Last updated: August 20, 2021

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Today we're going to talk about the Nintendo 3DS, the successor to the most successful handheld console in history, the DS, and the line with one of the biggest "families" within the giant Japanese company.

The great innovation of the 3DS is the ability to project 3D images without the need for glasses. However, over time the console has been aligning itself to the smartphone era and has developed its operating system to such an extent that there are models based solely on it, without 3D projection.

And there are many models, launched over almost a decade of line. In this guide, we will break down all of them, explain their advantages and disadvantages and list criteria that can help you choose which is ideal for you.


  • Nintendo recommends that the 3D function be used by children only from the age of seven.
  • The "3DS family" is huge. Between the classic, the XL, or 2DS and the "New", there are more than half a dozen different models.

The Best Nintendo 3DS: Our Picks

Buying Guide

It's no wonder that the Nintendo 3DS is one of the most enduring lines of handhelds. The console manages to stay current by combining gameplay that fits its users and attributes in line with its niche market.

That level, however, has come at the cost of many releases, so many that a first-time gamer can get lost. So, in this Buying Guide, we will talk about each member of the family, its changes, advantages and disadvantages. That way, you can think about the ideal model for your "gaming".

Niño sentad en mesa jugando videojuego portatil

Nintendo, manufacturer of the 3DS, is one of the leaders in the games market, and has a legion of fans.
(Source: Aerschot/

What is the Nintendo 3DS?

Nintendo 3DS is a portable videogame manufactured by Nintendo, a Japanese technology company and one of the market leaders.
With a design similar to a flip phone, but used horizontally, the console has two screens: the top, main, and the bottom, used as support and navigation of the operating system. On the sides of this screen, are or control buttons.

It is on this lower screen where the 3D images are projected, seen without the need for special glasses.

The technology, called stereoscopic projection, was the main innovation presented at the time of its launch in 2011 - replacing the most successful portable line in the history of the gaming market, the Nintendo DS.

Padre e hijo con videojuego portátil

The Nintendo 3DS is a portable video game manufactured by Japanese technology company Nintendo. (Source: Lily-Oh/

With the advent, Nintendo wanted to give greater functionality to the support screen, which was very successful in the previous line, which it achieved. With "holograms", gameplay became more dynamic, and, why not, more fun.

Still, the execution of the technology still had its problems, and most games didn't exploit it, or at least didn't make it an integral part of their gameplay.

Or technological problems - as well as some screen size and control layout issues - were being fixed as new models were released. The issue with games that ended up not changing much.

Thus, the Nintendo was investing in other features, based on its operating system, its online possibilities and compatibility with games and older consoles company.

magem mostra um Nintendo 3DS Clássico, rosa, sob um fundo branco..azul

The Nintendo 3DS succeeded the most successful handheld in the gaming industry, the DS. (Source: Knop/

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Nintendo 3DS?

Two of the biggest advantages of the 3DS are in its very design. The first is the two-screen dynamic, which gives more options for gameplay and is even in line with the logic of today's second and third screens.

In this second screen, you can, for example, access the game map concurrently with the action on the top screen, very useful for games like Mario Kart, for example.

Furthermore, you can access the device's operating system through it, also without leaving the gameplay. Play music, open images, chat, etc, became easier.

Then, the 3D projection itself without glasses is an advantage, giving depth to the games and opening countless possibilities of performance - and because it does not exist in any other console.

(Fuente: Dids/

Another great asset of the 3DS is the device's functionality, with systems such as StreetPass, which recognises other users on the street; integration with augmented reality technology; compatibility with games from older consoles; to stay among some highlights. In other words, the videogame goes beyond gaming.

On the other hand, the disadvantages are related to the technological adaptations for its portability and the details of the 3D projection technology of the secondary screen.

To begin with, the size of the device, which never seems right. The classic 3DS is too small, especially its screen and buttons. The XL models are even too big, looking like toy laptops and losing a significant part of their portability.

Imagem mostra uma mão segurando um New Nintendo 3DS XL, sob um fundo branco.

The latest versions of the Nintendo 3DS sought to increase the size of the screen and the device. (Source: Dids/ Pexels)

Second, with the size of the screen, the controls and with the strong colours, used to compensate exactly that screen size and its resolution, the console can generate great fatigue in vision, to the point that Nintendo recommends a break of ten minutes for every hour played.

Finally, the 3D technology has its setbacks. First, by its age restriction, recommended from seven years, due to strong lights.

Then, in older models, its functionality is not practical, requiring a precise equalization and a certain position and distance from the head and eyes in relation to the screen, to work.

  • Two-screen dynamics
  • Two-screen dynamics
  • Extra features
  • Size: too big or too small
  • 3D performance problems
  • Vision fatigue

XL, 2DS or New?

Over the eight years of the line, Nintendo has released no less than seven models and variations of the 3DS.

However, there is no need to explain one by one, since they obey the dictates of three subgroups - four, if we consider the classic, the original 3DS - that have well-defined attributes and can combine into one device: the "XL", the "New" and the "2DS".


The XL group, which refers to the indications of clothing size (from English "extra large", or "GG"), has as its motto exactly its size, expanded in relation to the classic 3DS.

The "Nintendo 3DS XL", for example - the second model released - is 20 mm larger in height and width of the device, and with the upper and lower screen also larger, in 4 cm and 3 cm, respectively.

The other attributes are the same, with the exception of battery life and storage space, benefiting from the larger area available on the model. That's 2GB more space and 1.5h more battery life.


The 2DS sub-group was thought as a cheaper option of the console. For such its two main changes: the end of the 3D projection and the flip design of the other models, at least in the older editions of the 2DS.

A large solid bar, reminiscent of a GameBoy Advanced, only a little higher. Compared to the classic 3DS, it is 4 mm smaller and five times wider, despite keeping the size of the screens. Its graphic performance is similar to the 3DS and the XL, and has the same storage of the XL (4GB).

Niño jugando en sofá

El Nintendo 3ds es de las consolas mas recordadas. (Source: Dilsiz/


The New is treated as the tip of the 3DS family. It bets on better performance, whether graphic, 3D projection, processing, memory... the New is the closest to a smartphone within the line.

The main physical modification is the presence of the right analogue button, the "C-control", which needs to be purchased separately on other models.

The New also has a sensor in its front camera, which allows better equalize the 3D projection from the position of the eyes of the person in relation to the console, not the opposite.

XL 2DS New
Design Larger screen No folding Extended control
3D Normal None Advanced


Or groups have specific and different attributes and novelties, but they are not exclusive. They can be combined into a single model, which then takes all the attributes of the agglutinated groups, such as the Nintendo 2DS XL or the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Niño jugando con Nintendo 3DS

Or groups have specific and different attributes and novelties, but are not exclusive. (Source: Rostagno/

Purchase Criteria: Factors to compare Nintendo 3DS models

We put together some aspects of the Nintendo 3DS, whether about the device itself or its use, that should guide your purchase. They are criteria to help you choose the ideal model:

  • Playing habit and places
  • Hand fit
  • Games
  • 3D projection

Let us, then, explain each of these criteria, so that your purchase is very well thought out.

Habit and places of play

Pondering or your habits before purchasing a consumer good is always positive, since by fitting the product into your routine, the chance of a good return in satisfaction increases.

With the Nintendo 3DS it is no different. Think, before buying your model, about your habits and your routine, especially when and where you intend to play on your device.

If most of the hours are in public transport, for example, a 3DS classic or a 2DS may be the most suitable, for their extreme portability. If you like to play on the couch at home, or for several hours - or both - a model XL can give you more comfort.

A "New" if you want to play online and interact a lot, a 2DS for children because it is more resistant, finally, habits and places of play influence the satisfaction with the chosen model.

Handheld fit

With all the good portability of consoles, there are fit issues. In the case of the NIntendo 3DS, there's the size of the controls, which are too small on some models, such as the Classic and 2DS.

The criteria here is simple. If you have big hands, prioritize the XL models, larger, or at least test, if possible, the model you like best, to assess the fit with your hand.

Niño jugando con Nintendo 3DS negro

With all the good portability of consoles, there are fitting problems. (Fuente: Bablo/


One of the merits of Nintendo's consoles is to have many runnable games of simple gameplay, which end up simplifying the device itself.

If these "simple" games are your thing, including the classics of other consoles of the Japanese company, any model, from classic to New, serve their purpose.

If, however, you enjoy games more complex in gameplay and graphics, it is possible that they only run on models "New", or at least have a higher performance in these newer.

Niño jugando en sofá con Nintendo portatil

One of the merits of Nintendo consoles is to have many games runnable simple gameplay. (Fuente: Hellbach/

3D projection

The great innovation of Nintendo 3DS is also one of their points of greatest discussion - and therefore, a criterion of choice: the 3D projection.

A good part of the games does not work with the technology, another part only uses it in a superficial way; some models, especially the older ones, do not have the ideal performance for 3D.

So, use the 3D as a criterion for choice. If you are "pro-3D", the newer models offer higher performance and technology, especially the "New" ones.

If you're happy with the good old 2D, the 2DS will provide what you need, with economy, to top it off. The same may apply to the classic 3DS and even older or XL, with a slightly lower value than or newer and that enable you to disable 3D easily.

Finally, if you are going to give a child with the 3DS, know that Nintendo does not indicate the technology for children under seven years. A 2DS, in this case, is a great choice, even for its resistance, without the vulnerability of the flip.

(Featured image source: Stas Knop / Pexels)