In his book Console Wars, Blake Harris reveals a mantra that video game industry insiders spouted in the ’80s: “the name of the game is the game.” Translation: If you don’t have awesome games on offer, there’s no point in trying.
Early adopters know the struggle. It’s the reason why I haven’t bought a Nintendo Switch yet—I don’t think it has enough solid games.
It’s the same reason why I think the Nintendo New 2DS XL is worth a look for kids and adults alike. OK, so it’s not the new hotness, not by any stretch, but this portable system has accumulated a staggering library of games.
Want to jump into the latest Pokémon game? It’s on the New 2DS XL. Love wailing on Super Smash Bros? Come and get it. Let’s say you prefer a laugh-out-loud funny romp: Mario and Luigi are present and accounted for. Maybe you’d like to revisit a childhood favorite? Remakes of Star Fox 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask are both available. Gotta have your Mario fix? Super Mario 3D Land is one of the best Nintendo’s ever made.
Nintendo New 2DS XL
The plastic clamshell is equally well-suited for kids and klutzy adults. Amazing back catalog of games, super affordable. Plus, you get an AC adapter.
Low-res screens. The toothpick stylus is hilariously tiny. Mediocre battery life for a modern gadget. Not as sexy or exciting as a Switch.
How about retro games? Well, the New 2DS XL has Nintendo’s Virtual Console, which lets you buy classics from the Game Boy, NES, SNES, and other systems. The Switch doesn’t have this capability, and Nintendo hasn’t even confirmed if or when its back catalog will be available for purchase.
At $149, the New 2DS XL is a great way to get into some of my favorite Nintendo games. It features the faster processing power of the flagship Nintendo New 3DS XL, but without the glasses-free 3-D screen, saving you $50. I think the vast majority of gamers won’t miss this feature at all. Despite its lower price, the New 2DS XL includes an accessory the New 3DS XL notoriously omitted—an AC adapter.
The controls on the New 2DS XL all feel satisfying and responsive, and there’s NFC built in so you can use Amiibo figurines with compatible titles. The screens are bright and colorful, even if they aren’t as sharp or contrasty as what you’d find on an average smartphone.
If there’s anything I found lacking when I used the New 2DS XL, it would be the strange design compromises. In the US, there’s only one color option, so I hope you like black and turquoise. Other regions get a striking orange and white version, which I find way more appealing. Weirder still, the included touchscreen stylus is so dinky it’d make even a seven year old scoff.
Battery life can be a little weak, and I find most 3DS and 2DS systems can get around 6 hours of play depending on settings. Beware that even in sleep mode, these Nintendo handhelds only last a couple days before requiring a charge.
The upside to Nintendo’s engineering is that the New 2DS XL seems like it can survive some punishment. Sure, there’s a hinge that could snap if abused, but the device folds in on itself to protect both screens when not in use. That’s a stark contrast to the Switch’s open-face sandwich design that puts its most vulnerable component front-and-center, begging for scratches.
If you’ve held off on a Nintendo 3DS-compatible system, the New 2DS XL leaves you with no more excuses. While the Switch is an amazing console with tons of potential, this Nintendo handheld unlocks a world of great games on the cheap.
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