3DS Nostalgia: how I got back into gaming

The 3DS was recently “officially” discontinued in 2020 after nearly a decade of excellence! Released back in 2011 (that’s plenty of time to build nostalgia, right?) the 3DS has seen plenty of iterations and is host to a robust game library. Looking at the success of the Nintendo Switch, it’s possible the 3DS may be the last dedicated handheld-only Nintendo console! I’ve always had a soft spot for handheld consoles (I even recently bought a Sega Genesis Nomad) but have a lot of affection for the 3DS family in particular. For me personally, the 3DS will always be very special because it brought me back into gaming after a few years away from it. I want to share that story, as well as why I love the 3DS console variations and games. Let’s jump into some sweet 3DS nostalgia!

Box for Samus 3DS XL special edition
The 3DS is also wonderful because Metroid got so much love!

Getting back into gaming

I actually took a substantial “break” from gaming several years ago. I had a very rewarding, though very intense, job as a founding teacher at a new high school. That’s where I met my wife, and as we got to know each other and our responsibilities at work kept increasing, I didn’t have much time for games!

Then in late December 2013 (shortly after we were married), I vividly remember looking through a flyer for a Wal-Mart “post Christmas” sale . And there was the deal-you got a free $50 gift card with any purchase of a 3DS XL console! I told my wife about it and how I’d been wanting to play the Ocarina of Time 3D remake since it’s one of my favorite games of all time. She enthusiastically told me we should go get it, and off we were! I ended up choosing the red one-it just seemed “bold”!

Red 3DS XL with box
We spent a lot of time gaming on this red 3DS during winter snow days!

This really kickstarted a “gaming renaissance” for me. After I finished the (delightful) Ocarina of Time 3D, I went on a Zelda binge for awhile and played through a ton of the main games again (it remains my favorite series of all time). I picked up, played through, and LOVED A Link Between Worlds. This led to me eventually picking up a Wii U in spring 2015, and loving it despite its flaws. And now here I am, a Nintendo and collecting enthusiast, blogging about game nostalgia!

The special editions really are that special

Nintendo has always introduced a good amount of variations to their handhelds, but they really went above and beyond with the 3DS! The sheer variety, both in models (3DS, 3DS XL, New 3DS, New 3DS XL, 2DS, 2DS XL!) and in special editions of each, is staggering. I don’t have a huge collection, but do have more variations than any other console I own. Like all gaming, my 3DS nostalgia comes down to the stories surrounding finding and playing the consoles and games. Here are my other models with a quick memory about each!

Samus New 3DS XL

I did extra science tutoring for an entire semester at my school just to afford this thing. Even though I already had a 3DS XL, I love Metroid so much and wanted to play the new Samus Returns with better 3D effects. Plus, it’s so rare we get new Metroid collectibles from Nintendo-I had to have it! This is actually my favorite version of the 3DS and my preferred one to game on. The colors perfectly match Samus’ suit, and it released alongside my two favorite amiibo for Samus Returns!

Samus 3DS XL with Metroid and Samus amiibo
Beautiful. I’m really hoping we see another 2D Metroid sometime soon!

Ocarina of Time 2DS

Since I’m just a little bit obsessed with Ocarina, I was really drawn to this system. The box alone is glorious! I remember going to get this on a whim when I was out doing Christmas shopping with my daughter before she even turned 1. We were waiting in the (long) checkout line and GameStop, and Zoey kept looking at the Pikachu stuffies and giggling. After we checked out, the young woman who had been standing next to us came running out of the store and handed a little Pikachu doll to Zoey as a gift. She quickly said “Merry Christmas!” and ran back inside. I never even got her name. It’s one of my favorite memories, and makes this console all the more special to our family.

Ocarina of Time 2DS with box
The nostalgia around Ocarina of Time just keeps getting better!

Hylian Shield New 2DS XL

I didn’t get this system until more recently, when I found an excellent deal on eBay from a seller getting rid of his entire collection. This is one of my favorite items I own-it’s absolutely beautiful and the work on the shield is stellar. In case you can’t tell, Zelda nostalgia is very powerful for me!

Hylian Shield 2DS XL
The fact that the Triforce is raised up makes this even more awesome to hold!

If you’ve got a collection of special edition 3DS consoles, check out the absolutely beautiful display stands for some of them from Rose Colored Gaming. I could seriously stare at their photos for inordinate periods of time!

Beautiful mix of old and new

The game library of the 3DS is absolutely stellar. To start, there are several beautiful remakes of N64 games that add some lovely quality of life and graphical upgrades. It’s a nice way to keep your nostalgia goggles on while still enjoying modern conveniences and play on the go! Plus it helps mitigate the priciness of a lot of N64 carts, especially when you consider CIB.

Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D + amiibo
Do I need to say more about Ocarina of Time? Amiibo releases during this time add to 3DS nostalgia too!
Star Fox 64 3D + Arwing
Playing Starfox 64 with the N64 controller and Rumble Pak is still excellent today, but this is a great alternative! Had to include the Starlink Arwing too.

Here are a few of my favorite games to release that were unique to the 3DS:

Kirby Planet Robobot case
Kirby: Planet Robobot might be my favorite Kirby game! The robotic suits add all kinds of fun gameplay innovations and a lot of whimsy.
Animal Crossing New Leaf + Blathers amiibo
New Leaf is what got my wife hooked on Animal Crossing (and into video games!). Also, I love Blathers.
Mario Kart 7 box, fold out manual, and Red Nintendo 3DS XL
Mario Kart 7 is spectacular and still a joy to play now! It’s really only eclipsed by Mario Kart 8.

A Link Between Worlds + Link's Awakening amiibo
A Link Between Worlds as a delightful throwback after the long absence of top-down Zelda since Minish Cap! An absolutely stellar, kinetic game that I adored especially after playing the far too padded out Skyward Sword.

And last, I want to mention a few games where I think the 3D effect truly shined! I play most games with the 3D slider down, but I’d strongly recommend checking out these few titles with it up pretty high:

Super Mario 3D Land case + Bowser and Mario amiibo
Super Mario 3D Land is criminally underrated. It truly benefits from the depth of field effects with the 3D in its very vertical stage design-give it a try!
Samus Returns Special Edition box, soundtrack, two Metroid figures, Samus edition New 3DS XL
Of course I had to get the “special edition” of Metroid: Samus Returns. It’s a stellar re-imagining of Metroid II on Game Boy. If you haven’t played it, find a copy, crank the 3D slider and volume in your headphones, and ENJOY. Easily in my top Metroid games!

Collect this now!

I’m publishing this post in late 2020. The Switch has been in full (glorious) force for nearly 4 years and taken the spotlight of both “home console” and handheld from Nintendo. The 3DS is fading fast, which means now is the time to collect for it! Check store clearances and peruse eBay and other spots you find games. You can find some excellent bargains! This might be Nintendo’s last dedicated handheld, at least for quite some time. Don’t miss out on adding anything you’re interested in!

Do you already have 3DS nostalgia too? What are some of you favorite special editions or games for the 3DS? Or were you never really a fan? Are you getting serious about 3DS collecting? Let me know if the comments below!

6 thoughts on “3DS Nostalgia: how I got back into gaming”

  1. I have this funny habit of saving the most iconic games on a console to last, to the point that it can take me years to play them (I focus instead on hidden gems, which can be really rewarding). I’m finally playing through Super Mario 3D Land now, after buying it over 10 years ago! I still have a stockpile of unplayed 3DS classics including several Etrian Odysseys (I’ve played IV), SMT, the second half of NSMB2, several Pokemons, Starfox 64… the list goes on.

    The 3DS and its library are amazing and if it weren’t for the Switch I’d say it’s the most essential console yet. So many great exclusives.

    Another recommendation: Elliot Quest, an excellent homage to Zelda II. It even contains at least one Chozo. 🙂 It’s on Switch too, but I played and loved it on 3DS.

    1. I similarly have a substantial stack of 3DS games to play through! (it’s one of the worst “backlog” ratios of all my consoles) That’s largely because I went a bit nuts collecting as the system was phased out and grabbed quite a few titles (many of them RPGs and Pokemon games like you mentioned!) at a discount. I’ll get through them all someday!

      And definitely adding Elliot Quest to the list too! 🙂

  2. Gaming renaissance indeed.

    I’ve only started to enjoy the 3/2DS as of early 2020, so I’m happy to enjoy some quality gaming.

    Metroid and Starfox deserve more love from Nintendo!

      1. There is a case to be made that emulating DS and 3DS will be difficult because of the dual screen setup. I guess WiiU also has the same constraints.

        Definitely better to grab 3DS games now while it’s seemingly cheaper!

        1. Great point. There were a few DS games available on the Wii U eShop since you had two screens to work with, but it’s definitely going to be hard to experience those games in the most optimal way moving forward! I know that I can’t play Zelda Wind Waker any other way now that I’ve used the Wii U GamePad with it, and Metroid: Samus Returns is in its fullest glory in 3D on the 3DS. Most games for these systems are pretty cheap right now, so hopefully collectors who are interested get on it!

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