Nintendo has two great game consoles available now — here’s how to decide which one is right for you
Nintendo has a great problem on its hands: It has two very popular game consoles available at the same time.
Better still: Both the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo 3DS are extremely capable game consoles, and both have access to Nintendo's wealth of classic gaming franchises — "Super Mario Bros." and "The Legend of Zelda" and "Pokémon," among many others.
And, for the first time in Nintendo's history, both of its main game consoles are capable of playing games wherever you go.
So, which to choose? The answer is more complicated than ever.
There's no getting around it: Nintendo's 3DS is far less expensive than the Switch, by at least R2,700.
In South Africa the Switch officially sells for R5,900, while the 3DS starts at R3,200. With a bit of luck you pick up a Switch for closer to R5,000 on special – but the 3DS is always going to come out better on price alone.
With over seven years of game releases, the Nintendo 3DS has a far, far larger library than the Nintendo Switch. It has major Mario and Zelda games, a smattering of major Pokémon games, and much more.
The Switch, however, is far more powerful. And Nintendo is using that power to great effect in major games like "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" (above), "Super Mario Odyssey," and "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe."
In so many words: On paper, the 3DS has a far larger, richer library of games, but in reality, the best games Nintendo makes are on the Switch. The next major "Super Smash Bros." game arrives on the Switch this December, and there's a long list of major upcoming games in the works for next year and beyond. The 3DS, by comparison, has a relatively bleak future in terms of game launches. Nintendo has clearly shifted focus to its big new console, the Switch.
But if you're not as concerned with having the biggest, prettiest, newest games, there is a massive library of great games on the 3DS. Games like "Super Mario 3D Land" and "The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" are just as incredible as when they originally came out, to say nothing of the excellent "Pokémon" games.
Of note: Games cost less on the 3DS, by about half. In South Africa Switch games start at around R600, and plenty go for R900 or more. 3DS games, on the other hand, are hardly ever more than R600, and there are many available for R300.
The 3DS is far more kid-friendly, both in terms of price and durability. Due to its design, the 3DS is easily closed and stored in a bag or a pocket. And when it's closed, it's protected.
It's not entirely kid-proof. The 3DS isn't waterproof, for instance, and repeated drops (or even one serious drop) can break it.
But it's much tougher than the Switch, which, by comparison, is far more fragile.
The Switch is a tablet, and there's no way to protect that tablet screen without a case. Worse: The brackets that connect the Switch's controllers to the sides of the tablet are relatively weak.
It's hard to suggest getting a Nintendo Switch for anyone under the age of 13 — it's a R5,000 tablet game console that has lots of little moving parts and stuff to lose.
Each of the console's "Joy-Con" controllers cost R900, so replacing components isn't exactly cheap.
That said, if you're over the age of 13, the Switch is a perfectly solid piece of technology. I haven't had to replace any piece of mine since launch in March 2017. There are instances of the Switch tablet bowing over time, as it gets hot inside the Switch dock, but they are rare.
Nintendo's digital storefront, the Nintendo eShop, is the cornerstone of both the Switch and the 3DS. It's where you can buy games, or expansions to games, or download streaming service apps like Hulu.
Where things diverge with the Switch and the 3DS in terms of services is the upcoming Nintendo Switch Online service, launching in South Africa in September.
For the first time ever, Nintendo is offering a paid subscription. The service costs R262 per year (R52 per month, R105 for three months). With that subscription price, you'll get access to a library of classic games, the ability to play various Nintendo Switch games online, cloud saves for some games, and voice chat through the Nintendo Switch online smartphone app.
The service is only on the Switch — and thus, the paid access to a growing library of classic games option is exclusive to the Switch.
On the flipside, Nintendo's 3DS has a service named "Virtual Console" where dozens of classic games are available for individual purchase. It's an incredible service that spans multiple game consoles, from the Game Boy to the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately, Nintendo says there are no plans to bring Virtual Console to the Switch.
5. One massive advantage the Switch has over the 3DS: It's a home console and a portable console.
The gimmick of the Switch is simple: Start a game at home on your TV, pause the game, and take the console with you. Keep playing, wherever you are! Exactly where you left off!
Over 1.5 years later, it's clear that the gimmick was far more meaningful than novel. Being able to take games anywhere is amazing. Being able topick up right where I left off on my TV is similarly amazing. The Switch is the perfect mix of Nintendo's two greatest strengths in gaming hardware.
The 3DS, by comparison, feels tremendously limited. Games don't look as good, and it can only be played in handheld mode. It feels and looks old by comparison, which it of course is — the Switch is a brand new console, and even the newest iteration of the 3DS is a few years old at this point.
And the winner is ... it really depends.
If you're in the market for a great game console for yourself or someone else (who's over 13), and dropping more than R5,000 isn't out of the question, then the Nintendo Switch is the clear winner here.
Games like "Super Mario Odyssey" and "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" are some of Nintendo's best work in years, and they're just the tip of the iceberg. Being able to play those games wherever, whenever you'd like is a genuine game-changer (pun fully intended). That said, the 3DS continues to be an excellent little console. That it comes at a far lower price, with a massive library of great games and access to the excellent Virtual Console service, is another huge point for Nintendo's aging portable console.
Dare I say it: The 3DS is the perfect console for younger children, while the Switch should be limited to a slightly older audience. There are plenty of great 3DS games for adults and kids alike, of course, but the lower price and durability make it a more pragmatic choice for younger players.
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