RIP 3DS, the Best Nintendo Handheld

Another day of 2020, another casualty.

The reports started rolling in this morning. The king is finally dead. Nintendo’s Japanese site has updated the listings of its 3DS family of consoles with an “Out Of Production” message. Their English site has seemingly scrubbed any mention of the 3DS from existence. Nine years after launch, and several years since anything major was last released for the console, they’ve finally stopped making the thing.

I’m not going to go through the whole X number sold song and dance or anything, I just want to talk about how goddamn good Nintendo’s Last GameBoy was.

First, the hardware. The 3DS Family of Systems, as Nintendo came to call it as the catalog of sizes, shapes, and form factors grew over the years, was extremely varied and full of bangers. The weird, shiny, angular newness of the original that introduced us to the Circle Pad and assured us that clamshells were here to stay. The rounded edges and absolutely gargantuan screens of the XL. The pleasing “cake slice” design of the 2DS. And finally, the refined elegance of the New 3DS generation. Every 3DS I ever used was a joy to hold and play on.

The 3DS existed during a weird time in Nintendo history, carrying the unfortunate burden of being the handheld Yin to the home console Yang of the doomed WiiU. But the 3DS thrived despite this. Unlike the WiiU, which developers had No Idea what to do with, the 3DS, with its own weird gimmicks, was lovingly embraced, and skyrocketed to success. It even survived Nintendo’s eventual realization that the big feature that this family of handhelds was named after, 3D, sucks actually. Because the genius of the 3DS all along was that its stereoscopic 3D was entirely optional. So they did learn something from the Virtual Boy!

As a result of its overwhelmingly positive reception, its floundering console counterpart, a nearly constant flood of new versions, colorways, and special editions, and backward compatibility with the original DS catalog, the 3DS boasts a game library of approximately six hundred gazillion extremely good games.

This is the real meat here. And it’s why I still play my 3DS to this day. I have a Switch, I have a powerful PC, but I fucking love my 3DS. Or rather, my New Nintendo 2DS XL, to be exact. Some of the naming got out of hand toward the end there.

See, the 3DS’ main claim to fame at launch was a new port of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. So, uh…good start. Happily, that was not the only N64 game to receive a 3DS port. Majora’s Mask soon joined its sister, StarFox 64 came along, not to mention the truly stellar Mario 64 port that was released on the DS years earlier.

But it wasn’t all ports of first-generation 3D Nintendo games. A Link Between Worlds, the game that finally got me to buy a 3DS, came out in 2013 and remains one of the best Zelda games ever made. Super Mario 3D Land ranks up there with the best Mario games, far beyond its “Land” counterparts, there was a new Animal Crossing, countless Mario RPGs, like 47 Fire Emblems, a Smash Bros (!?), Kirby Planet Robobot, a new Mario Kart, SEVERAL new Pokémons. Even Donkey Kong Country RETURNED just to be on this thing. Those are just some of the first-party releases, and that list is already out of control.

Add on top of that the incredible third-party and indie support with games like Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac, the SteamWorld series, Terraria, Minecraft, Cave Story, OlliOlli, Azure Striker Gunvolt, Mighty Switch Force, and Gunman Clive, just to name a few.

Add on top of THAT the incredible number of Virtual Console releases from the NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and eventually (with the advent of the NEW 3DS generation) the Super NES. Even Game Gear got in on that shit. This is also where I mention the solid 2D Sonic ports that came to the system.

AND add on top of that the ports of WiiU games that made their way over when Nintendo finally had to accept that no one bought a WiiU, like Mario Maker (which was admittedly a flawed port), Yoshi’s Wooly World, and Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn (originally a Wii game, but hey we’ll take it).

Oh, and add on top of THAT the entire library of DS games, which was already enormous and stellar.

It is for these reasons and more that I not only think back on my 3DS with fondness and love, but continue to pick it up to this day. Where else can I start the day playing Mario Kart, pop out to continue my game of Earthbound, throw in a Megaman ZX cart, switch over to Pokemon Crystal, and wrap things up with Yoshi’s Wooly World, all on the same console?

I played through some of my favorite games of all time on the 3DS. I came back to Pokémon after not playing a single generation since Crystal on the 3DS. I finally completed A Link to the Past and Super Metroid on the 3DS. I discovered and fell in love with Kirby’s Dream Course on the 3DS. I discovered a ton of wonderful new games, and I can’t wait to play more (I’m currently planning to finally play through Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask once I finish Earthbound).

The 3DS may have exited production, but it will never die.

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