Mario Playing 3DS

The 3DS is currently celebrating its ten-year anniversary. Released in North America on March 27, 2011, the dual-screen handheld was host to a huge library of incredible games. Sure, it got off to a rocky start, but it ultimately proved to be one of the greatest handheld systems of all time. Production of the 3DS has been discontinued as of September of 2020, but there’s definitely an argument to be made for adopting the system in 2021, especially if you just really like playing awesome video games.

Let’s talk about that 3DS library!

Simply put, the list of worthwhile games on 3DS is quite impressive. While we’ve seen a lot of the best Wii U games remade for the Switch, that’s not really the case with 3DS titles. As such, barring any alternative means, the only way to play instant classics like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Super Mario 3D Land, and Kirby Triple Deluxe is on a 3DS. The handheld is also where you’ll find enhanced 3D remasters of all-time great games like Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Speaking of classic titles, the North American 3DS eShop is still up and running, and it features some truly incredible Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on the Virtual Console. The past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of my time catching up on old school titles including Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 and Wario Land 2. Outside of Wario’s delightful platforming adventures, the 3DS Virtual Console also includes the Zelda dual titles Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, as well as the Donkey Kong Land trilogy, among others. There are even some Sega Game Gear games!

Wario Land 2

If you want to get your retro game fix on 3DS, you should be aware that the Virtual Console service has been shut down in some Latin American and Caribbean countries. This, coupled with the recent buzz surrounding the impending closure of the PS3, PS Vita, and PSP digital stores should be an indication that these digital download shops probably won’t be around forever. So if you want to get those classic Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and NES games on your 3DS, it’s best to act fast.

Even if you don’t care to revisit the classics, there are so many games made exclusively for 3DS that are absolutely worthwhile. It’s worth noting that there are a few titles that are currently harder to find if you’re a fan of physical media. Games like the original Bravely Default and Kirby: Planet Robobot are getting a little more difficult to come by — while they may not be insanely expensive yet, their prices are increasing, so it’s something to keep in mind. Thankfully, you can always go the digital route as these games and others are available on the eShop.

You should also know that there are versions of 3DS games listed as “world edition.” What this means, according to the game box, is that these are the versions released in areas including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Singapore. While I haven’t bought one of these myself — though I am considering it for a few titles — these versions are in English and are supposed to play on North American 3DS systems. If you just want to play the games, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re a collector, these will likely have a lower value over time.


If you’re all about games, another perk to owning a 3DS is the backward compatibility with DS games. Whether you have a backlog of DS games but no DS to play them on, or you just want to play rad titles like Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem or Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, you can experience the best that the DS had to offer. Just be aware that some stuff might be pricier or harder to track down. On top of that, online play on DS titles is no longer supported through the now-defunct Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service.

Realistically, I could go on and on for days about all of the awesome games you could play on 3DS. It’s a virtually never-ending list of entertaining games! Over the past couple months, I’ve picked up a few games that I’d missed during the system’s heyday myself — and there are still a number of titles I intend on picking up at some point so I can continue catching up on all the worthwhile offerings on the handheld.

Straight-up, the 3DS is just a really fun little gaming device.

Now, unlike the original DS, it seemed as though Nintendo and even third-party developers moved away from utilizing touchscreen functionality for a lot of 3DS titles. Even then, it’s still nice to be able to view your character stats and map in Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, or your inventory management in A Link Between Worlds, all on that bottom screen.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The reason the 3DS isn’t super touchscreen-centric is due to the handheld’s focus on stereoscopic 3D visuals. Now, I don’t really use the 3D functionality very often myself, but it definitely works. Later models of the handheld utilized enhanced face tracking technology for improved 3D effects that wouldn’t become distorted if you moved the handheld a bit while playing. Of course, if you’re not into the 3D, you can always pick up one of the 2DS models — these still play the same games, albeit without the 3D graphical features.

Sadly, not all 3DS systems are created 100 percent equal. Games like Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and EarthBound on the SNES Virtual Console only work on the New Nintendo 3DS line. So if you decide to snag a 3DS in 2021, be sure you confirm that the games you want will be playable on the model you get.

When it comes to handheld gaming in 2021, it’s hard to top the Nintendo Switch. That said, there are so many awesome games on the 3DS that it’s hard for me to say whether the Switch is the better handheld. Yes, I love my Switch Lite, but I can only play Mario and Luigi: Dream Team on my 3DS. I’d hardly call this a fad, either — I’ve been using my 3DS XL consistently since that specific model launched in 2012. And it’s been great catching up 3DS, DS, and Game Boy Virtual Console games the past few months.

Yes, the 3DS is ten years old, but it hardly feels like a legacy platform. With its rich library of games, backward compatibility, and incredible retro collection on the Virtual Console, the 3DS is as excellent now as it was prior to the launch of the Switch. If you’re super into games, it can’t be stressed enough: Even now, in 2021, the Nintendo 3DS is still totally worth it.

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