Nintendo Switch Online - NES Games

Soapbox features enable our individual writers to voice their own opinions on hot topics, opinions that may not necessarily be the voice of the site. In this piece, Nintendo Life Operations Director Darren Calvert admits that he's not in the least bit excited about the prospect of playing NES games again in 2018...

They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and to be honest I'm not feeling particularly excited about revisiting all of those painfully familiar NES games which will be bundled as a sweetener when the Nintendo Switch Online service launches this week.

While benefits such as playing games like Splatoon 2 online and backing up game saves to the cloud is what the core of the service is about, it is hard to not compare Nintendo Switch Online to rival services such as PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. While these subscriptions cost significantly more, the bundled games are undoubtedly more interesting than the same old bunch of NES games which Nintendo has trotted out for the last decade.

It's not that I don't have a lot of nostalgia for the humble NES; while I might have started out my console gaming life with a Sega Master System, I always had a begrudging respect for Nintendo's machine thanks to its stronger library of games. When the iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES bundle was released in 1990, I pestered my family to get it for me that Christmas like so many other teens in the UK that year. During the following years, I hoovered up and experienced many of the classic NES games which I had missed out on while I was busy enjoying the adventures of Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy on Sega's 8-bit rival. There is no doubt that the NES was an amazing console with some absolutely brilliant games; it also laid the foundation for the Super Nintendo, which in my mind perfected many of these 2D games with its 16-bit power.

So with that said, I have to ask myself why I'm not more pumped for playing NES games on my Switch. Surely I'm the target audience, rather than younger gamers who don't have any nostalgia for these classic games? What could possibly be leaving me feeling so jaded when it comes to the prospect of playing these lovely NES games?

The Wii Virtual Console hit the ground running with more than just NES games.

Let's take a trip back in time to November 2006, when the Nintendo Wii was launched and took the world by storm. One of the most exciting things about the Wii - other than its motion controls - was the Virtual Console service. On day one, nostalgic gamers such as myself could enjoy NES classics such as Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Soccer, Ice Hockey, Tennis, The Legend of Zelda and the wonderful Super Mario Bros., the latter two being perhaps the most enjoyable. I remember enjoying many of these games at the time because I didn't have a convenient way to access them before that time. Over the years that have followed, the Wii Virtual Console connected gamers with many more exciting retro experiences on systems such as the Commodore 64, Sega Mega Drive, TurboGrafx-16 and Neo Geo.

Moving forward to March 2011, the Nintendo 3DS was launched. While this lovely handheld has been a strong seller for Nintendo over the years, it cost too much at launch and sales were quite weak. Nintendo was quick to rectify this and offer a substantial price drop in July 2011; while many early adopters felt annoyed about this, Nintendo did their best to appease them with the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program, which offered some Game Boy Advance games to enjoy along with NES games such as Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong Jr., Metroid, NES Open Tournament Golf, Wrecking Crew and Yoshi, as well as other 8-bit classics. A proper Virtual Console would launch on the 3DS shortly after and would offer the chance of buying many of those NES games all over again, games which you'd previously enjoyed on the Wii Virtual Console (cross-buy isn't something Nintendo is historically hot on).

The Wii U went on to launch to an indifferent world in November 2012 and when the Virtual Console service became available on it in April 2013, I - like so many other gamers - lapped up many of my favourite NES games once again. With the Wii Virtual Console being 50Hz in Europe, it was great to experience these games as they should be enjoyed in 60Hz without letterboxing and at normal speed. Even so, this is perhaps the moment when I had that niggling feeling that - hey - I might not need to own the same games more than once.

The NES Mini was the ultimate collectable for retro fans in 2016.

Finally, Nintendo launched the insanely popular NES Classic Edition (NES Mini to its friends). Released in November 2016, this micro-console came packed with 30 of the most memorable NES titles and predictably sold like hotcakes. I've really enjoyed my time re-experiencing all of these gems again and again over the years, despite being almost too familiar with them. So why, with the prospect of getting to do it all over again tomorrow with the launch of Nintendo Switch Online, do I feel so jaded?

In a nutshell, it's just all so predictable now. The 20 games available in the launch line-up have mostly all been available on the Wii, 3DS, Wii U and NES Mini. You know something has gone wrong when the thought of playing Super Mario Bros. 3 again fills me with contempt rather than joy. Is it just me who feels this way? When you are tired of 8-bit Metroid, are you tired of life? Am I wrong for not wanting to get it on like Donkey Kong?

You can argue that these NES games are a freebie and Nintendo didn't have to make them available at all. They'll no doubt be a novelty when played on the Switch in tabletop mode with the Joy-Con used horizontally. If you have deep pockets you can even pick up a pair of wireless NES controllers for $59.99; it's nice that they can be docked on the side of the Switch for easy charging, but they won't be compatible with any other Switch games, so they are not the greatest value, really.

You'll even be able to connect with friends online and play these NES games with others worldwide. It simply allows you to share your screen with a friend so they can join in for co-op games such as River City Ransom and competitive games such as Dr. Mario. Shouldn't I at least get a bit excited about the prospect of this feature? Well no, I'm not really. I talked it over with many of my fellow Nintendo Life chums and in truth, no one is particularly getting hot under the collar about the thought of playing NES games online in 2018.

You are destined to play Ice Climber in one form or another until the end of time!

The range of NES games is set to trickle out at a rate of three games a month; in October, lucky gamers will get to experience Solomon's Key, NES Open Tournament Golf and Super Dodge Ball all over again. November will bring us Metroid, Mighty Bomb Jack and TwinBee. December will bring us the delights of Wario's Woods, Ninja Gaiden and The Adventures of Lolo. Welcome to yawn city.

While it would be unrealistic to expect Nintendo to give us the Netflix for classic video games overnight, this trickle of NES games is far from inspiring. Looking back to 2006 when the Wii Virtual Console launched, on day one there was a range of not only NES games, but also SNES, N64 and even Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and TurboGrafx-16 titles. Over the following months, there was a good range of classic games from different eras, not just 8-bit NES games. As good as these games were at the time, and with the best will in the world, they are really beginning to show their age. Would you rather play Metroid or Super Metroid? The Legend of Zelda or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? Does anyone really want to play Soccer or Ice Hockey ever again?

I'm sure there will be some folks who are genuinely excited at the prospect of enjoying these NES games again in 2018, or perhaps even for the first time if they are a younger gamer. As for me, as a retro gaming fan, I'm just a bit disappointed that - 18 months into the lifespan of the Nintendo Switch - more progress hasn't been made. Maybe by this time next year, we'll have Super Nintendo games offered as part of Nintendo Switch Online, but for the foreseeable future we're getting three NES games a month, and for me personally, this just doesn't cut it.

Let us know your thoughts about NES games on Nintendo Switch Online in our poll and with a lovely comment. Are you feeling as jaded as our humble scribe, or are you ready to go back to go back to 1985 on your Switch?

Are you excited about playing the NES games bundled with Nintendo Switch Online? (814 votes)

  1. I can't wait to play these NES games. Bring it on!18%
  2. I'm fine with the NES games, just fine.29%
  3. Meh. Enough with the NES games!53%

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