Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

The announcement that Nintendo will be closing the 3DS and Wii U eShop stores and effectively sunsetting those consoles has caused many of us to fire up our old systems and survey our digital libraries. Both of these consoles represent the first generation of Nintendo hardware where it was possible to build an entirely digital library if you so chose, so the fact that each one's dedicated digital store is being closed to new purchases in "late March 2023" means that the clock is now ticking to make sure everything you wanted to buy is purchased and downloaded to your system — and ideally backed up in some form.

In this guide, we cover the basics for securing your consoles as they enter this end-of-life phase. We'll recommend certain practices and products you might want to consider to help keep your systems in tip-top shape, as well as providing useful information that you may want to act on before the digital stores close in March 2023.

Nintendo 3DS & Wii U End-Of-Life Guide

The first thing to be concerned with when it comes to the closure of the 3DS and Wii U eShops is that you've bought and downloaded all the digital games and updates you want while you still can.

Buy and download all the digital games and DLC you want before they're gone

3DS EShop
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

Once the 3DS and Wii U eShop stores close in late March 2023, you will be unable to buy and download new games or DLC. This includes redeeming download codes purchased in a physical store — things like Star Fox Guard, for example, which did have a limited physical release but was also sold as a code-in-a-box. Make sure you've redeemed any download codes before the stores close.

Nintendo says you will be able to redownload content you have purchased prior to that March 2023 date "for the foreseeable future", although exactly how long that is remains unclear.

Personally, we recommend using the time between now and March 2023 to get everything downloaded locally.

We've compiled substantial lists of recommended eShop-only titles for each console that you might want to check out — games that are only available on these consoles and which, unless rereleased on another platform, will not be available for purchase after March 2023.

In addition to eShop-only titles, it may be cheaper to buy select retail games in digital form while they're available. Physical games will obviously still be available (primarily on the secondhand market) after the March 2023 digital cut-off, but some are already getting pricey and their value is unlikely to go down in the future.

Download updates for all your physical games

Wii U Disc And Pro Controller
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

While Nintendo explicitly states that "On both platforms, users will still be able to: Redownload content they own; Download existing software updates" following the closure of the eShops.

However, we would still recommend downloading any and all updates for your physical collection immediately. It makes sense (to us) to do this at the same time as you're getting your digital affairs in order.

On Wii U, this means inserting your physical discs into the drive and downloading and installing any updates if prompted. Not all games will have received game updates, so don't be alarmed if you're not prompted to update — just ensure that your Wii U is definitely connected to the internet.

On 3DS, it's possible to download updates separately from the 3DS eShop itself, and you can even do this for games you don't own (yet). check out our video below for instructions (or just head to the 3DS eShop and type 'update' in the search bar to get a list of all available updates.

Again, Nintendo says that game updates will be downloadable even after March 2023 and "for the foreseeable future", but we'd rather be safe than sorry.

Best SD card / HDD options

New 3DS Menu
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

In order to store all your digital games, updates, and data, you'll obviously need sufficient digital storage space. Below we take a look at options for each console, starting with 3DS.

3DS Compatible SD Cards and Micro SD Cards

Extra storage capacity with the 3DS family of consoles is available through the use of SD cards and Micro SD cards plugged into the console to complement its internal memory.

Depending on the 3DS you have (original, XL, 2DS, or any of the 'New' variants), the console will be compatible with different types of card. Any 3DS/2DS system that doesn't carry the 'New' prefix uses standard SD cards; all the 'New' versions use Micro SD (although you can use an adaptor to use Micro SD cards in the older consoles.

Here are the exact details via Nintendo of America's support page:

The Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS XL, and Nintendo 2DS systems are compatible with SD cards up to 2 GB in size, and SDHC cards of 4 GB and larger up to 32 GB in size. All other SD Card types are not considered compatible. miniSD and microSD cards are compatible with the use of an SD card adapter.

The New Nintendo 3DS, New Nintendo 3DS XL, and New Nintendo 2DS XL are compatible with microSD cards up to 2 GB in size, and microSDHC cards of 4 GB and larger up to 32 GB in size. All other SD Card types are not considered compatible.

Note the phrasing: "not considered compatible". Personally, we would stick to the stated card types and sizes — experiment with alternatives at your own risk.

(In fact, this is all 'at your own risk' — one of the reasons we are recommending backing up your data is that even recommended and 'compatible' cards can fail, and in the future you'll have no recourse with Nintendo when it comes to replacing lost data, unfortunately. One of the perils of digital purchases!)

Scroll down further to find out how to back up your (micro) SD card 3DS data.

Wii U Compatible Hard Drives

Wi U GamePad Menu
Image: Gavin Lane / Nintendo Life

Setting up a current-day external storage solution for Wii U is slightly tricky. You can theoretically use a USB flash drive or standard USB hard drive, but there could be issues with stability. The Wii U utilises USB2.0 and, because of the system's limited power output, Nintendo always recommended a hard drive with its own external power supply to avoid losing power (which could result in lost or corrupted data), but these are increasingly rare on the market.

The solution we suggest if buying new (with a few examples below) is a USB mechanical hard drive, one that is 2TB or less due to Wii U requirements. In addition to the hard drive we recommend a Y-cable adapter, we link to an example below — that means you'll connect the hard drive to two USB ports on the console (which the Wii U supports), and this should help to mitigate issues with the hard drive's power.

We've highlighted suggestions below, but alternatives with the same basic specifications (<2TB, external HDD, USB, with an applicable Y-cable adapter) should provide a reasonable storage solution.

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The USB Flash Drive Solution

If you don't have a huge amount of Wii U games and data, are not planning on playing your Wii U too much, and you are just looking for a reliable and relatively inexpensive way to back up your purchases and associated data, it might be worth using a pair of USB flash drives.

This is the solution at least one Nintendo Life staff member has gone with to keep their modest Wii U digital data safe. As noted above, Nintendo doesn't recommend using flash drives due to the way they read/write data. However, they are much cheaper and easier to find than a full hard drive with external power. For around 12€ we were able to purchase a pair of identical Sandisk 32GB USB drives, copy our data onto one of them and then copy that again in order to have a backup of the backup (see below for instructions — data has to be moved/copied between USB devices via the console itself, unfortunately).

Remember, there may be downsides to this. USB flash drives may well fail much quicker than their full-size counterparts if you're playing a game off them. However, if you're not going to be playing the console much and you're after a convenient way to back up your data, it's worth considering this option. Even if one stick fails, you can swap over to the functioning stick — after making another copy for safety — and carry on (depending on how recently you copied your save data to the other backup, of course).

Back up your games and data

Once you've got everything downloaded, you'll want to consider backing up all that data and protecting against hard drive failure.

New 3DS Pokemon Crystal EShop
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

3DS data back up

To back up your 3DS SD card data, you will need to duplicate it in its entirety and keep the data safe — this could be stored on a PC, for example, or copied to a separate SD card and stored safely. We would recommend doing both and testing the second SD card in your console to ensure it works correctly.

Note that it's not possible to combine data from different SD cards into one — the process (detailed in the link below) requires you to copy the entire 'Nintendo 3DS' folder from one card to another; you can't mix and match data and games. You also won't be able to use a single SD card across multiple systems, as the data is tied to one specific console.

Here are the instructions for copying/transferring data between (micro) SD cards via Nintendo of America's support page:

Wii U data back up

As noted above, Wii U data can't be copied on a PC thanks to the console formatting any device used to save data. That device can then only be used with your Wii U — your PC won't register the stick if you plug it in.

So, in order to back up your backup, you'll need an additional hard drive plugged into the console itself.

The process is pretty self-explanatory on the console, but here is Nintendo's official guide to transferring Wii U data between two external storage devices:

Battery options and alternatives (3DS & Wii U Gamepad)

Now that they're getting on in years, 3DS consoles and Wii U GamePads are at a greater risk of having batteries that either don't hold a full charge or don't function at all. While it's possible to play both while tethered to a power socket, that negates the portability of 3DS and just feels a bit uncomfortable on Wii U.

While we haven't personally had to swap out any batteries just yet — and official options on Nintendo's sites have all but dried up for both 3DS and Wii U, third-party options do exist and are readily available from sites like Amazon, Walmart, and others.

While we haven't tested — and therefore can't endorse — any of these non-Nintendo batteries, there's plenty to choose from with user reviews to offer guidance if required. We'll list some of them below.

3DS Battery

3DS lithium-ion battery packs come in different configurations depending on your console — regular (CTR-003), regular New (KTR-003), or XL (SPR-003). Make sure to check which battery type is right for your console.

While replacements are sold out via Nintendo.com, check your local Nintendo store for stock. Otherwise, you'll have to rely on non-official options like the ones found below:

Wii U GamePad Battery

It's a similar story on Wii U — it may be possible to find an official replacement battery (or the also-official higher-capacity variant), but you might have to settle for a third-party alternative. Again, our original batteries are functioning fine just now, so we haven't tried any of these options personally:

Consider getting 'reserve' or replacement hardware in case of future failure

Unfortunately, it's a fact that every console and electronic device you own is steadily decaying and will, one day, suffer from a mechanical failure of one type or another. Even if you're fastidious with keeping your kit in sparkling condition, internal dust build-ups, power fluctuations, creepy crawlies, worn-out fans or other components could all contribute individually or cumulatively to affect the inevitable demise of your beloved console. Every console has a lifespan.

That doesn't mean that you can't extend that lifespan, though, and how is the time to stock up with spare parts and supplies if you think your 3DS or Wii U could be in better shape. This could include buying spare styluses, screen protectors, and batteries, or in the case of Wii U, perhaps considering picking up a second GamePad.

Let's start with 3DS...

3DS Stack
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

3DS secondhand prices

Unfortunately, buying a new 3DS system can be difficult and/or expensive, depending on region, with the hardware having been discontinued a number of years ago. Secondhand prices are variable, though in some countries there are still retailers offering refurbished or used stock.

Taking an example of the UK, it seems we're heavily reliant on the secondhand market through the likes of eBay. Even major retailers with 'marketplace' aspects are mostly showing out of stock in the country.

In the US there is also the option to head to auction sites like eBay, but there is also limited stock for used or refurbished units from some stores, often through their third-party vendors. Most options are unavailable, but at the time of writing these listings are in place; they will vary regularly depending on these outlets' supplies:

In April 2022, we spied and personally picked up a lonely, very clean, unboxed New 3DS XL with a charger from GAME for 119.99€. While hardly cheap, compared to online auction prices, that was a good price. They are certainly not going to get cheaper in the future, so if you're interested in picking one up, there's no time like the present.

Wii U secondhand prices

Similar to 3DS, secondhand prices are variable. A visit to Ebay UK at the time of writing shows prices ranging from around 40GBP for the console sans GamePad, to around 140GBP for a bundle including everything, plus some games. Boxes in good condition will bump the asking price up correspondingly. Ebay US has similar prices, running from around 50USD to 160USD. Remember, these prices are rough guides at the time of writing.

Functioning GamePads on their own look to be in the 50-70GBP / 40-80USD+ range. Finding one that comes with the stylus may be your biggest trouble.

While you may still find big game retailers with secondhand 3DS stock, Wii Us are much harder to come by at your garden-variety GAMEs and GameStops. Not impossible — it's still worth keeping an eye out in-store in particular.

Wii U EShop Menu
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Taking care of your console

Of course, the main thing you'll want to do to prolong the life of your old consoles as they slide into retro-tirement is making sure they're kept in suitable conditions.

While this should be fairly obvious, all electronic devices will continue to function better in a dust-free environment, out of direct sunlight, and kept at a constant moderate temperature, with no moisture, etc, etc. Don't, for example, store your precious retro consoles in the garage unless it meets the above conditions.

You'll obviously want to take extra care with the touchscreens on these particular consoles, and think about using a screen protector to avoid not only accidental scratches but everyday wear and tear.

In addition to screen protectors, you might also want to spare styluses, too (check you're getting the right ones for your console, as — irritatingly — they're all slightly different sizes).

More specific replacement parts such as fans are also available if you're determined to avoid mechanical issues for as long as possible. Here are a handful of examples:

That's all for this guide and our tips to keep your 3DS and Wii U in top shape as they enter their dotage. We'll be keeping this guide updated over the coming months, so feel free to suggest any tips or products in the comments section and we may well add them above.

Further reading: