As we continue our trip down memory lane before the 3DS (and Wii U) eShops close up for new purchases, firing up our old consoles recently has reminded us just what a bounty of gaming joy 3DS presents every time you crack open that clamshell. What a wonderful little console! (Check out our 'Countdown' series if you're looking for eShop recommendations before new purchases cease on 27th March 2023.)
It's not just the amazing software library, either — it's the whole ecosystem. While we can comfort ourselves that the lack of themes on Switch's menus keeps everything snappy and focused on what's really important (the games), there's something to be said for the personality and personalisation the 3DS family affords you by being able to customise everything with a theme that changes up the look and sound of your Home screen. Throw in badges and your console starts to feel unique and personal in a way Switch never will.
Yep, the 3DS is the absolute business, and we're sure many a company did good business flogging their themes on it for up to £1.79 a pop. But which one is your absolute favourite? Which 3DS themes are The Best™? Did you buy a theme to match your console or your New 3DS faceplate, perhaps? Did your favourite theme come exclusively with a game? Or are you, perhaps, blissfully unaware that themes were even a thing?
Well, short of ending the article now by providing the right answer up front as to which ones are the best (it's the Sega ones), we spoke to various members of Team NL to find out their favourites — head to the poll and the comments to share yours!
I'm a big fan of Mega Man.
I love everything about the original series: the simple NES visuals; the slick, rock-solid combat; the precise platforming; the incredible music. It all comes together to create an unforgettable experience.
So, naturally, my favourite 3DS theme is Mega Man "Stage Select!". It pays homage to the classic stage select screen from the original series, with the stark blue background and lighter blue beams shooting across horizontally on the lower touch screen. If you set your gaming tiles to the right size, they fit right where the stage should be in the original games. Heck, there's even a cute little image of Mega Man himself right in the centre.
On the top screen, the background is a simple starry sky with a single blue bar across the centre, piercing whichever game logo you happen to have displayed at the time. It looks genuinely lovely when you crank the 3D effect up to the maximum level.
If there's one thing to complain about with this one, it's probably the repetitive music. It's a touch grating, but visually, it's simply perfect. I love it.
I'm a very simple person when it comes to themes, and I love cute and spooky stuff, so you know it's got to be the Bountiful Boos.
I know it's not the most creative answer, but a lot of it comes down to nostalgia for me. I love the Ghost House levels from Super Mario World. The music is the main reason I've never changed this one because it reminds me of speeding through those levels while jumping through the rings of boos or scrambling away from the big boos. I also just think boos are adorable. Their little shy, blushing faces as you look at them, the weird little noise they make as they approach you, and their little teeth — I love them. And you've got a handful of different positions and expressions with this theme.
Not the most colourful or exuberant choice at all — which is unusual for me — but boos will always win my heart.
Ok, confession time: I was never that into 3DS themes.
I know, I know, I'm a bit of a plain Jane when it comes to these things but I have always enjoyed seeing consoles in their default setting. There's something about "the way it should be" that just sits right with me and removes the stress that I used to feel around personalisation — "what if I later change my mind and decide that don't like this theme somewhere down the line?" (yes, just change it back is a fair solution, but I can't pretend that I was thinking rationally about this back in the day).
For that reason, I never bought a theme. The money I had spent would play on my mind and cause much more stress than I needed.
What I did do, however, was get every freebie and Platinum Points special that I could. Cue My Nintendo Theme 3: Link. This ticked all of the boxes for me. It was obtainable with Platinum Points so no money stressing, it continued my Zelda obsession, and it played a little Zelda jingle whenever you tapped on a tile — a welcome change from the admittedly annoying menu music that comes with it.
Did it look nice on my Metallic Red 3DS? No way. But it suited me down to the ground.
My favourite has to be the Kirby 25th Anniversary theme, which was released in celebration of the pink puffball's 25th birthday!
The delightful "Welcome to Dream Land" theme plays, and as you scroll along you will see different characters from the Kirby universe in a super bright and vibrant art style. The best part of this theme has to be when you open your console from sleep mode, you're welcomed with Kirby's adorable "Hi!"
The Mega Drive was my first proper console, and when it comes to the 16-bit era, I still tend to fall on the Sega side of things. There are a number of Sega themes for 3DS, each with its own sound effects, folders, and quirks which put them in the very top tier of peripheral 3DS nonsense to spend your money on. And I say that as someone who pumped an alarming amount of cash into Nintendo Badge Arcade to complete all the retro console pixel sets!
If I had to choose one... well, I've never had to choose one, as I loaded them all to 'Shuffle Favourites' via Settings, so every time I return to the Home screen I see a different one. As much as the heart goes with the Mega Drive, the folders are a bit bland. I think I prefer the Game Gear one with the console's bezel on the top screen. You can't go wrong with any of them, though.
There's still time to head to the 3DS Theme Shop and download the ones you want. Some of them are even free. That's right, there's no time like the present to grab 'Kirby Copy Ability Global Poll' for the grand total of 'nada', so hop to it!
While you're at it, feel free to let us know which of the picks above you like best, or — much more likely — let us know your personal favourites in the comments. In the meantime, we're off to the Theme shop to download that gorgeous Mario Hanafuda one and those cool wood-effect ones that match wonderfully with the wood-effect faceplates that we never bought but might get one day. Maybe.