The Best 3DS is Finally Coming to the U.S.

Albeit in very limited quantities.

News by Jeremy Parish, .

Shortly before Nintendo announced the U.S. launch of their New 3DS system, we published a piece called, "Should I Buy a New Nintendo 3DS?" Our recommendation was: Yes, definitely, but skip the New 3DS XL and get the smaller model, which makes up for its smaller screens with a more solid build quality, sharper visuals, and interchangeable faceplates.

A few days later, of course, Nintendo announced its U.S. plans, which completely ignored the existence of the smaller model in favor of the XL exclusively. Because Americans only like big things, you know... or more likely, an attempt at austerity by a company working hard to get its finances back in the black. While that business choice undermined the particulars of our buying advice, we did say, "Most likely we'll see the standard New 3DS eventually here" as encouragement for anyone who preferred to hold out for the smaller model. Happily, we were right.

Nintendo announced today the standard New 3DS will finally be making its way to America and Canada on September 25. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, you shouldn't expect to walk in to just any retailer and find a host of different New 3DS colors waiting for you. America is still stuck with the XL, at least for the time being; the standard New 3DS will initially only be available in a limited edition package with Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and an Animal Crossing Amiibo card. This does have the happy side effect of meaning the first New 3DS model in the U.S. will come standard with an Isabelle faceplate, but it doesn't shed light on Nintendo of America's future plans for the compact portable — if any.

A big part of the New 3DS's appeal comes from the system's interchangeable faceplates, but for the moment the company hasn't offered any indication of whether or not it has plans to brings any of its growing line of Japanese and European faceplates to the U.S. It would be nice to say that's a no-brainer, but unfortunately the sad tale of the Game Boy Micro serves as a reality check for such assumptions. The Micro also featured interchangeable faceplates, several of which shipped alongside the system... but after that first wave of (honestly, kind of ugly) add-ons, we never saw further customization options.

The good news is that, for those who pick up the Animal Crossing bundle, dozens of faceplate options are available for import from a number of retailers. They range in price from about $15 to $40, depending on their complexity. My personal favorite is the Plate & Watch faceplate, which adds an actual digital clock to the top shell of your 3DS for less than $30.

The bad news, alas, is that because the U.S. is so late at getting into the faceplate game, most of the best import options have long since sold out from retailers. Want to spruce up your system with faux wood grain? Or with glow-in-the-dark Mario-themed Boo prints? A spooky Skull Kid painting? Tough luck! It's huge premiums on eBay or nothing for you.

Nintendo may well have greater plans for the standard New 3DS in the Americas, but for the time being their limited release announcement means the version of the New 3DS that seems ideally suited for more casual players (with its lower cost and smaller screens) has been positioned as something of a boutique console for dedicated fans who don't mind stalking import shops in order to make the most of their system. At the same time, of course, it's also being targeted toward people who are totally into the idea of helping cartoon animals with interior design on a game system featuring a green gingham/happy secretary puppy aesthetic. By no means does the Venn diagram of these audiences have zero overlap, but it's got to be fairly small.

As someone who actually does fall into that tiny Venn slice, though, I'll be happy to no longer have to slum it with a New 3DS XL. The prospect of having a portable system that actually fits into normal, human-sized pocket sounds pretty great.

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Comments 21

  • Avatar for gillijack #1 gillijack 2 years ago
    Now I'm even more glad I waited. I'd much rather have the standard NN3DS, and my Original 3DS's top screen is stuck on full brightness, so it's time to upgrade.
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  • Avatar for grappler51 #2 grappler51 2 years ago
    I honestly don't give two shits about the new Animal Crossing, but I might pick this up anyway. Been wanting a normal new 3DS since it got announced, the XL is just a little too big for me.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #3 DiscordInc 2 years ago
    I'm a little annoyed at this announcement, largely cause I broke down an bought an XL last week. Granted, I should have been more wary after the South Korea announcement but that's hindsight for ya.
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  • Avatar for Vaporeon #4 Vaporeon 2 years ago
    What market segment are they targeting with the New 3DS XL? I can only speak to my demographic, and only from personal opinion within that, but to a 30yr old professional who's 3DS XL is gathering dust until Yokai Watch and Fire Emblem, customizable faceplates and a shallow pool just don't cut it. I could get a Vaporeon decal on Etsy for less than $10 right now if I wanted. As a dedicated gamer for decades, I feel I've wisened up to these late cycle add-ons like the N64 jumper pak and the DSi. Does anyone agree with me? I don't mean to be rude. If this sells, great for Nintendo, but would someone explain the appeal? Thanks!
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  • Avatar for daveyc02909 #5 daveyc02909 2 years ago
    Hmm, still gonna wait for a non-Animal Crossing 3DS XL. Not currently a fan + don't really care about the faceplates. :/
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  • Avatar for metalangel #6 metalangel 2 years ago
    @Jeremy.Parish Only people/journos in the UK and Fievel Mousekewitz still refer to the US as 'America'. Your sub seems to have caught some of them but not others.


    I've had a 3DS XL for over two years now and my chief complaint is the Dpad. It's way too clicky and slow, and playing Tetris, I wish there was a Windows-esque 'keyboard' setting to change how fast after holding down the button it repeats, because it doesn't seem fast enough to reliably beat Game B 9-5. Other forums suggest the pad just has to be 'broken in'.

    NOW. My coworker has just bought a New 3DS XL and after expressing alarm at how clicky my 3DS XL's Dpad was; has found his to be exactly the same. He keeps telling me how Nintendo patented their Dpad and how that should mean all are as awesome as we became used to with the NES/SNES/N64/Gamecube but that doesn't seem to be the case. For one thing, the Wii has the same awful clicky feeling as the 3DS XL. For another, I can't play Shantae with the reflexes required because the Dpad is too low for the thumb (the analogue stick is placed for its comfortable use instead).

    Bah, I say.
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  • Avatar for nilcam #7 nilcam 2 years ago
    @metalangel I just switched over to the 2DS since the N3DSXL caused hand cramps after 15 minutes of play. The 2DS has a nice, soft d-pad.
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  • Avatar for orient #8 orient 2 years ago
    Most of the faceplates available are extremely gaudy like that Isabelle one, but I managed to find a plain white one embossed with Mario characters, which is subtle and stylish.

    The regular New 3DS is a lovely machine, but on the odd occasion I do miss the larger screens. Still, I'll take smaller screens over hand/wrist cramping any day.
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  • Avatar for manny_c44 #9 manny_c44 2 years ago
    Yeah, will still hold out for a non AC version.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #10 himuradrew 2 years ago

    Now I wonder if I should sell my N3DSXL and get this one... So tempted because of the faceplates :(
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  • Avatar for Stepout #11 Stepout 2 years ago
    I love my New 3DS XL! I also love my Wrangler cargo pants. Coincidence?
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  • Avatar for detten17 #12 detten17 2 years ago
    so no one is waiting for the NX announcement, for all we know it's 3ds backward compatible. honestly the new 3ds just seems too little too late; this should have been release 2 years after the original launch.
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #13 benjaminlu86 2 years ago
    inb4 face plates are region locked. Because Nintendo.
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  • Avatar for boatie #14 boatie 2 years ago
    Being in Europe and having both versions from the get go I can honestly say that to me the XL is leagues better. I don't understand the fascination for changeable plates, but whatever makes people happy I guess.
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  • Avatar for ArugulaZ #15 ArugulaZ 2 years ago
    @Stepout I love paying half the price for a New 3DS XL because K-Mart forced a price match with other retailers.
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  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #16 Mikki-Saturn 2 years ago
    I want this system but I'm not interested in the Animal Crossing game right now so... I guess I'll keep waiting. It turns out Nintendo doesn't really have much plans for the New 3DS anyway. I thought there'd be several more exclusives by now. So it's no big deal to just keep waiting and see what happens.
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  • Avatar for pennybags #17 pennybags 2 years ago
    I wouldn't sacrifice the bigger screen for face plates, although if I had an LL model with faceplates I might buy a set.

    That said, I tried the n3DS and didn't really feel like the improvement justified buying a nwe one to replace the original.
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  • Avatar for wii-bert #18 wii-bert 2 years ago
    Too late for me. It was hard enough explaining to my wife why I need the new 3ds XL. I'll be stuck with this one for the foreseeable future. How I miss the days of a DS that fit in my pocket.
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  • Avatar for swamped #19 swamped 2 years ago
    Wish I could have waited but the circle pad shat out on my 3DS so I ended up with an ugly, plain, black New 3DS XL and there is NO WAY I'm giving Nintendo the satisfaction of buying another. Probably the most aesthetically displeasing U.S. launch of a Nintendo handheld since our initial GBA options were "purple," "ghost purple," and "white."
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  • Avatar for amightysquall958 #20 amightysquall958 2 years ago
    @Jeremy.Parish: "Want to spruce up your system with faux wood grain?"

    Thanks Jeremy, now I want a faceplace with an actual wood veneer. I'm thinking a chocolaty cocobolo would look super sharp.Edited September 2015 by amightysquall958
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