Is The Nintendo 3DS A Worthwhile Holiday Gift?

Let’s suppose that either a) you have a devoted gamer on your holiday shopping list, or b) you are the devoted gamer on someone else’s holiday shopping list. After watching Jimmy Fallon fawn over the Nintendo Switch on The Tonight Show, you’d really like to get your hands on a Switch yourself; alas, the system won’t be released until next March. You notice, however, that Nintendo has some other consoles available this holiday season—perhaps one of those might impress the gamer in your life?

Answering the question for the Wii U is easy: Do not buy one of these under any circumstances. Not only is it at the end of its lifecycle and will be replaced by the Switch in a few months, but most of the great Wii-U-only titles (such as Splatoon) are rumored to be coming to the Switch within a year of the console’s release. You won’t miss a thing by passing on the Wii U.

Whether or not to buy a 3DS, however, is a trickier question to answer. In theory, the Switch is able to be both a home and a portable console, so it should replace both the 3DS and Wii U in one fell swoop. In reality, however, things aren’t quite as clear-cut:

Clearly, Nintendo sees the 3DS playing an important role in the short term…but is that enough? If the Switch takes off as anticipated and smartphones continue to eat away at the market for dedicated gaming handholds, the 3DS likely isn’t long for this world.

Thankfully, while the 3DS’s future is uncertain, its past was undeniably glorious, and new 3DS owners can take advantage of its large library of quality titles, including:

  • Super Mario 3D Land
  • Mario Kart 7
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  • Kirby: Planet Robobot
  • Fire Emblem Fates (Revelation/Conquest/Birthright)
  • Pokémon (X/Y/Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire)
  • Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
  • Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
  • Mario & Luigi (Dream Team/Paper Jam)
  • Rhythm Heaven Megamix
  • Shovel Knight
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
  • and on and on and on…

Combine this list with the recent and upcoming releases (and the fact that the 3DS is compatible with original DS games), and it’s clear that there’s plenty here for a Ninteno fan to sink their teeth into. (However, there are some glaring genre holes in the 3DS lineup, such as first-person shooters and mainline sports games.)

On top of all this, if the 3DS’s price tag (somewhere in the $200 range) is a little rich for your blood, the 2DS might be the way to go: It’s much cheaper (generally around $125), it will play most (if not all) 3DS games, and all you lose is the 3D functionality (which most people ignore and most games don’t use).

So is all this enough to justify buying a late-lifecycle 3DS/2DS? My take is that it ultimately depends on the recipient you have in mind:

  • If the recipient if someone who always wants “the latest, newest stuff” or gets upset when a friend has something they don’t (and perhaps most importantly, they demand the stuff they don’t have from you), you might want to ho-ho-hold off on the 3DS, and plan to pick up a Switch in the future.
  • If, on the other hand, the recipient who appreciates good games for what they are and doesn’t care if they’re not playing the current hip games of the moment, the 3DS is a good value buy. (Hey, I’ve had a ton of fun with mine!)

Ultimately, it come down to the kind of games people want to play. The 3DS is an aging-but-known quantity, and you’ll probably know right away whether or not you’re going to enjoy it. If the list of games above excites the gamer on your list, then I encourage them (and you) to take the plunge.

Happy gaming!