Opinion; Why the 3DS Gyroscope is a Terrible Feature

No, that title isn’t an exaggeration either.  I honestly do think that not only is the gyroscope used in all the wrong ways in many recent Nintendo games, but it’s a feature that plainly does not work in a handheld system and should be omitted in future.  So with no further adue, here is why I think the 3DS gyroscope is an awful feature and a bad idea in general.

4. The feature doesn’t feel precise enough when it’s used

In fact, I’d say it feels like there’s no ‘weight’ to any mechanic in a game that uses these controls, since it obviously lacks the precise, more grounded feel of button or analogue controls.

Indeed, it kind of reminds me of the Kinect or old style Wii remote, imprecise, best suited for gimmicky mini games and things that don’t require complex actions.  So not a good control scheme for much of Dream Team or Luigi’s Mansion 2’s worst sections.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if it was used for things it was actually well suited to.  Unfortunately…

3. It’s used for a ton of things that don’t work with imprecise controls

So we’ve got a feature which feels imprecise and completely without any weight to it.  But while a normal company would decide this tech is best suited for either a game based around the feature (think, Pokemon Snap Augmented Reality Edition) where super precise controls aren’t the be all and end all, guess where Nintendo seems to like using it?

You guessed it, in games where people kind of need precision controls.  Places where no one in their right mind should have considered gyro controls.

Like those parts in Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon where Luigi had to cross narrow beams or ropes across chasms. Yes, because we all really enjoyed those sections didn’t we?

Oh wait…


4. The Infamous Secret Mine Rope Bridge

It was also used in that game for things like viewing stuff in the room/capturing ghosts (thankfully only as an option), and apparently as an optional way to control the cursor in the Secret Mine boss battle.  Because apparently, there are people out there who somehow both like fighting the Shrewd Possessor and using unreliable gyro controls in the process! Or in other words, I pity anyone who actually tries to win the worst boss fight in that game with the worst possible control scheme…

Or how about the aiming in Ocarina of Time 3D?  Yeah, there’s a reason I turned off gyro controls there after about ten minutes.

But the worst uses of gyro controls have to be in Mario & Luigi Dream Team.  Not the special attacks, those are arguably the kind of optional, not very precise moments that the gyro stuff makes sense.  No one cares if Luiginary Ball goes off course a bit, since it can’t even fall off the stage or fail.   No, I mean the last two or three giant boss battles.

Like that second to last one.  Yeah, flying through zero gravity portals with motion controls was not fun.  Less so when the gyro just gave up the ghost at random and said ‘screw this I’m out of here’, leaving poor Luigi to a deadly fate.  Or the entire last section of the last giant boss fight, where Luigi had to knock the boss off the edge (like Big Bully/Chief Chilly in Mario 64) with gyro controls.  That’s not fun!  Does it sound cool in theory?  Yeah, but it’s not fun to actually play, because the controls are kind of unresponsive, kind of broken and don’t quite do what they should do.  Why not stick to a circle pad control scheme like in… I don’t know, Mario Kart?

Above: The same gimmick has been done literally about ten years before on an inferior system.  And guess what?  It controlled better too…

Or how about the whole Star Driver in the same battle?  Dodging fireballs (including ones that home in on you and change direction at the last second) while riding a ‘one hit and the attack fails’ Star would have been perfectly fun… had they just used the damn circle pad for it like any logical person would suggest. Instead, they used a control scheme which gave no real control over the main character, was mostly unreliable and prone to fail at will, and used it for an attack in which 100% precision was a necessity. As a result, what should have been a fun and interesting finishing move turned into an agonising trial by fire (quite literally), and all because someone at Nintendo has fallen in love with the damn gyro and has wholly unrealistic visions about what it’s capable of.

Oh, and for some reason, they rarely give you a non gyro alternative.  Because apparently, being ‘artististic’ and ‘clever’ is more important than having the game finishable by people who can’t use somewhat broken controls.

But again, these uses wouldn’t be quite so annoying/bad if it didn’t break easily.  Which brings me to my next point.

2. It seems to break too easily

The gyroscope also seems to fail pretty easily, and at the worst possible times.

No kidding here, not only have I seen a ton of people struggle with the feature not working and needing to be recalibrated for no good reason, but the thing actually seems to fail to respond at crucial times.

One example is obviously the glitch I posted about in the last article, where the game would literally stop recognising any motion input at complete random right when it was most needed.  As in, Luigi would move around fine one minute… then get stuck frozen in the middle of the screen the next, until he got blasted to death by projectiles that he physically couldn’t dodge because the 3DS somehow failed to realise I was tilting it in one direction or the other.  Even if it was tilted 90 degrees to the left or right.

And it doesn’t seem to be restricted to this battle either, someone commenting here mentioned how the exact same thing was occurring in the final giant Luigi battle too, with it failing to recognise any input until the character was killed through no fault of the player.

Could it possibly be just a few poorly coded sections of a particular game?  Maybe, but I do believe something in the gyro controls just doesn’t work properly on a technical level and is responsible for many, many unfair deaths and failures.

1. The concept of motion controls works best when the screen is separate

Finally, I don’t think motion controls work well when you have to tilt the screen you’re viewing the game on to use them.  Wii remote?  Fine, the viewpoint on the TV stays static and it works.

Gyro sensors in handhelds?

Bad idea.  Why?  Because every movement, every tilt to the left or right, just makes it harder to keep track of what’s going on in the actual game on-screen.  You have to focus on keep track of a moving screen while simultaneously trying to not fail whatever’s going on in the game itself, which in my opinion is both easier said than done and a one track way to potential motion sickness.

It also makes the game incredibly hard to film without a capture card or hacking, or for anyone to watch while you’re playing the game, since the tilting picture just throws off the whole thing.

Above: What happens when you try to film a section with some gyro usage with a camera

It doesn’t work well.  Period.

So that’s why I don’t particularly like the gyroscope in the 3DS and while the moments in my favourite games that use it just plain annoy me as a result.  Do you agree and think the gyroscope is a poorly implemented piece of tech that doesn’t work too well, like a significant amount of this site’s forum userbase?  Somehow really like gyro powered motion controls and wish more games would use them?  Comment with your thoughts now!


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8 years ago

Then you should’ve never bought a 3DS in the first place.. I for one don’t need to hear this rant. I came here for news…and for fuck’s sake give the 3DS’s sensors a rest already! If the screen is separated then it’s even a DS anymore as that stands for Dual-Screen (i suppose). Having a separate screen is plain stupidity if you’re talking about it from the DS family. And about those broken things that you said.. isn’t it because of the game being poorly optimized for the 3DS itself?

7 years ago


7 years ago

I wonder if Nintendo decided to remake WarioWare Twisted for the 3DS. I liked it back in the GBA era, but your explanation about faulty hardware may give the game a bad rep. And it was a good game for me, believe it or not.

5 years ago

Gyroscope single highhandedly replaced a standard controller joystick as my go to for even PC games! Gyroscope as a controller element is BRILLIANT, if done correctly like Steam Controller. Gyroscopic sensors are amazing for gaming, anyone who disagrees obviously hasnt had their hands on a Steam Controller yet. Just because nintendo didn’t do anything amazing with the gyro, doesn’t mean its not worthy tech.