When it comes to unique gimmicks, the Nintendo 3DS is mainly remembered for the wow factor of its glasses-free stereoscopic 3D effects (which Nintendo would eventually abandon with the introduction of the 2DS line). But today, more than 12 years after the launch of the 3DS, a group of dedicated players has been gathering to ensure that another unique 3DS feature still has a bright and active future after being abandoned by Nintendo.
We’re talking about StreetPass, the proto-social-network that Nintendo devised to let 3DS owners instantly and silently exchange Mii avatars (and some basic information) when two consoles get close enough to communicate wirelessly. Those exchanged Miis can then be used as companions in simple minigames, like tiny board-game pieces crafted to look like 3DS-owning friends and strangers you pass on the street.
Even as most portable gamers have given up their 3DS consoles for the Switch or Steam Deck, thousands of 3DS fans have met at various events this year to trade StreetPass “tags” with their nostalgic brethren. The next such set of gatherings will take place on “StreetPass Halloween,” when participants are encouraged to throw a system in their candy bag, leave one on and idle near a candy distribution door, or even just drive slowly around town with a 3DS in the front seat.
“I knew that there had to be more fans out there just like me, wanting a return to that golden social era of Nintendo on 3DS,” event organizer Shane Kressley (who goes by StreetPassLove online) told Ars in a recent interview. “Despite all of its current competition, you can still go back to the 3DS for a sense of polish and charm that’s missing in other modern consoles.”
Kressley said his love for the 3DS dates back to middle school, when “just walking around the hallways could give me a few StreetPass tags” each day. Since the launch of the Switch in 2017, though, Kressley said the online community of 3DS fans was finding it harder and harder to get that “special feeling” of finding a series of random StreetPass tags while wandering around in public. There were a few exceptions where StreetPass encounters were common—dedicated conventions like PAX or TooManyGames, Super Smash Bros. tournaments, etc.—but for the most part, there were no longer enough people carrying their 3DS systems around daily to make StreetPass work well.
“The 3DS had a massive player base behind it for close to a decade, but we never had a focal point for coming together,” Kressley said. “There had always been community members saying, ‘Somebody should host StreetPass events,’ so I decided to step up and start in early 2023.”