don’t know which is which, and I can’t really blame them. I had to do a little research before I first bought my Nintendo 3DS device, which is called the Nintendo 2DS. 3DS? 2DS? DS? Huh? Confusing, right? Here’s a little guide that I put together to help anyone who is thinking about getting a 3DS make an informed decision.

Update: The information here is already outdated. You can go here for the updated version of my 3DS Buyer’s Guide.

Before everything else though, I want to talk about region locking first. Region locking is essentially placing some sort of restriction on digital media that would limit its use to specific regions. Nintendo considers four different regions: North America, Japan, Europe, and Australia. Basically, if you have a 3DS device that was meant to be sold/used in the North America region, you can only play games that were meant to be sold/used in that same region. Knowing this is important because you’ll need to factor in the region of the 3DS games that are being sold in your country – you wouldn’t want to get an Australian 3DS when all your local retailers are carrying games for the North America region.

And also, there’s a fifth “region” known as Asia, but games labeled as such are just repackaged North America games. In the Philippines, the majority of the 3DS games being sold are for the North America/Asia region.

Finally, all 3DS games are compatible with the different 3DS models except a few (only two as of this writing) that are exclusive for the New Nintendo 3DS models. Alright, I think we’re ready to look at each of the available 3DS models now!

Update: Last August 31, 2015, Nintendo confirmed that the regular sized New Nintendo 3DS would finally be released for the North America region in the form of an Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer bundle. I’ll be doing a new 3DS Buyer’s Guide article after we get confirmation that the New Nintendo 3DS will also be available as a standalone device.

The Nintendo 3DS in its original launch colors (Aqua Blue and Cosmo Black).

The Nintendo 3DS in its original launch colors (Aqua Blue and Cosmo Black).

Nintendo 3DS

Price at GameOneGadget.com: N/A
US SRP: N/A
Notable features:
– Smallest at 134 mm X 74 mm X 22 mm
– Lightest at 235 g
– Battery life can last between 3-5 hours
Reasons to get this:
– Most portable out of the 3DS consoles
– Potential collector’s item

One might think that with upgraded models available, the Nintendo 3DS no longer has a place in the market. But that’s not really the case here. The Nintendo 3DS remains to be the smallest version of its line, just slightly larger than its predecessor the Nintendo DS Lite. Aside from the slightly shorter battery life, there are very few drawbacks to getting this version – the Nintendo 3DS has all of the standard 3DS gameplay features. You can purchase the Circle Pad Pro accessory if you’re looking to play games that require a second analog stick on this device too. Simply put, if portability is your most important concern and you don’t mind the slightly shorter battery life, then this is the 3DS device for you.

There’s also the possibility that this will become a collector’s item in the near future. I haven’t seen any official announcements from Nintendo but I’ve seen speculation on different websites saying that the Nintendo 3DS has been discontinued in North America, and guess what? You won’t find the Nintendo 3DS on Nintendo.com, at least not that easily. In doing research for this guide, I checked various sources for this unit’s MSRP like Best Buy, Target and GameStop and none of them are carrying brand new Nintendo 3DS units. I’m still seeing some units for sale in different local retailers like Data Blitz but even Game One Gadget’s website doesn’t have a price for this. Strange, right? Is this confirmation that the original Nintendo 3DS is being discontinued? I can’t really say, but the lack of pricing information on Nintendo.com definitely means something.

The original launch colors of the Nintendo 3DS XL.

The original launch colors of the Nintendo 3DS XL.

Nintendo 3DS XL

Price at GameOneGadget.com: php 7,995.00 (regular versions)
US SRP: $174.99

Notable features:
 – Largest upper screen size at 4.88 inches diagonal (Tied with the New Nintendo 3DS XL)
– Largest lower screen size at 4.18 inches diagonal (Tied with the New Nintendo 3DS XL)
Reasons to get this:
 – A lot of limited editions

In my opinion, there isn’t really a good reason to get a Nintendo 3DS XL. The New Nintendo 3DS XL is simply better (or equal) at almost every aspect when compared to this older XL model. The New Nintendo 3DS XL is lighter even if it’s slightly bigger, has a slightly longer battery life, has a more powerful processor, has an improved 3D viewing feature, and it comes with a built in second “analog stick” and additional shoulder buttons. Sure, the screen sizes and resolutions are the same but the New Nintendo 3DS XL uses an IPS screen which allows for better viewing angles and displays colors more vividly (I’ve done side-by-side comparisons so you can trust me on this). One might argue that the older Nintendo 3DS XL is a good option for somebody who wants bigger screens but can’t afford the New Nintendo 3DS XL, but in my opinion you’re getting more bang for your buck if you just wait and save up the needed funds..

The only reason I could think of for anyone to consider the older Nintendo 3DS XL is if they want to get the special limited editions that were released throughout, and I think the Nintendo 3DS XL has had the most number of special variants not counting the color variations. North America saw the release of the Animal Crossing edition, the Disney Magical Castle edition, the Pikachu edition, the Pokemon X/Y editions, the Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds edition, the Mario & Luigi: Dream Team edition, the Yoshi’s New Island edition, the Persona Q edition, the Super Smash Bros. editions, the NES edition, and the Pokemon OR/AS editions.

The limited editions of the Nintendo 3DS XL that were released in North America.

The limited editions of the Nintendo 3DS XL that were released in North America.

These are a lot of different variants and they all look great. My personal favorite is the Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds edition – that gold looks so elegant. Personally though, I prefer function over looks so I’d rather go for the New Nintendo 3DS XL especially if I’m not really saving a whole lot of money but I can’t blame anyone for opting for one of these limited editions.

The original North America launch colors of the Nintendo 2DS.

The original North America launch colors of the Nintendo 2DS.

Nintendo 2DS

Price at GameOneGadget.com: php 5,495.00
US SRP: $129.99

Notable features:
 – Cheapest price
– Wedged, slate-like form (tapers towards the bottom)
– Largest at 144 mm X 127 mm (!) X 20.3 mm
Reasons to get this:
– Significantly cheaper than the other models
– More durable than the clamshell form of the other 3DS models

Don’t let the name fool or mislead you – the Nintendo 2DS is a 3DS device. There are two big reasons for anyone to consider the Nintendo 2DS, the most obvious of which is its price – this is significantly less expensive than the other models in the 3DS line. That was one of the reasons that finally convinced me to own a Nintendo 3DS device. You can afford to buy 2-4 different 3DS games with the money you can save if you go for this model instead of the more expensive ones. This reduced price comes with several drawbacks though, the biggest of which is its size – you really can’t fit this in your pocket comfortably. For a “handheld” device, that’s a huge drawback, and that’s one of the reasons why I eventually upgraded to the more expensive New Nintendo 3DS XL.

The other drawbacks involve having just one speaker (irrelevant if you use headphones), smaller screens (same as the original Nintendo 3DS) and the lack of 3D (hence the name 2DS). Regarding the latter, you’re really only missing out if you were choosing between this and the newer models. Prior to the release of the New Nintendo 3DS models, the 3D feature was flawed in that you needed to play at a specific viewing angle and distance or else all you’d get are blurred visuals. You also don’t have the option of purchasing a Circle Pad Pro accessory because there aren’t any available for the Nintendo 2DS – but then again, anyone who opts for this model are already working on a budget so I doubt that they’re willing to spend more money for an accessory.

Despite these, I highly recommend the Nintendo 2DS. For me, it’s the most comfortable model for playing games on – the wedge shape allows for a more natural feel and my fingers are able to rest comfortably on the shoulder buttons due to its size. Its weight is also more balanced, unlike the other clamshell models which feel slightly heavier up top if you’re playing while lying down in bed. It’s also more durable – dropping one of the clamshell models may result in breaking one or both of the joints connecting the upper part to the lower part, but you don’t have that problem with the Nintendo 2DS. All those benefits plus the cheaper price makes the Nintendo 2DS a great option.

The original North America launch colors of the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

The original North America launch colors of the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

New Nintendo 3DS XL

Price at GameOneGadget.com: php 10,795.00 (regular versions)
US SRP: $199.99
Notable features:
 – Largest upper screen size at 4.88 inch (Tied with the Nintendo 3DS XL)
– IPS upper screen
– Largest lower screen size at 4.18 inch (Tied with the Nintendo 3DS XL)
– More powerful processor (Tied with the New Nintendo 3DS)
– Built-in Circle Pad Pro functionality (C-Stick, additional shoulder buttons)
– Super Stable 3D feature
– Longest battery life
Reasons to get this:
 – 3D feature doesn’t rely on a fixed viewing angle and distance
– Can play all games, including those exclusive to New Nintendo 3DS models
– Additional features/better performance in some 3DS games
– Functions as a Circle Pad Pro for games that are compatible with that accessory

The New Nintendo 3DS XL is simply the king of the 3DS family, boasting a slightly more powerful processor, more RAM, a better IPS upper screen display, longer battery life, the C-Stick and additional shoulder buttons, and the Super Stable 3D feature. But let’s go beyond the specs and take a look at the the practical advantages of the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

First, the Super Stable 3D allows you to fully enjoy the 3D feature of the Nintendo 3DS which really is visually pleasing. Pardon the pun, but it truly adds another dimension to the graphics of a game – the 3D feature makes characters and objects more solid. The depth just makes things pop out when they’re supposed to, which for me results in a more immersive experience. The older 3DS models have the 3D feature, but they didn’t have face-tracking so you really have to hold your device at a specific angle and distance to enjoy the 3D effect and that can get really uncomfortable.

The more powerful processor and additional RAM has also resulted in faster loading times in some of the games that have been released such as Super Smash Bros. and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. This added power also allows the New Nintendo 3DS XL to do much more than previous models – the web browser, for instance, can now play embedded videos. Of course, I have to mention that getting the New Nintendo 3DS XL will also allow you to play games that are specially designed for it, such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and… um… okay, there are only two New Nintendo exclusive games available but more could be made in the future and you won’t be able to play them on an older model.

Finally, the built-in Circle Pad Pro controls will allow you to fully experience all of the features of the games designed with that accessory in mind without needing the said accessory. While these controls aren’t really required, they can really add to the ease of gameplay.

All that power comes at a price, of course, with the New Nintendo 3DS XL having the most expensive price tag – and it doesn’t even come with its own power adapter. Local retailers throw in a power adapter for no additional cost though, so this isn’t much of an issue for us. The New Nintendo 3DS XL is also much larger than the Nintendo 3DS but it still fits comfortably enough in my pockets. If you don’t mind the bulk and you have the money to spend, you should definitely go for this model.

The launch colors of the New Nintendo 3DS. Note the colors of the buttons - a throwback to the original Super Famicom.

The launch colors of the New Nintendo 3DS. Note the colors of the buttons – a throwback to the original Super Famicom.

New Nintendo 3DS

Price at GameOneGadget.com: N/A
US SRP: N/A
Notable features:
 – Second largest upper screen size at 3.88 inches diagonal
– Second largest lower screen size at 3.33 inches diagional
– Second smallest at 142 mm X 80.6 mm X 21.6 mm
– More powerful processor (Same with the New Nintendo 3DS XL)
– Built-in Circle Pad Pro functionality (C-Stick, additional shoulder buttons)
– Super Stable 3D feature
– Changeable cover plates
Reasons to get this:
– Nothing (read on to see why)

The New Nintendo 3DS matches the power of the New Nintendo 3DS XL while retaining the portability of the Nintendo 3DS. Everything I said about the New Nintendo 3DS XL applies to the smaller New Nintendo 3DS save for the IPS screens, but you’re really not losing much. In addition to being easier to carry around, the New Nintendo 3DS still manages to have screens that are approximately 20% larger than the older Nintendo 3DS and that may be a good sweet spot for some people.

And the New Nintendo 3DS comes with swappable cover plates! Those who want their devices to be a little more unique won’t have to chase after more expensive limited editions just to stand out; all you need is to find the right cover plate design that suits you and you’re good. And if you change your mind later on, you can easily replace your cover plates.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Nintendo of America decided not to release the smaller model in the North America region. I’ve seen rumors that the New Nintendo 3DS is slated for release in North America in the future, but there hasn’t been anything announced officially as of this writing. Because of that, I can’t really recommend this model to anyone – the pros of this unit don’t outweigh the hassle of trying to find non-North America region games that you can play on this.

Unless of course, you live in Europe/Australia/Japan. If you do, then this is definitely a valid option! You can ignore everything I said about the original Nintendo 3DS, because the New Nintendo 3DS is just as portable and comes with almost all of the upgraded features that I just mentioned.

And there you have it, all the selling points and the drawbacks of each of the 3DS models. To summarize:
– If portability is the most important aspect for you, go for the original Nintendo 3DS.
– If you want the best in terms of technical specifications, buy the New Nintendo 3DS XL.
– If you have a tight budget, the Nintendo 2DS is the most cost-effective option.
– If you’re a fan of a specific game franchise, feel free to buy the matching Nintendo 3DS XL limited edition.

Five different models may be too many in some instances, but I think each 3DS version has a justifiable place in the market. Honestly, I’m glad that consumers have that many options that they can choose from – you can’t say the same thing about other gaming devices.

So was this guide helpful? Which of these 3DS versions are you most interested in buying? Feel free to share your thoughts with us and leave a comment or two below!

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One thought on “The Nintendo 3DS Family – A Buyer’s Guide

  1. Pingback: The Updated Nintendo 3DS Buyer’s Guide | 3rd World Geeks

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