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Nintendo 2DS review: Nintendo's portable gaming machine is a better deal than ever

The 2DS is a great "starter console" for young gamers. And -- in the US, at least -- it's more affordable than ever.

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.
Jeff Bakalar
3 min read

Remember the Nintendo 2DS? Yeah, that little wedge-shaped portable console without all the bells and whistles the 3DS XL has? It's now even cheaper.

The Good

The Nintendo 2DS is the most affordable portable system for a younger gamer or for those not interested in 3D visuals. It packs in a 4GB SD card and gives players access to the 3DS' impressive library of cartridge-based and downloadable games. Best of all, it comes with a free download code for Mario Kart 7.

The Bad

The 2DS feels cheap and has only one speaker, which sounds a little lacking. Though it's designed for children, there are a few vulnerable spots on the 2DS, and it might not survive a bad fall. By today's standards, its screens feel too small.

The Bottom Line

With a new low price, the 2DS offers a huge array of compelling games and makes for a great entry-level system for uninitiated first-time gamers.

Starting May 20, the price of the 2DS will drop from $100 down to $80 -- and that's still including a free download code for Mario Kart 7. That's 38 percent less than the $130 price at which the 2DS debuted in October 2013.

It's important to reinforce that the 2DS is Nintendo's no-frills, entry-level portable. The 2DS plays nearly all games for the Nintendo 3DS platform, but it can't display anything in 3D. It also has the smallest screens of any of the current DS models, and it doesn't have a great-sounding speaker.

Moreover, there's no hinge to keep it closed, so you'll want to protect it with a case. It also feels cheaply made and likely wouldn't survive a decent fall. But if you can look past those issues, I think the 2DS is perfect for younger players.

Editors' note: This review has been updated from its original publication in October 2013 to reflect a major price drop and changes in the competitive landscape.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is this a good deal?

At $80, it's tough to argue against the purchase of a 2DS, if only for the huge library of 3DS games it opens the door to. Between the gamut of releases already available on the platform and all of the software available in the Nintendo Online Store, you'll never run out of things to play.

At the same time, the 2DS isn't likely to get many new blockbuster releases down the road. It feels like that door is all but closed. But for $80, access to this rich, established legacy of great exclusive games that you can't play (yet) on your smartphone or tablet -- the Marios, Zeldas, Donkey Kongs and Star Foxes -- is where the value is. And, ultimately, that's what you're paying for.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Who is this good for?

Of course, anyone can have fun with the 2DS, but I really think it's the perfect intro piece of hardware for a younger player. Older gamers might be disappointed with the 2DS' small screens -- especially compared to the flagship New 3DS XL.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Should I get one?

Teens or adults who like Nintendo games should still opt for the New Nintendo 3DS XL. That model provides the best overall mobile experience, thanks to its improved screen and head-tracking (the 3D effect looks better than it did on the older 3DS models). However, the best will also cost you more: that model goes for $199, £165 or AU$249.

But for kids under 10, it's tough to beat the price and value of the 2DS. And the included Mario Kart 7 game is like a cherry on top. Just be sure to invest in a padded case (widely available for under $10).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Nintendo 2DS

Score Breakdown

Design 7Ecosystem 8Features 7Performance 7Value 8