Everything You Need to Know About the Nintendo 3DS

A Nintendo 3DS in Aqua Blue
Wikimedia Commons

The Nintendo 3DS is the successor to the Nintendo DS line of handheld gaming systems. The 3DS is capable of producing 3D effects without the aid of special glasses.

Nintendo unveiled the 3DS at E3 2010 alongside announcements for several first- and- third-party games. Nintendo 3DS titles are designed specifically for the system, though the 3DS is also backward compatible with games from all iterations of the Nintendo DS, and can also play downloadable DSiWare games programmed for the Nintendo DSi.

Though the Nintendo 3DS's inner hardware is quite a bit more powerful than the innards of the Nintendo DS family, the outside casing should strike a familiar note. The clamshell design remains from the Nintendo DS, as does the two-screen setup. The top screen of the 3DS displays 3D visuals, whereas the smaller bottom screen retains the DS's touch-sensitive functionality.

There are still some notable aesthetic differences between the Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi, and Nintendo 3DS: The 3DS is capable of taking 3D pictures, whereas the DSi is not, and the 3DS also has an analog nub situated above its traditional cross-shaped d-pad.

When Was the Nintendo 3DS Released?

The Nintendo 3DS hit Japan on February 26, 2011. North America received the system on March 27, and Europe received it on March 25.

What Are the Nintendo 3DS's Specs?

The 3DS's graphics processing unit (GPU) is the Pica200 chip developed by Digital Media Professionals. The Pica200 can generate 15.3 million polygons per second at 200MHz and is capable of anti-aliasing (which smooths graphics), per-pixel lighting, and procedural textures. To use an informal description, the 3DS's graphics are visually comparable to what you'd find on a GameCube.

The top screen of the 3DS is 3.53inches, about 11.3% larger than the top screen of the Nintendo DS Lite. The bottom (touch) screen is 3.02 inches, or about 3.2% smaller than the Nintendo DS Lite's bottom screen.

The Nintendo 3DS's battery lasts approximately three to five hours before the system needs to be recharged. The life of the 3DS's battery is affected by how the system is used: for instance, using Wi-Fi, the 3D display, or a brighter screen setting drains the battery faster.

The Nintendo 3DS features a motion sensor (think iPhone games), and a gyroscope. The touchscreen makes a return, as do the traditional A, B, X, Y, L and R buttons, and the cross-shaped D-pad. An analog nub called a "circle pad" is located above the d-pad, ideal for navigating 3D games. A slider adjusts the depth of the 3D image on the top screen or turns the 3D effect off entirely.

The Nintendo 3DS has three cameras: one that faces the user above the top screen, and two situated on the outside of the system for 3D photos.

Like the Nintendo DS and DSi, the Nintendo 3DS is capable of going online wirelessly and communicating with other 3DS's in a local environment. A built-in feature called "Street Pass" swaps Miis and game info with other 3DS's in range, even when the 3DS is in sleep mode (closed).

Look at the Nintendo 3DS's specs up against the Nintendo DS Lite and Nintendo DSi/DSi XL.

What Kind of Games Does the Nintendo 3DS Have?

The 3DS has a good deal of third-party support behind it in a variety of genres; veteran studios like Capcom, Konami, and Square-Enix are developing installments for famous franchises like Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy. Nintendo revived the long-dormant Kid Icarus series on the 3DS with Kid Icarus Uprising and released a 3D remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, arguably the most beloved Legend of Zelda game of all time. Moreover, Nintendo's most popular franchises continue their legacies on the 3DS, including Super Mario.

You can download Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games through a service called the "eShop" that's similar to the Wii's Virtual Console.

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