Jonathan Leibson/Getty ImagesNintendo is on one of the hottest streaks of its 128-year history: The new Nintendo Switch console is a bona fide smash hit, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition is still in very high demand.
But while the Nintendo Switch is super-great, I’d urge you to at least think twice about picking one up this holiday shopping season.
While all eyes are on the Switch, the 6-year-old Nintendo 3DS has quietly become one of the best deals in video-game history. You can get started with the Nintendo 3DS for a lot less than the Switch, and play some of the very best games of this or any other generation.
Here are a few reasons why the Nintendo 3DS might be the console to pick up for the Nintendo fan in your life this holiday season.
The Nintendo Switch costs $299. Meanwhile, the cheapest member of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems costs $79.
Wait, “family” of systems? Stick with me here, because this is where it gets a little complicated. Nintendo offers a selection of consoles, in different shapes and sizes, all of which can play Nintendo 3DS games.
The lineup, as you’ll see on store shelves this holiday season:
Nintendo 2DS ($79) — Not only is it the cheapest option, but it comes with a game pre-installed. You can buy a 2DS bundled with “Mario Kart 7,” “New Super Mario Bros 2,” or, starting on Black Friday this year, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.” The drawbacks: It doesn’t offer Nintendo’s neat glasses-less 3D feature (if that’s what you’re into), you can’t scan Nintendo’s Amiibo figurines without a dongle, and it doesn’t support buying and downloading classic Super Nintendo games like “Super Mario World,” as the others do.
New Nintendo 2DS XL ($150) — The most recent addition to the line, and probably the best balance between power and price on the menu. It boasts a clamshell design, so you can fold it up and shove it in a pocket or backpack without worrying about damaging the screen. The only real trade-off is that you lose that same glasses-less 3D feature. But honestly, you won’t miss it.
New Nintendo 3DS XL ($199) — The best of the best, the tip of the top. It has all the same specs as the 2DS XL, but also has that 3D feature. It’s not strictly necessary, but the 3DS XL is for those who don’t want to limit their options.
Props to Nintendo for letting users customize their Nintendo Switch consoles — you can buy the system’s Joy-Con controllers in an expanding range of colors, adding some flair.
But if you want something that really stands out, the 3DS might be the console for you.
When you buy a Nintendo 2DS, it’ll come with a version of the console in a color scheme to match the game it comes with — red and blue for “Mario Kart 7;” green and gold for “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.”
There’s also a $159 version of the New Nintendo 2DS that looks like a Pokéball, of “Pokémon fame.” Otherwise, you can get it in a slick-looking black-and-blue or black-and-orange configuration.
3. Battery life
The Nintendo Switch gets three, maybe four hours of battery life when it’s not connected to power, depending on what you’re playing.
Meanwhile, the New Nintendo 2DS XL and New Nintendo 3DS XL both get around 7 hours of playtime — though you’ll get less if you use the 3D effects on the 3DS. The 2DS tops out at around 5.5 hours, which is still better than the Switch.
4. Apps like Netflix and Hulu
Believe it or not, the Nintendo 3DS offers apps for Netflix, Hulu, and even a web browser. Plus, the New Nintendo 2DS and 3DS have cameras on the outside that you can use to take 2D and 3D photos.
Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch offers none of the above. It’s a nice little perk for 3DS owners.
This is the big one. While the Nintendo Switch has some truly amazing games — including “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and the brand-new “Super Mario Odyssey” — it’s still in the earliest stages of building out its games library.
Meanwhile, the Nintendo 3DS has been around in some form since 2011, and there are well over 1,200 titles available at the time of writing. That includes some of Nintendo’s top franchises, like…
The 3DS is a magnificent Mario machine. Just in terms of “Super Mario” titles, you’ve got:
- “Super Mario 3D Land,” a great 3D platformer.
- “New Super Mario Bros. 2,” a retro-tinged side-scrolling Mario game that supports two players at the same time.
- “Mario Kart 7,” a fabulous entry in the long-running racing franchise.
- “Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions,” a remake of the classic Game Boy Advance role-playing game.
- “Paper Mario: Sticker Star,” another roleplaying game with a papercraft aesthetic.
- And more besides, believe it or not.
“The Legend of Zelda” is one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, and the 3DS is home to several amazing games in the series.
- “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” is an all-new sequel to the Super Nintendo’s classic “Link to the Past.” This game is easily a high point for the “Zelda” series overall, so don’t miss this one.
- “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D” is a remake of the 1998 Nintendo 64 classic. “Ocarina” brought Zelda into three dimensions for the very first time, and it’s well worth revisiting now.
- “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D” is also a Nintendo 64 remake. This is one of the oddest and darkest titles in the series, but also one of the most challenging and rewarding.
From the recent “Metroid: Samus Returns,” to the classic “Animal Crossing: New Leaf,” to oddball titles like “Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice,” the 3DS has something for everybody.
The Nintendo Switch is great, but…
Getty Images/Michael Kovac
Mind you, the Nintendo Switch is still a great console. But according to Nintendo’s own data, most people use it as a portable console — and if you’re looking to buy a portable console, there’s nothing better than the 3DS.