Forget Nintendo Switch Pro — there's still life in the 3DS

Nintendo 3DS XL
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Update: Make sure to check out our picks for the 12 3DS games to buy before Nintendo shuts down the eShop.

Our eagle eyes keep sweeping across rumors and snippets of information that a Nintendo Switch Pro is likely in the works. The current Nintendo Switch is four years old, and is reaching a level of technical maturity that could be alleviated with a refresh.

But as exciting as this is, the Nintendo news that's caught my eye is how the Nintendo 3DS is still getting a physical game release this year. So while we have the Nintendo Switch Lite to take care of handheld gaming, it looks like there's life still left in the 3DS. And that's a very good thing. 

The 3DS game in question is a remake of 1992 shoot em’ up Andro Dunos II. It's also being released on the PS4, Xbox One, Switch and Sega Dreamcast. It’s not a game I know anything about or really have any interest in, as there are plenty of retro shooters readily available on PC or on the Xbox Series X via Xbox Game Pass.

But the idea of the Nintendo 3DS gave me a dose of pseudo nostalgia. I got my 3DS XL in 2016 following its European refresh a year prior. This wistfulness falls short of the full-fat nostalgia I have when playing my original Game Boy and N64, however. Still, I felt something when Andro Dunos II was announced.  

It got me reminiscing about how good the 3DS was and why it seemed to thrive whereas Sony's PlayStation Vita died. The 3DS was discontinued last year, but ten years after its release it's still worthy of picking up in 2021. 

Nintendo 3D-stress 

My Nintendo 3DS XL saw me through two tough times. In July 2016 I was made redundant from my first tech journalism job, just after I got a mortgage confirmed for my current home. I had to move out of London to save money on rent while I had no income but also while I was stuck in the limbo an apartment purchase going through the motions. 

It was a stressful combination of moving from one of the world’s best cities to rural Wiltshire, with the overarching concern of how the heck do I pay for a property when I have no income. Given there's only so much applying for work and waiting for interview responses once can do, I needed a distraction. Enter the Nintendo 3DS XL. 

Nintendo 3DS

(Image credit: Future)

And what a distraction it was. Not only was the 3D effect genuinely smart in games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the library of older N64 and Game Boy games — some of which I’d misplaced — were prolific. I got a lovely mix of modern handled gaming and nostalgia.

Then in 2017, after I managed to get a job and my apartment sorted, I suffered a retinal detachment. Grim story short, I had to spend a week lying down on my side with silicone oil in my eye to press the retina back into place.

Now there's only so much Netflix and reading one can do in a day. So having the 3DS with Super Mario 3D World to get through kept me, relatively, sane.

It’s no surprise that the 3DS holds a special spot in my gaming history even though I came late to it in its decade-long lifespan (so far). But brushing that aside, I still think it’s a great little console.

Handheld hero

I love the Nintendo Switch, but I feel it's a little too large to be a console you can simply pop in your pocket and carry around. While the Switch Lite is better for that, having a Switch that doesn't "switch" feels a bit like it’s missing its raison d'etre.

So the 3DS XL makes for a great console you can throw into a bag or pop into a coat pocket. And thanks to its clamshell and rugged design, you don’t have to worry too much about it taking a beating.

It’s also flush with some neat features, including Street Pass for connecting with fellow 3DS owners, a neat dual-screen design — one of which is a touch screen — a trio of cameras, and a stylus that makes navigating the chunky and sometimes clunky interface a lot easier. In terms of features on paper, the 3DS XL makes the Switch seem a little measly.

Of course, the Switch is innovative in other ways, though I feel the 3DS needs to be given the nod for seemingly inspiring Nintendo to further cook up handheld gaming innovations. Even if you don’t subscribe to that, the 3DS was simply a very neat handheld games console that seemed to survive in the face of smartphone gaming. 

And I still feel it's relevant today. Nintendo seems to be playing it rather safe on pushing out retro games to the Switch; it’s released “Classic” versions of the NES and SNES but won’t port all of those games over to the Switch. But with the 3DS, there's a whole suite of older games to play, notably Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask from the N64. Also included is a mix of Game Boy-era Mario and Donkey Kong games, and a personal favorite of mine, Wario Land 2. 

Brush aside those golden oldies, and the 3DS still has some stellar games that like the aforementioned Zelda and Mario titles, as well as Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 3DS. Sure, the Switch successors look better. But there's something neat about the 3D effect on these games and the more pared-down graphics that makes concentrating on the action a lot easier, at least for ol’ one-eye Roland. In short, there’s a lot to still enjoy here.

All that's not to say I don’t relish the idea of the Switch Pro or even the Nintendo Switch 2, whatever form that may take. But I hope Nintendo quietly keeps supporting its online services for the 3DS even though it has ceased production of the console, especially in the face of the waning support for the PS Vita. Failing that, I really would like to see a Game Boy Classic or N64 Classic and more 3DS games on tie Switch. Come on Nintendo, help us out here.  

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.