If you're a retro game enthusiast, you're likely aware of Hamster's excellent Arcade Archives and ACA NEO GEO lines which both boast sizeable catalogues on Switch eShop. There is, however, another predominantly Japanese set of retro releases that might have passed you by completely: the G-Mode Archives and G-Mode Archives+ series.
This line launched in April 2020 and there are currently over forty G-Mode Archives titles available on the Switch eShop, although as only two of those — Zanac and Topolon — have made it to English-speaking shores, anyone could be forgiven for not being aware of this series’ existence. Like Hamster’s Arcade Archives, the aim here is to bring a wide range of otherwise left-behind games back for modern players, and G-Mode’s bespoke selection focuses on perhaps the most neglected subsection of retrogaming out there: games made for mobile phones.
it’s on all of us to acknowledge the value in preserving a broader range of titles from a broader range of systems
Think of pre-smartphone games and most people will think of Snake on a Nokia 3310 or some Java-based game they played for a short while in their youth and somehow still regretted. These are different. Built from the ground up for Japanese feature phones, these games often have an attractive SNES-ish look to them, featuring detailed pixel art and covering a wide range of genres from remakes of SNES RPGs (such as Heracles no Eikou III, a predecessor to the DS’ Glory of Heracles), more modern arcade shmups (including some of Cave’s best-known work), legendary RPG developer Falcom’s Sorcerian, and even completely unique titles, too.
They don’t look the way we think we remember old phone games looking, and on the Switch they don’t play like them either; the D-pad (or analogue stick) is put to obvious use with action buttons sensibly remapped. But no matter how good the ports are or how well they’re made they’re still just old phone games, aren’t they? Who wants to play (non-smart) phone games in 2022?
Well, us, for starters. And hopefully some other people too, if these games are given a fair chance. To help explain their appeal we’ve picked out a few highlights from the current G-Mode Archives selection to hopefully showcase the sheer amount of choice and quality on offer.
Nintendo Switch G-Mode Archives Games — A Selection Of The Best
Based on the respected Falcom classic of the same name (one released in English by Sierra for DOS-compatible machines back in 1990), and including over twenty playable scenarios — as well as a thorough graphical overhaul not used in any of the game’s other ports or re-releases — Sorcerian’s evergreen action RPG design shines as brightly here as it does anywhere else.
In spite of a few minor nips and tucks (dungeons tend to shorten lengthy corridors to better suit the smaller screen space) the core appeal remains, players able to create their own party to then take on inventive mini-RPG stories, stories that might see you climbing into the sky to talk to gods or battling fearsome monsters in caves.
Whether you choose to play using the default ‘arranged’ graphics or use the simpler ‘original’ sprites designed to evoke the MSX original, Zanac feels as swift and smooth a shmup as it ever did, the game’s many stages swooping as easily over lush forests as they do deep space as the screen somehow fills with more bullets than a game like this ever should have without skipping a beat or feeling unfair.
This Compile-born title is nothing less than a foundational entry in the genre, one with direct links to much-lauded later releases including the excellent MUSHA, now found and enjoyed as part of the Sega’s Nintendo Switch Online offerings. There’s even an online ranking screen filled with just as many out of reach high scores as any other ‘real’ shmup on the Switch, a testament to both the quality of this port as well as Zanac’s immaculate design.
City Connection Rocket
Jaleco’s unforgettable car-based platformer returns with a few new twists in this official sequel to the arcade classic, including the ability to use the rockets attached to the back of Clarice’s car to help get around the stage.
There are also giant tanks and helicopters to contend with as well as the shift from neatly ‘painting’ the platforms to recovering important confidential documents for the sake of world peace, making for an arguably smoother experience than the original. It’s good simple arcade-like fun and exactly what you’d want from a phone game — or from a Switch game on-the-go.
Hero Must Die
This one reached English-speaking Switch players last year in greatly changed and expanded form under the title Hero must die. again, no less obsolete for this apparent duplication than Collection of Mana is for Trails of Mana’s existence.
In any form it’s an innovative and flexible RPG that ends over and over again at the hero’s funeral, the previous five days not a cheerful victory lap against the forces of evil but one last chance to put his affairs in order, to try and find the woman he fought so hard for before his time runs out as his body deteriorates by the day.
DoDonPachi DaiOuJou DX
A tiny version of something as big as a Cave shmup may not sound ideal (especially considering the numerous ports to the Switch that contain multiple beyond arcade-perfect releases, with Deathsmiles I & II being the most recent), but like Ketsui’s pared-back DS form these portable versions can be beautiful in their simplicity, a tightly focussed bullet hell toy to spend a quick break with for many, although the online ranking makes it hard to resist having just one more go…
Who doesn’t love playing Tetris? ‘Vanilla’ Tetris may be out of fashion in an era where Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Tetris Effect is capable of turning the eternal puzzler into an emotional experience, but sometimes it’s nice to perform a quick t-spin without sobbing at the beauty playing out before you.
The title here is down to the new diamond mode: At set intervals a diamond-effect tetrimino will appear, which if used effectively to clear a lot of lines will grant a significant points bonus.
That's just a handful from a much larger selection — see below for a full list.
When viewed as games and not 'old feature phone games', these titles are fantastic value for money (even at full price they’re firmly in ‘leftover eShop credit’ territory). They are often truly unique titles — even on hardware as well-stocked as the Switch — as well as being incredibly well made, and a perfect fit for time-poor gamers looking for a quick bit of fun.
- How To Buy Nintendo Switch Games From Any Region eShop - Create A Japanese, North American, European And Australian Nintendo Account
But G-Mode Archives also represents something more than another umbrella brand for a bunch of good old games: To a certain extent, their presence is something of a canary in a coal mine for commercial retro re-releases as a whole. While we appreciate they might find only a limited audience in the West (and that the RPGs especially may present a significant language barrier), if we wish for a better future for our collective gaming past than simply another (welcome) round of Mario, Metroid, and random Final Fantasys come the next console cycle, then it’s on all of us to acknowledge the value in preserving a broader range of titles from a broader range of systems — titles we may not at first glance realise ‘deserve’ saving and playing — and to do this before they vanish into the digital ether.
G-Mode Archives Nintendo Switch - Full List
Here is a full list of every G-Mode title currently available on the Japanese Switch eShop (the ones you can find outside Japan are indicated with an asterisk(*). The 'Archives +' section contains third-party games not created/ported by G-Mode.
- G-Mode Archives 01: Flyhight Cloudia
- G-Mode Archives 02: Ai to Roudou no Hibi
- G-Mode Archives 03: Kururin Cafe
- G-Mode Archives 04: Beach Volleyball Shizuku
- G-Mode Archives 05: Sukeboooman
- G-Mode Archives 06: Shijou Saikyou Miyamoto Julia
- G-Mode Archives 07: Love Love Knuckle
- G-Mode Archives 08: Pucchin Puzzle
- G-Mode Archives 09: Flyhight Cloudia II
- G-Mode Archives 10: Omohide Series Omatsuri Dukushi
- G-Mode Archives 11: Senbazuru
- G-Mode Archives 12: Night Hike
- G-Mode Archives 13: Rinji Shuuden
- G-Mode Archives 14: Mystia
- G-Mode Archives 15: Churashima Kurashi
- G-Mode Archives 16: Beach Volleyball Shizuku 2: Hishou Hen
- G-Mode Archives 17: Flyhight Cloudia III
- G-Mode Archives 18: Hero Must Die.
- G-Mode Archives 19: Magical Drop DX
- G-Mode Archives 20: Magical Fantasista
- G-Mode Archives 21: Unou Paradise
- G-Mode Archives 22: Hercules no Eikou III: Kamigami no Chinmoku
- G-Mode Archives 23: Keitai Shoujo
- G-Mode Archives 24: Sangokushi Nendaiki DX
- G-Mode Archives 25: Topolon * — available in the West
- G-Mode Archives 26: Ore no Sentai Oranger
- G-Mode Archives 27: Ninja Gakko
- G-Mode Archives 28: Sepas Channel
- G-Mode Archives 29: Zanac * — available in the West
- G-Mode Archives 30: Sorcerian
- G-Mode Archives 31: Irekae IQ Crossword DX
- G-Mode Archives 32: Maou Company
- G-Mode Archives 33: Tetris Diamond
- G-Mode Archives 34: Majoukko Princess
- G-Mode Archives 35: Magical Fantasista 2
- G-Mode Archives 36: Beach Volley Girl Shizuku 3
- G-Mode Archives 37: Moe Suro Beach Drops
- G-Mode Archives 38: Mystia 2
- G-Mode Archives 39: Flyhight Cloudia 4
- G-Mode Archives 40: Kamura - Gods and Contractors
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Yukikawa Rikuke Kentan Vol. 1 (Kamen Gensou Satsujin Jiken)
- G-Mode Archives + Detective Ryosuke Akikawa Case Tan Vol.2 (Kairoukan Murder Case)
- G-Mode Archives + City Connection Rocket
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kashiwakawa Omyo Kentan Vol. 3 - Shisha no Rakuen
- G-Mode Archives + DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou DX
- G-Mode Archives + Maou ga Ochiru Hi
- G-Mode Archives + Burari - Sekai Untei
- G-Mode Archives + Ninja JaJaMaru-kun - Ranbu
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Yukikawa Rikuke Kentan Vol. 4 (Shirasaginiakanohane)
- G-Mode Archives + Danmaku Kentei Shi Tameshi - Daioujou Hen -
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 5 (Kurai no Hako no Ue)
- G-Mode Archives + Ketsui-Kizuna Hell-DX
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 6 Tsuikousaku Jiken
- G-Mode Archives + Tondemo West Boo Ki 2 Paris Butal Rally
- G-Mode Archives + Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi DX
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 7 Otonari Keiji no Sousa Memo
- G-Mode Archives + Momoko 1200%
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 8
- G-Mode Archives + Idol Janshi Suchie-Pai Milky's Ambition
- G-Mode Archives + Tantei Kibukawa Ryousuke Jikentan Vol. 9
Have you played any of the G-Mode Archives series? Would you like to see more of these released overseas? Is there a particular mobile game you miss? Let us know in the comments below!
Cracking article. A really good read. I read about the Sorcerian port when I was reading about the game on Hardcore Gaming 101 (I think). There are a fair few old 80s Japanese games that only ever got remade/remastered for Japanese phones.
It would be nice if they released a collection or two of these physically.
There’s a Tetris game on Switch I don’t own?!
Nice, I didn't know they had City Connection Rocket in there. I was just interested in Tetris Diamond, but now that's two Japanese eShop games I want in my collection.
I have a Japanese account but I haven't really explored the Japanese eShop.
I own the Topolon one. I'd always wondered why there were only two games with random numbers in the title (25 and 29), and this article explains why, so that's nice.
I'd definitely buy the Tetris Diamond one, at the very least.
At first I didn’t think I’d be confident in the quality of DoDonPachi DaiOuJou DX, but I dove in anyway (for only 450 yen with 10% off release sale, why not). But man I came away impressed with how many bullets on screen it was able to handle, with no slowdown! Hidden bees? In there! Both ships with 3 Doll options? Of course! The concessions were: lower framerate, some missing animation frames, missing sound F/X, square screen. I’d love to see this come to the west, officially translated. I also bought Ketsui, but I haven’t gotten around to trying it out yet.
I didn't know what that "Hero Must Die. Again" game was about but after reading this article and seeing those screenshots (i couldn't watch the video) I am very interested in it now, I am definitely gonna give it a try!
Having played Glory of Heracles last year, I’m hoping they can somehow make an English version of Hercules no Eikou III. It was a fun JRPG for someone who doesn’t play a lot of them. It had the perfect amount of weirdness.
There's no real reason to get Tetris Diamond if you have Tetris 99, Puyo Puyo Tetris or Tetris Effect. But it's kinda cool anyway I guess,
Aren’t some of these available on the 3ds? I remember seeing some Gmode games I’ve purchased on mine.
Zanac was one of my favorite NES games. I guess I'll have to check this out.
I'd be all over this if it didn't mean my news feed would be cluttered with Japanese announcements. I only want the U.S. news, but I also get the European announcements, which more or less means everything is duplicated. It's too much. Another QoL thing Nintendo seems unmotivated to address.
Does anyone know ... if I create a Japanese account, buy a bunch of these games, and then delete the account, will I still have the games?
I never knew that some of these were released in the US. I currently have Tetris Diamond & "Ketsui-Kizuna Hell-DX".
I miss having buttons on my phone...
Been rocking cave and compile since they dropped.
I would get the Tetris game. I only have 3 or 4 ways to play Tetris on Switch right now. 😨
I downloaded the Tetris one a few months ago, since I like having a "Master set" of Tetris games on Switch (along with PPT, PPT2, Effect and 99)
It is... uh... not very good. To put it nicely.
I bought Tetris Diamond a few months back just to own every Switch version of Tetris, haha. Glad to see more eyes are being put on this series.
i just want NES TETRIS on switch…
is this possible?
Probably not. I think the reason why the SNES Online got Panel De Pon rather than Tetris Attack is because they didn't want to have to license the "Tetris" name for the NSO app. So it's unlikely that the NES Online app will get actual Tetris on it.
And it's very very very unlikely that there will be a standalone NES Tetris rerelease by itself, especially with so many Tetrises on Switch already.
would love to play it portable
Please localize all of these titles!
I'd love to see Tetris Diamond brought overseas, as it shouldn't require any localization at all. I suppose Tetris Company licensing issues could be an issue, though.
As for the rest, I welcome any and all classic games being brought to a wider audience, but I can understand G-Mode's reluctance to go to the trouble of localizing those with heavy Japanese text.
There are already a number of Japanese games on the North American eShop without any localization at all, so I'd love to see G-Mode go that route.
Speaking of mobile games, I really want to be able to play Orcs and Elves 2 one day.
The first game was released on mobile phones and later the Nintendo DS, and it quickly cemented itself as one of my favourite games ever.
Sadly, the sequel was only ever released on pre-smartphone mobiles... and while some of iD’s mobile efforts have been ported to iOS, Orcs and Elves 2 wasn’t.
Pre smartphone phone games were way better
Living in Japan, I see these appear on the eShop all the time, but without Nintendo Life's input they seemed like a total waste of my precious time (you know, time that I could be using playing video games instead of browsing the eShop). Even though some of them looked pretty good. After reading this article, I now know that maybe they're not a TOTAL waste of my time, and I might give at least some of them another look.
Japanese Mobile Game Archival is always something to be excited about. If I remember correctly, Sega has a ton of i-mode games, so they really need to get on this.
Yes I have, and they're all terrible.
@FizzyChalice Slow clunky games with mediocre graphics, now that is something to get excited about.
@EarthboundBenjy Now that the Game Boy version is on Switch as part of the first batch of Game Boy/GB Color games for NSO (which constitutes the seventh (!) version of Tetris on the system) I wouldn't entirely be surprised if Nintendo's NES version was added to that set of games as well.
The main reason Panel de Pon wasn't given its western title for NSO is because The Tetris Company won't let them use the name anymore. Henk Rogers always regretted letting them use the name in the first place for a game that is utterly not Tetris at all.
Yeah, with GB Tetris available, I agree that there's nothing legally stopping them from providing us with NES Tetris now.... there's only the fact that we haven't been given a new NES game for around a year now?
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