The only handheld that can dethrone a Nintendo handheld is another Nintendo handheld. Dating all the way back to the first Gameboy, Nintendo has always been keen to reinvigorate their market and keep gamers interested by offering revisions and special edition hardware many times throughout a platform’s lifespan.
The 3DS family of handhelds has, without question, received the most revisions of any of Nintendo’s handhelds to date giving shoppers a large variety of prices and options to choose from on store shelves. But, the confusing nature of Nintendo’s naming conventions and the fact that almost all versions of the 3DS can still be found on store shelves means that shopping for the right console is not all 1-Ups and P-wings. To cut through this confusion, we're here with our Nintendo Handheld Roundup, giving you the star power you need to make the right choice this holiday season.
Old vs “New”
Perhaps the most confusing part about 3DS hardware revisions is the “New” moniker that graces the latest versions of Nintendo’s handhelds. As nondescript as it is innocuous, calling the newer revisions simply “New” means shoppers have to try to figure out if advertisements are showing them a new (not used) 3DS or a “New” 3DS (which could still be used). Toss into that mess the fact that there are now both 2DS and New 2DS models, plus XL models for both old and New 3DS, and you’ve got one of the most confusing naming conventions since the Wii U.
So what exactly is new about the “New” 3DS line of handhelds? It depends on which version you’re shopping for, but there are a few universal truths about any of the New Nintendo handhelds:
Performance Upgrades – All of the New Nintendo 3DS/2DS consoles pack an upgraded processor and increased RAM delivering a performance boost over the older models. Not only are these devices zippier but there are a handful of enhanced titles and even some exclusive titles that can only be played on “New” Nintendo handhelds. Additionally, only “New” models have access to Super Nintendo titles for the Virtual Console available to download via the Nintendo eShop.
C-Stick – A small but welcomed addition to “New” consoles is the C-stick found on the right hand side of the console. This tiny nub can act as a second analog stick for games that support it and acts as a replacement for the circle pad and circle pad pro. Existing circle pad owners should take note that “New” 3DS consoles do not support either of the circle pad attachments.
ZL and ZR Buttons – Added to the shoulder area of the consoles are two additional shoulder buttons giving gamers and game developers more control options.
NFC Reader – Integrated NFC is a welcome addition to “New” consoles giving amiibo support right out of the box. Previously, an add-on NFC reader was required to bring amiibos to life.
SD to Micro SD – All of the “New” Nintendo handhelds have replaced the standard SD card used for downloadable games, pictures, videos, and add-ons with a microSD card. If you’re a heavy DLC user and purchased a larger SD card to support your habit you’ll have to pick up a larger microSD and endure the painstakingly slow system transfer process to get going with your new handheld.
Nintendo 2DS and New Nintendo 2DS XL
With the 2DS you’ve got the most obvious change in design of any of the “New” Nintendo handhelds. The original 2DS was a simple slab and was the first Nintendo handheld that didn’t use a clamshell design since the Gameboy Advance Micro.
Nintendo also skipped a New Nintendo 2DS and went straight an XL model just as they did with the 3DS originally. The New Nintendo 2DS XL brings the clamshell design back to the 2D world while also delivering a massive upgrade in screen size, along with all the “New” enhancements mentioned in the last section.
The New Nintendo 2DS XL is, essentially, a New Nintendo 3DS XL without the 3D. Gamers wanting access to all Nintendo titles in the 3DS library plus full virtual console access but do not care for 3D gaming should set their sights on this handheld.
Parents have a bit more to consider here. If you don’t want your child to game in 3D, the 2DS series is definitely for you, but if your child can be particularly rough on their toys you may want to stick with the original 2DS since the hinge and clamshell design of the New Nintendo 2DS XL is going to be the first point of failure if the console is on the receiving end of a drop or throw.
Nintendo 3DS XL and New Nintendo 3DS XL
The New Nintendo 3DS XL is considered to be the Cadillac of the Nintendo 3DS suite of consoles. It carries with it all of the previously mentioned upgrades but also features vastly improved 3D quality compared to older 3DS models. Not only is the 3D image quality better, but using an infrared light and the front-facing camera found above the top screen of the console, the New 3DS XL actively tracks the eyes of the gamer and adjusts the image accordingly. This means no more wonky 3D images making you feel as if you’re about to go cross-eyed whenever you move your handheld around.
Compared to the original 3DS XL, the console is nearly the same size but features a sleek, glossy design and repositioned start and select buttons. While the original 3DS XL was available in a variety of colors, the New Nintendo 3DS XL has a huge assortment of colors and game-specific themed designs that have managed to outpace the original, including Zelda, Monster Hunter, and the new Metroid limited edition console.
Both consoles are readily available at retailers across the country, and while supply of the original 3DS XL is beginning to dry up, there are countless previously owned consoles available at Gamestop or Amazon. Which is right for you? If you want the larger screen and occasional 3D gaming on a budget, the original 3DS XL may be right for you, but keep in mind that you will not have access to Super Nintendo titles on the Virtual Console or the small assortment of “New” 3DS exclusives like Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. If you want a no holds barred Nintendo 3DS experience or just want the best 3DS console on the market, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is the choice for you. Shoppers should note, however, that the New Nintendo 3DS XL does not include an AC adapter.
Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS
The first and original 3DS is the only 3DS model that is all but impossible to find new in box on store shelves. Much like the first Nintendo DS model, it seemed to have been quickly swept under the rug once the newer, more visually appealing revisions began to hit the market. Shoppers wanting this model specifically will likely have to settle for a previously owned console, which also means that budget shoppers that want 3D gaming on the cheap should have no trouble finding this console with a nice discount anywhere pre-owned hardware is sold.
The New Nintendo 3DS, however, is readily available at retailers everywhere and was available in a very popular holiday bundle last Black Friday. The New Nintendo 3DS features all the previously mentioned upgrades including the improved 3D and eye tracking found in the New 3DS XL and repositioned buttons, but still manages to carve out its own niche thanks to its size and customization options.
Only the New Nintendo 3DS has user swappable faceplates letting you switch up your console design on the fly whenever you’re looking for a new, fresh look for your console. If you are looking for a premium 3DS experience but want a compact console, the New Nintendo 3DS is your choice. Shoppers should note that, just like the New Nintendo 3DS XL, the New Nintendo 3DS does not include an AC adapter in the box.
Budget-conscious shoppers looking for a new (or “New”) Nintendo handheld this Black Friday would do well in checking back often at BFAds. Some of the best deals in video games each and every year are the holiday bundles offered by nearly every console manufacturer, including Nintendo. If budget is making you consider a New 2DS XL or New 3DS over a New 3DS XL then bundles with games or accessories can help subsidize the cost and put that premium console within reach.