Today might be a day of celebration for fans of heroic plumbers, as Nintendo commemorates another Mario Day (March 10, or Mar10), but it will also be a sad reminder for some gamers that in just a couple of weeks, both the Wii U and 3DS/2DS eShops will be officially closing down.
The Nintendo eShop—an online store where games can be purchased and downloaded directly on the company’s video game consoles—first debuted back in June of 2011 on the Nintendo 3DS, and then on the Wii U when it launched in November of 2012. It wasn’t Nintendo’s first online store, as both the Wii Shop Channel and the DSi Shop predate the eShop (and shoutout to anyone who remembers the Satellaview). But those services only offered a limited amount of content, including exclusive WiiWare titles on the Wii, and retro Nintendo games through the Virtual Console.
The eShop, by comparison, let Wii U and 3DS/2DS owners buy most major titles digitally at launch, which was advantageous for gamers who didn’t want to carry around a mountain of cartridges, and advantageous for Nintendo, who wouldn’t have to worry about digital games being resold later. The eShop is still alive and well (although it can sometimes be frustratingly slow) on the Nintendo Switch, but according to Nintendo, “as of March 27, 2023, it will no longer be possible to make purchases in Nintendo eShop for the Wii U system and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.”
However, while new software can’t be purchased, after “March 27, 2023, and for the foreseeable future,” Nintendo will still allow users to redownload games they’ve already purchased, as well as access software updates and DLC. Given how expensive older and retro Nintendo games can be to buy physically, and how we’re going to lose access to digital only games entirely, it’s worth making sure your library’s up to date before the eShops shut down.
You Can Still Buy Games From the Wii U and 3DS Shops, If You Jump Through Some Hoops
You’ve got a little over two weeks to grab some last minute titles for the Wii U and 3DS/2DS handhelds, but things have gotten a little complicated on the home stretch. Last year, as of May 23, 2022, Nintendo disabled the ability to add funds to a Wii U/3DS/2DS eShop account using a credit card, and then as of August 29, 2022, disabled the ability to add funds to an account using an eShop gift card.
Download codes still work, so if you manage to buy an unopened Wii U or 3DS/2DS console that came bundled with games, you’ll still be able to download them from the eShop until the 27th. But to actually buy games over the next two weeks with an eShop account that doesn’t already have funds, users will have to link their Wii U/3DS/2DS’ Nintendo Network ID wallet with their Switch’s Nintendo Account wallet (which can still be loaded with funds using credit cards and gift cards), then use the shared balance to make purchases. Nintendo has a simple tutorial on how to do that in their support section.
Which Wii U Games Are Actually Worth Buying?
Although the Wii U isn’t considered Nintendo’s greatest success, it still helped lay the groundwork for the wildly popular Switch, and includes a respectable roster of titles. Some, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, are available for both consoles and offer a better experience on the Switch, while others are still stranded on the Wii U, including the original versions of Splatoon and Super Mario Maker.
Our sister site, Kotaku, has rounded up the 12 best Wii U games, but the most tempting reason to hop into the eShop might be to grab a copy of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Nintendo’s sea-sailing, cel-shaded Zelda adventure. The remaster is easily the definitive way to play, and it’s a shame that it has yet to be re-released on the Switch. There’s also an HD remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess that’s currently limited to the Wii U, if you’re interested in checking out Link’s edgy years.
I also know that io9 editor James Whitbrook will flay me alive if I don’t shout out the Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X, which he’s desperately hoping comes to Switch some day. It’s possible that it might, but if you like British anime boys and mechs, you might be best off getting it for Wii U before it’s too late.
Which 3DS Games Should You Grab Before It’s Too Late
By comparison, the 3DS family of handhelds, which includes the New Nintendo 3DS, the New Nintendo 3DS XL, the New Nintendo 2DS XL, the original Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo 3DS XL, and the non-folding Nintendo 2DS, is home to some of the best portables Nintendo has ever made, and feature excellent 3D gaming action in a device that can actually be slipped into a pocket.
Our sister site, Kotaku, has also rounded up the 12 best 3DS/2DS games ever released, including Animal Crossing: New Leaf which definitely outshines Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on iOS and Android. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, is a worthy mobile version of that series, while The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is hands down one of the best Zelda games of all time, behind only Breath of the Wild and Link’s Awakening.
The 3DS is also home to a bunch of retro titles that were only released for it digitally (the Wii U’s retro selection is there but slightly less robust). These will be especially hard to acquire after the eShop shuts down, as grabbing the original physical versions of these games demands navigating the cutthroat secondhand market. And let’s not forget digital-only indies like Gunman Clive.
Last Minute Wii u and eShop sales
Leading up to the eShop’s closure, several developers are heavily discounting their 3Ds and Wii U games. Kid Tripp and Digger Dan X from developer Four Horses are now available as free downloads for the 3DS/2DS consoles through the European eShop, and hopefully in the North American eShop soon as well. Capcom has also put most of its 3DS/2DS and Wii U games on sale for just $2.99 each, including Monster Hunter Generations, the Phoenix Wright games, a few Resident Evil titles, and several editions of Street Fighter.