Happy 10 year anniversary, 3DS!

The 3DS was discontinued in 2020.

The Switch has recently surpassed 3DS lifetime sales in half the time.

It is clear that the Nintendo Switch is the hottest (and only) handheld hybrid console on the market. While the Switch is positioned to leave the 3DS in the dust, the popularity of Nintendo’s previous handheld has not waned as much as one would expect. When Animal Crossing New Horizons released for Switch, the 3DS game Animal Crossing New Leaf surged in sales to the amusement of many. While the Switch is objectively an evolution of most aspects of the 3DS, there are seven features the 2011-born handheld possessed that Switch fans aren’t as lucky to have. 

Nintendo 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Battle of the handhelds | Trusted Reviews

1. Miiverse Social Media

Miiverse was a social media platform that originated on the Wii U in 2012. The platform then crossed over to the 3DS a year later. The service allowed players to post text and hand-drawn images into different game communities. Some games such as Smash Bros would feature the posts within the game. Although Miiverse could be described as chaotic and unruly as a platform, there was a nice sense of a big interconnected community that existed within the little 3DS machine. Such an experience has no equivalent on the Switch.

Miiverse - Rotten Websites Wiki
Mii Universe, what more could you want?

2. Download Play

Originally a DS feature, Download Play allowed two 3DS devices within local range to play a game together with only one game card. One player would own the game, whether it was Mario Kart, Zelda or dozens of other supported games, and allow up to three other players to instantly download a small portion of the game to play local multiplayer, all for free. 

While the Switch does include local multiplayer support for many games, all Switches must own a copy of the game. 

Luigi's Mansion For 3DS Will Support Download Play | NintendoSoup

3. Backwards Compatibility 

Not only did the 3DS support DS game cards, the 3DS eShop had many retro games ranging from the best hits of the NES to Gameboy Advance games. The Switch is the first Nintendo console since the SNES to not support the previous generation, with no 3DS game card slot in sight, as well as NES and SNES content locked behind an online subscription. 

4. Online Experience

Besides the obvious bummer that the Switch locks online play behind the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, the Switch is also missing a Netflix app and even an internet browser, unlike the decade-old 3DS. 

5. Camera and AR

The 3DS featured 3 cameras, one on the front and two on the back for taking 3D photos. There were also revolutionary AR experiences, such as Face Raiders, a gyroscopic shooting game where the enemies were your photographed faces, and “AR Games,” an app that used an included pack of real-life cards that could be used to play games and pose Miis in real world environments. Maybe we will see a camera on a Switch Pro model, but for now the 3DS wins in that department.

Nintendo President Says The Company Is Exploring New Ways To Use AR - VRScout
Augmented Reality was pioneered on the 3DS back in 2011

6. Mii Implementation

The 3DS Mii Maker was the most robust as the time it came out, and even let the Miis walk around similar to the Wii’s Mii Plaza. The Switch tucks the Mii Maker away in the Settings app. This decision is a clear signal: unlike the 3DS’s many implementations of Miis, such as in Animal Crossing, Tomodachi life, Pilotwings Resort, and the Streetpass Mii Plaza, the Switch aims to subjugate Miis to just being profile pictures. In fact, only five Switch games implement Miis at all.

Tomodachi Life review: semi charmed | Polygon

7. Streetpass

The Streetpass Mii Plaza, and Streetpass function itself are the most revolutionary features on the 3DS whose exclusion hurts Switch players the most. Basically, Streetpass is a communication function that lets two 3DS devices wirelessly exchange information when in close proximity, such as “Passing someone on the Street” (hence the name). This function was most prominently featured in the included Streetpass Mii Plaza. This hub allowed a user’s Mii to exchange with other Miis that were transferred via Streetpass. Miis would greet each other with a customized message and meta information such as a user’s most recently played game.

These Miis would are stored in the Plaza and used as players in Streetpass Games. Games include Find Mii. In this RPG, each Mii becomes a new, disposable fighter with a power that depends on their shirt color. Puzzle Swap was a game where each new Mii would supply a piece to a puzzle. 

StreetPass Mii Plaza | Nintendo 3DS Family | Nintendo
Greeting a new Streetpass friend

There was also Spotpass, a feature where hotspots would store Miis over a certain time period. This in turn would allow any nearby user to receive every Mii data that was recently collected. Nintendo partnered with AT&T to use their cell towers, along with McDonalds to use their modems for Spotpass. Streetpass and Spotpass made owning a 3DS an exciting adventure, where walking in public meant connecting with others. These features were utilized in many games, such as exchanging designs in Animal Crossing, racing ghost data in Mario Kart 7, and sending explorer Miis in Tomodachi Life. 

It is mind-boggling that the Nintendo Switch did not capitalize on a similar feature. The inclusion of Streetpass would likely drive up the relevancy and popularity of the Switch exponentially. No one would want to miss out on the events and meetings that are possible with such a feature.

Find Mii II - Nintendo 3DS Wiki Guide - IGN
Use real 3DS owners as canon fodder!

Bonus: Durability 

The Switch’s Joy Con controllers seem to be a lot less Joy and a lot more Con. Many reports of analog stick drift have launched a class action lawsuit campaign in multiple countries. Nintendo has acknowledged the issue, offering free repairs to limited success. This problem is especially severe on a Nintendo Switch Lite, where the Joycons can’t be removed from the console. 

Switch vs. 3DS: Which Nintendo Console Is For You? | Tom's Guide
Similar yet very, very different

The circle pad of the 3DS, and the overall device, are still durable to this day. The compact handheld was stress-tested and tweaked to create a near perfect machine in both ergonomics and durability. This fact is obvious to anyone who has owned a 3DS. Hopefully a Pro-model Switch uses what is popularly known as “Nintendium,” the legendary material that forged the near-indestructible previous handhelds such as the Gameboy and DS.


Remembering the 3DS

As the 3DS turns 10 years old today, February 26, 2021, fans are further reminded of such missing features. While it is currently a great time to be a Nintendo fan, there are many hiccups in the Switch experience. (Some easier to ignore than others.) The amount of Switch and 3DS owners are currently tied. Therefore, the comparison between the two becomes most relevant, surprisingly in a manner that isn’t always favorable for the Switch. At least these missing features can be thought of as a potential wish list for a successor Switch model.  

Here’s some 3DS cake to celebrate:

Mini Sonic Nintendo 3Ds Cake Small Version From Our Sonic 3D Cake - CakeCentral.com