If you’ve never had a 3DS before, you may be wondering if it’s worth getting one. I say it absolutely is worth it. With a large range of games (made even larger by its backward compatibility with the DS system’s titles), there is no better time to grab one than right now. No, seriously, get one before you can’t add money to the eShop anymore unless you have the Nintendo ID attached to a Switch. August 29th is the last day to add funds directly to the 3DS family of systems via eShop gift cards. And there are a lot of games to be bought (including many older Pokémon titles!). However, there are quite a few different systems to be had. So, which one should you get? I have some thoughts on that.
These are my personal opinions and experiences, so take everything here with the appropriate grain of salt.
What System Should I Buy?
This depends on how much you’re willing to spend and what features you want or don’t want. The cheapest system (in the US) is the original 2DS which goes for around $80 or so. The most expensive seems to be the New 3DS which goes for well over $200. So, what are the benefits and drawbacks of each? Let’s take a look.
A Note on Measurements
These are not exact, as I did them myself and was trying very hard not to scratch my consoles. So, consider them approximate. The longest edge is always length, the other is width, and height is how tall the console is.
With a variable height console like the 2DS, I measured at the highest point. My 2DSXL was measured/weighed with a plastic cover on it, so that adds a tiny bit to the measurements.
In short, use these to get an idea of sizes, not to sew a case.
Weight: 11.9 oz
Length: 6 in
Width: 3 1/2 in
Height: Just over ¾ in
Released in 2012, this is the first system released after the original (I don’t have the original so I will not be reviewing it here). This system has the older 3D (as opposed to the improved version in the “New” line of 3DS devices that were released in 2015). They are also generally thought to be among the slowest running of the 3DS family. They do have a larger screen, which is nice but lacks the c-stick in the upper right of the 2015 “New” models. There are also certain titles this unit can’t play, such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. As a rule, unless you’re going for one of the many special editions this model had, most people seem to prefer the faster “New” models if their budget allows.
It is worth noting that Nintendo NA no longer accepts these models for repair. It also does not have built-in amiibo support.
Weight: 9.3 oz
Length: 5 1/2 in
Width: 5 in
Height: Just over ¾ in
This is the oddest duck in the entire Nintendo 3DS/2DS lineup. Released in 2013, it was designed to be a sort of “junior” entry into the Nintendo family. A weak point on the 3DS had always been the hinge, so they removed the hinge entirely for this design. Since it was designed for younger children who aren’t supposed to use 3D, it did away with the 3D option the system is famous for. On a personal note, I remember when this came out thinking that it looked like someone did a bad knock-off of the 3DS. That’s how odd it seemed at the time!
I have since purchased one and am quite pleased with it. Many people (myself included) think it’s one of the most comfortable of the 3DS/2DS family of systems. It’s easy to hold and not overly heavy. The only time it feels even remotely uncomfortable is if you need to use the L and R buttons a lot. It also has a nice long stylus which is very easy to hold. The main drawback is that the screens are small and because it doesn’t fold in half they’re easier to scratch. A case is a must for this model.
Again, it is worth noting that Nintendo NA no longer accepts these models for repair. It also does not have built-in amiibo support.
New 3DS XL
Weight: 12.1 oz
Length: 6 1/4 in
Width: Just over 3 ½ in
Height: Just under 1 in
Released in 2015, this model included amiibo support, improved 3D, extra shoulder buttons, and a c-stick. To many people, this is the height of the 3DS/2DS family, and there is a lot to support that opinion. The build quality just feels better than some of the earlier models, and the screen size of the XL model is often preferred. it also has a faster processor and therefore can tun a few games that cannot be run by the older systems. However, the 3DS models are comparatively heavy and this one is no exception. I find it to be a bit of a pain (literally) for long play sessions and it is the only 3DS/2DS family device for which I bought a grip to alleviate this problem.
As of this writing, Nintendo NA does still repair these models.
Weight: 9.1 oz
Length: 5 1/2 in
Width: 3 in
Height: Just over ¾ in
This is the smaller, harder-to-find version of the “New” 3DS line. There’s not any difference other than size and the fact that the faceplates are interchangeable. This latter feature is unique to this model and has made it very popular. I haven’t tried it myself (I only have one set of plates) but I’m told they’re very easy to swap.
As of this writing, Nintendo NA no longer repairs these models.
New 2DS XL
Weight: 10.7 oz
Length: 6 3/8 in
Width: 3 ½ in
Height: Just over ¾ in
The latest instalment in the 2DS family, this model was released in 2017. This is basically a no 3D version of the New 3DS XL, with a few design changes. This is the model that gets the most play time from me right now. It’s lighter than the New 3DS XL which makes it much more comfortable to play in my opinion. It also makes it easier to carry around for StreetPasses (believe it or not I did get on recently and it wasn’t at a convention. StreetPasses do still exist even if rare.)
The main quibble I have with this model is that the build feels cheap. Between the hinge that sticks out from the body of the device, the tiny door that covers the card slot that feels like it’s waiting to snap off, and the extra give built into the hinge (I’ve heard it’s actually to prevent breakage, but it sure feels off), you just don’t get the same impression of Nintendo quality that you get from any of the above models. I’m not saying the build quality IS worse, just that it FEELS like it, so if a more fragile feel to your device (regardless of actual quality) would make you uncomfortable, then maybe steer clear of this model. That’s really my only complaint about the 2DS XL. Opinions vary wildly, but for me, it’s the perfect representation of this family of systems.
As of this writing, Nintendo NA does repair these models.
Where to Buy?
I can only speak to the US market, but my personal favorite is the app Mercari. They pretty much always have a lot of systems available, often offer 3rd party insurance (haven’t had to use it yet so can’t speak to quality, but I appreciate the option to buy), and you get up to 3 days after receiving the item to confirm the authenticity and that the item is as described. I’ve bought two devices this way.
eBay is of course a popular option. I’ve heard of people using OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace as well. Of course, there’s always the old-fashioned option of your local game store, tag sales, and pawn shops, but this involves a lot of luck. I was very lucky with a local pawn shop recently when I found a 2DS with Pokémon X for US $47! The game alone goes for over $30 here, so I was very excited indeed.
Of course, there’s always some risk in buying from strangers. Take all precautions and shop responsibly. And if you do shop second-hand where you can check the quality beforehand, be very careful if the back of the device is bulging. The batteries in these products can swell up and occasionally explode. Of course, they can be replaced, but something to be careful of when handling older devices like these.
One other resource to be aware of when hunting for a console in the US is the subreddit 3DSdeals. They do a very good job of notifying when Gamestop.com restocks their used 3DS/2DS consoles. Just be aware that GameStop refurbished items have been known to vary widely in condition. However, their comparatively lower prices and store support make it a desirable option for many people.
One final note is that the 3DS/2DS family of systems are region-locked, so make sure you purchase the unit that’s right for your country. That’s the end of my thoughts and tips on the 3DS family of consoles and where to buy one in the US in 2022. Good luck!