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Nintendo: My Unexpected Reunion With Mario And Co.

I picked up a 3DS over the summer but, until then, I had not played a Nintendo game in quite a few years. Like many children of the 80’s I grew up on Nintendo’s unique brand of wholesome fun and, like many adults of the 2000’s, I had grown disenchanted with their steadfast dedication to family friendly gaming. Over the course of the past several months, however, I’ve had a homecoming of sorts. Maybe I needed a break from the Big N or maybe I just needed to be reminded how wonderful their games can be. Whatever the reason, I’m glad to be back.

Growing up, my family began its gaming life as a strict Nintendo household. We started out with the NES and moved on to the SNES and original Game Boy. By the time we were ready to move on to the Nintendo 64 generation, we had finally been converted to the PlayStation camp. After spending a decade or so with Mario, Link and Samus, I was drawn to the edgier, more offbeat offerings being pushed out by Sony.

I got in my fair share of game time with the N64, though. I still have thumb sores from endless nights of Golden Eye. And in college, I lost more than my fair share of hours to Gamecube titles like Mario Kart Double Dash and the original Animal Crossing. By the time the Nintendo Wii was ready to launch, I was ready to make a return to all things Nintendo. That little white box became the first and only console I ever camped out overnight to get my hands on and I quickly fell in love with games like Raving Rabbids, Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess.

Soon after I plowed through those games, though, I found very little games coming out on the Wii that I actually had any interest in. And while I should have been ecstatic for titles like Mario Galaxy 2 and Skyward Sword, I instead began to resent Nintendo for spending yet another generation cashing in on their staple franchises without ever offering much new to sink my teeth into. Never mind that it’s more than a little unfair to refer to it as “cashing in” when just about every one of those games is considered an absolute triumph. I guess I just wanted to see something new from a publisher that clearly had no desire to offer it.

So, in short, I once again turned my back on Nintendo and let my Wii collect dust for, well, that’s pretty much what it’s still doing to this day.

From the Wii and the DS, to the 3DS and Wii U, I’ve grimaced every time I saw the latest “super huge announcement” coming out of Nintendo that only ever ended up being yet another game starring Mario, Link, etc. I didn’t care that these games were being done well and frequently changed up their familiar formula in terms of gameplay, I just hated the fact that they were the only games Nintendo was bothering to produce. What’s more, the vast majority of third party developers were shying away from several of Nintendo’s console, seeking to bring their creative ideas to other platforms.

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.

Ryan Winslett

Staff Writer for CinemaBlend.