How the Nintendo 3DS became my favorite portable game system of all time (a love story)


This past weekend, it happened- the Nintendo 3DS became my favorite portable game system of all time. Everything had been building to this point for a while, but the combination of the phenomenal New 3DS XL hardware, Majora’s Mask 3D, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate pushed it over the edge. The hardware has reached its final form, its true potential, and it has a robust library of 1st and 3rd party games totally in my wheelhouse. But for a system to be a “favorite” it needs more than tech, and yes, even great games. It needs memories- personal connections. And I have had quite a few fantastic experiences revolving around the system.


I loved this thing

The original 3DS launch day in March 2011 was kind of a bummer for me. The system’s launch price of $250 was less than ideal, as was the varied, but middling, launch lineup. The countdown to the midnight release was fun enough though; John, Kevin, and I started the night playing Famicom games and then headed to GameStop around 11:30 to pick up our preordered systems. Once I opened the box, the disappointment began. I found the system itself, with its 3-tone coloring to be a huge step down aesthetically from my sweet teal DSi. Worse, the buttons felt “off,” the primary offender being the squishy dpad. While the new circle pad was cool, the 3D gave me a headache after just a few minutes with it on, as I was pretty unaccustomed to the tech.



My sole launch game purchase, Ridge Racer 3D, disappointed as well. Despite a great soundtrack and track selection, the bland visuals did not impress in the way I wanted a game for my pricey new hardware to.






In the months that followed, my 3DS was primarily used to play DS games, like Pokemon White, Phantasy Star 0, and Radiant Historia. In June, Ocarina of Time 3D was released, and while it was a fantastic remaster, it was also a game I had finished many times before. Earlier that month however, marked the true start of my 3DS love- the launch of the 3DS Virtual Console. In 2011, it had been quite some time since I had played any Game Boy/GBC games. Due to the loss of backwards compatibility from hardware upgrades, I had sold off my Game Boy collection. When I downloaded my first Game Boy game onto my 3DS (either Super Mario Land or Link’s Awakening), I was shocked at the quality. The emulation was great, the picture was crisper than I had ever seen, and having save states was a boon.


Over the next few months, I revisited Donkey Kong, Mario Land 1 & 2, Link’s Awakening, Kirby’s Dream Land, and a personal favorite of mine, the (unfairly) despised Metroid II: Return of Samus. Playing the games in perfect portable form, but with modern concessions really deepened my appreciation for these (sometimes misunderstood and underappreciated) gems. The Virtual Console, including summer’s “Ambassador” games, and a massive DS backlog tided me over until November, when Super Mario 3D Land dropped.


I was in grad school and student teaching, and on the day Super Mario 3D Land was released, I was incredibly sick. I had a 101 degree fever and no health insurance, and at 4 in the morning I was unable to sleep due to intense throat pain, so I headed to my local 24-hour Walmart for over-the-counter relief. While I didn’t go to Walmart to buy 3D Land, I was definitely aware of its release on that day, so I stopped by the electronics department, and sure enough, there it was. I purchased it, alongside juice, painkillers, DayQuil, and cough drops.

I spent the next 12 hours in a feverish state, numb from medicine, with my 3DS plugged into the wall, immersed in a Mario game in a way I hadn’t been since Super Mario 64. I only stopped when my mother showed up and insisted she take me to an immediate care clinic (my fever was nearly 102 degrees at this point). Over the next few days of recovery I completed a great deal of the post-game content. Super Mario 3D Land remains one of my favorite Mario games, and one that I’m planning to revisit soon, on the New 3DS hardware, thanks to the improved 3D tech.

In 2011 I had begun writing for a local music site, and because of this, in December I would record a radio show that would change my life. On the show, myself and other writers were talking about our albums of the year, which eventually turned into our favorite movies/TV shows, and finally, our favorite video games. I had just purchased Mario Kart 7 a few days prior to recording and was over the moon with it. All I could talk about on the show was my love for the 3DS, and one of the other site writers, Lindsey, was intrigued by my enthusiasm for the system, and started asking me questions about it.

Following this recording, Lindsey and I talked more and more (we became Facebook friends after covering separate shows on the same Lawrence Arms tour). Eventually, we started dating, and Lindsey purchased a 3DS for herself. We were dating long-distance, only getting to see each other every other weekend or so. I purchased a copy of Mario Kart 7 for her, and we would play online on weeknights, which helped ease the pains of distance. mk7We eventually moved in together, got engaged, and moved across the country. In this time there were many memorable 3DS experiences. There was StreetPass heaven at the C2E2 comic convention in Chicago, finishing Fire Emblem Awakening on a Blue Line train after having 6 hours of extreme dental surgery, Lindsey and I swapping Pokemon in X and Y to complete the Pokedex, falling back in love with the Zelda series with A Link Between Worlds, buying my first ever DLC with the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games, and so much more.


In July of 2014 we got married in Chicago and flew off to Japan for our honeymoon. There, my love of the 3DS increased even more. I bought a Dragon Quest 3DS system, found myself completely charmed by Yokai Watch, and of course, got a ton of StreetPasses everywhere we went.

I could rattle off my top 25 3DS games here to drive home my point, but the quality of the 3DS’ library is certainly not in question these days. After a Valentine’s Day spent on the couch with my wife playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on our New 3DSes, I knew in my heart that the 3DS was truly my favorite handheld system of all time.



If you want to hear Lindsey and I (and John!) talk about about the New Nintendo 3DS XL, Majora’s Mask 3D, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, check out the most recent episode of our podcast!

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