Do you love 3D gaming on the go? How about tiny nubs that act as second analog sticks? Do I have some news for you.

The New 3DS XL is, ironically, old news. The system launched quite a few months ago in Japan and has just now made it to the states and Europe. Heck, even Australia and New Zealand got it before us. It's not so much of a new system as it is an upgrade for the much loved 3DS line of handhelds.

I was lucky enough to snag the highly coveted and controversial (see scalpers) Majora's Mask Limited Edition, after I bought it from an online friend who was nice enough to sell it to me for the actual retail price. Let's see what this baby can do.

Processing Speed

The download times and load screens are noticeably faster for Nintendo's newest handheld. The system has been souped up with more powerful insides and it very much shows, mostly when launching games or purchasing items from the eShop. I also found that games I had previously enjoyed looked a bit better, even with the XL's pixel stretched upper screen. The overall feel of the system is just so much smoother when it's transitioning from games to the home screen or vice versa. It's the speed I always wished my 3DS had.


Feel free to shout "You're too slow!" at passersby who are playing *shudder* a normal 3DS. People really love it when you do that.

Enhanced 3D


I've never been one for 3D gameplay. I've probably put in a total of 30 minutes of 3D play on my 3DS since the original systems launch in 2011. It drains the battery more quickly, it tends to hurt my eyes, and it's too easy to fall out of that "sweet spot" where games really pop. The N3DS XL has addressed my last issue with an added face tracking system and improved 3D abilities. It gives you the freedom to move your head and hands and still get the depth you want from the handheld's top screen. I'm not going to be playing with it full blast all the time, but this leap forward has convinced me move the slider up for small periods of play. When I fired it up for the first time I was blown away by how much better it looked. It's one of the best improvements to the system by far, but one that may still go unused if 3D gaming isn't your cup of Mountain Dew.


The 3DS has one of, if not the, best libraries in portable gaming history. Dozens and dozens of must-play titles that cover all sorts of genres. As luck would have it, and as I mentioned above, the N3DS XL is more of an upgrade and less of a "whole new thing". I mean it is "new"... never mind. The point is that all your old favorites can be a played and if you're new to the 3DS family then you'll have a lot of terrific titles to pick from.


As of right now the only game slated to exclusively work on the 3DS is the remade Xenoblade Chronicles, coming this April. It would be surprising if Nintendo announced a large amount of games with this exclusivity, as it would potentially alienate a good portion of their customers who hadn't upgraded to a "new" system.

NFC Capabilities


Unlike previous models, the N3DS XL has an NFC chip built right into its lower screen. Simply place your amiibo figure on top and watch them come to life... in the few games they actually work for. I'm sure Nintendo will find more uses for this newfangled ability, but for right now it's just nice that you can train your amiibo on the go. Who knows what titles they'll be involved with in the coming years, but here's hoping it's tons.

Colored Buttons

They look nice. They seem slightly larger and further apart. I like to touch them.



As its name might suggest the N3DS XL, much like the old XL, is rather large. Go figure. Even for a giant like myself I don't find it fitting comfortably in my pants pockets. It's a behemoth, but luckily not too unwieldy. A bigger stature over all isn't all bad. Bigger screens and a better grip for man-handed folks like myself is a definite plus. It's too bad Nintendo couldn't find a way to make the system lighter instead of slightly heavier, but I'll take what I can get.


Dat Nub and Dem Shoulder Buttons

When the New 3DS was announced last August there was a collective sigh of "finally" that wafted over the gaming community. We were finally going to get a second analog stick for games that sorely needed it, like Kid Icarus, Smash Bros and Monster Hunter. What we got wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but it's better than nothing. The c-nub is not a slide pad, its more in tune to the stiff laptop protrusions of the early 2000's. It doesn't really move so much as it feels motion and reacts to it. It's certainly helpful for camera positioning. the biggest disappointment is that it doesn't work with some of the games that really needed it in the first place, like Kid Icarus. Much like Batman it's the nub we needed not the one we deserve.


There are also some new ZR and ZL shoulder buttons that can add to some controller set-ups. They work flawlessly for me, but some of my friends have found that they have a hard time reaching them. They obviously need some fing-longers.

The Outer Finish

So smooth. So sexy. So many fingerprints.


The Name

The problem with slapping "new" on games and systems is that it adds a bizarre connotation to any and all conversations about the products. "Hey did you play that new Super Mario Bros game?" is a now a complicated question. Are you asking about the "New Super Mario Bros" game, or the new "Super Mario Bros" game? It seems to be Nintendo's answer to any old title that gets a remake now-a-days and it's pretty terrible. Why they slapped it on the likes of console is beyond me. Why not the Super 3DS? 3.5DS? Heck, we here at TAY came up with a slew of better (and more hilarious) names.


Micro SD and System Transfer

Unlike all previous versions of the 3DS, the N3DS XL only accepts Micro SD cards. It comes with a 4GB card already installed, but that's a pretty small amount of space to fill, especially if you want to carry around some full price retail games. You'll need a screwdriver and a new Micro SD with more space if you plan on upgrading your systems memory. The system transfer is also a bit of a hassle and it's too bad Nintendo won't let you share games on multiple consoles by simply signing in to account, but I'm sure they'll catch up with that by the early 2030's. Once again it's not something that would deter me from buying the system, but it's not a fun ordeal.


No Faceplates

Admit it. You wanted the smaller New 3DS. The one with the swapple faceplates. Well too bad, sonny. Not only is it unfortunate that the N3DS XL doesn't have the option of different faceplates, it just stinks that we here in the states don't even get the option to own the smaller system. So, no faceplates for us. It's not a deal breaker, but it's definitely disappointing.


No AC Adapter Included

As someone who already owns three 3DS (don't give me that look), this isn't really a big deal. As a consumer who is buying their first 3DS I can see it coming off as kind of a "screw you" from Nintendo. Don't be that guy, Nintendo. No one likes that guy.


When it comes down to it, the New 3DS XL is a pretty great system. All of the issues it has are small annoyances. That being said, nothing it does is so much better than your average XL that I would recommend trading up from one to the other. If you're rocking an original 3DS or a 2DS and want to take things to a new level (I apologize), then you should shoot for this bad mamajama right here. It's the best handheld on the market, but it's not miles better than it's closest competitor, which happens to be it's older brother.

Need a second opinion on the matter? Check out Kotaku's official review by Mr. Totilo himself. Still not convinced? Here's a third opinion from our very own JJtheTexan.


You're reading TAY, Kotaku's community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out our tutorial here and join in.