PS Vita vs 3DS: Which Is Best for Kids?

PS Vita Box - Europe
PS Vita Box - Europe. Sony

With its affordable price and accessible, family-friendly games, the Nintendo DS won the support of a young market in its battle with the Sony PSP. It was that support that made the DS a runaway success around the world. With the release of their successors—PS Vita and Nintendo's 3DS—we can compare the two on the grounds of what each console offers kids.

Kid-Friendly Audience

Nintendo has maintained a family-friendly image for three decades in the gaming business and is unlikely to give that up anytime soon.

With 3DS, Nintendo appeals to its existing DS users, which means games targeted towards 6- to 12-year-olds. Fan favorites such as "Nintendogs" made the leap to 3D right away.

Kids under 7 years old are advised not to play 3DS games with the 3D effect turned on for developmental reasons. However, the 3D effect can be turned off and games still enjoyed fully by those age 7 and under.

At first, the majority of PS Vita's titles were geared towards a teen-or-older audience. "Call of Duty," "Killzone" and "Resistance" are all violent first-person shooters, and "Monster Hunter" has been described as "Pokemon for grown-ups." Sony quickly released several PS Vita titles that are family-friendly, so the 3DS doesn't have as large an advantage in the children's market as it first appeared.

Conclusion: In quantity (if not quality) of software for younger gamers, the 3DS edges out the PS Vita.

Size Matters

One feature of the PS Vita hardware that might be problematic for small children is the size of the console.

By comparison, the 3DS is more "child-sized" than the PS Vita, being only slightly larger than the old DS.

Conclusion: For small children, the 3DS is the best size. For older children, either is fine.

Backward Compatibility

The 3DS is backward compatible with its DS predecessor and with lots of downloadable Game Boy, GBA, NES and SNES games.

The PS Vita is backward compatible with only some PSP and PS One games bought with the PlayStation Store app.

Conclusion: 3DS is the clear winner in backward compatibility.


Portables have traditionally been much cheaper than their TV-based cousins, and their games tend to be cheaper as well. As such, a portable console makes an appealing gift for a child.

PS Vita games rival PS3 games in terms of graphics and complexity. At launch, PS Vita games were priced at around $60. The PS Vita console was priced at $249 for the Wi-Fi-only model and $299 for the 3G/Wi-Fi model. The 3G model required a contract with a monthly fee.

In the case of the 3DS, the system at launch was also about $249 and games cost around $40. However, lackluster sales caused the price of the console to drop dramatically to just $170. There are no data plans to worry about, since the 3DS only uses Wi-Fi.

Conclusion: Although similarly priced at launch, it seems that the 3DS has the advantage where price is concerned.

The youngest players benefit from using the 3DS, if only for its kid-friendly size. Players who have grown up a little may be ready for a PS Vita. But for players of all ages—and all gaming backgrounds—the 3DS offers a better experience than the PS Vita.

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