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The Nintendo 3DS handheld turned three years old this year. In those three years, it has seen the most action of all the consoles and portables I own. While a lot of that playtime can be attributed to titles like Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (my 3DS activity log tells me I have spent 256 hours and 31 minutes playing it!), Bravely Default, and Fire Emblem: Awakening, the biggest reason I spend most of my time on the 3DS is simply this: nostalgia.

Like a lot of game enthusiasts who grew up during the era of 8- and 16-bit consoles, I find myself with less time to devote to gaming as I get older. As such, I end up finishing fewer of the new titles I purchase, and my backlog continues to grow. But, I tend to get an even greater sense of enjoyment from revisiting my old favorites. This is where my 3DS comes in.

Having owned nearly every iteration of the Nintendo Game Boy and DS, I just had to go out and get a 3DS on release day. The launch titles weren’t that great, but since I had a pretty extensive DS library, that didn’t bother me much. What did bother me, though, was that Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS to $169.99 from $249.99 in an effort to increase sales — fewer than six months after its launch.

But Nintendo wasn’t going to simply ignore the 3DS’ early adopters. As a gift to those who purchased the portable prior to its price reduction, Nintendo offered the Ambassador Program that would reward early buyers with a total of 20 free downloadable releases for their 3DS. Ten of these offerings would be classic NES titles while the other half would be from the Game Boy Advance library. For someone like myself who grew up on the classics, this was well worth the extra $80. All was forgiven.

The NES titles became available first. Those games included Super Mario Bros, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, NES Open Tournament Golf, Donkey Kong Jr., Yoshi, and Wrecking Crew. The GBA titles followed later that year and included Metroid Fusion, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Wario Land 4, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, Kirby & The Amazing Mirror, and one of my all-time favorite games, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.

The Ambassador Program entries were classics in every sense of the word. Nintendo not only offered me games that had a special place in my heart, but it also game me a chance to play some titles I missed out on as a child. Don’t get me wrong — lots of recently released games have kept me hooked, but these oldies offer something no next-gen release can: simple nostalgia. They provide a wistfulness and take me back to simpler times, and they remind me why I fell in love with video games.

The Nintendo 3DS’ Virtual Console library, the Ambassador Program games, and its backward compatibility with DS releases (which lets me revisit my favorite game of all time, Chrono Trigger), make it my go-to gaming machine when I just want something to enjoy after a long day at the office. While my 3DS catalog continues to grow with great, new experiences like Tomodachi Life, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Bravely Default, it’s the sheer number of classics available to me that keep me coming back.

But it doesn’t stop there. Nintendo has also supported indie developers who’ve created retro-inspired adventures for the 3DS like 1001 Spikes and Shovel Knight (both of which I intend on purchasing soon).

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. And while it can cloud our judgment and make us overlook shortcomings in the games we grew up with, it has a way of briefly whisking us away to better times. It can comfort us, remind us about who we were, and give us a moment to celebrate the gaming days of yore. Even though I will get a Wii U to play the newest Zelda, I honestly believe that nothing I play in the coming years will ever have the same effect on me that those previous experiences have had.

As I get older and inevitably have less time to devote to gaming, I find comfort in the fact that I’ll at least be able to fire up my 3DS and get a little fix. Heck, I still haven’t even finished Zelda II. I might just find my best future gaming experiences by looking back. And that’s OK with me because I’ll probably do it with a goofy, childlike smile on my face.