Nintendo recently discontinued the 3DS. Earlier this week, the handheld, which debuted in 2011 and succeeded the Nintendo DS, was officially placed out of production. While the Nintendo 3DS garnered two re-releases – the 3DS XL and New 3DS XL – all variations of the system enjoyed nearly a decade of bringing some of the best games in history to players worldwide.
The discontinuation of the 3DS, however, will leave an impact on gaming as a whole. Simply put, this means that games that rely on dual-screens will be difficult to re-release in the future. While Nintendo did their math and surely came to the right conclusion to press forward without the 3DS, fans may wonder how Nintendo will ever bring them back onto the Switch and beyond.
Furthermore, in 2020, without a second system for Nintendo to support, during the COVID era, scant first-party releases may have negatively impacted the company’s reputation and certainly the Switch’s 2020 as a whole. While Nintendo is no stranger to year-long droughts with the Wii and Wii U, this is the first time they’ve supported only a single console since the early years of the NES. Overall, the end of the 3DS, for better or for worse, came with a number of consequences.
Retrospective: Best Games on the 3DS
Nintendo’s 3DS offered some fantastic games on the 3DS. For starters, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was the sequel to the beloved SNES title, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Fire Emblem: Awakening was the Fire Emblem series’ return to form and succeeded in putting the series on the map in the west.
3DS also featured some wonderful experiences to include from Masahiro Sakurai and his company, Sora. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS made its handheld debut. Ultimately, the title would be short-lived in favor of the console release on Wii U, which was better from a competitive standpoint. However, prior to Smash, Kid Icarus: Uprising revived the Kid Icarus series from a 25-year slumber and offered a fantastic touch-screen experience.
The 3DS offered visual novels and puzzle games, like Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, and Zero Escape, all of which have yet to appear on the Switch. Furthermore, Kirby Triple Deluxe, Kirby Planet Robobot, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, and Metroid: Samus Returned offered some of the best quality 2D experiences in handheld gaming.
Anyone who enjoys fun party games would get an easy pick-up-and-play experience from Rhythm Heaven Megamix and WarioWare Gold. Plus anyone who wanted JRPG action would find Pokemon, Bravely Second, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, and Dragon Quest VIII to be quite endearing titles. Finally, in the minds of many players, Animal Crossing: New Leaf remains synonymous with the handheld.
Games like Kid Icarus: Uprising rely entirely on the touch screen for movement. Many other games used the two screens for a touch-screen inventory setting or a map display. Depending on the game, this ranged from a convenience to a necessity.
Some games, such as Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, came to PS Vita which didn’t feature a second screen. The UI was placed similarly but anyone could access the menu from a separate in-game screen. Many games can be played like this and don’t require a second screen to be played. Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido was released for both 3DS and Switch. Unfortunately, the Switch version was vastly inferior to the former simply because the 3DS’ dual screens and touch-screen interface, with a stylus, made the game much easier to play.
Nintendo already has a history of locking up some of their popular titles away in their vault, such as F-Zero GX, which never see the light of day since their initial release. They don’t really need the excuse of having to rework controls for conventional screens or reworking a game’s UI to not re-release a game. Most likely, any game that needed reworking of any sort would be remastered onto the Nintendo Switch.
However, bold to assume, number one, that Nintendo has any interest in re-releasing their 3DS titles to begin with. Secondly, unlike single-screen ports, like Game Boy Advance titles, they can’t just be simply re-released. It’s because of the system they were built on that they need to be remastered or even rebuilt from the ground up. Let alone having to remaster each game, it’s entirely unlikely Nintendo has any interest in ever re-releasing these titles.
The “third pillar”
The 3DS was initially said to be supported alongside Nintendo Switch. However, any gaming forum-goer from the mid-2000s could tell you what Nintendo was planning to do from the beginning. The 3DS was meant to be a fall-back option in case the Switch somehow backfired.
Nintendo already used this strategy back in the days of the GameCube and Game Boy Advance. When the DS came out in 2004, Nintendo urged that the DS wasn’t the successor to the DS but rather a third pillar. This meant it would be a new branch of system that fans could enjoy.
However, the visual upgrades and new buttons all but indicated that Nintendo had planned to make the DS the Game Boy Advance’s successor. But with the picky nature of the gaming industry’s fanbase, Nintendo prepared the possible scenario that the DS would never catch on and could still rely on the Game Boy Advance’s single-screens. Sure enough, once the DS caught on, Nintendo prepared to discontinue the Game Boy Advance and move all development onto the DS.
No second system.
As mentioned earlier, Nintendo has seen its rough years. They’ve maintained a horrible history of going through lengthy droughts on the Wii and Wii U. These two consoles were meant to bring in a broader audience. Ultimately, their inability to keep up with PlayStation and Xbox’s superior specs alienated third-party developers from bringing their best games onto the Wii and Wii U. On the flipside, they chose to develop for the Nintendo’s handhelds instead.
However, when Nintendo chose to release the Switch as a viable system, developers once again felt invited to develop hit titles for all systems including the Switch. Games like Mortal Kombat 11, Team Sonic Racing, Crash Team Racing, and Dragon Ball FighterZ found their way to the Nintendo Switch. As such, the console has proven viable for both home use and portable.
Unfortunately, COVID meant 2020 would be a dry year for Nintendo releases. While it seemed all but certain that E3 being canceled meant no Nintendo Direct, nobody was prepared for the dreadful lack of releases coming from the Nintendo. This year’s Nintendo Direct choices have revolved almost exclusively around third-party and indie developers. Even for DS/3DS fans who went to handheld for more games, this has left quite an impact.
Save for the Nintendo Direct Mini which introduced Paper Mario: The Origami King, Nintendo has next to nothing new to show for the upcoming year. Save for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, they’ve remained quiet on development of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4, and anything else that could possibly be in development.
Where are the games?
Mario’s getting his time to shine thanks to the recently released Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The compilation title upscale three of Mario’s greatest hits into HD for Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is also releasing not only the much-wanted Super Mario 3D World Wii U title to the Switch but is also including a new campaign called Bowser’s Fury. This brings fantastic news to both the Wii U fans of 3D World as well as Mario fans who never played one of the greatest games in the series’ history.
However, it also goes to show that Nintendo has not had a string of successful first-party releases throughout the year. Outside of Animal Crossing and the Xenoblade remaster, this has been the driest year for Nintendo since the mid-2010s.
The reason this is important is because, while many players remember those droughts, the DS and 3DS offered something more to players. In addition to third-party developers supporting the handheld systems, Nintendo released plenty of games across the worst years, like Kirby, Zelda, Mario, Rhythm Heaven, and Pokémon. The handheld systems offered an alternative for high-quality games without the budget of a home console game. This meant faster production, more releases, and successful all-round years. Unfortunately, without a second system supporting Nintendo, this is the first time their fans have had to endure a quiet year from the company.
Nintendo made the right call by discontinuing the 3DS altogether. They’ve successfully upgraded from the 240p screens to a gorgeous HD experience that can be played at home or on the go. However, anyone who saw the DS succeed the Game Boy Advance already knew that Nintendo would plan to do the same with the Switch in due time. The 3DS offered nearly a decade of enjoyable games before running out its lifespan. Owners of the 3DS would be wise not to sell their systems in case they want to go back and enjoy these classics. Also, the 3DS XL fits much better in the palms than the Nintendo Switch ever will.
Between the unique nature of the dual-screened handhelds and Nintendo’s unwillingness to re-release a number of their classic titles, for any reason possible, it’s unlikely we’ll see the likes of A Link Between Worlds again for a long time. People who emulate games on their computers will not only have no problem playing these games but get to enjoy the 4K upgrade as well.
Given the Nintendo Switch’s success, its current library, and its viability as a console-hybrid handheld, it was only a matter of time before it succeeded the 3DS. At the end of the day, the quality of a game isn’t determined by the number of screens you play it on. The DS and 3DS offered unique experiences with some fantastic games. But they weren’t going to be around forever and that’s completely understandable.
Rather, the bigger concern is once again addressing Nintendo’s stubbornness to ever re-release the titles. If re-releasing 3DS titles ever became a possibility, Nintendo would at least have to start by re-releasing their Game Boy Advance and DS games outside of the Wii U eShop. Whether they ever remaster their titles or not, it’s definitely worth holding onto your 3DS. If you never owned one but are interested in trying these classic games, and you’re not emulating, it might be best to grab a New Nintendo 3DS XL now before they start going for absurd prices on the internet.