The Nintendo 3DS Was The Future

In July, Nintendo is going to release the New 2DS XL…and I suspect they will gradually cease production of the more-expensive-to-make New 3DS XL.

Autostereoscopic 3D is awesome. Full stop. I’ve never totally liked the notion that I have to wear glasses or a head-mounted VR display in order to see stereoscopic images. This is in part because I already wear glasses for my daily vision needs, and putting glasses over glasses is cumbersome.

When I first heard of the concept of a 3D screen that didn’t need glasses, I was sold! Here, finally, was the answer to the future of monitors…a way to provide 3D imaging and still retain the social aspect of being able to quickly show someone what you’re looking at without jamming a thing on their face.

Nintendo was the first company to produce 3D screen tech at a price that real humans could actually afford…and now we’re in a sad reality where it looks like they’ll be the last.

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Remember what this thing looked like? Remember the weird squishy home, select, and start buttons?

The original 3DS didn’t get all the way there, but it was so close, and so impressive for such a cheap device.

Plus it had that cool two-tone shiny look.

Nintendo achieved a 3D screen by slapping a second screen over the top of the first one. The second screen displays a special filter that angles parts of the image towards one eye or the other. Sliding the 3D slider-switch up and down controls the filter.

And so what did a bunch of people do in the weeks following the system’s launch?

They turned off the 3D.


I’ve never understood this sentiment. 3D is right there in the name of the thing you bought. It’s like, a big point of the system. It lets you look at games in full stereoscopic 3D without glasses what are you doing turn it back on.

Now yes, I know that switching it off makes the screen safer for very young eyes. And that’s cool! And yes, I know that not every game has a perfect 3D implementation. But man. This is a crazy future display you have in your hands. Use it!

3D is a wonderful addition to video games. You get a much better sense of scale. It’s much easier to be aware of where objects are in the game world. It makes navigating environments a fun experience all over again, just like it was way back in Mario 64 in 1996.

Nintendo was undaunted by its critics, and perfected the 3D screen in the New 3DS.

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Sure, we lost the cool two-toned look. But we gained an analog stick. And two shoulder buttons. And better 3D.

The New 3DS uses some of its extra hardware oomph and its front camera to adjust the filter image on that second overlaid screen so that the 3D effect properly follows your face if you move out of the sweet spot…and it really works! You don’t need to calibrate it. You don’t need to be in a super bright room. It’s awesome!

So once again, in spite of big sales numbers…it seems most people are just turning it off.

And Nintendo is focusing everything on the 2DS and Switch, neither of which have 3D screens.

Fine. I get it. I’ve lost. My future was not the world’s future.

With the slow death of the 3DS and the lackluster sales of VR…3D in general is probably just going away as a home consumer product. It’s a world of flat cell phone screens for us. And I’m bummed about it.

Stay tuned for future “Nintendo didn’t learn from the 3DS” installments, where we’ll talk about how good the circle pad and second analog nub feel on the New 3DS, and wonder why Nintendo decided not to use them on the Switch…let alone a classic d-pad.

Nintendo! You basically invented the cross-shaped d-pad! Why would you not include that on the Switch’s default controllers I just don’t —

Okay I’m good.

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