Is the Nintendo 3DS XL Region Free or Locked?

The 3DS XL is indeed region locked. Image © Nintendo

Like the original Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo 3DS XL is region locked. In other words, if you buy your Nintendo 3DS XL system in North America, you should buy your games in North American markets. Japanese games and European games will not work properly on a North American 3DS XL if they even work at all.

Needless to say, this restriction applies to all versions of the Nintendo 3DS XL and its games.

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

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

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.

"Additionally 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.

Guidance will appear on every packaging of Nintendo 3DS hardware and the accompanying software. If you are in doubt, Nintendo recommends that you only purchase Nintendo 3DS software in the region where purchased your Nintendo 3DS system."

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.