A Guide to the Special Edition Nintendo 3DS Systems

Want Something Out of the Ordinary?

Like the Nintendo DS Lite, the Nintendo 3DS has a lovely clamshell design that makes it ideal for surface painting and etching. In other words, when it’s closed, the lid of the Nintendo 3DS is a beautiful canvas for all kinds of imaginative designs, which has already led to the release of a whole bunch of “Special Edition” Nintendo 3DS systems.

Special Edition Nintendo 3DS’s are typically released as part of a bundle with a game. Unfortunately, most Special Edition systems don’t make it to North America—so if you’re planning on importing one from Japan, keep in mind that the Nintendo 3DS is region locked.

The Monster Hunter Tri-G Edition

Monster Hunter Tri G 3DS
Monster Hunter Tri G 3DS. Image © Capcom

(2011, JAPAN ONLY) - This white Nintendo 3DS was released in Japan in December 2011 and was bundled along with Monster Hunter Tri G. It has a compelling Inuit-style monster design on its front, along with the game’s logo. Monster Hunter Tri G has yet to see a North American release, so this Special Edition unit probably isn’t forthcoming.

Mario-Themed Nintendo 3DS’s

Mario-themed 3DS's
Mario-themed 3DS's. Image © Nintendo

(2011, JAPAN ONLY, CONTEST EXCLUSIVE) - Nintendo of Japan held a promotion in the final quarter of 2011: any Club Nintendo members who bought two Nintendo 3DS games between October 2011 and January 2012 were made eligible to win one of three Mario-styled 3DS systems. One 3DS was spotted like a mushroom; the other was pink and bore Princess Peach’s distinctive brooch; the third 3DS was shaped like Mario’s overalls (racy!). These Nintendo 3DS’s are exclusive to Japan, plus they’re the spoils of a one-time contest. It’s not likely you’ll nab any of them for your collection.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Edition

Zelda Edition 3DS
Zelda Edition 3DS. Image © Nintendo

(2011, GAME+SYSTEM BUNDLE) - Now here’s a Special Edition Nintendo 3DS that’s far easier to acquire, but no less compelling. Designed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda series, this black-and-gold Nintendo 3DS is etched with familiar Hylian symbols. In North America, it was sold as part of a bundle along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. The bundle was a GameStop/EB Games exclusive, and it was a Black Friday special. It may be elusive by now, and maybe a tad pricey, but if you do a little bit of sniffing around, you’re sure to find one.

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D Edition

Metal Gear Solid Edition 3DS
Metal Gear Solid Edition 3DS. Image © Konami

(2012, JAPAN ONLY, RAFFLE EXCLUSIVE) - And now we’re back into “hard to find” territory—but what would you expect from a Nintendo 3DS system modeled after the master of stealth himself, Solid Snake? The opportunity to buy a “Snake Camouflage” 3DS was made available through a Konami raffle. It features a bumpy surface that resembles (what else?) snake skin.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Edition

Kingdom Hearts Edition 3DS
Kingdom Hearts Edition 3DS. Image © Square-Enix

(2012, JAPAN ONLY) - This handsome Nintendo 3DS was designed to mark the release of Square-Enix’s Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. It’s black ​and is cross-hatched with Mickey Mouse silhouettes, hearts, and crowns. So far, it’s a Japan exclusive.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry’s Wonderland 3D Edition

Dragon Quest Edition 3DS
Dragon Quest Edition 3DS. Image © Square-Enix

(2012, JAPAN ONLY) - Ew, slimy! This Nintendo 3DS, which is dotted with the iconic Slime monsters from the Dragon Quest series, was designed in honor of the release of Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry’s Wonderland 3D, and it also commemorates the long life of the Dragon Quest series. The first game was released for the Famicom in 1986.

Fire Emblem: Awakening Edition

Fire Emblem Edition 3DS
Fire Emblem Edition 3DS. Image © Nintendo

(2012/2013, GAME+SYSTEM BUNDLE) - This eye-catching Nintendo 3DS is cobalt blue and features an etching of two dragons astride a sword. It’s meant to celebrate the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening, and is bundled with the game itself. It’s available in North America, though Fire Emblem: Awakening comes preloaded on the system's included four gigabyte SD card and is not a boxed hard copy of the game.

SD Gundam Edition

SD Gundam 3DS
SD Gundam 3DS. Image © Bandai

(2011, GAME+SYSTEM BUNDLE, JAPAN ONLY) - Japan's terrifically popular mech-centric Gundam series has its own 3DS. SD Gundam G Generation 3D for the Nintendo 3DS comes bundled with a wine-red system that's emblazoned with wise words from alternating series antagonist/protagonist Char Aznable: "In war, to keep the upper hand, you have to think two or three moves ahead of the enemy."

Coro Coro Edition

Coro Coro 3DS
Coro Coro 3DS. Image © Coro Coro

(2012, JAPAN ONLY) - Coro Coro is a monthly comic serial published in Japan. Coro Coro celebrated its 35th year in 2012, and to celebrate the publisher manufactured a very sparkly 3DS that's decorated with its dragon mascot. Don't expect this one to slip outside of Japan anytime soon.

Heroes of Ruin Edition

Heroes of Ruin 3DS
Heroes of Ruin 3DS. Image © Square-Enix

(2012, CONTEST EXCLUSIVE) - Square-Enix gave away this exclusive Nintendo 3DS as part of a promotion for Heroes of Ruin. If you nabbed it, consider yourself a lucky devil.

New Love Plus Edition

New Love Plus 3DS XL
New Love Plus 3DS XL. Image © Konami

(2012, JAPAN ONLY) - New Love Plus is the first 3DS installment of Konami's massively popular Love Plus dating sim series. The special edition 3DS's are each decorated with one of the schoolgirls that you can woo.

Mario Checker Pattern Edition (3DS XL)

Mario iQue 3DS XL
Mario iQue 3DS XL. Image © Nintendo

(2012, CHINA ONLY) - China has some unique Nintendo 3DS XL designs to match the country's unique name for the system (iQue 3DS XL). This red-and-white patterned system features alternating coin and mushroom decals as well as a close-up of Mario's face. "It's a-me, Mario!" indeed.

Mario Emblem Silver Edition (3DS XL)

Mario Emblem iQue 3DS XL
Mario Emblem iQue 3DS XL. Image © Nintendo

(2012, CHINA ONLY) - Another Chinese iQue 3DS XL exclusive. This sleek number has a shield front-and-center that makes one think of Mushroom Kingdom heraldry. A Harry Potter influence, perhaps? The text around the seal says "We Are Twins," which, of course, Mario and Luigi are.

Mario Emblem Red Edition (3DS XL)

Mario Emblem iQue 3DS XL
Mario Emblem iQue 3DS XL. Image © Nintendo

(2012, CHINA ONLY) - This iQue 3DS XL is identical to its counterpart, save for its red color. Silver, red, whatever--it's still not coming to North America anytime soon.

New Super Mario Bros 2 Item Edition (3DS XL)

New Super Mario Bros Item Edition 3DS XL
New Super Mario Bros Item Edition 3DS XL. Image © Nintendo

(2012, JAPAN ONLY) - Another Mario-centric design. This one is red and peppered with stamps of mushrooms, flowers, stars, bricks, blocks, and Koopa shells. It's bundled with a copy of New Super Mario Bros 2, and it's currently only available in Japan.

Animal Crossing New Leaf Edition (3DS XL)

Animal Crossing: New Leaf 3DS XL
Animal Crossing: New Leaf 3DS XL. Image © Nintendo

(2012, JAPAN ONLY) - This festive-looking Nintendo 3DS XL was released in Japan in honor of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It's dotted with fruits and other imagery related to the Animal Crossing franchise, including Tom Nook's own emblem, a tanuki leaf. It's packed with a copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Pikachu Edition (3DS XL)

Pikachu 3DS XL
Pikachu 3DS XL. Image © Nintendo

(2012) - The most recognizable critter from the Pokemon series has adorned special editions of Nintendo's consoles since the N64. Unsurprisingly, Pikachu has his very own Nintendo 3DS XL, though it's harder to nab than you'd think. The handheld received a limited release across Japan and Europe, but it didn't show its red-cheeked face in North American markets.

Charizard Edition (3DS XL)

Charizard Edition 3DS XL
Charizard Edition 3DS XL. Image © Nintendo

(2012, JAPAN ONLY VIA LOTTERY) - This puppy is arguably the most handsome DS, 3DS, or 3DS XL exclusive to ever exist. It's solid black and features a Charizard from Pokemon etched in gold. The Charizard is billowing flames, which carries over to the back of the system. It's just a pretty piece of work. Alas, your chances of scoring it hover near zero; a lottery was held in Japan to determine who'd be lucky enough to buy the few systems available. It's not likely you entered, let alone won. Sorry.