With Christmas and Black Friday fast approaching, it's time for our annual console buyer's guides packed with useful advice, cheap console bundle deals and the best games bargains for the hottest software.
Finally we come to the Nintendo 3DS, which has been our console of the year for two years running. Delivering an utterly superb games lineup, Nintendo's handheld has gone from strength to strength, with its unique Streetpass functionality making even the most boring commute an adventure in and of itself. The 2DS has also been on hand for those with lighter wallets, eschewing stereoscopic 3D to provide a sensationally low price point.
Unfortunately, seeing as a new 3DS model with enhanced functionality and exclusive games is set to release next year, it's also very difficult to recommend buying one this Christmas. Luckily there are plenty of great deals about!
3DS & 2DS Bundle Deals!
We'll get to the differences between the 3DS, 3DS XL and 2DS in the next section, but first let's take a look at the hottest console bundles ahead of Black Friday.
ShopTo will also part with an Ice White 3DS and Professor Layton & The Miracle Mask for £99.99, which is a massive bargain.
- Click here to buy an Ice White 3DS and Professor Layton & The Miracle Mask for £99.99 from ShopTo (eBay outlet) >>
Super Smash Bros fans looking for a 3DS XL will currently find Nintendo to be the cheapest place to get the limited edition 3DS XL bundle. You'll also get a free game as per a promotion detailed later in the article, as well as a charger and free carry case.
- Click here to buy the Special Edition Super Smash Bros 3DS XL bundle with free carry case & charger for £209.99 from Nintendo >>
However, if the less capable yet much cheaper 2DS is more your speed, there are a smorgasbord of options available. For starters, Tesco will sell you one for £89.99 with their TDX-7KPG voucher code bundled with New Super Mario Bros 2. Thanks to GemmaOd and allgonewrong @ HUKD!
Argos are currently charging £99.99 for a 2DS with curious life sim Tomodachi Life and a free copy of Pokemon White for £99.99. Make sure to scroll down for the special offer. Thanks to aing69 @ HUKD!
Alternatively you could get a 2DS with Mario Kart 7 and a Mario-themed carry case for £109.99 at GAME. Thanks to Ninbox4 @ HUKD!
Nintendo are also running their own 2DS deal, which includes Mario Kart 7 and and New Super Mario Bros 2 and a special carry case for £129.99. Arguably more competitive than the two above. Thanks to Melee1012 @ HUKD!
- Click here to buy a 2DS with Mario Kart 7, New Super Mario Bros U and case for £129.99 from Nintendo >>
Finally, Nintendo will also sell you a special edition 2DS with Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby, and a carry case, for £114.99. This will also net you a free game download as per a promotional offer outlined later in the guide. This effectively nets you the carry case for free, since GAME, Amazon and others don't include it!
- Click here to buy a special edition Nintendo 2DS with Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby, Carry Case & free game promotion for £114.99 from Nintendo >>
We expect Black Friday to offer some seriously cheap 3DS deals, so this is the level you'll want to match or ideally beat.
3DS vs 3DS XL vs 2DS: The Basics
Nintendo handhelds currently come in three distinct flavours: 3DS, 3DS XL and 2DS. Each is different on a hardware level, but support the same games (including DS titles!) and run the same firmware. As such, we'll discuss the commonalities before getting down to brass tacks.
As you'd expect from a Nintendo system, the firmware and marketplace are dead simple to browse and use, laying out options at a glance and supporting the MiiVerse social network and custom themes thanks to several new updates. Once you've set up or imported a Mii, and activated a Nintendo ID, you're good to go. Pleasingly you'll discover a range of onboard software ready to roll, such as a fantastic AR app called Face Raiders, along with enjoyable augmented reality minigames activated by a deck of supplied cards.
StreetPass functionality steals the show, however, which allows 3DS units in standby mode to automatically share data and Miis between systems when you walk by, then unlocks content in numerous games and lets you play a selection of surprisingly excellent minigames with unlockable Mii outfits. I usually rack up at least ten Streetpasses when I go into London, and it's an absolute blast. Click here for all the details.
The original 3DS is straightforward clamshell handheld based on the DS' design, right down to the stylus, and is available in a range of colours. I'd recommend staying away from the brighter metallic versions due to their tendency to attract fingerprints. To be perfectly honest, though, I actually wouldn't recommend the 3DS at all unless you grab a screaming deal, due mainly to the fact that its angular chassis can become incredibly uncomfortable to hold for long periods. Click here to read our full 3DS review.
The 3DS XL is a much more serious piece of gaming kit, and is superior to the original 3DS in every way imaginable. You can read our 3DS XL Hardware review for the details, but suffice to say that its bigger screen makes for better-looking and more immersive gaming, the wider chassis is more comfortable to hold and battery life is significantly improved. If you count yourself as a hardcore handheld gamer, the XL really is the best option on the market right now, unless the Vita's wider variety of legacy games and localised Japanese titles is more your speed.
However, the 3DS XL does not come with a charging cable, so pick one up on the cheap. Thanks to Ninbox4 @ HUKD!
The 2DS, meanwhile, is designed to be cheap and cheerful. It's essentially an option for kids in need of a Pokemon-themed toy rather than a console... or savvy gamers who'd prefer to spend as little as possible to access the fantastic games available on 3DS and 2DS. Its ugly slate design makes it surprisingly comfortable to hold, while the inferior mono speakers and lack of stereoscopic 3D are arguably a price worth paying for, well, a lower price.
So the choice should come down to whether you want a serious piece of kit in the XL or a bargain with the 2DS. I wish it were that simple.
The 'New 3DS' Problem
I'd love to recommend buying a 3DS XL, but right now I simply can't in good conscience. Two brand new models, confusingly known as the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, are slated to release next year with a second thumbstick, lighter industrial design, improved comfort, superior stereoscopic 3D viewing, swappable faceplates and a faster processor that allows it to play more powerful games that can't be supported on the existing models. If you buy a 3DS now, there's a real danger that it will become obsolete.
If you want to be ahead of the curve, however, you can order a New 3DS in time for Christmas from 365Games, who are getting PAL stock in from Australia in time for Black Friday.
- Click here to pre-order the New Nintendo 3DS (White) for £152.99 from 365Games >>
- Click here to pre-order the New Nintendo 3DS XL (Metallic Black) for £169.99 >>
- Click here to pre-order the New Nintendo 3DS XL (Metallic Blue) for £169.99 >>
365Games has set a release date for their stock on Friday 28th November to allow for the units to arrive from Australia where the console is launching over the next 24 hours. UNlike Japan, Australia is Region 2 PAL, same as the UK, so all of your existing games will work with the New 3DS.
Free Download Deal!
Nintendo are currently running a free game promotion if you register any new 3DS model and either Super Smash Bros or Pokemon before next year.
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
- Yoshi's New Island
- Kirby: Triple Deluxe
- Mario Golf: World Tour
- Mario Party: Island Tour
- Pokémon Art Academy
Screen Protectors & Memory Cards
If you take nothing else away from this guide, be sure to buy a screen protector. Though the 3DS' clamshell design would seem to protect the vulnerable screens from scratches and wear, in practice it actually traps dust and grit inside the unit, while the raised bezel around the lower screen can quickly cause unsightly scratches on the top screen if small particles settle on it.
Make this a non-issue by picking up and applying a screen protector. As a pro tip, I'd also urge you to carefully check your newly-bought 3DS for any 'dot scratches' that may have been cut into the upper screen by the bezel during transit - many players have suffered from this problem, but it is covered by retailer warranty and returns.
The 3DS is compatible with SDHC cards of up to 32GB capacity, and is bundled with a 2 or 4GB card as standard. This will be more than enough for most gamers' needs, though the increasing ubiquity of the eShop means that you may consider an upgrade at some point - a simple matter of just copy/pasting the content onto your PC, then onto the new card. If you do, however, be aware that the card's write speed has a massive effect on the efficiency of your system! Stick to decent deals on big-name established brands when possible (such as high-quality digital camera cards), because a sluggish write speed can lead to annoyingly lengthy boot and saving times.
Now we're talking. The 3DS has one of the best software lineups of any system on the market -- yes, I am counting home consoles -- delivering some absolute corkers. Here are the most recent smash-hits on the system, and the cheapest way to bag a 3DS bargain.
Super Smash Bros
"Super Smash Bros. 3DS strains against the hardware and lacks the timeless single-screen play we crave from the franchise, but ultimately delivers an excellent handheld brawler in its own right. Once you get a handle on the controls, you'll enjoy an enormous versatile roster, exquisite handheld visuals, fantastic stage design, addictive multiplayer and content for weeks, even months, of continued play." - 8/10 review
Keep an eye out for smarter bargains on this one come Black Friday. We reckon it could dink below the £30 mark, if not closer to £26.
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby
This ground-up remake of Pokemon Sapphire and Ruby is set to be an absolute corker for series fans, packing the gorgeous 3D visuals of X and Y alongside a host of new features, not limited to flying around on Latios and Latias! Sadly Nintendo haven't sent me a review copy -- I'm probably going to receive a loaner at some point -- but early reviews have been excellent.
- Click here to buy Pokemon Alpha Sapphire for £29.95 from The Game Collection>>
- Click here to buy Pokemon Omega Ruby for £29.95 from The Game Collection>>
Thanks to ElectroDragon8 @ HUKD!
Etrian Odyssey Untold
"Etrian Odyssey Untold is a class act. The sensational vintage exploration, manual mapping and gruelling combat of the DS original has been granted a new lease of life, reinvigorated by strong characters and a superb story that's engaging enough to satisfy yet never outstays its welcome. Atlus approached their remake with subtlety and restraint, resulting in a uniquely lovely package." - 9/10 review
"Bravely Default dares to refresh the classic Final Fantasy formula with quiet yet confident innovations across the board, resulting in one of the best JRPGs of 2013 and a fitting end to a barnstorming year for Nintendo's handheld." - 9/10 review
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
"Animal Crossing: New Leaf is an utter delight, but then you knew that already. For all of the little tweaks and new treats, the core experience remains the same. But stepping into the role of mayor connects you better than ever before to this joyous world of camaraderie and generous spirit. New Leaf is a game that lets you fashion an identity in whatever manner you choose, and then share it with the world. It's the best game in the series so far." - 9/10 review
Theatrhythm: Curtain Call
Pronounced "theatre-rhythm" in case you were wondering, Theatrhythm: Curtain Call is an amazing journey through Final Fantasy's legendary soundtracks, blending classic tunes with great rhythm gameplay and compelling persistent RPG mechanics. You can read our 8/10 Theatrhythm review to get the gist of the original game, though remember that Curtain Call boasts more songs and features!
And that's just scratching the surface. From Fire Emblem Awakening to Soul Hackers, Pokemon X & Y and more, not to mention the DS' legacy lineup there's a bevy of gaming greats just itching to be explored. Let us know what you're playing!