Nintendo is on one of the hottest streaks of its 128-year history: The new Nintendo Switch console is a bona fide smash hit, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition is still in very high demand.
But while the Nintendo Switch is super-great, I’d urge you to at least think twice about picking one up this holiday shopping season.
While all eyes are on the Switch, the 6-year-old Nintendo 3DS has quietly become one of the best deals in video-game history. You can get started with the Nintendo 3DS for a lot less than the Switch, and play some of the very best games of this or any other generation.
Here are a few reasons why the Nintendo 3DS might be the console to pick up for the Nintendo fan in your life this holiday season.
The Nintendo Switch costs $299. Meanwhile, the cheapest member of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems costs $79.
Wait, “family” of systems? Stick with me here, because this is where it gets a little complicated. Nintendo offers a selection of consoles, in different shapes and sizes, all of which can play Nintendo 3DS games.
The lineup, as you’ll see on store shelves this holiday season:
Nintendo 2DS ($79) — Not only is it the cheapest option, but it comes with a game pre-installed. You can buy a 2DS bundled with “Mario Kart 7,” “New Super Mario Bros 2,” or, starting on Black Friday this year, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.” The drawbacks: It doesn’t offer Nintendo’s neat glasses-less 3D feature (if that’s what you’re into), you can’t scan Nintendo’s Amiibo figurines without a dongle, and it doesn’t support buying and downloading classic Super Nintendo games like “Super Mario World,” as the others do.
New Nintendo 2DS XL ($150) — The most recent addition to the line, and probably the best balance between power and price on the menu. It boasts a clamshell design, so you can fold it up and shove it in a pocket or backpack without worrying about damaging the screen. The only real trade-off is that you lose that same glasses-less 3D feature. But honestly, you won’t miss it.
New Nintendo 3DS XL ($199) — The best of the best, the tip of the top. It has all the same specs as the 2DS XL, but also has that 3D feature. It’s not strictly necessary, but the 3DS XL is for those who don’t want to limit their options.
Props to Nintendo for letting users customize their Nintendo Switch consoles — you can buy the system’s Joy-Con controllers in an expanding range of colors, adding some flair.
But if you want something that really stands out, the 3DS might be the console for you.
When you buy a Nintendo 2DS, it’ll come with a version of the console in a color scheme to match the game it comes with — red and blue for “Mario Kart 7;” green and gold for “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.”
There’s also a $159 version of the New Nintendo 2DS that looks like a Pokéball, of “Pokémon fame.” Otherwise, you can get it in a slick-looking black-and-blue or black-and-orange configuration.
3. Battery life
The Nintendo Switch gets three, maybe four hours of battery life when it’s not connected to power, depending on what you’re playing.
Meanwhile, the New Nintendo 2DS XL and New Nintendo 3DS XL both get around 7 hours of playtime — though you’ll get less if you use the 3D effects on the 3DS. The 2DS tops out at around 5.5 hours, which is still better than the Switch.