I had toyed with the idea of getting a 3DS for a year or two but ultimately always came back to my anger at all these stereotypical Nintendo games coming out on a regular basis. Never mind that the DS and 3DS were regularly getting games that did not fit into my narrow view of what the consoles provided, I simply saw them as Mario Machines with nothing new to offer someone who had grown tired of the same old song and dance.

When I finally got a 3DS this year, the main draw had been Animal Crossing and, so help me, the latest in the long line of Mario Kart titles. “There are plenty of other games for those consoles,” I argued with myself. “I don’t have to buy that damn Mario or Zelda game.”

What I soon discovered, though, was that those were exactly the games I was most excited to dive into. Again, maybe I needed to step away from Nintendo fare for half a decade to finally get over myself, or maybe I was just tired of being sick of Nintendo for the hell of it. But either way, I found myself grinning like a kid again every time I booted the console up.

Nintendo still has a lot to learn about online gaming, providing functionality that is considered standard on other platforms at this point, and letting parents worry about what kind of content children have access to rather than trying to force restrictions on gamers as a whole, but there’s something about their brand of good-natured warmth and fun that is winning me over all over again. It could be due to the fact that, over the course of this past generation, so much of my time has been spent stabbing and shooting dudes in the face. Maybe I just needed a break from all of those dark colors, buckets of bullets and foul-mouthed adolescents in online matches.

When I boot up my 3DS these days, it’s like wrapping myself in a warm, familiar blanket, one that has been in storage since I was in my early teens. The bright colors, up-beat soundtracks and familiar faces are a welcome change of pace to what has become my new norm. Some of my favorite gaming experiences from this past year have been in my silly little Animal Crossing town, in the forests of Hyrule and exploring the tall grass with a growing army of Pokemon. The next game I plan to purchase is Super Mario 3D Land, simply because I no longer feel a knee-jerk dismissal whenever I see the infamous plumber’s grinning mug. I actually want to collect gold coins, jump on flagpoles and stomp Goombas into the ground.

Maybe a few more years of this will put me right back where I started, OD-ed on Nintendo characters and ready to move on to something else. Until then, though, I’m happy to take a break from annihilating the Helghast race one clip at a time in order to get in some good old-fashioned Nintendo fun.

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