3DS

3DS Through the Ages

November to December 2011

by Neal Ronaghan - July 16, 2017, 12:52 pm PDT

Mario's here to chew bubblegum and juice 3DS sales, and he's all out of bubblegum.

Looking back at the end of 2011, I don’t think I quite realized at the time how incredible it was for the 3DS. Not only did it have the debut of Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 - arguably the system’s first big-time original games - but it also featured the start of the vibrancy of the eShop with Pushmo, Mighty Switch Force, and VVVVVV. It had unsung hits like Griptonite Games’ take on Shinobi and Shin’en’s Nano Assault. It even had an Ace Combat game and a Sonic game that didn’t totally suck. To knock it, Doctor Lautrec, Konami’s assy Layton equivalent, did stink up the joint, but really, the first holiday season for 3DS was a rousing success.

That victory was definitely felt in the sales department, something that outside of a mention of the price drop, hasn’t been discussed here in specifics. The 3DS launched to more than 3 million units in its opening month, but thanks to the overbearing price, sales plummeted after. From April 2011 to September 2011, Nintendo sold less worldwide than they did in the opening days and weeks of the system in February and March. But the fortunes of the 3DS turned once Mario hit the scene. In the final three months of 2011, the 3DS sold close to 9 million units, eking out around 15 million total sales across the world in less than a year.

The 3DS very easily could have been a Wii U-like catastrophe, but thanks to smartly timed holiday releases and a risky, savvy aggressive price drop, Nintendo was able to right the ship before it blew up. From here in 2017, where the 3DS is old hat and a proven winner, it’s weird to think of a time where its future was uncertain.

But hey - we haven’t even gotten to that weird holiday where Nintendo released like no games for the thing because they had to shift all their developers to make HD games or something. More fun times are ahead. Stay tuned for a return trip to Angel Land and a whole lot more.

Worth Revisiting?

Super Mario 3D Land is a ****ing masterpiece.

Aside from that, this time period has quite a few fun games that are worth a first or second look. Pushmo, while maybe bested in future releases, is still an awesome puzzle game. So is WayForward’s Mighty Switch Force. The other big eShop release from this time, VVVVVV, is brilliant. 3DS might not be the best place to play it, but it’s great for on-the-go playtime.

While Freakyforms is still weird and kind of beautiful, I only recommend checking it out in the modern era if you just want to see something super weird. Cave Story 3D is a mediocre version of a great game, and Mario Kart 7 is an inferior version of Mario Kart 8, which you can now get on a portable thanks to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

If you’re looking for a deep cut, go check out Shinobi, a fun platformer based on Sega’s old franchise. It was developer Griptonite Games’ last game before they were purchased by Glu Mobile. That’s kind of a shame because Griptonite Games had a good reputation for making quality licensed games on DS, but they definitely went out with a relative bang with Shinobi.

Neal’s Top 15 3DS Games

  1. Super Mario 3D Land (November 2011)
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (June 2011)
  3. Pushmo (December 2011)
  4. VVVVVV (December 2011)
  5. Mario Kart 7 (December 2011)
  6. Mighty Switch Force! (December 2011)
  7. Star Fox 64 3D (September 2011)
  8. Pilotwings Resort (March 2011)
  9. Shinobi (November 2011)
  10. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (March 2011)
  11. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (June 2011)
  12. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure (October 2011)
  13. Nano Assault (December 2011)

Talkback

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusJuly 14, 2017

Shadow Wars was great - while it lasted.

Once you completed it there is no new game plus or post story content, that's it. You can go back and play previous missions but you were locked into whatever skill choice you made at the time which meant you couldn't bring those awesome end game skills that barely got much use.

It's a bit of a shame it never got a sequel as the gameplay was solid, controlled well, looked good enough and the Tom Clancy multi-verse would always have another excuse plot to go shooting.

Link LinkJuly 16, 2017

No mention of SwapNote in the system's first year? How can you chronicle the 3DS's lifespan and not talk about it?  :'(

That strange little app kept me checking in with my 3DS a lot during the sparse opening year to see what new messages people were sending me. Plus, stationary was a big thing with people trading Friend Codes just so that someone would send them a message with that stationary so that they could save it in their system to use. Nikki was the newest Nintendo waifu to be launched on the masses and that was her peak time of popularity.

There was also the odd Nintendo Video service with Dinosaur Office and other 3D shorts. There were even 3D Movie trailers put on the system which was quite unusual to see on a Nintendo system. Speaking of E3, I also appreciated being able to download the trailers for upcoming 3DS games like Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi's Mansion 2 and watch what they looked like in actual 3D action. Nintendo doesn't do that as much anymore but the latest Metroid 2: Samus Returns trailer reminds me of that early time on the 3DS.

LemonadeJuly 16, 2017

I bought a 3DS at launch with Street Fighter and Lego Star Wars 3. I wish I had never sold that 3DS when I got an XL, I really liked the original design.

I played Steel Diver once at a 3DS preview event a few weeks before it came out. It didnt seem very good.
I was never interested in Pilotwings Resort until recently. I will buy it if I see it cheap somewhere.

I was pretty happy with the ambassador program. I got my favourite GBA game, Minish Cap and a bunch of other cool stuff.

I really liked Mario 3D Land, but I thought it was too long. Maybe this is a slight spoiler, but I didnt play the second half of the game. I got to what I thought was the end, then saw there were another 8 worlds (or however many, I cant remember), played a bit and then stopped.

Link LinkJuly 16, 2017

I was kind of disappointed with the 2nd half of Mario 3D Land. I had heard people saying great things about it and new there was this other section of the game after beating the first 8 so my mind thrilled at the possibility of these extra levels. When playing the game, I found out that a lot of those levels were ones I had already played in the first 8 worlds but with a twist to them to make them harder. I did enjoy the challenge factor and overall still thought it was the best Mario game I had played since Sunshine but was bummed at the time that it wasn't a lot of new level content. It's one of the things I dislike about Super Mario Galaxy. It has a lot of repetitious elements and level portions it will have you replay over and over. (Although I'd later play Super Mario Galaxy 2 and that would become my most favorite Mario game since Sunshine so who cares about 3D Land.  ;) ;D )

The Ambassador program was a pretty sweet deal. The NES games I never really cared about but the GBA games were an awesome bonus (although we had to wait until the end of the year for them IIRC). It is amazing that we never got GBA games on the 3DS eShop. We all expected it but it never came and they were released on the Wii U itself. It was either Chozo Ghost or TJ Spyke who would always post comments when people speculated about GBA games coming for the 3DS that Nintendo had made no such announcement and that a person was wrong to expect them. Well, it looks like he may be proven right all along in raining on everyone's parade but 6 years later and the possibility of GBA games on the system continues to fade.

The launch game I got for the 3DS was Rayman 3D. I'd always heard it was supposed to be a good game although Ubisoft had re-released it a lot. However, I thought the 3D effect in it was great and was the game I used to show people what the 3D effect was like on the system to try and hype it to others. I still love the 3D effect to this day and am disappointed that it has been treated indifferently by so many other gamers to the point that even Nintendo is releasing a 2DS with no 3D display after the NEW 3DS came out with it's better 3D capabilities. Of course, if I waited, I could have got Rayman 3D for dirt cheap but that was the case with pretty much all the 3DS launch software.

I later acquired Pilotwings for half off and I did enjoy it. Again, I liked flying in the 3D and it made me wish we could have had a Rogue Squadron type game on the 3DS. Even a port of one of the early RS games would have been great. The only problem with Pilotwings is that you just have Wuhu Island to explore and after you've searched it all through then the locale can be a bit boring. The hardest thing about missions is just getting a perfect landing most of the time as well. I beat it thoroughly despite its limitations and enjoyed playing it through a mission at a time though some craft were more fun to fly than others. I think it is worth taking for a spin and playing but it is limited in how much it has to offer.

I have Steel Diver and have heard some positive impressions about it since it's status as a launch title. I've meant to play it from time to time but still haven't gotten around to it. One of these days. From what I've seen and know of it, I think it might have gone over better if it had been an eShop exclusive like Pushmo or Ketzel's Corridors. But as a $35.00 (?) launch title, there wasn't enough there to keep players satisfied very long (unlike, say, Breath of the Wild on Switch). When Steel Divers 2 was released on the eShop, it seems like Nintendo seemed to realize this as well.

Really, aside from SwapNote, Videos, and Rayman 3D, the other couple things that define my first year with the 3DS was streetpassing to complete the Black and White Pokedex and the launch of the eShop Virtual Console and playing Link's Awakening for the first time. Now when I think of the 3DS, most of that stuff is kind of forgotten and I think of other games and titles to define it. That first year, though, was all about older games and odd applications.

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusJuly 16, 2017

Steel Diver was a mess. I think it was Nintendo's first entry into micro transactions of sorts. One of the problems I had with it other than the MT is that tutorial is not gameplay and make fore a terrible demo.

It didn't help the game was very shallow even compared to a PSX game Submarine Commander or the PS2 epic Warship Gunner/Navel Ops 2. That game had you getting new subs and weapons including surface attack, anti-air, homing, noise makers, etc. It had noise detection modelling which required you to have a targeting solution, limited ammo, tubes you needed to load before hand. Yet this game was an arcadey game but without all the hardcore sim like Silent service.

I was very surprised that Nintendo allowed this to get a release as it just wasn't a good game and there was no way they didn't know this. Sure they needed something to release for launch but it did no favours.

Link LinkJuly 16, 2017

Steel Diver had micro transactions? How? Nintendo's online for the 3DS wasn't really running until a few months after launch when they released the eShop. Are you sure you aren't confusing Steel Diver 2: Sub Wars which came a few years later with the first Steel Diver that was released at launch?

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusJuly 17, 2017

I did a check and it's classed as free to play with a one time $10 unlock for more subs and single maps. So it is not quite demo or MT. It wasn't a good game in the first place so whatever economic system it was under is moot.

The poor reception soured Nintendo on MT for a while but after an experiment or two through street pass they came back full force with that item drop arcade where that blasted rabbit kept begging you to buy expensive things that should have been like .10 cents at the most. Played it for two weeks, got some stickers I wanted for free and literally forgot about it.

I tried the other offerings but found all of them empty and shallow lacking that Nintendo quality as they are phone games at heart.

pokepal148July 17, 2017

Dead or Alive Dimensions deserves a mention in the March-May timeframe. I'd also say Steel Diver is worth going back to just because of how easy it is to find that game for an extremely low price.

Quote from: oohhboy

Steel Diver was a mess. I think it was Nintendo's first entry into micro transactions of sorts. One of the problems I had with it other than the MT is that tutorial is not gameplay and make fore a terrible demo.

It didn't help the game was very shallow even compared to a PSX game Submarine Commander or the PS2 epic Warship Gunner/Navel Ops 2. That game had you getting new subs and weapons including surface attack, anti-air, homing, noise makers, etc. It had noise detection modelling which required you to have a targeting solution, limited ammo, tubes you needed to load before hand. Yet this game was an arcadey game but without all the hardcore sim like Silent service.

I was very surprised that Nintendo allowed this to get a release as it just wasn't a good game and there was no way they didn't know this. Sure they needed something to release for launch but it did no favours.

You're thinking of the sequel: Steel Diver: Sub Wars.

The original Steel Diver was basically a DS tech demo with a rather impressive stereoscopic 3D effect and no online functionality whatsoever. If you're looking for a more laid back and relaxing experience that still requires some attention it's a really good pick, especially since you can get that game for really cheap now as a physical copy (By cheap I mean I got a copy for $2 that included the original case.)

If I recall correctly Mario Kart 7 was the official launch title for the Nintendo Network branding.

Mop it upJuly 17, 2017

This article is just reminding me how terrible was the first year of the 3DS. It's pretty amazing it managed to survive.

I'll note that I'm probably going to skip over some games I'm not as familiar with. I actually had DoA Dimensions on my notes for the March-May 2011 article but I only ever played it briefly at a demo event and would have nothing to say other than "it exists." I'm not promising anything (because this is a way bigger undertaking than I expected), but I might try to get some other staffers together for a podcast of some sort to go touch on things I missed and also their own 3DS memories/experiences/favorites.

And Swapnote was a total miss on my part. Once again though, all I'd have to say about it is "I used it for a few days and then it got shut down two years later for some reason." As I get deeper into the life of the 3DS, the focus is going to be a lot more on the games and less on the noise around it (unless it's like a new model or sales issues).

I'm having a blast looking back on the 3DS though, so thanks for reading! I have a fondness for that first year of the 3DS, but it's a sad state of affairs until 3D Land/Kart...and then outside of some third parties, even 2012 ain't great.

Link LinkAugust 12, 2017

Is this feature going to continue? I know there hasn't been much posting on it lately but I've been enjoying every installment and am disappointed that it's been stalled at just over the halfway mark.

redfieldjamesAugust 21, 2017

Agreed. I was enjoying this feature.

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