2017 has been a busy year for Nintendo consoles so far. Last March, the Japan-based company launched the Nintendo Switch, the successor to the doomed Nintendo Wii U. In April, the New 2DS XL was announced to the surprise of many. It was released just last month. Nintendo also recently pulled the plug on the New 3DS, the improved version of the original 3DS, in Japan.
At the moment, Nintendo is rolling with the Switch, the New 3DS XL, the New 2DS XL, and the standard 2DS. If you’re in the market for a new Nintendo console, deciding which system to go for isn’t easy. Which console offers the best value right now? Let’s take a look.
The Switch is marketed as a home console that also functions as a handheld console. It comes with a dock where the main unit goes in for home use. On the sides, it has two detachable wireless controllers that can form into a traditional game controller. Both controllers come with motion sensors similar to the Wii Remote.
Armed with a custom Nvidia system-on-chip, the Switch has a 720p touchscreen and can output up to 1080p when in docked mode. It can support both local and online multiplayer, with the former being a key feature as seen in the reveal trailer. The Switch uses cartridges and does not have region-locking.
For on-the-go use, the main unit simply needs to be taken out from its dock, requiring no complicated configurations in order to switch the gameplay from docked to mobile. Nintendo markets the Switch as being able to run from 2.5 hours to 6 hours, which depends on how the system is utilized. More specifically, the battery life depends on the type of game. Graphics-heavy games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will consume battery faster.
The Switch is actually lightweight when in handheld mode. Playing it for several hours straight won’t produce any discomfort on the hands. You can easily carry it around for on-the-go gaming, though the exposed screen requires a screen protector and a sturdy travel case.
The New 3DS XL is the bigger variant of the New 3DS model. Basically, it comes with the same features as the latter, with the larger screen the only key difference. Though it comes with slightly more hardware power than the original 3DS, the New 3DS XL is significantly inferior to the Switch. Games simply look outdated on the platform.
The battery can run from 3.5 hours to 7 hours when playing 3DS games and 7 hours to 12 hours for DS games. Thanks to the clamshell design, the New 3DS XL is excellent for on-the-go use. The screen will always be protected when stored away, saving it from external forces.
The standard 2DS is the non-3D version of the original 3DS (not the New 3DS model). It is the toned down version of the original 3DS, featuring the same hardware and functionality. In terms of features, the big difference is that it doesn’t come with the autostereoscopic 3D display. For people who hate the dizzying 3D feature on the 3DS, the 2DS was a welcome option when it released in 2013.
Design-wise, the standard 2DS doesn’t come with the usual clamshell design, making it more vulnerable to scratches and look more like a kid’s toy more than any other 3DS model. Honestly, the flat design with the two screens lying next to each other is … well, let’s just say it isn’t nice to look at. But on the bright side, some players have said that due to the flat design, the 2DS offers a better grip. The battery runs from 3.5 hours to 5.5 hours for 3DS games and 5 hours to 9 hours for DS games.
The New 2DS XL is very similar to the New 3DS XL: It has all the improvements seen on the latter and also features a new clamshell design, unlike the standard 2DS. But like the standard 2DS, it doesn’t come with the 3D feature, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you play games. Like all other 3DS models, the New 2DS XL is region-locked.
SWITCH: As it stands now, the Switch is basically a Breath of the Wild gaming machine. An early contender for Game of the Year, Breath of the Wild is a true masterpiece. It is hands down the best Zelda title ever and one of the best games ever made. But aside from it, the Switch game library is barren. Unless you love playing ports of older games. (On a related note, the Virtual Console is still MIA for the Switch.)
The Switch has been criticized for launching with a weak lineup of games. It was a baffling decision considering Nintendo needed to make a huge first impression to erase the bitter taste of the Wii U from consumers’ mouths.
Yes, Breath of the Wild eventually managed to turn the Switch into a must-buy gaming system. But Nintendo could have done a better job with the launch lineup. The acclaimed JRPG I Am Setsuna by Tokyo RPG Factory was arguably the only other notable title in the launch lineup, though the game only catered to a very specific player base (JRPG lovers).
The future of the Switch game library looks bright. Splatoon 2 released just last month, with Super Mario Odyssey, Pokken Tournament DX, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 all arriving this year. Metroid Prime 4 and a new main Pokemon game are also currently being developed for Switch, though both won’t be arriving anytime soon.
A number of notable ports are also on the way for Switch, which includes The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Rocket League, and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. But again, as things stand now, the only real reason to buy a Switch right now is to play Breath of the Wild. Don’t worry, the latest Zelda installment is more than worth it.
3DS XL: The New 3DS XL has an impressive game library, easily dwarfing the Switch. The console has been around for several years, so no surprise in that. Pokemon Sun and Moon, Fire Emblem Awakening, Fire Emblem Fates, Bravely Default, Super Smash Bros., Xenoblade Chronicles, Super Mario Maker, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. These are just some of the must-play titles.
With the release of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia last May and the impending release of Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon later this year, Nintendo showed it isn’t done with the 3DS yet. Though expect the first-party support to go down as the company places more focus on the Switch.
The New 3DS XL is also compatible with DS games, making it a great way to catch up with excellent titles you might have missed such as Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, Sands of Destruction, The World Ends With You, and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. And speaking of catching up, the New 3DS XL has access to the Virtual Console, which lets you play NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance titles. Simply put, you will never run out of games to play on the New 3DS XL.
2DS: Except for a few New 3DS XL exclusives, the standard 2DS has access to the same expansive 3DS game library. The only difference is that you won’t be able to play them with the 3D feature on. It isn’t really a deal-breaker, though, considering the feature isn’t all that great anyway. It also has access to almost all DS games.
The New 2DS XL, on the other hand, is basically the same as the New 3DS XL in terms of game library. It can run New 3DS XL exclusives, DS games, and retro games via the Virtual Console. If you don’t give a crap about the 3D feature on the New 3DS XL, the New 2DS XL is the cheaper option.
SWITCH: The Switch is currently priced at $299, which is similar to the Wii U (Basic Set) when it first came out in the United States. But don’t be fooled by the seemingly wallet-friendly price. You will need more than that in order to get the “complete” package. More specifically, you will need to buy a screen protector, a memory card, a travel case, and, if you want, the optional Switch Pro Controller.
The total expenses for the Switch could easily reach $400 – and that’s still without any games. You can wait for a price drop during the holiday season. But with Nintendo still struggling to produce enough units to satisfy the demand, don’t be surprised if shelves are still empty when December arrives.
3DS XL: The New 3DS XL has a $199 price tag, a full $100 cheaper than the Switch. But unlike the Switch, the New 3DS XL doesn’t require a handful of essential accessories for the complete package. The clamshell design means that the 3DS XL doesn’t really need a screen protector and a travel case. The only true necessity is a memory card.
If you want to go the second-hand or refurbished route, the New 3DS XL is available in the $130-150 range, usually with a memory card already included in the package. As the New 3DS XL slowly walks away into the sunset, you can expect the price of both new and pre-owned units to go down.
2DS: After launching with a $129.99 price tag, which was $40 cheaper than the launch price of the original 3DS, the standard 2DS is now available for only $79.99. On the other hand, the New 2DS XL is priced at $149.99 – 50 bucks cheaper than the New 3DS XL. The standard 2DS is also available in the $60-70 range if you’re looking for a second-hand unit.
Since the New 2DS XL comes with a new clamshell design, buying a screen protector and a travel case isn’t necessary. The same thing can’t be said for the standard 2DS, though. The exposed screens mean the older model requires the aforementioned accessories for protection even if you mainly play at home instead of on-the-go.
SWITCH: As mentioned above, Nintendo has been struggling to keep up with the demand for the Switch. Many retail and online stores are still out of stock, with units immediately flying off of shelves as soon as new units arrive. You can opt to import a Switch from another country where the console is readily available. But be prepared to cough up more money for the import process.
3DS XL: The New 3DS XL is way more accessible than the Switch. It is readily available in many online and retail stores. You won’t have any problem finding the New 3DS XL anywhere. Perhaps the only real “problem” is finding a unit that comes with a specific color or design. But if you don’t care about cosmetics, finding a New 3DS XL is a walk in the park.
2DS: Like the New 3DS XL, both current models of the 2DS are easily available in stores. You might encounter a few out-of-stock stores when looking for the XL model considering it is still brand-new. But don’t expect the shortage to be the same as the Switch. And like the New 3DS XL, finding a model with a specific color or design is more difficult, especially limited-edition versions.
SWITCH: Since it is the newest Nintendo flagship console, the Switch holds the most potential. The console is only less than six months old, giving Nintendo a lot of time to make improvements and produce must-have games. Many developers are just beginning to tap into the potential and capabilities of the Switch, so the room for possibilities is huge.
3DS XL: The New 3DS XL will likely be around for a few more years before Nintendo officially pulls the plug and says goodbye to the handheld console. But in terms of system improvements, updates, and Nintendo first-party support, the future doesn’t hold much excitement for the New 3DS XL.
You could say everything has already been said and done. Perhaps the only thing to watch out for are cosmetic changes. Because Nintendo loves to roll out new designs of handheld consoles the same way EA loves to charge players more money than necessary.
2DS: The New 2DS XL will probably turn out to be the last man standing in the 3DS family as it is the most recent model. But when it comes to software, there isn’t much to look forward to, either. Obviously, the future of both 2DS models goes hand-in-hand with the New 3DS XL. As long as Nintendo continues to support the latter, the 2DS will continue to stick around.
Making the Pick
Choosing which Nintendo console to buy right now largely depends on what you’re looking for. If you simply want the latest and more powerful system, the Switch is the obvious pick. For $300, you get a gaming system that works both as a traditional home console and as a handheld console. The Switch is also the best option if you mainly play at home. Good luck finding a game to play after finishing Breath of the Wild, though.
On the other hand, if you want to have an excellent lineup of games right from the start, the New 3DS XL and New 2DS XL are hands down the clear-cut winners. Both systems can play the entire 3DS game library including exclusives like Xenoblade Chronicles and Fire Emblem Warriors, which aren’t playable on a standard 2DS. Thanks to their clamshell design and portability, both systems are also well-suited for on-the-go use.
The standard 2DS is the better pick if you don’t care about the 3DS feature and are simply looking to play most of the 3DS game library without spending more than $100. The amazingly budget-friendly system is the go-to option if you want to catch up on a lot of excellent 3DS titles.
Now, to answer the article title: The New 3DS XL, New 2DS XL, and 2DS all beat the Switch in terms of value right now, making any of them excellent buys. There is simply no beating the dozens of must-play games in the 3DS game library. We recommend buying the Switch next year when the game library has expanded to a more impressive status.
You can Buy the Nintendo Switch here.
You can Buy the New 3DS XL here.
You can Buy the New 2DS and 2DS XL here.