Editor’s note (February 2023): While this feature was originally written for the 3DS’ 11th anniversary, the sentiments still ring true today. Join us in celebrating the handheld as we look back at what made it so memorable!
The 3DS just might be the best console Nintendo ever made.
Perhaps that seems hyperbolic, or even absurd. Surely one of Nintendo’s home consoles has had a better run, whether it’s the SNES’s timeless catalogue, the GameCube’s underrated hits, or the Switch’s seemingly never-ending onslaught of high quality ports and new titles. And depending on the day, I might pick one of those. But today, only a few days after the 3DS turned 11, I give it the honor.
It had the classic Nintendo heavy-hitters in a surprisingly underappreciated Super Mario 3D Land and Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. After a decade of uncertainty, it brought Metroid back with the amazing Samus Returns, which would pave the road for Dread years later. It gave us not one but two fantastic Kirby games in Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot, the latter of which especially bullseyed what the modern Kirby experience can and should feel like. The two Pokémon generations it delivered brought the series into a 3D environment for the first time, with Sun and Moon in particular delivering an excellent, well-rounded adventure. Animal Crossing: New Leaf provided a mayoral experience. Super Smash Bros. landed on a mobile platform for the first time. Kid Icarus remerged in glorious fashion to make one of the most unique games ever in uprising. But the crown jewel for me personally will always be the famously series-saving Fire Emblem Awakening, an emotional and smooth experience perfectly suited to the platform… and, you know, Fates too I guess. It was fun. Echoes was fantastic! Love that one.
That’s not even mentioning the third-parties! The 3DS was the undisputed JRPG champion of the ’10s, with titles ranging from the cozy to the callous. Fantasy Life and Rune Factory 4 each provided some of the most laidback (but still engaging) gaming out there, while the likes of Etrian Odyssey offered challenging and brutal dungeon crawling. After a lull, Square Enix began to get their mojo back with Bravely Default and Bravely Second, paving the route of what is now one of their most successful development teams. DS hits like Ace Attorney and Professor Layton continued to flourish on the 3DS, even leading to a crossover between those two games. And speaking of crossovers, the Project X Zone games provided great fun between dozens and dozens of different franchises across three juggernaut companies. This only scratches the surface — it had so much to offer.
And the console had its own particular quirks that really gave it identity. StreetPass allowed people to connect in passing in increasingly unique and novel ways, adding whole new experiences to conventions and airports. The Badge Arcade and Home Screen Wallpapers offered a high degree of customizability that no other console has replicated before or since. While the 3D function baked into the system’s name was more divisive, I found it enjoyable in the majority of contexts, a nice little touch to add immersion. Other consoles get by on the greatness of libraries alone, but the 3DS itself has features that put it ahead of the pack.
There are some wonderful titles I haven’t even mentioned: the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask remakes, Ever Oasis, Virtue’s Last Reward, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Mario Kart 7, Warioware Gold… it could go on. The 3DS was a truly special console, and the imminent closing of the eShop is a tragic close on a legendary era of portable game. Here’s to you, little one.
Leave a Comment