End of an era: Nintendo 3DS goes offline, but what does this mean for mobile?

It's game over for both Nintendo's 3DS and Wii U as their servers are finally turned off

End of an era: Nintendo 3DS goes offline, but what does this mean for mobile?

It’s a bad day for game preservation as Nintendo has closed down its 3DS and Wii U online servers for good. As a result, midnight last night marked the dawn of a new age for online handheld play - an age in which the Nintendo 3DS library plays no part.

While most Nintendo fans have long moved on to the Switch and anticipations are already high for its successor, the DS family of hardware (with the 3DS its pinnacle) were the Japanese giant’s last dedicated handheld consoles, lasting well into the mobile age as a competitor to some and a companion to others.

But with the servers going down, the 3DS eShop has gone down with it, meaning fans of the old hardware can no longer buy any of its library digitally. It also means no more online play, disabling core features of games built around multiplayer.

It’s a bittersweet win for mobile, then, that some franchises at least get to live on via a current mobile instalment offering a sense of what was. New Super Mario Bros 2 begat Super Mario Run on mobile… Mario Kart 7 became Mario Kart Tour… Animal Crossing New Leaf? How about Animal Crossing Pocket Camp? Fire Emblem Fates = Fire Emblem Heroes. And Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has been usurped by Monster Hunter Now.

Not the same games, of course, but at least their 'spirit lives on'…

The importance of preservation

Nintendo 3DS games can still be played single-player or in a remote multiplayer setting provided no connection to Nintendo’s servers is necessary, but with the 3DS eShop going down last night (essentially Nintendo’s equivalent to an app store) it’s no longer possible to buy more games unless they’re second-hand and physical. They can, at least, be redownloaded if previously installed and later deleted - for the few players this might benefit.

And this end-of-life switch off is also the case for the Wii U - Nintendo’s successor to the Wii and the stepping stone to the Switch. Although far less successful the Wii U still has its fans, meaning that two libraries of Nintendo history were lost overnight.

The eShop on Nintendo 3DS XL

That makes today a poignant moment to reflect on game preservation - for consoles and for mobile. After all, the libraries of games on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store are even more vast, and - unlike the 3DS and Wii U - they don’t come with any kind physical alternative for those who missed out if the stores go down.

Realistically, these goliath app stores won’t be ending service anytime soon, but many of the games on them already do. Just looking at Square Enix for an example, the company closed servers on Echoes of Mana, Just Cause Mobile, Dragon Quest Monsters: Super Light, SinoAlice and Nier Reincarnation all within the past year. And Square’s far from the only company taking its mobile games offline.

The mobile alternative

Ultimately, the inability to purchase new games on 3DS or Wii U is a niche issue with the Switch having taken prominence for so many years and outselling both these predecessors. The bigger issue is for the hardcore fans who were still playing their old consoles, since the servers going down means they can no longer access online features.

This is bad for game preservation in a different way - in that certain aspects of games can no longer be played whatsoever, especially those built around multiplayer; playing Mario Kart 7 alone may be fun up to a point, but without joining a lobby and throwing Blue Shells at friends (or unsuspecting strangers) online, that fun will be limited.

The main alternative, then, is shifting to the Switch. But not every 3DS game has a franchise instalment on Switch, and even if they did, it still means leaving dedicated handheld play behind and moving to hybrid, which doesn’t suit everybody.

In that case, there are certain mobile games which may actually benefit from the end of the 3DS’s online functionality - from Nintendo’s catalogue and beyond… Pokémon Go is one of them, allowing players to battle from the convenience of a portable device. Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is another, letting players visit each other’s camps while on the go.

Fire Emblem Heroes’ offering is the most noteworthy from Nintendo’s mobile games because it provides something the series’ Switch games don’t: a PvP mode. This was present in the 3DS games before the servers closed but isn’t featured on Switch, now making Heroes the only way to play against others online.

Ratatoskr in Fire Emblem Heroes

And as handheld fans can no longer play this way anywhere but the Switch or on mobile, closing the 3DS servers could end up bringing new audiences (and more revenue) to other companies like Capcom. After all, if Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate for 3DS can’t be played online anymore, where better for portable players to go than to the mobile hit Monster Hunter Now?

Indeed, this could end up being a boon to many game makers who previously developed for 3DS, all thanks to Nintendo limiting play on the hardware.

And returning to Pokémon, the Pokémon Home mobile app is sure to see new subscribers eager to move their old favourites from 3DS up to modern hardware; transferring Pokémon to the latest games has always been a staple of the series, but moving them from 3DS to Switch requires a middleman - and a paid subscription.

Where some fans may been content to keep their childhood companions on the 3DS before, the fact they can no longer battle online with said favourites, paired with The Pokémon Company’s warning to "transfer their Pokémon to Pokémon Home at their earliest convenience", is more than likely to further overflow the company’s wallet.

The end of an era

While the 3DS and Wii U servers going down may be a small win for some devs on mobile, that win is vastly overshadowed by this ending of an era. It’s been over 19 years since the original DS landed in players’ hands and 13 since the 3DS. More than 75 million 3DS systems and almost 400 million game units have been sold since, so the end of online truly means a huge wake of debilitated hardware and titles.

But, the future looks brighter for Switch games’ longevity, at least, as players’ Nintendo accounts have been confirmed to carry forward to whatever the next console may be. And perhaps the end of the 3DS could open doors to more Nintendo mobile games? Kid Icarus Uprising had a strong online playerbase, on 3DS and has no Switch equivalent. Perhaps, as with Fire Emblem Heroes, mobile is the way to go to sate a PvP audience?

Only time will tell, but for now we say farewell to online friends on the 3DS and Wii U, and farewell to many great games too. It's been fun...

News Editor

Aaron is the News Editor at and has an honours degree in Creative Writing.
Having spent far too many hours playing Pokémon, he's now on a quest to be the very best like no one ever putting words in the right order.