The Nintendo 3DS XL is the one serious competitor when it comes to a portable game console. Sure, Sony’s PlayStation Vita makes for an equally interesting gift, but it lacks the widespread gaming selection that all game consoles really need to be successful, and in an age where content is king, that problem is a death sentence. The 3DS does have that issue, with hundreds of games already available, a giant backlog of DS and older Nintendo console games available for immediate download through Nintendo’s store.

Does the 3DS make for a good gift? Absolutely, though this year hasn’t exactly been the most fruitful for the Nintendo handheld. But if you want a solid mix between high-quality games, a high number of games, and real physical controls, the 3DS is your one-stop shop.

Hardware

Nintendo 3DS XL

For the ultimate 3DS experience, you need the biggest 3DS available, the 3DS XL. Not only does it have two bigger displays (and thus better 3D performance), the 3DS XL also has better battery life and is easier to use because of the larger size. It’s not necessarily better for carrying around because of the additional weight, but in this age of bigger and bigger gizmos I’d take the 3DS XL over the traditional 3DS any day of the week. And you should too.

Nyko GAME BOOST

Because running out of power just as you do that final button smash is a bad thing — clip this guy onto the 3DS’ back to draw an additional two hours or more of power. The best thing about it being mated to the back of the 3DS, besides having a rechargeable battery, is that there aren’t any cables to plug in. And it doesn’t get in the way of any port, switch or button. The added weight is negligible too.

Power A Stereo & Chat Headset

Tune out the world by unfolding this headset and placing it over your ears. Then adjust the boom mike (which is detachable) so you can chat as well as listen. The inline remote lets you play music with a single button press too. How easy is that?

CTA Digital Inflatable Sports Kart

Go for a ride by inflating this Sports Kart with the included pump first. Now place the 3DS in the steering wheel and start your engines. The Sports Kart can even handle up to 230 pounds, so you won’t have to go on a diet before you get in the driver’s seat.

Deluxe Power Grip

Attach this grip and you’ve got added power from a USB recharging battery that doubles your gaming time with the flip of a LED-lit switch. Prop up the grip’s built-in stand when the 3DS gets too heavy and keep on gaming — there’s even a slot to hold another game cart till its turn to play comes. And the grip makes extended game play a lot more comfortable too.

Hori Nintendo 3DS Mario Kart 7 Racing Wheel

Forget about batteries — you just lock the 3DS in the steering wheel and get a more realistic feel when playing Mario Kart 7 and other racing games, courtesy of the 3DS’ motion sensor. The steering wheel has built-in Left/Right front triggers so every button is accessible. Here’s to driving responsibly…or not.

3DS XL Hard Pouch

The 3DS XL is big enough to merit its own transport. So take it around in style in its own protective pouch that still has room enough for holding game carts, a stylus and even other accessories like manuals. The best part is the zipper is made especially so that it can’t get caught on the 3DS XL when it’s being opened or closed.

3DS XL Screen Protective Filter

Touch the screen all you want, providing you’ve covered it with this filter first. Not only is it easy to put on or take off, but its scratch resistant surface will keep your screen safe. There’s even an anti-reflective layer to make viewing easier on the eyes when there’s a lot of ambient light.

PDP NERF Armor for the 3DS/3DS XL

 

Regardless of which 3DS you have, protecting it from bumps and scratches as you travel is job #2 (job #1 is playing with it). The case fits around the gaming portable like a second skin, but still lets you access all of the buttons. The NERF material is durable but soft enough to let your fingers dig in for a solid grip. And yes it does come in an assortment of those NERF colors we all like.

Games

New Super Mario Bros. 2

Everyone’s favorite plummer returns in another fun adventure for the 3DS. I could go on and tell you all about New Super Mario Bros. 2, or I can tell you that it is indeed new, that it’s Mario, that you can buy a physical copy or buy it from the 3DS digital store, and that anyone who hasn’t played NSMB2 that does own a 3DS is missing out.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Those unfamiliar with Professor Layton will be in for a pleasant surprise. The series follows a well educated British professor and his apprentice, solving mysteries in game-long episodes. The Miracle Mask is the 6th game in the series, and plays like a movie puzzler. That is to say, a fair portion of the game is the cartoon of the plot unfolding, broken apart by puzzles, and gameplay revolving search mechanics and investigation by talking to in-game characters.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mast makes for a great gift for a few reasons: first, it’s a genuinely interesting, challenging, and fun game. Unlike most games that are gameplay only, Professor Layton is part cartoon, part game, and that is uniquely different because the two genres go well together. Instead of just watching characters on screen struggle to solve difficult puzzles, it’s up to you. And instead of watching generally dull exchanges in the form of gameplay, players watch it as a high-quality cartoon that you would expect to see on TV. It’s the sort of game that’s great for travel because it’s highly immersive, and at the same time it works for short voyages because puzzles can be very difficult and exhausting.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Unlike traditional Super Mario games, Paper Mario titles are RPG games. They follow a different track in the same universe with the same characters, except that Mario isn’t running and stomping on everyone’s head. He solves puzzles in a very cute, 2D paper world where all of the same characters and enemies make regular debuts, as you can see in the picture above. Carrying around a hammer and your wits, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a true RPG that requires time, patience, and some gaming know-how. I’ve put the game in front of kids and adults alike with mixed results. It’s tricky and occasionally tough, unlike today’s slew of Nintendo titles. I like it that way, and if you’re buying it as a gift, know that the recipient will have built character after completing the game.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Kingdom Hearts is a franchise close to many people’s hearts. It takes famed Disney characters and brings them together with the RPG-expertise of Square Enix. You can read our full review to get a better sense of the game, but if you like RPGs, at least occasionally enjoy Disney, and want to do it all on a portable console, then Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is your game.

Resident Evil Revelations

When people think of horror survival games, they rarely consider a portable console. It’s hard to get the anticipation, fright, and nervousness for just turning a corner on a small screen. Somehow Revelations manages exactly that alongside a killer story and some of the franchises most beloved characters. For the 3DS, it’s one of the few must-own games, though be warned it isn’t exactly kid-friendly.










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.