The days of Nintendo’s extensive catalogue of retro games are seemingly over. Virtual Console was a wonderful library of historic video games from the NES, SNES, TurboGrafx-16, N64, and other consoles. The service was a retro gamer’s dream when Nintendo’s Wii U was at its (low) peak; but with the release of the Nintendo Switch came the death of that dream. The new service, Nintendo Switch Online, has an incredibly skimpy roster of about 30 games, and they’re all only NES games.
But as you may have heard, that might not be the case for too much longer. Recently, a modder named KapuccinoHeck dug up a list of SNES games in NES Online’s source code. He tweeted a list of the games:
- Super Mario Kart
- Super Soccer
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Demon’s Crest
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
- Stunt Race FX
- Kirby’s Dream Course
- Pop’n Twinbee
- Star Fox
- Contra 3: The Alien Wars
- Kirby Super Star
- Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
- Kirby’s Dream Land 3
- Super Metroid
- Super Mario World
- Star Fox 2
- Super Punch-Out!!
- The Legend of the Mystical Ninja
- Super Mario All-Stars
- Breath of Fire 2
A Pipe Dream Lineup
Obviously, this is a stellar lineup. Not only are there more than a dozen games from Nintendo’s SNES Classic (including Star Fox 2), but a handful of overlooked gems like Breath of Fire II and The Legend of The Mystical Ninja that were never on the mini throwback console. And three games, Super Soccer, Pop’n TwinBee, and Stunt Race FX were never even released on Virtual Console.
However, even with all these phenomenal games, there are still a few glaring RPG omissions. Earthbound, Final Fantasy VI, Super Mario RPG, and Chrono Trigger are nowhere to be found. There’s also no Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter II, or Mega Man X. Of course, these games might come at a later release date.
Holding it Back
Let’s assume that this leak is true for the moment: why has Nintendo held back from releasing these SNES titles for so long?
Perhaps Nintendo doesn’t want to compete with itself. The NES Classic and SNES Classic both offer twenty to thirty games, many of which cross over with the games on this leaked lineup. If you can get all of those games for just twenty dollars a year, then what’s the purpose of buying a full-fledged throwback console?
Another reason might come from Nintendo’s pacing strategy. They might not want to over saturate their library of retro games. The slow stream of games will incentivize more and more “casuals” to stream through the online service on the Switch, effectively luring them in a bit at a time. Or at least, that’s what Nintendo might be thinking.
Frankly, it’s a bit dubious that this tactic will work. Nintendo Switch Online is functionally lackluster. It lacks basic features like built-in voice chat, an easy way to message friends, or even a stable connection for a game like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It’s a strong bet that if you’re not already on board with this service, a few SNES games won’t win you over.
That’s not to say these games won’t be well-appreciated. Some would argue they are even necessary to appeal to older consumers. But the point is, these SNES games might be too little, too late to save Nintendo Switch Online’s momentum.
Looking Forward to the Past
With all that said, what direction will Nintendo Switch Online take? If these SNES games are indeed going to be released–and that isn’t a guarantee–might we go on to see N64 or GameCube games again in some new form? Nintendo updated the patent on their now twenty-year-old N64 recently, so they might have a bit of incentive to revisit it.
It’s doubtful that Nintendo would give away their late ’90s titles away for just 20 dollars a year. N64 games always costed more ($10) than SNES ($8) or NES ($5) games on Virtual Console. Recent games deserve a higher price tag, and even though N64 is 20 years old, 3D games would naturally be tougher than 2D SNES or NES games to emulate on modern consoles.
Bias With Recent Titles
Meanwhile, GameCube is even more recent, and is a console that Nintendo has never emulated, even on Virtual Console. In fact, Super Mario Sunshine has never left its initial GameCube home, even 15 years later. Could GameCube games eventually make it to the subscription service? There’s one impeding factor: the Switch doesn’t have analog triggers. They would have to alter certain games (like Super Mario Sunshine) to account for the lack of a pressure-sensitive trigger. Then again, Switch supports GameCube controllers via adapter now, so you could always play them that way.
With all the rumors of a Metroid Prime Trilogy collection and a remastered version of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (though a Nintendo spokesperson denied plans for this), directly emulating Wii and GameCube games seems like less of a priority for Nintendo. The cost of putting their more recent games on a subscription as cheap as Nintendo Switch Online wouldn’t match up with the number of potential subscribers it could win over.
At the end of the day, these SNES leaks are still unconfirmed, but if they turn out to be accurate, it might signify that the floodgates of retro Nintendo games are finally opening for the first time in a couple years. We can only hope.
For more related to Nintendo, you can read how changing the New Super Mario Bros series would be in Nintendo‘s best interest, or check out our list of the greatest 2D platformers of all time (spoilers: there are a lot of Nintendo games). And for everything else related to video games, stay tuned to Culture of Gaming.