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Remembering the 3DS’ StreetPass feature

Posted on April 21, 2024 by in 3DS, Features


One major complaint that the Switch often receives is its lack of non-game features. The Wii U was perhaps Nintendo’s most “social” console yet – it included the ability to video chat friends, post messages to Miiverse, and much more. It wasn’t just the Wii U, though. The 3DS was home to its own selection of social features, including the aforementioned Miiverse plus Swapnote and then StreetPass – a feature that lets you automatically transmit data with nearby consoles to unlock exclusive content in-game. StreetPass worked perfectly with the 3DS: it’s a rather small portable handheld, which makes it easy to carry around. The same can’t quite be said of the Switch, which is generally much larger and requires Joy-Con on top of the larger tablet size. Today, we’re remembering StreetPass and some of the games it supported – plus how Nintendo’s next console (whatever it may be) could possibly bring it back.

What was the StreetPass Mii Plaza like?

What was StreetPass Mii Plaza like?

The StreetPass Mii Plaza came bundled with the 3DS on launch day, and it included two specific minigames: Puzzle Swap and Find Mii. When you StreetPass with another player, their Mii appears in both Puzzle Swap and Find Mii. In the former, you have the chance to copy one of the puzzle pieces they’ve obtained to make progress toward one of yours. Each consecutive time you StreetPass that user, you have another opportunity to copy another puzzle piece from their collection into yours. All in all, there were over 50 StreetPass puzzles released – and when you completed one, it would show you a neat 3D animation of the characters it depicted.

In Find Mii, the object of the game is to use players you StreetPass with as warriors to save your Mii from a powerful opponent. There are several tiers of enemies in Find Mii, and the color of each Mii’s shirt determines their abilities. Several rooms require certain Mii colors to clear, which lets you coordinate with your friends to help you make progress in the game. If you lived in an area where StreetPass wasn’t so common, you could use Play Coins (earned by walking with your 3DS in real life) to hire a random and generally-weaker generic character.

A few years after the 3DS was released, Nintendo added a few more games to the StreetPass Mii Plaza that you could purchase with real-life money. This included Mii Force, Warrior’s Way, Flower Town, Monster Manor, Ultimate Angler, and more. Given the recent shutdown of online services, it’s now impossible to legitimately purchase these add-ons for your plaza. Though the StreetPass Mii Plaza’s mini-games weren’t anything groundbreaking, they were an important social feature that helped the 3DS feel more alive.

What games were compatible?

Mario Kart 7

Just about all of Nintendo’s first-party games used StreetPass in some way, shape, or form. Though most of the “extra content” unlocked via this feature was incredibly minor, it still added some value to StreetPass as a feature in general. One of the coolest StreetPass features was in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. When connecting with another player, their house and its interior would appear in the Happy Home Academy’s display. You could tour their house and even order furniture used inside each room. This was a great way to get missing items without forcing your friend to give up theirs!

Mario Kart 7 was another title with minor StreetPass support. Each time you’d pass another person, you’d receive their ghost data for some of their time trials. Nothing huge, but if you were out and about with nothing to do, you could check your StreetPass ghost data archive to race a friend and pass the time. In Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, you could receive nearby players’ Secret Bases – and even battle their teams. Though these were controlled by a CPU. Then there was Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, which let you battle StreetPass players via the somewhat-obscure StreetSmash mode.

One of the most notorious uses of StreetPass, however, was for the 3DS port of Super Mario Maker. There was nothing wrong with its functionality – you could send a level to nearby players. Unfortunately, this was the only way to share levels in the game at all. There were no online servers for this game whatsoever, which kind of threw a wrench into its focus on creativity and level design.

Overall, StreetPass features didn’t really change their respective games that much – they were just nice little bonuses that included other players in your game. Truly, there’s no feeling quite like going to a crowded space like a theme park or convention and bringing your 3DS. Watching the indicator light up green every few seconds was a great experience, and it was always super-satisfying to tackle the next level of Find Mii with a hoard of fifty players you StreetPassed with.

How could future consoles utilize StreetPass?

How could future consoles use StreetPass?

There’s one problem with putting StreetPass on Nintendo’s next console: its size. Part of why it worked so well on the Nintendo 3DS was because it was so small. The clamshell design made it comfortable to fit in your pocket or easy to place inside a backpack. Though the latter is still sort of true for a Switch, the former certainly isn’t. Even without the Joy-Con attached, the Switch’s tablet is a bit too big (and perhaps even a bit too fragile) to fit inside your pocket. As far as Nintendo’s next console goes, it’s almost certain that it won’t feature StreetPass in any capacity. If it were to, however, there are two avenues they could take with it.

First, they could make the actual console physically smaller than the Switch. Perhaps there’d be a way to take the controllers off or even fold it up to make it more pocket-friendly? Alternatively, they could just include StreetPass without changing the size of the console whatsoever. Even though the in-game bonuses StreetPass gives you aren’t anything super special, it’s that little bit of connectivity that helps the 3DS feel alive, even as its servers have been shut down in 2024. One extra note here is that StreetPass sort of relies on Miis to come together as a cohesive experience. The Switch does still support Miis, but it also feels like they’re starting to take a back seat in recent years – Nintendo Switch Sports’ emphasis on new avatars rather than Miis comes to mind there.

What was your opinion on StreetPass for the 3DS? Do you want to see it come back on whatever Nintendo’s next console winds up being? Feel free to drop your ideas below.

If you’re in the mood for some more 3DS and Wii U nostalgia, be sure to check out our post describing 10 of our favorite online games before the servers were shut down.

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