The D-pad in the 2DS is awful. It’s squishy, and so shallow that when pressed becomes flush with the console. The lack of any grip makes it difficult for precision movement as your thumb will slide off. It’s just uncomfortable to use.
When I bought a 2DS I had hoped for sort of a GBA/3DS hybrid. Something small that I could use for playing platformers and other non-3D games. The D-pad made this impossible. I tried to get used to the circle pad but it’s just not the same as a good D-pad for 2D games.
Finally I decided to see if I could fit another D-pad in there. The candidates for the replacement were from a Wiimote, a DS and GBA. The former two are quite similar to each other but, like the 2DS D-pad, don’t have much grip. So I opted for the GBA D-Pad.
The 2DS isn’t difficult to open, but there are a lot of small screws. Supposedly the screws holding the motherboard in are easily damaged, but I didn’t have any trouble. Just use a precision screw driver set and go easy on the screw heads when removing them. There’s also some small ribbons connecting the motherboard to the screen so you’ll need some tweezers and patience to remove and replace them. I followed the iFixit guide for replacing a 2DS screen, since it takes you all the way to motherboard removal, which you’ll need to do.
The GBA D-pad is the same dimensions as the 2DS pad, but quite a bit taller. To fit it into the 2DS case the base of the D-pad needs to be cut down. The plastic of the GBA D-pads was brittle and snapped easily when cutting. I destroyed one D-pad trying to cut it down.
The GBA D-pad fits into the slot well. Though, being almost twice as tall as the 2DS pad means it sticks out quite a bit. At first I thought too much, but one of the issues with the original D-pad was it being too short. So I continued and closed the 2DS back up.
It feels great. I’ve already played a few hours of Shovel Knight, and now when playing New Super Mario Bros. 2 I use the D-pad instead of the circle stick. Something that was impossible before.
The height of the D-pad hasn’t really been an issue. A tiny bit shorter would probably be ideal, but I could never go back to original D-pad. Playing games using the D-pad is actually fun now.
I did see some discussion on Reddit about replacing the 2DS D-Pad, but no one seemed to have actually done it. One person did say they replaced the membrane with a SNES controller membrane and that felt better. I did compare the 2DS and GBA membrane and I found the GBA membrane to be a bit wider. The 2DS membrane is also designed to fit perfectly over a ridge on the case. To me, it didn’t seem that the membrane was the issue, so I changed the D-pad instead.