Nintendo 3DS

A Look Into The Nintendo 3DS’ Mechanical Design


Why is the Nintendo 3DS three-layered? How is it different in feel from the DS Lite? These are questions that are posed fairly often, so a little insight into the design of the hardware is most welcome.


Yui Ehara of Nintendo’s Research & Engineering department, who was responsible for designing the 3DS’ exterior, addressed these questions in a recent Iwata Asks interview. Ehara revealed that he listens to music to inspire him while working on hardware designs. The DS Lite, DSi and 3DS all have their own songs, although he didn’t mention what they were.


The top layer of the 3DS, Ehara pointed out, is reverse-tapered. This is so that the system is easier to open. It houses the 3D screen and the 3D depth slider on the side. Because the top layer was designed to be glossy, it was coated with an anti-fingerprint coating that makes wiping fingerprints off easier.


The second layer below it is indented, which is intended to complement the reverse taper of the top layer. The second layer houses the volume slider and LED lights on the system. The third layer is reserved for icons and lettering that explain what the different sliders and lights are for.


As far as the system’s controls go, the analog Circle Pad is designed to be rubbery to give it a better grip, while the face buttons have been made to feel metallic to complement the rest of the system’s look and to help the Circle Pad stand out. The design team revealed that the Circle Pad’s design was only finalized after the 3DS showing at E3 last year and that the design was changed numerous times at the behest of Nintendo’s software developers.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.