Despite the upcoming launch of Nintendo’s mysterious NX which is often rumored to be a hybrid home/handheld console, the 3DS still has quite a bit of life to it. An excellent game library notwithstanding, there are still several high profile releases for the handheld console that could: Pokemon Sun and Moon (which is sure to get more attention thanks to Pokemon Go) and Dragon Quest VII are two examples. So even past the peak of its life cycle, it’s still a good idea to get a 3DS today.
I wrote this guide last year to help those interested in buying a 3DS, but there are several changes since then that warrants an updated version. So here I am again, hoping to help out anyone who wants to buy a 3DS make an informed purchase.
Nintendo 3DS / Nintendo 3DS XL
Last year, I wrote that there isn’t any compelling reason to get either of the two older 3DS models aside for opting for more portability in the case of the smaller original 3DS, because you’re on a really tight budget, or because you’re a collector and you’d like to get your hands on a limited edition. Of these, only the third reason holds true; the New Nintendo 3DS model is now more widely available in all regions (I’ll talk about this in detail later) and because of better availability, you can get either of the newer models at affordable prices. Seriously, there is no good reason to buy the older models aside from them being collector’s items. The money that you’ll spend on getting the newer models is worth all the additional features.
Man, have things changed. Last year, the Nintendo 2DS was priced at $129.99 SRP which dropped to $99.99 SRP a few weeks after I published my initial buyer’s guide. Well, a few months ago, Nintendo further lowered the price of the Nintendo 2DS to just $79.99 – that’s a drop of $50 in less than a year! Not only is the Nintendo 2DS cheaper, but Nintendo is selling the device bundled with a free download copy of Mario Kart 7, one of the better games (in terms of quality and sales) of the handheld. That’s a great bargain!
The Nintendo 2DS still suffers from the same drawbacks that I wrote about last year – it’s not as portable as the other models due to it’s slate-like design (try putting a 2DS in your pocket), it doesn’t have the 3D functionality that the console is known for, and it doesn’t have the processing power required to play the New Nintendo 3DS exclusive titles (a list that is getting longer as time goes by), but that price is very hard to ignore. It’s almost half the price of a New Nintendo 3DS and $120 cheaper than the larger New Nintendo 3DS XL. That’s cheap!
If your budget is tight, the decision revolves around whether saving that much money is worth the above drawbacks. The Nintendo 2DS is compatible with around 95% of the titles available for the 3DS family, so it’s a reasonable enough option for anyone who wants to play 3DS games.
New Nintendo 3DS vs New Nintendo 3DS XL
When I did the initial version of this guide, not all regions had the choice between the New Nintendo 3DS and it’s larger XL counterpart – those who are region-locked to North America (including several territories in Asia) only had the New Nintendo 3DS XL as an option. But things have changed since then, with the New Nintendo 3DS being made available for the North America region, so everyone can now choose between the two variants.
What I wrote last year mostly holds true today – both New Nintendo 3DS versions have upgraded processors, more memory, better battery life, the improved 3D viewing functionality, and additional controls (C-Stick and two more shoulder buttons). If you have the money to spare, the obvious choice is to buy either the smaller New Nintendo 3DS or the larger New Nintendo 3DS XL. But which one should you get?
Let’s talk about the general differences first. The New Nintendo 3DS is smaller, which can be a pro and a con. The smaller size is an advantage simply because it is more portable; the New Nintendo 3DS XL is too bulky to fit inside the pockets of most people. And I’m speaking from experience; I own the XL and I can fit it inside my pants pocket but sitting down is quite uncomfortable whenever I have it in either of my side pockets. I have to bring a bag whenever I want to bring my XL along with me. The smaller model however, while still bulkier than the largest smartphone models, is still pocket-friendly.
That smaller size means a smaller screen. While the screens of the New Nintendo 3DS are slightly larger than the screens of the Nintendo 2DS or the older Nintendo 3DS model, it’s still significantly smaller than the screens of either of the XL variants. This can impact your ability to play games like Super Smash Bros. or Xenoblade Chronicles 3D which has the tendency to zoom out, making it hard to see what’s on the screen. Also, the New Nintendo 3DS has a smaller battery which means a slightly shorter battery life. The difference is negligible for the most part and will only be felt on long trips wherein you won’t have access to a power outlet for charging.
Also worth mentioning is the swappable cover plates of the New Nintendo 3DS which allows owners to choose front and back covers with designs of their liking. This may seem purely for aesthetics, but there’s a practical benefit to this – if the cover plates of your New Nintendo 3DS gets scratched or damaged, you can easily replace them.
Finally, the pricing. It’s hard to talk about specific details as different regions have different pricing models and offers, but it’s safe to say that in all regions the New Nintendo 3DS is cheaper than the New Nintendo 3DS XL. That’s one more advantage that the New Nintendo 3DS has over the New Nintendo 3DS XL. With all that said, what you’re really buying with the New Nintendo 3DS XL is the larger screens and slightly longer battery life. The New Nintendo 3DS is cheaper, is more portable and just as powerful as the larger variant and comes with the bonus of replaceable cover plates. The choice boils down to all those factors.
Let me talk about the North America region though; the New Nintendo 3DS isn’t readily available as it is in other regions, but it’s become easier to obtain these days. Nintendo first released an Animal Crossing version of the New Nintendo 3DS, then followed it up with a Pokemon version to celebrate Pokemon’s 20th anniversary.
However, Nintendo is releasing a special Mario New Nintendo 3DS bundle today. Available at certain Walmart and Target branches for just $149.99, this bundle includes two pairs of Mario themed cover plates (one attached, one extra) and a copy of Super Mario 3D Land pre-installed in the system. For comparison, the SRP of the New Nintendo 3DS XL is still at $199.99. A price that’s $50 cheaper and with one of the best selling games on the 3DS included makes this special bundle a really good deal!
Even with this special Mario bundle, I’d still say that the choice depends on what you value – screen size for better gameplay and longer battery life or the combination of a more affordable price, portability and Super Mario 3D Land. Personally, I’d still go for the larger XL model.
And there you have it, my recommendations on what 3DS model to get and why. Despite having 5 different variations available, it should be easy enough to choose one that fits what you need the most.
Did you find this guide helpful? Was there anything you wanted to know that I wasn’t able to talk about? Let me know what I missed by dropping a line below.