The 3DS: A Retrospective

The 3DS: A Retrospective
Pic of all three 3DS models

The 3DS is 10 years old as of last month! I figured it’d be fun to take a trip down memory lane and talk about one of the greatest consoles ever released, and the end of what I consider an important era for Nintendo.

I’m a sucker that got the original 3DS when I was a junior in high school, making me one of the enviously(?) regarded 3DS Ambassadors. I had always asked for every console Nintendo made day 1 for birthdays and holidays, with zero issues…up to that point.

The original 3DS launch was a disaster, which is impressive to think about considering how successful it ended up being by the end of its stretch. The base model felt like garbage, the launch line-up was abysmal outside of like, Street Fighter 4, and it felt like there was a drought of games for a long while after that. As a result, I barely touched the thing for quite a while, focusing on other games, and also getting into college, which took up most of my time anyways. But there was always an interesting core at the center of the 3DS, which was brought to the forefront for me when I got the significantly improved — and also much more of a mouthful — New Nintendo 3DS XL in college.

I love my Switch, you know? It’s a great system. But you know what it’s missing? Nintendo’s trademark weirdness. It's easy to forget, but go back to the 3DS and look at the buffet of weird, unique features it has that were just never brought to the Switch. There's Miiverse, which needs no explanation. But there was also Swapnote, which let you create cute art and animations. A much more thorough and fun Activity Log to keep track of the inhuman amount of hours you spent on Animal Crossing New Leaf. Themes, which are still not anywhere on the Switch's horizon 4 years into its lifespan. And Street Pass, which let you connect with other people's 3DSs and exchange info, collect puzzle pieces for 3D art, and more. Yes, that last one was kind of useless if you didn't live in a place with a big population, but it was there! And it was unique as heck, even being implemented in some 3DS games.

Pocket card Jockey Art

That uniqueness stood out in the 3DS’ library as well, which grew to gargantuan levels after that slow start. Sure you had your mainstay Mario and Zelda games, which were fantastic, but the handheld’s cheap development costs allowed for all sorts of fun titles to get the spotlight. I was never big on the 3DS’ main feature, but the puzzle series Pushmo certainly made a believer for a while. The beginning of the indie surge that would later wash over the Switch began here, with heavy-hitters like Shovel Knight, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (still the best one, don’t @ me), and the SteamWorld series of games debuting on the system. The greatest game of all time — and this is barely a joke — Pocket Card Jockey, stole so much of my time I’m pretty sure I would have dropped out of University if I didn’t show any self-restraint. Square Enix dropped Theatrhythm, an incredible rhythm game that celebrated the company’s track-record for god-like music. And Nintendo even let Sakurai out of his Smash Bros. cage to make Kid Icarus: Uprising, which was a banger that I feel not enough people played because of its unfortunate control scheme.

One thing that really stood out to me about the 3DS was how quickly it became a haven for JRPGs. Again, thanks to the 3DS’ large install base, portability and easy development, there was room for all sorts of that kind of game from Japanese devs: Square Enix returned to their classic turn-based roots with Bravely Default and Bravely Second. The Etrian Odyssey games continued on the system, only getting better with pretty much every release, which is good, because we probably won’t get another one with the Switch’s lack of a second screen. 7th Dragon II Code: VFD was a sleeper hit, mixing JRPG combat with dungeon-crawling sensibilities along with a sick art-style and some banger tunes. Rune Factory 4 was so goddamn good that a sequel was announced for the Switch, despite the developers going bankrupt in 2013. Hell, even Capcom threw its hat into the ring with Monster Hunter Stories, which was adorable and super fun.

7th Dragon III Code: VFD

I realize I’m just gushing and reminiscing about the 3DS right now, but even just putting this retrospective together made me want to pull the thing out and get back to some old games. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! I could wax about how Fire Emblem finally got paid its dues on the system, Shin Megami Tensei IV being a masterpiece, how good Kirby: Planet Robobot was…but we’d be here all day. The point is that the 3DS was a special system for me. I got my first job a month into college, so it was the first console I got to buy games for myself. $40 — and sometimes even less, if I went used — was a lot more palatable to spend than $60 for major console releases. And while the Switch is certainly portable, the 3DS could fit in my pocket, letting me easily get some time in between classes or during lunch (or, uh, during class, if the lecture was boring enough, heh). Let’s also not forget that it was compatible with every DS game ever made, too, meaning you had a metric buttload of games at your disposal at all times.

So yeah. This isn’t exactly a mind-blowing revelation, but the 3DS absolutely slapped. And like I said, I love my Switch, but I couldn’t name 10 games I love on it off the top of my head like I could its predecessor. The 3DS was special, and we probably won’t ever get another console like it again. Which is a bummer, because it represents an era of uniqueness and weirdness that Nintendo seems to not be interested in bringing back. That's fine! but I'll miss going to the game store across from my dorm, cruising through the 3DS games on display, and finding another weird, interesting-looking game that I'd never heard of before.


That’s all for now! How do you feel about the 3DS? Got any games you miss on it? Let me know @mintmakesthings! And if you enjoy my work, please consider supporting me on Buy Me a Coffee! Till next time!

mint

mint

I love writing, music, my friends, and food. FAAFO.