The Good The Nintendo 3DS XL has a two big screens, tons of great games, feels sturdy, and is the most kid-friendly gaming platform currently available.
The Bad Battery life is fair but still not great; the graphics are starting to look dated compared to other game platforms, and the 3D is largely an afterthought; only one analog pad; downloaded game management still a huge headache.
The Bottom Line Three years in, the Nintendo 3DS handheld has become a seriously good game device -- especially for fans of Nintendo's classic gaming franchises -- and the XL is the one you should buy.
A great little place to play games
The world of gaming hardware is a crowded sea lately. New platforms are everywhere, but there isn't a dominant go-to console anymore. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One aren't fully realized yet; the Wii U is an also-ran; the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are aging. On the mobile side, smartphones are hugely popular, but still lack most of the great games seen on Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft's hardware. And then there's the two dedicated portable gaming systems: the Sony PlayStation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS.
The Nintendo 3DS isn't your ticket to the future of gaming. As a gaming platform, it's 3 years old. It's a dedicated handheld game system in a landscape of ever-more-impressive phones and tablets. It's even a bit clunky. But, it also might be the best game system I've played over the last year.
Part of that is due to a windfall of excellent, deep Nintendo-made games, ones that are great for long trips, or even worth playing in your living room while ignoring a larger console. It's kid-friendly, more so than any other piece of hardware besides an iPhone or iPad. But, when I say the 3DS is a great system, I mean it has at least 10 truly excellent games that justify the purchase of the $129 to $199 hardware. It's also compatible with hundreds of old Nintendo DS/DSi games, a handful of good media apps (Netflix, Hulu Plus), and has a lot of downloadable software and bonus games and features pre-installed on the hardware itself, like a camera and some activity-tracking minigames.