Before the 3DS launched, I told myself that it could be the best handheld Nintendo has released so far. Now that it’s 2014, I’m changing that statement to “it could be the best system Nintendo has released so far. Period.” I know that’s borderline heresy, since most Nintendo fans I talk to often say that the Super Nintendo is hands down the best console ever released, regardless of manufacturer. The sheer amount of quality titles boggles the mind and really showed how creative thinking could bypass the limitations of the hardware.
The thing about the SNES is that it was limited by its technology. Don’t get me wrong — I love that grey box and always will. It gave me countless hours of enjoyment with some of my all-time favorite titles. Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Actraiser, and many more demonstrate everything that’s right with gaming. Yet, if you look over at your collection of SNES games, chances are most of them are either 2D platformers or top-down action/RPGs.
While there are a few games that attempted 3D, like Doom or Wolfenstein, they have aged about as well as Keith Richards or Nick Nolte. Whenever I venture onto the internet and read about the “top SNES games,” more often than not, I keep seeing the same ten or twenty titles — most of them 2D platformers or top-down adventures. There isn’t anything wrong with that and the last thing I want anyone to take away from this article is that I dislike the remarkable gaming library of the SNES. 2D platformers are my favorite genre, so of course, I’d be all over the system.
That being said, fast forward to the present age and we’re technologically capable of so much more. As a direct result, the 3DS can have more genre variety. There are still 2D games, like New Super Mario Bros. 2, as well as the upcoming Yoshi’s New Island and Kirby Triple Deluxe, but we also have Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Kid Icarus: Uprising — games that would be impossible on the SNES unless they looked like the ugly, yet fun, Star Fox.
Ideas that couldn’t be done due to the technical limitations of the early 90s can now be realized. Resident Evil: Revelations certainly wasn’t a glimmer in the eye of the home, let alone handheld, console developers in 1991. There was the potential for genre variety and now, it’s a reality. I once heard that, as technology advances, the potential for a game’s quality increases as well. Looking at what we already have available on the 3DS, despite its slow start, is impressive. There are remakes of great N64 titles (Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64), RPGs (Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Fire Emblem: Awakening), adventures (Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon), and so much more.
We haven’t even talked about the excellent 3DS eShop. Titles such as VVVVVV, Gunman Clive, and Mighty Switch Force all give us that “familiar but fresh” feeling. Meanwhile, games like Pushmo, Steamworld Dig, and NightSky are unique and innovative in their own right. 2014 has a good lineup for the eShop with games on the horizon like Shovel Knight, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, Grinsia, Retro City Rampage, and Treasurenauts, to name a few. Nintendo is continuously warming up to independent developers, so expect to see more content on top of the already impressive line-up.
Finally, in the games department, is the Virtual Console. 3DS owners can download a variety of NES and Game Boy titles — from Ghosts’ n Goblins and Mega Man 2 to The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Super Mario Land 2. The list is updated every Wednesday for those in Japan and Thursday for those in North America, Europe, and Australia, so there is a constant stream of content being uploaded on the eShop. That is nice, especially if there is ever a drought on the retail side of the coin.
Technology goes beyond games, though. Features like Miiverse and StreetPass are fun diversions to the main line-up of 3DS titles. When Nintendo first showed off Miiverse, I was skeptical and assumed it was merely a distraction to appeal to the Twitter or Facebook demographics. Surprisingly, I find that it can be enjoyable posting pictures and talking about your favorite moments — or reading cringeworthy posts with awful grammar. It still remains a distraction, but it is a fun one.
I thought StreetPass was just a gimmick as well, something that could be written on the back of a game box as a selling point. Once again, I was surprised at how fun it can be. If I’m going for a walk or to a busy spot like the local mall, oftentimes I’ll think about bringing my 3DS before I think about my cell phone. Yes, I know where my priorities lie.
StreetPass characters can be used in games like Find Mii, a simple and enjoyable RPG, or can affect retail games that have the feature. Mario Kart 7 can capture ghosts that can be raced against later on. The Bravely Default demo can summon other gamer’s characters, allowing you to send them to work in a village to get jobs done faster. These all are optional activities, but you reap rewards in multiple games from StreetPass.
This is the first generation where I’m finding myself playing handhelds more than consoles, which isn’t that hard to understand when the console we’re talking about is the Wii U (a low blow, I’m aware). However, the amount of hours and money I sank into the 3DS is already bordering on ridiculous and I’ve only owned it for a little over two years. The fact that we still have 2014 and beyond to look forward to and with no signs of slowing down in the near future has me more than excited to see what Nintendo has in store for its little portable that could.
Will we one day look back at the 3DS and see a device with an even greater library than the mighty SNES? It’s well on its way and the passage of time has certainly blessed Nintendo’s newest handheld with technological capabilities undreamed of in the Super Metroid era. If you don’t have a 3DS, you may well be missing out on the greatest Nintendo device yet released.