2021 is the 10th anniversary of the Nintendo 3DS, a lovely little system that helped carry Nintendo through a somewhat turbulent 2010s. Its companion home system, the Wii U, wasn’t doing so hot, but the 3DS spent much of its time hosting hit after hit. As a mixture of console and handheld, the Switch is a successor to the 3DS – but only because it's portable. It’s quite surprising just how many of the Nintendo 3DS’s fun features were completely left out for the Switch. So, for its 10th anniversary, we wanted to look back at all the cool features the 3DS offered that the Switch left behind, and see if there is a way Nintendo’s newest console could bring them back in the future.
To start off, let’s look at what the Switch already has, outside of simply having games and an eShop, because there isn’t much. It has a Mii Maker like the 3DS did, although it is hidden away in the system settings, an app for Nintendo Switch Online (which is really just a gateway to games exclusive to the service), the album where all of your captured screens and videos go, and a basic activity log in the player profile.
Speaking of which, let's begin there...
The Activity Log
The Switch's current activity log is really basic, only telling you the last 20 games you played and vaguely how long you’ve played each one. This is a massive step backwards from what the 3DS offered, where the system not only tracked how much you were playing the system daily (and which games you were playing) but also kept track of details like the Total Time Played, Average Play Time, the number of times the game was played, and when you both first and last played the game.
These details could then be charted so you’d have an accurate idea of who you were as a player. We would never have known that we put a staggering 255 hours into Fire Emblem: Awakening without the app, and we find it fascinating (and perhaps slightly troubling). The activity log was a great feature, and we just don’t understand Nintendo’s half-hearted approach to it on Switch. It would be simple to add, seeing as the Switch already tracks playtime. It just needs a more customisable interface, and you’re good to go.
Another feature of the Activity Log was that it also acted as a pedometer, recording how many steps the player took every day. This was a recurring theme on the 3DS, as Nintendo took lots of steps to encourage players to go on walks and take their 3DS systems with them. Considering Nintendo’s big marketing strategy for the Nintendo Switch was to show that it was a home console that you could take with you on the go, it’s a little shocking that the system lacks anything really like this.
Folders And Themes
Yes, we're aware people have been waiting for folders since the Switch arrived, so it's not like this is a new request. However, given that the console is now four years old and, if you've owned one from launch and have a massive MicroSD card, you're likely to have a lot of games, some means of arranging them into folders would be very handy indeed. We're no experts on the matter, but surely this is something that Nintendo could introduce without much trouble? After all, our smartphones have had app folders for years.
On the topic of themes, again, this is something fans have been requesting for some time. You could argue that themes were slightly underused and underappreciated on 3DS, but they really did make the console feel more unique – and offered the chance to hear the Mega-CD boot theme every time you turned on your 3DS. What more could you possibly ask? Given that the Switch does have a 'themes' menu, we'd imagine this is an easy fix, too – after only offering a paltry pair of theme choices since 2017, it's high time Nintendo made more use of this option.
Picture and Sound Editing
The most robust secondary app on the Switch, and the neatest, is the ability to take in-game photos and videos and upload them onto social media. It replaced the function from Miiverse and makes sharing your gaming experiences much simpler. The images and videos can also be edited with text stamps and trimming of the footage, but that is kind of where it ends. This is once again, another step back from what the 3DS offered with its Camera and screen cap application (albeit, with only certain games).
There was also the 3DS sound application where users could not only record their own sound and music using the 3DS microphone, but also manipulate, edit, and share it through Streetpass or SwapNote, a messaging application that was also not retained for the Switch. In addition, this app could function like a music player, allowing users to store music files on an SD Card and listen to the songs while the system was in sleep mode.
It’s understandable why these apps did not just transfer over to the Switch wholesale, as the system lacks a built-in camera and microphone. So you can’t take photos and record videos and music. However, the editing features on the Switch are lacklustre compared to 3DS. You could control the speed at which videos play, change the pitch of sound, and even play the video in reverse. Image editing gave you access to stamps, as well as the options to draw and play with the images’ depths. It was simple and the DSi had even more options than this!
There are simple ways to address this as well. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate actually has a video editor of its own that would work really well for videos recorded on the Switch. It can’t be as in-depth, but it would allow for more options like zoom-in, making montages with multiple clips and other basic video editing features.
Sound as well could be addressed on the Switch. Imagine recording a video on Switch, removing the sound from it, and editing that separately to make something creative. It could then be transferred over to your PC or phone and shared however you would like. The 3DS had the power and capability to offer this, so there is no reason the Switch can’t as well.
Many of the Nintendo 3DS’s best features fed into the biggest portable aspect of the handheld: StreetPass. This passive feature was able to detect when you crossed other Nintendo 3DSs in the wild and would send data from their system to yours. This could affect numerous games, like activating the Dark Link battles in A Link Between Worlds, or having a stranger’s Mii show up as a racer in Mario Kart 7, but what it’s most well-known for is the dedicated Streetpass Mii Plaza app.
The StreetPass app is where the Miis that you collected would hang out and support you in a variety of games. It could be something simple like handing over a puzzle piece for the Puzzle Swap app or offering a type of bait for StreetPass Fishing, to more complicated games, like joining your RPG party to rescue the captured noble in StreetPass Quest, or becoming an extra ship in the shoot 'em up StreetPass Squad. These games were really fun, and the StreetPass Mii Plaza is actually our most used application on the 3DS, beating out Fire Emblem: Awakening by over 100 hours.
This is certainly the biggest missing feature of the Nintendo Switch, and we sort of understand why it was removed. Not everyone will use the portable aspect of the Switch, and so for them, it'd be a wasted feature, but we don’t think that should’ve been a concern of Nintendo’s. Even with StreetPass, depending on where you lived, you might have only passed someone once in a blue moon, so the feature was almost certainly ignored by some of the player base. But for those who did use and love it, it sucks that the Switch never kept this up.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for Nintendo Switch to implement StreetPass, either. The feature worked through local Wi-Fi, which the Switch already uses to connect to other systems for multiplayer games. Now, the green light that shows when you’ve passed someone wouldn’t be possible as the Switch has no external facing light, but the actual act of connecting two devices, even in sleep mode, is there.
The next step would simply be to have some small teams develop games for StreetPass to work with. Potentially, Nintendo doesn’t want to spend money developing small apps like this but we think that it would be beneficial in encouraging players to carry the Switch around with them. The Switch is a portable device, but it has this gap in its system for features that actually take advantage of this. StreetPass would fill that gap perfectly.
Recently, we voiced the opinion that the Switch could do with a few more external customisation options, and you could argue that no Nintendo console has delivered this sort of thing better than the 3DS (well, the New 3DS specifically, and not the XL model). The swappable cover plates concept was a revelation (at least in the Nintendo Life office, anyway) and went a long way to making each console look as unique and individual as the person who owned it. It's a shame, then, that Nintendo didn't include a similar mechanic in the Switch or Switch Lite; a removable rear cover would have allowed for a small (yet meaningful) degree of cosmetic customisation.
While replaying the 3DS ahead of writing this feature, we were really reminded of how much fun some of these apps and features were, and how much charm they added to the system. There are even more features than what we have mentioned so far, like the Nintendo Badge Arcade which supported players in customising their 3DS beyond themes, and simply the ability to change the order that software is placed or how much software appears on screen at once. It all made the 3DS feel like more than just a games system, but instead a little multimedia box that was personalised to you, and that is something that the Switch, in all its good points, has failed to do.
There’s still time for Nintendo to solve some of these failings; it’s never too late to make the Switch even better than it already is. While it is important to always be looking forward, sometimes it is a good idea to look backwards as well and borrow from the successes of predecessors, like the 3DS.