Star Fox 64 3D on the 3DS: No system-seller

Nintendo's latest revival of a beloved franchise on the Nintendo 3DS is a remastering of Nintendo 64 classic Star Fox, but the 3DS needs more than this to prove its worth. We go hands-on with Star Fox and friends in the third dimension.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Scott Stein
Jeff Bakalar
3 min read


The Nintendo 3DS is in a state of crisis. You could argue that's the case for all of Nintendo, too, especially this holiday season.

Handheld games are no longer a domain dominated by Nintendo, not with phones offering so many alternatives for less. The 3DS needs top-notch software to help it prove its worth, and while other games are no doubt on the way, titles like Star Fox 64 3D, Nintendo's latest franchise rerelease, just don't do enough for a software-starved 3DS holiday lineup.

Nintendo fans will rejoice: much like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, released earlier this summer, Star Fox 64 3D is a pitch-perfect and graphically remastered version of a beloved N64 console game. The only problem with Star Fox is that a rails-based shooter has less to offer than a well-developed adventure game like Zelda. I loved Star Fox on my N64; its 3D graphics were unprecedented for a Nintendo console, and the sci-fi effects were a kick. Now, games like Galaxy on Fire for the iPhone can offer many of the same thrills for a few bucks.

Newly added gyro controls add motion control to the classic Star Fox, using the 3DS' internal gyroscope to tilt-steer. Unless you turn off 3D, don't bother, as 3D effects are bound to break up due to line-of-sight shifts when continually tilting. It only took one try to convince me to turn gyro off for good. You can have 3D or motion, but not both.

Star Fox 64 3D: Nintendo's space epic to go.
Star Fox 64 3D: Nintendo's space epic to go. GameSpot

A variety of stages, some free-flying, others rail-based, advance the story. A multiplayer mode between local Nintendo 3DS systems makes some logical sense and only requires a single copy of Star Fox to play, but good luck finding three other people with a Nintendo 3DS. Besides, the upcoming 3DS Mario Kart will be a better multiplayer game, hands-down.

This all leaves Star Fox on an odd middle ground. It's a very good retro reboot, but it's not enough to make the 3DS a better platform. However, if you do own a 3DS, rest assured that Star Fox is one of the best games in a very thin library--better than Pilotwings--but less so if you've already played this game before on the N64. And this game is precisely the type of experience that iOS can actually one-up.

Continuing the trend of Nintendo 64 reboots in 3D, the latest 3DS release sees a remake of the classic 1997 dogfighter, Star Fox 64. It's surprising that despite all of the negativity associated with combining gyroscopic control and 3D, the option exists to play the game with motion. Thankfully it can be turned off, and as Scott mentioned above, that should be the only method of playing when in 3D mode.

Moving beyond these issues, Star Fox 64 3D is further proof that driving and flying games are really where the 3DS shines in terms of creating an immersive experience. The game's controls are ultraresponsive and intuitive enough to pick up and play right away.

While graphically the game is probably topped by some similar competition available on iOS devices, its stellar control set remains unmatched.


Nearly six months after the release of the 3DS, Nintendo has yet to publish an original first-party 3DS title that has the legs to aid system sales. Sure, the company is boasting a 260 percent increase in sales after dropping the 3DS' price to $170 last month. But until highly anticipated titles from the Super Mario and Mario Kart franchises are released, we still won't have an idea of the system's true selling potential--or possible lack thereof.