Is the Nintendo 3DS XL Region Free or Locked?

Nintendo tailors the 3DS XL and its games to specific regions

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Like the original Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo 3DS XL is region locked. If you buy your Nintendo 3DS XL system in North America, you should buy your games in North American markets.

Difference Between Region Free and Region Locked

All 3DS XLs are region locked. Japanese games and European games do not work properly on a North American 3DS XL if they work at all. This restriction applies to all versions of the Nintendo 3DS XL and its games.

Japanese games do not work on a European Nintendo 3DS XL, North American games do not work on a Japanese Nintendo 3DS XL, and so on.

Systems that are capable of communicating with compatible games regardless of the territory they're manufactured in are referred to as region free, which the 3DS XL is not.

Why Nintendo Region Locks the 3DS XL

Nintendo has come under a lot of fire for region locking its hardware, but the company defended its decision in a VG247 article published in 2011:

"Nintendo has developed different versions of Nintendo 3DS hardware to take into account different languages, age rating requirements, and parental control functionality as well as to ensure compliance with local laws in each region. Nintendo 3DS also offers network services specifically tailored for each region ... we want to ensure the best possible gaming experience for our users and there is the possibility that Nintendo 3DS software sold in one region will not function properly when running on Nintendo 3DS hardware sold in another."

There are hacks that allow you to remove Nintendo 3DS XL region locking, but they're often quickly overridden by hardware updates. They can also be unstable, so use them at your own risk.