Why the 3DS is Still Worth it in a Post-eShop World

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Key Takeaways

  • The Nintendo 3DS still offers a top-tier selection of handheld games, even though some titles are available on the Switch.
  • Custom firmware and modding capabilities make the 3DS versatile and allow for custom themes, save transfers, and playing retro games.
  • The 3DS has a bustling resale market, good repairability, and multiple models to choose from, making it accessible and easy to sell if you decide to at a later date.

With the eShop gone and much of its online functionality severely cut down, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Nintendo 3DS was dead in the water. But the system still thrives on the resale market, even though some of its more notable titles have made it to the Switch.

A Top-Tier Selection of Handheld Games

When Nintendo announced the permanent shutdown of the 3DS and Wii U’s virtual game marketplace, the eShop, a big portion of the gaming community was devastated. Thousands of games suddenly became inaccessible and without ports to their current-gen system, the Switch, many of the less popular titles were liable to be lost forever.

Even after a shaky launch, the 3DS would go on to continue Nintendo’s streak of domination in the handheld gaming market. While brand recognition had a lot to do with its success later on in its lifespan, much of it was due to the amount of exclusive titles the system had to offer.

Success was helped by an excellent selection of first-party games from Nintendo including Pokemon X & Y, Super Smash Bros., and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Despite many of these flagship series getting new games on the Switch later on, older handheld titles are still unique and worth going back to.

Even outside first-party games, the system had something for everyone. If you were an RPG fan, you had the likes of Etrian Odyssey, Bravely Default and arguably the best possible versions of Dragon Quest VII and VIII. For platforming fans, there were several Super Mario titles in both 2D and 3D environments as well as a slew of indie games. Even survival horror fans had Resident Evil Revelations, which would also see a release on other consoles later on.

Even without the eShop, many of the system’s more popular titles are still available in physical formats for close-to-launch prices, so they are fairly easy to get your hands on. For some, like Dragon Quest, it can be trickier, as they did not produce quite as many copies at launch which makes used copies more expensive.

Modding to the Rescue

One of the main reasons why the 3DS has stayed so relevant well into the Switch’s lifespan is due to its versatility when it comes to modding. With the transfer of a few files to the system’s SD card and the addition of a few custom apps, the 3DS can do so much more than Nintendo originally intended.

With custom firmware, you can import custom themes for the menus, export saves for transfer to a different system, or even back up your games directly on the SD card so that you can play them without the need for a physical cartridge.

The Homebrew Launcher running on a modded New 2DS XL Model.
Zachary Cimaglio / How-To Geek

If you have a 3DS and you’re not sure how to get started when it comes to modding, Check out our comprehensive guide to modding your 3DS for detailed instructions. You can also find pre-modded units for sale online at a likely inflated cost.

Retro Gaming on the Go

On top of all of this, homebrew mods and custom firmware open the door for third-party emulators, which you can use to play retro games from consoles like the Super Nintendo or even the Game Boy Advance. Just remember that downloading video game ROM files from the internet for games that you do not own is illegal.

With a little technical know-how, you can dump the files from a physical copy and play them digitally on your 3DS. You can even insert DS or GBA games directly onto the home page of the system without the need for emulators in some cases, as the 3DS is already capable of running them natively.

Pokemon Emerald for the Gameboy Advance running natively on the 3DS as a Virtual Console plugin.

Just by moving some files around on an SD card, you can effectively turn your 3DS into a portable retro gaming machine. Granted, the Switch does have an official selection of retro games, and Valve’s Steam Deck is similarly moddable to allow for emulation. However, the Switch’s classic games collection is locked behind a paid subscription and the Steam Deck can go for hundreds of dollars. You might already have a 3DS in a drawer somewhere, just waiting for you to inject some new life into it.

A Bustling Resale Market

3DS games are easy to come by secondhand, and the same is true for the console itself. Due to its enduring popularity, the system is everywhere on sites like eBay or Mercari. You’ll generally pay less compared to the original price at launch. The system received a total of five different versions throughout its lifespan, giving you more choice than ever when it comes to comfort and personal preferences.

The cheapest of the bunch is the original 2DS, which lacks a folding screen and is generally much smaller. At the time of writing in January 2024, this goes for about $80 and despite its drawbacks, is fully capable of everything described above. There’s also the larger XL model, which fits those who prefer to avoid cramping their fingers.

The New 3DS and 2DS retain the size of the XL but also feature upgraded hardware and a few new bells and whistles. These are generally the most expensive models as a result, but they are also the easiest when it comes to modding and happen to have a few exclusive titles.

Ninteno New 2DS XL in black.

To top things off, the system’s popularity online makes it easy to resell. If you find yourself no longer wanting your 3DS, listing it for resale is an easy way to recoup the cost. They tend to sell quickly, making the investment fairly low-risk.

The 3DS Is Easily Repairable

The 3DS is notoriously sturdy and capable of surviving drops from sizable distances without severely damaging the hardware. The clamshell design helps protect the screen and face buttons.

But accidents do happen, and in the event of a potential hardware issue, the system is fairly easy to repair. With a small Phillips-head screwdriver, you can easily remove the back of the system and access the inner mechanisms for cleaning or repair.

Additionally, you can use this method to remove the system’s shell (the colored plastic parts on the top and bottom) depending on the model you have. For both the original 3DS XL and its New model counterpart, you can find any number of new shells online to replace them with. This allows for an extra layer of customization or simply an easy fix for a scratched or damaged shell.

The 3DS is still worth your time, whether you want to rediscover some of its standout titles or mod it to be a retro gaming powerhouse. If you’re especially interested in playing older games, check out our roundup of the best modern retro consoles on the market today.


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