OverviewGamesTechnical Specs

Nintendo 3DS


by Christopher Brown

Representing the next step in a line of hugely successful portable gaming platforms that includes the Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance, and the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo 3DS is designed to finally fulfill an ideal first attempted with 1995's clunky and ill-fated Virtual Boy -- true 3D gaming on a portable device. Originally announced in March of 2010, and officially unveiled in June of the same year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010 in Los Angeles, the headline feature of the Nintendo 3DS is its use of autostereoscopic technology, allowing players to enjoy 3D gameplay without the need for glasses or headgear.

The overall look of the Nintendo 3DS is reminiscent of the Nintendo DS, with both systems featuring a clamshell design, dual displays, a touch pad, a directional pad, four face buttons, a microphone, and integrated 802.11b/g wireless connectivity. The biggest differences between the two platforms come in the form of the new Circle Pad analog thumbstick (similar to the nub employed on the PlayStation Portable), a 3.53 inch top display screen featuring 24-bit color and a resolution of 800 x 240 (or 400 x 240 for each eye), an internal gyroscope and accelerometer for motion-based gaming, and three different 0.3 megapixel camera lenses: one for 2D photos, and two "stereo" lenses for 3D shots.

Games for Nintendo 3DS are stored and sold on 3DS game cards that hold up to 2GB of data and look nearly identical to the cards for the DS, except for a small tab designed to prevent the cards from being inserted into a Nintendo DS. The 3DS is backward-compatible, allowing users to play nearly all existing DS and DSi games, though the differences in screen size result in some stretching and scaling. The system also includes an SD slot for storing save data and other media files. Nintendo does not recommend 3D gaming for users under the age of six, and as such the 3DS features Parental Controls as well as a 3D Depth Slider that allows players to adjust or turn off the 3D effect.

The 3DS includes expanded wireless functionality, highlighted by the SpotPass and StreetPass features. SpotPass allows the system to automatically detect wireless hotspots or LAN access points for the purposes of obtaining software, game data, and other information; while StreetPass lets the system exchange game data with any other 3DS in range (approximately 100 feet). Both features can be set to work even while the system in sleep mode, and the System Transfer function allows users to transfer software and DSiWare from one 3DS system to another. Other features include: an activity log; an Internet browser; "3DS Camera" and "3DS Sound"; messaging; a "Mii" maker and plaza; the Nintendo eShop; Virtual Console service; and the built-in game "Face Raiders."

Released in North America on March 27, 2011, the 3DS was available in either "Aqua Blue" or "Cosmo Black" color schemes, and initial shipments included the system, a charging cradle, an AC adaptor, a telescoping stylus, a 2GB SD memory card, and augmented reality cards for use with the 3D cameras. At launch, there were more than a dozen games available, including Madden NFL Football, PilotWings Resort, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Rayman 3D, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, and three different Nintendogs + Cats titles.