The Problem with Owning Multiple Nintendo 3DS Consoles

I’m a man who likes choices. I get tired of seeing the same thing day after day – while I hate change generally speaking, things that I use every single day can really use some freshening up sometimes. I sometimes like a change of scenery, in other words.

Sometimes, a small change in my day-to-day can turn into an existential crisis. One day, I decided to change the side of my desk that my garbage can is on. The next week, my brain would continuously freak out when I leaned over to toss something into it, only to see that nothing was there. Eventually I just settled on having a pile of garbage, that I would then migrate over to the actual garbage at the end of the day. Strange, right?

However, there are times that a small tweak in the grind can be a nice change. In the case of my daily hobby of playing video games, I had spent a fairly huge amount of time on the beautiful New 3DS XL Hyrule Edition.

I absolutely love this thing.

It looks great, it feels great, the screens are big and beautiful; it’s perfection. Almost. It’s still huge and weighty, and truth be told, sometimes having a smaller form factor machine is really nice. Especially if you play a lot of legacy DS games, where the XL screen makes the graphical fidelity far worse than it actually is. Playing in the native resolution is great. It was my foray into the Nintendo DS remake of Chrono Trigger that made me realize this the most. But I wasn’t about to drop $200 on the Animal Crossing New 3DS, and that’s about all that the market had available at the time, outside of Japan at least.

Around Thanksgiving last year, a report came in that there would be a limited edition New 3DS Super Mario Edition dropping on Black Friday for a mere $99, and I knew I had to have it. While it eventually went to short supply and was then doubled in price thanks to resellers, I managed to snag one using an in-stock tracker. Weeks later I ended up finding one in a Target and picked it up as well, to sell to a friend at cost.

I lucked out, and was super excited to get back into the 3DS, as I had spent a few months on a hiatus while I explored my ever-growing collection of Playstation Vita games. With Pokemon Sun and Moon dropping soon after Black Friday, I’d have a brand new, gorgeous white New 3DS ready to play it on!

I went through the endless System Transfer, for which the required length of time is not unlike that of an entire pregnancy. Keep in mind that I have very few digital titles as well, and it’s mind-boggling how long this truly takes.

Great, this again.

The transfer finished, and what was I left with? Well, my XL was completely wiped to factory settings, with all my data moved on to the New 3DS. I knew this was the intended behavior from when I updated my OG 3DS to the XL, but that’s when it hit me.

A few games really benefit from the much larger XL screen.

What if I wanted to go back and play a game on the XL? Would my in-game time tracking be lost? Turns out games saves are on the cartridge. But that issue I’ll get into shortly. If the games are digital? Nope – no luck. You can play digital titles on precisely one device, which is completely ridiculous in my opinion. But it got worse.

I wanted to boot up Pokemon X and transfer over some ‘mon to the Pokemon Bank to make some attempt in “catching them all” in Pokemon Sun and Moon. I put the cartridge into my old system, and tried to open it up – but it wouldn’t let me. I needed to download a game update. Easy enough, right? Well, since it was a factory reset, it logged me out of the eShop, and I couldn’t login to two devices. If I couldn’t login, I couldn’t update. In other words, any game that requires a downloaded patch to play, you can’t play on your “extra” console. I was effectively locked out of any game that had any kind of digital-download update. If there was a required update, I couldn’t download it on any console other than my “main” one.

This is an inherent problem with the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. It’s silly that I can own ten theoretical systems, but can only “exist” on one of them. Sure, you can plug in a cartridge and be playing in a short period of time for most titles, but the fact that there’s absolutely zero synchronicity supported between them makes them even more antiquated 240p machines.

The 2DS XL is dropping this summer, and I absolutely love the design, color scheme, and the price point, that I’m willing to jump right in and grab one opening day. But here’s where I’m stuck: I like playing in 3D sometimes. “But Geddy,” I hear you thinking, “why buy a 2D system if you want to play in 3DS with a system you already have?” Well here’s the thing – most of the newer games don’t even support 3D anymore, so it’s not a huge loss. But I wouldn’t want to lock myself out of it entirely. And I simply love collecting Nintendo consoles and I like options.

Take money out of the equation here. Why can’t I login to the same account, on multiple devices, in the same style that Steam does it? Activity Log data, StreetPasses – all of those things should be synced. This won’t happen so late in the game, but it’s a glaring issue with owning multiple 3DSes. I can’t be the only one who will be put off from buying more consoles because of this huge issue of owning multiple devices. Every time I want to switch my main console, I need to do a full system transfer and swap MicroSD cards. Absolutely ridiculous.

As this issue has been a part of the 3DS line-up for years now, there’s zero chance of it being resolved. But looking forward, we can probably surmise that we’ll see several iterations of the Nintendo Switch, perhaps a smaller version that’s slightly more portable. If and when a “mini-Switch” is to be released, I’d love to add it to the collection. But, if there’s no way to own two Switches without having to pick a favorite and have the other one be perpetually in “in-store demo mode” with a lengthy system transfer standing between jumping back and forth, that’s going to be a huge disappointment, and I won’t want to add another system to the collection.

Let’s hope that when the time comes, Nintendo learns that people sometimes have more than one device, and that some fans like having multiple console options!

Anyone else have more than one 3DS system and share in my plight? Are you planning on adding a 2DS XL to your collection when it releases? Any other concerns? Let me hear about by typing some words in that box below and pressing Post Comment!

5 thoughts on “The Problem with Owning Multiple Nintendo 3DS Consoles

  1. I’m glad I came across your article. I’ve been contemplating on getting a 2DS to play the non 3D supported titles on a system that’s a little bit lighter. However, after reading your article it doesn’t sound possible to jump seamlessly between systems, which is a bit of a bummer. I guess I’ll just hold onto my 3DS XL and possibly buy another one just in case my current one wears out or breaks in the future.

    The 3DS is my favourite console/handheld ever!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Imtiaz Ahmed

    the transfer process definitely does seem endless. Odd that happened to you, when i got my new 3ds XL, i did a system transfer pretty seemless. Didn’t run into any issues doing updates or syncing streetpass or anything. But i only ever had those 2 3DS’s, maybe there’s a magic number you go over that just breaks everything?

    Can’t say i’m surprised given Nintendo’s track record, they do seem behind in the times in this regard. But now that i’m using the Switch, I feel like they are revamping these aspects of their experience, the new Switch OS is super snappy, and i did read something about being able to register an account on more than one Switch. How well it works? Well, can’t say I have 2 Switch’s handy to try it.

    But maybe one day. Being a Steam user, I’m able to log my account on my PC and laptop, and my brother and I can use each others account in family sharing, so we can access each others library in different locations… which rocks!

    If you haven’t solved it, maybe a call to Nintendo’s customer support could help?


    1. My main issue is that I can’t have my icons, my home screen, etc on two different devices, like I can with Steam or any other system currently out there. Maybe I didn’t do the best job of describing that – it’s not a problem that can be solved at this point, unfortunately.

      I’d like to be able to grab either my New 3DS or my New XL and travel with it, and have the same games/settings on each. If I buy a game on system 1, I can’t play it on system 2 unless I do a full system transfer. This process basically guarantees that I must retire a system and “migrate” to the other each time I want to change it up.

      And it’s making me wary about buying a 2DS XL, since that would just guarantee that I need to do this yet again, not with 3 systems. If suddenly I want to play a game with 3D support, I need to do an entire system transfer, instead of just keeping downloaded software patches on each system.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. playingwiththoughtssite

    Nintendo is very behind when it comes to the digital age and account management sadly. I own an original midnight purple 3DS and a black new 3DS xl. I’m thinking about adding an original 2ds to the family, just so I can take the system anywhere and not care if it falls or gets scratched.


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