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I Will Miss You, Nintendo 3DS

With the Switch just around the corner, it's only a matter of time until the 3DS takes its final bow.

Opinion by Caty McCarthy, .

What will the epitaph for the Nintendo 3DS read? “Here lies a system that sold over 65 million copies internationally.” Or, “The 3DS: come for the Mario, stay for the Final Fantasy rhythm game spin-offs.” Maybe, “R.I.P. to a crazy device with a crazy screen where you used a stick to control a screen and not your finger.” The platitudes that will spell out the death of the system are endless, but with the Nintendo Switch right around the corner, I can’t help but be a little apprehensive about the longevity of the pint-sized portable system.

I was never too interested in portable games. That was, until I decided to get a 3DS. The 3DS effectively changed my view on portable games; for the first time, I felt portable games were no longer left to themselves, but could wholly compete with the best console games. That it took great, sizeable games, and tossed 'em on a measley cartridge. That I could stick my 3DS in my purse or pocket, and resume a hefty game like A Link Between Worlds anywhere on the go. My 3DS was, to be corny, my link between worlds: tethering fleeting puzzle games, dress-up simulations, deeper RPGs, and everything in between to my boring, lonely commutes. While I unabashedly have loved the 3DS over the years, it’s time for it to be laid to rest.

The reason for this is because it's hard to see a future for stylus-directed touch screens, a foothold for Nintendo devices since the Nintendo DS was ushered into existence back in 2004. Nintendo's first stylus-directed touch screen was of the dual screen variety; first for the DS, and later the 3DS. Its home console, the Wii U, teetered with the dual-screen functionality again. Though this time, the controller itself was the player's second stylus-directed screen, and the tv was where most of the action happened.

As what befell the Wii U's GamePad, in recent years, I’ve seen games for the 3DS hardly utilize the bottom portion of the touch screen. It’s a lovingly useless square, fit only for inventory management or, in most cases, nothing at all. The screen, of course, originated from the portable system before it: the DS. And at the start of the DS’ lifespan, that touch screen was the source of all its innovation, from the likes of noggin-working exercises in Brain Age to the perky tap-a-long melodies of Rhythm Heaven.

Nintendo's always been a company that boasts their inventive hardware first and foremost. Like when the controller evolved into a motion-controlled stick with the Wii, or when the Wii U helmed a tablet as the controller. For the upcoming Switch, Nintendo's flaunting a new kind of innovation: all of their previous ideas crammed into one single piece of hardware. (Oh, and "HD Rumble" I guess.) It's a console that advertises at-home accessibility as well as all the perks that come with portablity. Despite a (to be frank) shitty battery life, the appeal of taking typically at-home-only console games on the go is a concept that piques the interest of most, myself included. And because of that simplicity of its message, it may just dig the grave for the 3DS.

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Though that doesn't change that the 3DS is, without a doubt (no matter how controversial what I’m about to write is), my favorite handheld portable console. The 3DS is backwards compatible, where there's access to an immense library of DS games that I missed out on (being the one person in the world who never owned a DS). That's in addition to the Virtual Console titles from the past. But that's not giving credit where it's due: the 3DS has dozens upon dozens of great games on its own, and with a glance at my bookshelf, it’s easy to see why my 3DS section holds the most games. The 3DS was the handheld console for everyone: casuals, kids, teenagers, and adults.

I didn’t get my 3DS at launch. I got it nearly a year later. Before it, I had a Gameboy Advanced and Color. Later, I was a semi-avid player of the PSP, and then the Playstation Vita. My handheld gaming was bound primarily to the wasteland of those Playstation platforms, which meant I hardly played handheld games at all. And while I enjoyed the games there, it wasn’t really until the 3DS that I saw the magic in handheld games. It’s the platform where Nintendo took a chance with smaller puzzlers and platformers like Pushmo and BoxBoy!; where I re-fell in love with a freshly reinvented Pokémon; where I finally played an Animal Crossing game (and later, its enjoyably relaxed interior design simulator).

But with the Switch on the horizon and dominating Nintendo’s sights, there’s not much on the pipeline for the 3DS now. There’s Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a remake of 1992’s Fire Emblem Gaiden, releasing on May 19. The game creation software RPG Maker Fes will release sometime this summer. But other than that, it’s crickets for the console.

When I sat down to write this piece, I wrestled with what truly set the 3DS apart from its predecessors, and other portable devices in the world. Was it its immense portability? Was it its updated version’s switchable (hah) cover plates? Was it the sheer size of its library? Was it the fact that I could play Corpse Party, and turn around to play the polar opposite: Style Savvy: Fashion Forward? Or was it just because of that dang Badge Arcade Bunny, bringing brightness to my day? I realized, it’s probably all of these things, and none of them. In all truth, the 3DS wasn't really anything special or industry changing. It was just well-rounded, simple piece of hardware that happened to have everything any sort of player could want, and be accessible.

In the past few months I haven’t touched my 3DS. It’s resigned to a spot on my bookshelf, where dust frames its seat next to my obsolete Vita. There will come a time when I revisit it, but with hardly a care for Fire Emblem and a Switch on the way, I don’t see my stylus greeting its touch screen anytime soon. And so, I bid adieu to the 3DS, and its needless touch screen. I'm onto greener pastures... (The Switch baby! Puny launch line-up and all.)

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Comments 38

  • Avatar for InsertTokenz #1 InsertTokenz 5 months ago
    I wouldn't necessarily jump the gun just yet on the 3DS's farewell. Aside from the Fire Emblem Gaiden remake and RPG Maker FES you mentioned above, Culdcept Revolt, a new Pikmin game, and Fire Emblem Warriors will also be releasing this year (there may even be a few more titles announced which I can't remember at the moment). There is also the possibility of more titles yet to be announce for 2017 seeing as we only just started this year off. I think we will have at least one more solid year out of the system before it's formally retired.Edited February 2017 by InsertTokenz
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #2 cldmstrsn 5 months ago
    I havent even begun to get to my huuuuge backlog of 3DS games plus I never get rid of my systems so It will always be there for me. :)
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  • Avatar for ArdeaAbe #3 ArdeaAbe 5 months ago
    @InsertTokenz There's Ever Oasis as well (which, honestly might move to the Switch.)

    The 3DS will most likely die in the next year but I still have a pile of games to make it through which is why I can't justify a Switch at the moment.
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  • Avatar for Lonecow #4 Lonecow 5 months ago
    The Fire Emblem Gaiden remake is a great send off for the system. 3DS brought Fire Emblem back from near death, and FE Gaiden will probably be it's last big release. Seems fitting.
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  • Avatar for InsertTokenz #5 InsertTokenz 5 months ago
    @ArdeaAbe Thanks for reminding me! I can't believe I forgot about Ever Oasis. Also, looking back already this year, we did get Poochy & Yoshi's Wooly World and Dragon Quest VIII which makes a pretty damn good start to 2017. :)
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  • Avatar for swamped #6 swamped 5 months ago
    Based on what Nintendo themselves have said, I think this is a fairly accurate prediction. I know at one point they were saying they would continue to support 3DS but in the same breath mentioned how it was mainly geared to kids (?!) and they would continue to develop with that audience in mind. Wish I could find the quote.

    But it is a weird time to be a primarily handheld gamer, which I have been essentially since GBA days. Battery life is a killer for me, the entire reason I never picked up a PSP. If it's not truly portable, why bother? But I think we constitute a pretty small market share so at least I have my backlog to keep me company...Edited February 2017 by swamped
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  • Avatar for PsychicPumpkin #7 PsychicPumpkin 5 months ago
    I'm still whittling away at Dragon Quest VII every night but I look forward to the 3DS falling into obsolescence. I look forward to the eventual Switch price drop when I can buy a second or maybe even a third Switch and my family can play together or share from the same pool of games. I look forward to my son not wanting both versions of Smash Bros because it's all on one Nintendo system.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #8 SIGGYZtar 5 months ago
    Not yet! I love my 3DS even though my biggest grip is the small screen that's unsuitable for SNES games. As cool as the Switch is, that dual screen set up is pretty nice, especially with the tactile feeling of closing and opening the lid. Long live the DS Line.
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  • Avatar for chiptoon #9 chiptoon 5 months ago
    While it might not be the 3DS, there's a place for a cheap portable in Nintendo's strategy. I know I'm not buying my daughter her own Switch anytime soon, but a 2DS seems a good option one of these years. And for families with more than 2 kids... Having cheap portables is gold
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  • Avatar for Thad #10 Thad 5 months ago
    I realize this is my third comment today regarding the Switch's battery life, but I really do think it could be a barrier to its adoption as a portable. The 3DS doesn't have much in the way of specs, but that was true on its launch day; if specs were everything then it wouldn't have outsold the Vita. Nintendo handhelds have always pursued battery life over processing power, up until now, and consistently beaten the competition on those grounds. This time, the competition is from Nintendo itself, so who knows what will happen.

    I'm still waiting for the hardware refresh. Maybe they'll get the battery life figured out by then (and apparently I've said that enough times that all I have to type is "waiting" and my phone's autocomplete will fill in the rest). In the meantime, don't underestimate the staying power of a Nintendo handheld against a newcomer with better specs and worse battery life.
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  • Avatar for superberg #11 superberg 5 months ago
    @Thad The Switch's battery life is similar to the new 3DS and Vita, actually. It's less than most Android/iOS tablets, but they aren't used for high-end gaming.
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #12 TheWildCard 5 months ago
    3DS is a weird machine to me. It's compiled a decent library at this point, but as much as I like some the dungeon crawlers, it doesn't have a standout title I have a lot of emotional attachment to. And, maybe because I find the hardware not super pleasant to use, my completion rate for 3DS games is approaching 0, absolutely terrible. I'll still buy Etrian Odyssey V when it hits!
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  • Avatar for IPA #13 IPA 5 months ago
    My "Still To Play" 3DS list:

    Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
    Dragon Quest VII
    Dragon Quest VIII
    7th Dragon III
    Kirby: Planet Robobot
    Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
    The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
    The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
    Yumi's Odd Odyssey
    Devil Survivor 2: Cruel Angel's Thesis

    Given the amount of time I have for games these days, this should take me another 2 years. Long live 3DS!
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #14 SuperShinobi 5 months ago
    Describing Playstation handhelds as a "wasteland" is something that I obviously entirely disagree with. The PSP has some of the finest handheld games of all time, including Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, GTA Vice City Stories, Lumines, Gran Turismo PSP, Gradius Collection, Parodius Collection , Ridge Racer PSP, Wipeout Pure, Every Extend Extra and Patapon, just to name a few. But generally the PSP is a very hardcore male gamer-focused platform and female gamers tend to heavily favor the DS and 3DS, which have games with wider mainstream appeal.

    The Vita seems to have slightly more appeal to female gamers, at least for those who are into Japanese culture such as anime. The Vita's problem however is that the bulk of the harcore male audience who bought the PSP didn't return for the Vita, meaning that it was only bought by Sony fans and fans of Japanese culture.

    Nintendo has already said that 3DS support will continue, which is understandable as it has a such a big installed base. But in the longer term, it looks like the Switch will be the best hope for dedicated handhelds. This time it will be especially important for Nintendo to strike a balance between appealing to core and mainstream gamers, as the mainstream audience for handheld consoles is gradually shrinking.

    The large 720p widescreen and the Vita-esque dual-analogue controls certainly are nods towards core gamers, as is the idea of "console-quality on the go", which is borrowed from Sony's PSP-era playbook.Edited 2 times. Last edited February 2017 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for Thad #15 Thad 5 months ago
    @superberg Yeah, its battery life is fine if you don't actually load up any games on it.
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #16 Tetragrammaton 5 months ago
    @IPA >"Devil Survivor 2: Cruel Angel's Thesis"
    Congratulations I'm cackling in public.

    Anyway, between FE, and the lack of announcements for EOV and MHXX and the non-zero chance that Stars stays on 3DS after all, I think the 3DS will be a viable platform for the rest of the year. Plus we all still have backlogs, so.
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  • Avatar for Ghopper101 #17 Ghopper101 5 months ago
    Pokemon always jumps ship to the new hotness. I expect at least one more core title before a proper sendoff.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #18 metalangel 5 months ago
    My new home means I can't play my 3DS on the way to work any more (no seats on the subway where I get on now, and nowhere to lean and use both hands). Back in the day I had it perfectly timed to get a floor sweep done of an Etrian Odyssey dungeon.

    I can't imagine using a Switch in that role anytime soon - part of what I love about the 3DS is how rugged it is... slap the lid shut and it's protected enough to throw in your bag in a hurry.

    It's a shame that Nintendo isn't doing backward compatibility, but just last night we were buying a WiiU secondhand on Kijiji and something struck us about all the ads: they had maybe three or four WiiU games, and then a TON of Wii games. The Wii's best games were so good, people would keep them forever. Bad news for Nintendo, who need to sell games. Could you imagine if the Switch took 3DS cartridges, never mind Wii games? Nobody would buy anything beyond the new Zelda.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #19 link6616 5 months ago
    @TheWildCard That is exactly how I feel. It's a nice console, it's got a nice library... And nothing has REALLY gripped deeply into me, other than maybe A Link Between Worlds.
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  • Avatar for hamfighter #20 hamfighter 5 months ago
    Ugh. I don't know if I've ever read an article on USGamer that I disagree with so violently. Just because a system isn't the current thing doesn't mean it's exiled to history and you can't enjoy it. Is this not the site staffed by people like Kat who are finally playing Chrono Trigger (20+ years after the fact), and Nadia is knee deep in discovering Persona 4? Aren't we 'Friends of Retronauts' here, and readers of stuff like Jeremy Parish's deep dives into the likes of Symphony of the Night and FFVII?

    I just went on a vacation last week, and I always bring some portables with my for long plane rides and nighttime hotel play... And guess what, I didn't even bring my 3DS or Vita. Instead, I brought my trusty old DSi to finally go through Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon! Yeah, DSi even though I could play it on my 3DS, the resolution just looks better on the older DS so I hung onto it instead of selling it for a pittance... Didn't even get the time to pop in the Castlevania Order of Ecclesia and Kirby Mass Attack carts that I brought with me, still on my backlog along with tons of others (the DS has a mighty hefty and time consuming lineup of excellent JRPGs...). I've also broken out the old GBA SP for some Fire Emblem in the past month (yes, FE Heroes send me back to the older games), who cares if it's not new.

    Aside from that, as others have mentioned, there is still some life in the 3DS in 2017 even if we're only talking about new releases - it's surely not just FE and crickets. Ever Oasis looks great. The Alliance Alive seems interesting. There are new SMT, Layton, and Pikmin games coming. I'll be picking up Mario Sports Superstars in about a month. We may yet get Monster Hunter XX/Stories localizations. And really, has everyone cleared out their backlogs? Dragon Quest VII and VIII alone could last many JPRG fans a year and are fairly recent releases, the best Pokemon game in years just came out a few months ago, etc.

    And who really cares about stylus based touchscreen functionality? I haven't pulled the stylus in my 3DS out of it's storage slot in months! Doesn't mean the system is somehow no longer playable because of a lack of fresh new touchscreen and stylus content...

    It's absolute insanity to be saying "goodbye" to the 3DS now. I'm sure I'll still be playing mine in 2020 and beyond, and with the massive library of the 3DS+DS, I'm sure I won't be alone. I guess if you have to only play stuff released in the previous few months it might not be for you. I feel sorry for you if that's the way you approach games though.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #21 SatelliteOfLove 5 months ago
    When Etrian Odyssey V graces these shores, it will be like Cold Steel 2 was for the PS3, a glorious swansong to a wonderfully eclectic console in a glorious series fit for such an occasion.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #22 link6616 5 months ago
    @hamfighter I agree with a lot of this.

    When I was in hospital last year, the handhelds that came with me was my vita (which people tell me has no games) and my DSi, which got the bulk of playtime. There is still so much I have yet to play on that console, and then I'll realize everything I missed on 3DS. It's a long time before we move truly to a new format.

    That said, I am disappointed in the lack of good dual screen/touch screen games on 3DS. We had nothing as creative as Trace Memory/Another Code, nothing as sensible as Etrian Odyssey (other than of course it's sequels), and nothing that even just tried to make it extend play space in an interesting way, (Sonic Rush).

    And of course, we never got this generation's Henry Hatsworth's Puzzling Adventure. That utterly bizzare puzzle platformer that takes that phrase and runs in a different direction.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #23 Kat.Bailey 5 months ago
    @hamfighter Yeesh, calm down. The 3DS still has some life in it, but I think it's fair to say that its heyday as a major system is about done. Some of us may still be playing it, but that doesn't mean that there's no room for a mostly positive personal reflection on the platform's history.
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  • Avatar for jacoblysinger97 #24 jacoblysinger97 5 months ago
    The reason that I'm not getting a switch is because it's useless on its own. I doesn't even have a browser, so how could it ever be better than a new3ds XL? At least the 3ds has a browser, some built in applications, and an SD card limit of 2 Terrabytes (Bad marketing to those who don't know what a MBR partition table is)!
    The 3ds even came with a microSD card!

    How much more expensive is the switch than a VERY functional system that can still play Wii games like Xenoblade Chronicles without any problems?
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  • Avatar for TernBird #25 TernBird 5 months ago
    I've always maintained that the 3DS was the best console of this generation. It was portable, and had the best selection of games from a wide variety of genres. Provided you didn't want a Call of Duty, you were covered: RPGs, Puzzle games, racers, sims, widgety Japanese stuff, indies, ports. It was cheaper to program for than other consoles, but powerful enough to deliver an amazing experience. (Go play Bravely Default and tell me its visuals are compromised.)

    I didn't need a TV or an expensive console to play some great games as long as my 3DS was around.
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  • Avatar for Pentagen #26 Pentagen 5 months ago
    The Nintendo 3DS is the PlayStation 2 of handheld video game systems.

    By that, I mean that its giant install base and powerful-but-not-too-powerful specs allow for a wide variety of AAA games with impressive production values without breaking the bank. Developers and publishers are less afraid of doing something abnormal as a result. Sure, we have our Marios and our Zeldas, but we also have innovative and niche titles that are about as equally technically impressive as those mainstream titles like Yumi's Odd Odyssey and the Shin Megami Tensei series.

    I fear that the end of the Nintendo 3DS will be the end of AAA-level production values in video games that do not have mass appeal. I enjoy Mario and Zelda and God of War as much as anyone who plays video games, but I would also like to continue seeing less than mainstream games that don't look like low budget indie games--which is not to say that low budget indie games are a bad thing. I hope that the Nintendo Switch, with the required increases in development budgets, will somehow have a healthy selection of AAA games that don't play like everything else, but the transition from PlayStation 2 and Xbox to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and the lack of out-of-the-mainstream AAA games for them does not give me confidence that it will happen on the Switch.

    In short, long live the Nintendo 3DS and its giant video game library, especially the games in that library that are both out of the mainstream and have high production values, because the Nintendo 3DS might be the last time such games exist.Edited March 2017 by Pentagen
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  • Avatar for hamfighter #27 hamfighter 5 months ago
    @Kat.Bailey Caty's warm fuzzy memories of the system aside, did I not read "final bow", "R.I.P.", and "death" all by the end of the intro paragraph? There's a definite tone there, and one I heartily disagree with. I would think little of it on most sites, but one of the main reasons I love coming here is precisely because of the high level of respect USGamer has always given to older games, which are actually a thing to be commonly discussed here - Jeremy's new guest series, Nadia's forays into past game music, and so much more. Just in the past several weeks, I've really enjoyed hearing about Nadia's interactions with P4, and your own Chrono Trigger experience.

    That kind of excellent discussion is very much at odds with the disappointing feeling of reading articles putting out a vibe that anything but the "greener pastures" of the current machine should be tossed into a dusty grave.

    @link6616 Yeah I'm with you on the point that we saw less creativity as time went by. To toss another example in there, Kirby Canvas Curse was wildly inventive and a great game (I never did really spend time with the Wii U spiritual successor...). And I can't let your Trace Memory mention go by without a shout out to my favorite of Cing's games - Hotel Dusk!

    One recommendation from 2016 if you're looking for something more recent that really utilized touch and the two screens really well: Pocket Card Jockey. Legit one of my top 3 games of last year, I just love it.Edited March 2017 by hamfighter
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  • Avatar for orient #28 orient 5 months ago
    @hamfighter It's a video game system, not a person. Saying it's dying isn't something that should be taken personally.

    Whether it's on death's doorstep or has some life left in it, this article isn't taking anything away from you enjoying your 3DS, now and in the future.

    I've played my 3DS every single night for the past 3 months thanks to Picross 3D Round 2. Quite possibly the best puzzle game of all time.
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  • Avatar for FirLocke #29 FirLocke 5 months ago
    I thought the 3DS was already dead, then Fire Emblem, Culdcept Revolt and BoxBoxBoxBoy were announced. And there's still Ever Oasis which looks pretty good.

    What a great system. I sold my Vita and I don't miss it one bit, but I'm not where close to doing that with 3DS. Also Curtain Call is indeed, the best. :)
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  • Avatar for ArdeaAbe #30 ArdeaAbe 5 months ago
    @hamfighter In a consumer sense, it's dying/dead. New releases will dry up. It will disappear from store shelves. The mainstream's eyes are already on the Switch. People will be playing the 3DS for quite a long time, just like the DS, but that doesn't mean the DS is a healthy, living platform. It's dead too.
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #31 JamesSwiftDay 5 months ago
    If the Switch bombs it wouldn't surprise me if the current version of the 3DS hangs around for another few years.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #32 VotesForCows 5 months ago
    I think its nearly getting to the time where I'll buy a 3DS. I tend to be portables at the end of their lives for some reason!
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  • Avatar for FalcoT #33 FalcoT 5 months ago
    I've continued to get a lot of mileage out of my 3DS and Vita traveling, given that I take the bus / train to work everyday. I even get a little thrill out of flying because I know I'll have time to really sink my teeth into a game with few other distractions.

    I'm thinking the Switch will supplant both of them in a few days, but I'll have tons of stuff to go back to on the 3DS should I ever feel the need... Bravely Default, Persona Q, and both (all 3?) Fire Emblem games are waiting on my shelf.

    The one thing I'll really miss is the collectible plates that were made for the New Nintendo 3DS. I ended up buying a half dozen and swap them out every now and then. I think they're done making new ones, but I'd still like to pick up a couple more. Heck, Given the wear on my screen I've noticed after playing Picross 3D Round 2, I hope to pick up another New N3DS if the price ever drops again...
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  • Avatar for superberg #34 superberg 5 months ago
    @Thad Gaming outlets report between 2.5 and 4 hours of Breath of the Wild, depending on screen brightness.

    That's literally the same and the 3DS and Vita. I don't know what you're complaining about. I think everyone in the world would prefer infinite battery life, but it's in line with previous portable consoles.

    Try playing a high-end 3D game on iOS/Android and see if you get ten hours out of it. You won't.
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  • Avatar for wiibert #35 wiibert 5 months ago
    I already sold mine to fund the Switch It was heart breaking to format it. My 3DS didn't even know who I was.
    The 3DS was my first portable since my Gameboy and fundamentally changed gaming for me.
    RIP.
    Yours always.
    Wiibert.
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  • Avatar for Broen13 #36 Broen13 5 months ago
    @metalangel I think they could have a swap button for the bottom screen and do 3ds and ds backwards support. Hit a button and flip to the bottom screen, then it would exemplify the switch moniker. With so many games as said elsewhere eliminating the bottom screen I have plenty I'd play on something like that.
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  • Avatar for Thad #37 Thad 5 months ago
    @superberg The problems with the methodology of the tests have already been covered here (a side-by-side composition of a new device to hardware that was shipped between 2 and 6 years ago is not apples-to-apples). A 3-hour battery life has not been my experience with the 3DS.

    As for the Vita, you do understand that the argument you are trying to make is that the Switch will supplant the 3DS, yes? Comparing it to the Vita is not exactly helpful to that argument.
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  • Avatar for mylaluu #38 mylaluu 2 months ago
    3ds is not dead, many games will be released, haha. But what about the 3ds games in 2018, who knows?
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