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Farewell, Nintendo eShop for 3DS and Wii U

March 29, 2023

A few days ago, Nintendo stopped selling digital software on the eShop for the 3DS and Wii U. You can no longer legally digitally purchase some of my favorite games on the 3DS.

Even for the Wii U the closure of the shop means you lose access to some great games that haven’t made it over to the Switch.

I can only hope that some of these eventually get remakes or remasters, but the truth is that the original versions of those games are now unavailable unless you want to shell out a lot of money for a physical copy.

3DS

In April of 2015, I purchased my first 3DS,1 and the first game I ever purchased for it was Xenoblade Chronicles 3D — a physical copy. I never ended up playing this one, as the first game I really ended up playing was my first digital game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney — Dual Destinies.

After finishing that game, I really got into the Fire Emblem franchise. My first few Fire Emblem games were on the 3DS, as it turns out. Fire Emblem Awakening was my second digital purchase. I pulled the trigger on that game after trying out the demo which could be downloaded via the eShop. Sadly, even demos are no longer accessible via the eShop. (You can re-download games you previously purchased.)

In my game list of 2015 the once last-hurrah entry (Awakening) ranked as one of my top picks, and in subsequent years the other 3DS entries (Fates, Echoes) also ranked relatively high in my yearly rankings. In 2017, the Switch arrived and at that point I was very excited to learn more about what would become Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

The idea that newcomers to this franchise (who may have just enjoyed Three Houses or Engage) and want to explore the older games will have to resort to piracy… doesn’t sit well with me. Not to mention the many owners of 3DS consoles that can no longer purchase additional content for their console.

You can argue that those people should install Homebrew on their console and find other means to install the games they want, but that’s hardly legal. It’s for this reason that I went on a last-minute shopping spree to get all those games I really wanted to pick up before the shop closed.

The 3DS had a massive digital library with tons of great games available for sale. The Pokémon games, for example, were also very enjoyable. Modern Pokémon games haven’t been doing too well (in terms of game quality, that is) compared to the older releases. Regardless of what your preferred type of game is, it’s unfortunate that the large 3DS library has gotten way less accessible.

Wii U

As for the Wii U… it will likely be missed less. Not only was it an unpopular console (comparatively) but it also doesn’t have that many games on the platform that haven’t already been ported over to the Switch.

That many of these games are now on the Switch is a good thing, but sadly a small selection of games are still exclusively available on the Wii U, and due to the closing of the eShop, will remain unobtainable to many.

Like with the 3DS, console owners will have to resort to jailbreaking their console to allow for ripped copies of games to be installed.

I personally bought the Wii U bundle with Xenoblade Chronicles X (pronounced “Cross” instead of “Ex”) back in December of 2015, about a year or so before the console stopped being sold when the Nintendo Switch became a thing.

I have been playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, and while it took me a while to get into it, I’m actually having a great time with the game. Yes, it definitely shows its age, but it’s great.
I have been playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, and while it took me a while to get into it, I’m actually having a great time with the game. Yes, it definitely shows its age, but it’s great.

Now, a little over seven years later I am finally tackling that game after reading reports of Wii U consoles dying after not being used.2 Reports seem to indicate that this mostly affects launch period Wii U consoles with Samsung MMC storage, so I think I’m okay?

Two years ago, I ended up applying Homebrew to my console, after reading reports of consoles dying suddenly. With the eShop closing, more folks have probably taken their Wii U out of storage and as a result noticed that their consoles have died.

I dumped the Wii U’s NAND and my own legally purchased games, so that in the event of hardware failure I can always resort to emulation. As long as my Wii U makes it through the new few weeks, I suspect that Xenoblade Chronicles X will be the last Wii U game I play, and I’m doing that on the actual hardware and with my legally owned copy.3

That being said, hey Monolith Soft, I’ll gladly purchase a remake for the Switch, even though I own this one on the Wii U: in fact, I’ll buy two copies — one physical and one digital. Just make sure you fix the font size of the UI and I’m in!

In Closing

In a sad kind of way, the news of the eShop closure spurred me on to play a selection of games on these older platforms (Professor Layton on the 3DS, and Xenoblade on the Wii U) that I likely wouldn’t have played otherwise, or at the very least not right now.

I hope that Nintendo makes their older times more easily available, but for now it seems that their strategy is to lock their older releases behind a subscription service, which I find to be rather unfortunate.

I think most would be better served with an option to purchase classics at 5 EUR per game, that would be better. Remember, kids: a game isn’t free if you’re paying for the subscription that lets you keep them… but that seems to be the way these things are done today.

(There is one major benefit to the subscription system: it significantly lowers the barrier to entry for trying some of these older games, so perhaps it isn’t all bad.)


  1. This was a New 3DS XL. Over subsequent years I ended up buying 3DS variants and special edition consoles, including the Fire Emblem Fates special edition 3DS system. However, the original first console I bought remains my favorite because it is the only one with one IPS panel in the top screen. All of my other 3DSes have double TN panels, sadly. 

  2. Given that Wii U consoles are dying I figured it was time to tackle Xenoblade X on the original hardware. There are really good emulators out there (CEMU), but I’m not a fan of the choice between shader stutter or async shader asset compilation asset flashing. Because of this I prefer to play on the original hardware — even though Xenoblade runs at 30 frames per second and at 720p with a pretty small font size. The things I do for consistent frame delivery… 

  3. Using Homebrewed software, I archived my physical Wii U disks, and installed them on internal storage of the device. This makes using the Wii U a lot more pleasant, especially for Xenoblade X. Disc drives can be quite loud, especially since I’m not used to optical media any more. As external storage, I’m using an SD card but I also have an external HDD that contains archived copies of my digital library. I purchased quite a few Virtual Console games from the eShop over the years. Also, save file management! You can backup saves to an SD card and restore them. 

Tagged as: Games