The Switch Needs the Nintendo 3DS' Most Underrated Social Feature

Nintendo's charming wireless feature offered a unique kind of social interaction that no one has tried to recreate.

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Miis in the StreetPass app on a Nintendo 3DS XL
Photography by Raymond Wong

Why isn’t StreetPass on the Nintendo Switch? Of the long list of unique features Nintendo supported during the 3DS and Wii U era — your Miiverses, SpotPasses, and the like — StreetPass, a wireless method for passively exchanging information, Miis, and in-game items with other 3DS owners, feels the ripest to recreate on the much more popular current Nintendo console.

The Nintendo Switch is an inherently social console and StreetPass is merely one flavor of geeky interpersonal interaction, but with plans to shut down the eShop for the 3DS and Wii U at the end of March acting as a final nail in the coffin, rescuing one of Nintnedo’s best social features for future generations feels vital.

An Effortless Network

Nintendo’s handhelds almost always feature a unique idea about wireless connectivity or social interaction.


What was novel about StreetPass is you didn’t have to do anything to get it to work. If your 3DS was in Sleep Mode (closed) and passed another 3DS, data would change hands over local wireless, and the 3DS’ LED would turn a solid green signifying you got something. That could be the Mii of another 3DS owner in StreetPass Mii Plaza or game content in games like Rhythm Heaven: Megamix, but the point is it was a surprise and a reminder that there were an awful lot of 3DS owners out there.

Nintendo didn’t wholly capitalize on the excitement of StreetPass at first. For example, you were limited to 10 “visitors” in your Mii Plaza at launch, and the collection of games the company eventually created that used those Miis wouldn’t be fully built out until well into the 3DS’ lifespan. But once they were available, the options were great. Find Mii I and Find Mii II let you play a turn-based RPG with the Miis you collected, Puzzle Swap turned every 3DS you passed into a potential swell of puzzle pieces, and later games like Ultimate Angler turned StreetPass interactions into a form of bait for catching fish.

However good the games are, StreetPass can’t really get around the fact that a feature that relies on you walking by other people naturally doesn’t work as well in the suburbs as it will a major city with public transportation. Either way, it does make StreetPass another not-so-subtle way Nintendo ties physical health to gameplay, just like Pokémon Sleep will when it launches later this

And if you did eventually head to a major event or city, StreetPass was wonderful. I remember taking my 3DS to my first (and only) Comic-Con and collecting hundreds of Miis from around the world just by sitting through a few panels and walking the show floor. Posted up in an airport on the way to visit my cousins in Utah ended up being the perfect place to pit my team of Street Fighter IV figurines against the randos I encountered by Gate 4.

There’s More Than One Answer

StreetPass addressed a different kind of social interaction.

Image by Nintendo

The online networking of today’s consoles is incredibly single-minded. You pay a subscription, get access to some games for free, and connect to other people for competitive matches or dungeon runs. Even Nintendo Switch Online runs with this concept, save a few variations. But a handheld device, which the Switch certainly can be, deserves other considerations. There’s more than one way to connect people through games.

The Switch is bigger than the 3DS, but it’s not that much less portable. Most people I know exclusively play it in handheld mode anyway. Why not let the Switch passively interact with other people’s consoles on the go? What’s keeping StreetPass on the 3DS besides that the Switch wasn’t exclusively conceived as a commuter's best friend?

Nintendo is not interested in preservation, and meaningful software updates to the Switch are few and far between — we just got Bluetooth audio support in 2021 — but just this once, before a closed eShop drives the remaining 3DS faithful off the platform, let’s save what works and put it on the console people love now.

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