Nintendo 3DS vs. 2DS

The Nintendo 3DS and 2DS are more alike than they are different

The Nintendo 3DS line of portable gaming systems has evolved since the first model was released in 2011. Most versions of the 2DS and the 3DS play the same games. However, these gaming systems differ in cost and hardware specifications. We reviewed both to help you decide which is best for you.

Illustration showing kirby, pikachu, and the difference between the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS
Lifewire / Miguel Co
Nintendo 2DS
  • Less expensive.

  • More durable design.

  • No support for 3D graphics.

Nintendo 3DS
  • Autostereoscopic 3D graphics.

  • More variations are available.

  • Easier to break.

All 2DS and 3DS systems support the full library of 3DS and original Nintendo DS games. However, there are a few titles that are exclusively available for the New 3DS and New 2DS models. The XL versions of the 2DS and 3DS have larger screens, but these models play the same games.

The screens of the 2DS and 3DS are approximately the same size: 3.53 inches (top screen, diagonally) and 3.02 inches (bottom screen, diagonally). The 3DS XL and New 2DS XL screens measure 4.88 inches (top) and 4.18 inches (bottom).

Nintendo 2DS Pros and Cons

  • Plays Nintendo DS and 3DS game cards.

  • A longer battery life.

  • Safer for young children and those sensitive to 3D effects.

  • Doesn't have a 3D camera.

  • The original model doesn't fit in most pockets.

  • Can be found used for cheap.

The Nintendo 2DS is less expensive because it's unable to project 3D images. Otherwise, the 2DS functions identically to the Nintendo 3DS and its successors.

All 2DS and 3DS devices are capable of connecting to Wi-Fi and use the internet access built-in to their web browsers. These devices also support online play for games like Pokemon X and Pokemon Y. You can download games from the Nintendo 3DS eShop, including new releases, indie titles, and NES classics. However, you can only play Super Nintendo games if you have a New 2DS or New 3DS model.

The original version of the Nintendo 2DS is shaped like a plastic wedge of cheese. It's thicker near the top where the L and R buttons are situated and thins out toward the bottom screen. It's significantly lighter than the regular 3DS. The 2DS is less likely to break if dropped, which makes it ideal for kids.

The clamshell design of the 3DS, New 3DS, and New 2DS XL is preferable if you're a commuter. Putting the device to sleep is a matter of closing it instead of toggling a switch. When the 3DS is closed, its screens are protected. You can buy carrying cases for the original Nintendo 2DS. But, unzipping the case and pulling out your device is a hassle if all you want to do is check your StreetPass.

The original 2DS model is no longer in production. It's been replaced with the New 2DS XL, but you can still find them used.

Nintendo 3DS Pros and Cons

  • Backward compatible with the Nintendo DS library.

  • Impressive 3D graphics for most titles.

  • Can be found used for cheaper than the New 2DS XL.

  • The quality of the 3D effects varies from game to game.

  • 3D visuals strain the eyes.

The main selling point for the 3DS is the 3D functionality. The 3D projection augments the experience, and some players find it useful for gauging the depth of tricky jumps in 3D platform games like Super Mario 3D Land. Nonetheless, many people keep the 3D turned off on their 3DS to save battery power. You can also disable the 3D slider for the 3DS in the system settings.

Here's something to keep in mind if you're the type of gamer who takes your portable game system everywhere. The original Nintendo 2DS features a tablet design, which is different from the hinged clamshell design of the Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL. Consequently, the 2DS screens are unprotected and subject to potential scratches from banging around in a backpack or purse. 3DS owners don't have to worry about that problem.

Final Verdict

If you don't own a Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo 2DS is an economical alternative if you're not interested in the 3D visuals. If your kids borrow your Nintendo 3DS or 3DS XL and return it covered with sticky fingerprints, get them the cheaper, child-friendly model.

Collectors of portable systems may want to own every member of the 3DS family. With a New 2DS or New 3DS model, you can play any Nintendo DS or 3DS game. If money isn't an issue, choose the New Nintendo 3DS XL unless you have your heart set on the durable design of the original 2DS.

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