It’s easy to think of old gaming hardware as something that exists purely in the past when games are always moving toward greater technological achievements. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to go backward. Why buy a PSP when some of its greatest gems were ported to the PlayStation 3? Why buy a Game Boy Advance when ROMs exist? Why return to the generations of video games past if Steam offers some amazing indie games that expand upon some of those older game ideas?
But alas, here I am, existing in the year of the coronavirus and sitting right next to my ugly blue and black Nintendo 2DS XL. It’s currently charging at my desk because I’d played it dead. I’ve spent the last week playing a 2012 Nintendo 3DS game called Kokuga, a shmup developed by G.rev and directed by Hiroshi Iuchi of Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga fame. In between breaks at my (now remote) work, I whip my DS out and put a couple of rounds of Kokuga in. If and when I get too frustrated with dying by a barrage of spaceship lasers, I exit out to my 3DS home screen and play a few rounds of Taiko no Tatsujin: Don to Katsu no Jikū Daibōken, a Japan-only release that never saw the light of day in North America. And when I’m off the clock at work and really want to sit down and grind out a game over the course of a few free hours, I boot up Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, kill a few slimes and kick myself in the ass for not having played it sooner.
Why am I playing with a Nintendo 3DS in the year 2020? There’s a flood of reasons. But here’s two.
The answer I’d give most people: The 3DS offers literal thousands of games that I’ve missed out on, as well as access to older titles I never had a luxury of playing as a kid.
The true answer: Playing a video game console that no one is constantly pumping hype into feels incredibly refreshing to do during the age of instant gratification in solitude.
I don’t often play new video games because I don’t enjoy the thought of buying anything at full price. I don’t own a Nintendo Switch because, frankly, it’s too much money to justify at this point in time to only serve me as a Zelda/Mario/Animal Crossing machine. I also believe that always being tapped into a hype/fan train that’s constantly on the move to devour the next “best” thing in regards to content is a way to ultimately burn yourself out and make your current lifestyle always feel inadequate.
Look, it’s always easy to yearn for the new, shiny thing that’s just hit the market. The Nintendo Switch is a great console, and the Lite edition makes it even more affordable than its predecessor. Plus, Animal Crossing, right?
But its 2020, and I’m telling you, I really, really enjoy playing a console that a ton of people aren’t actively engaging with me on. When I play older games on a seemingly extinct console, I feel like I’m liberated from the pressures of always needing to chase that new thing. It’s the idea that that Playdate console is really leaning into. It also feels great to play an overlooked game that people never really paid attention to on release, like Kokuga, as opposed to beating a drum for Earthbound and telling people to find a way to play it via ROMs, or owning a handheld Nintendo console only to play a Pokemon game yet again.
You should really buy a 3DS…
I’m serious. If you want a way to feel like you’re existing in-between all of the hype and internet conversation, get a 3DS in 2020. I believe everyone should stay strapped with a Nintendo 3DS everywhere they go.
As we continue to slowly move forward in time, Nintendo continues to leave its past catalog of games behind. Not all of Nintendo’s classic hits are available on the Nintendo Switch’s eShop, and a massive on-demand streaming library of old Nintendo games is most likely never going to happen for the Switch. This isn’t exclusive to Nintendo, of course –– think about everyone’s inability to play their original Jak and Daxter discs on a Sony console without digitally repurchasing a collection, or not being able to touch the perfect sequel, OutRun 2, without owning an original Xbox.
(Rumors around the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X having backwards compatibility do have my hopes up, though it’s unlikely both consoles will be able to play full libraries.)
What should I play on the 3DS?
The thing that makes the Nintendo 3DS so great is having the ability to go back in time and play up to six generations of Nintendo games; the Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color, Game Boy, Super Nintendo and NES. If you’re a pirating mother-fucker, even more consoles are available, like the Sega Genesis/Sega CD and Neo Geo Pocket.
And obviously, the Nintendo 3DS has its own amazing library full of gems as well, spanning over the course of nine years. You can revisit old Nintendo 64 games and play 3D remakes of Star Fox 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Diddy Kong Racing. There’s a ton of JRPGs to sink hundreds of hours into, including entries in the Persona, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises. The Nintendo 3DS also has its own batch of weird, quirky games that go unnoticed or have been forgotten by time but are worthy of plays, like Pocket Card Jockey and HarmoKnight.
For possibility’s sake, here’s what my fully-loaded Nintendo 2DS XL currently boasts on its microSD card (a $4 memory device, by the way):
- Donkey Kong Country Returns (3DS)
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (3DS)
- Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS)
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Don to Katsu no Jikū Daibōken (3DS)
- Kokuga (3DS)
- Bomberman Land Touch! (DS)
- Tetris DS (DS)
- Advance Wars: Dual Strikes (DS)
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA, but a 3DS eShop release)
- Wario Land 4 (GBA, but another 3DS eShop release)
- Secret of Evermore (SNES)
Also a big selling point in itself, buying a Nintendo 3DS in 2020 is super affordable. A New 2DS XL (which I recommend over the New 3DS XL, because I actually hate 3D) sells at retail price on Amazon for $135, with Mario Kart 7 pre-installed. eBay has systems for even lower, and GameStop sells refurbished 3DS consoles for less than $120.
At that price, and with such a huge selection of games to have access to, why not try one out? You could be playing Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King and killing slimes, too.