Nintendo Switch Online has been relatively static, as a service, for quite some time. We have had some turnover of free online games, most recently with Pac-Man 99, and a slow and steady influx of NES and SNES titles, but generally it's been a quiet time. Aside from some oft-demanded stand-outs that remain absent, the NES and SNES apps have looked rather bereft of ideas, adding little-heard-of games that are certainly worth a play but, ultimately, don't get the pulse racing.
With Switch selling so well and the company being in a ludicrously strong financial position, Nintendo isn't exactly under pressure to make headlines and win over long-time fans with more retro games in NSO. Yet reports of Game Boy and Game Boy Color being on the way soon aren't necessarily surprising - emulation for these titles won't present any problems, and it'll help shift the narrative a little around the service. It can follow a similar pattern to that seen with the NES and SNES apps, moving us away from the Virtual Console past — where the original GB and its Color brethren featured on 3DS — and into the subscription app world.
Of course, plenty will continue to want Nintendo 64 and GameCube, but let's park that for now as, let's be honest, Nintendo is evidently in no rush to offer those libraries, at least not beyond one-off limited time releases.
Game Boy Advance, though, will be a disappointing absentee if it does turn out to be missing from a potential update in the coming months. The online chatter is that GBA isn't planned to arrive alongside its predecessors, which would be a missed opportunity for various reasons. One big reason is Metroid Dread.
Nintendo is in the middle of giving Metroid Dread a major marketing push ahead of its release on 8th October, and that's likely to ramp up further close to release. A big part of the marketing has been the regular 'reports' that give background on the series, mechanics and lore. These reports are so notable that the most recent trailer was tied directly to one of them, focusing on some of the foes coming in Dread.
What's been clear from marketing and promotion is that Metroid Dread, also sort-of called 'Metroid 5', will be directly following on from 'Metroid 4', or Metroid Fusion as most of us know it.
With Dread likely to be the best-selling Metroid game by a distance, courtesy of an anticipated bump from an eager Switch audience with arguably more 'core' players than any Nintendo console since the SNES, it makes sense that newcomers also may want to play through the game's predecessors. You can currently play 'Metroid 1' and 'Metroid 3' on Switch through the Online service — Metroid and Super Metroid, that is — and if Game Boy arrives, Nintendo could add the original 8-bit sequel, Metroid II: Return of Samus.
Now, developer MercurySteam's previous title pre-Dread, Metroid: Samus Returns (a remake of 2) will likely have lore and stylistic links to Dread, but the Fusion link is the most direct. Yet we could, if rumours are correct, have access to all lore-numbered Metroid games except Fusion on Switch, and potentially before the release of Dread. If you want to play Fusion on modern-ish hardware you need to dig out a Wii U for the Virtual Console version or have received it as part of the 'Ambassador Program' on 3DS. It seems like a slightly silly state of affairs.
This is Nintendo though, so who knows. It could suddenly decide to remedy the situation not only by adding Game Boy titles via Switch Online apps, but also dropping a port / ROM of GBA's Fusion on the eShop. The reaction on social media would certainly be fun if that happened.
GBA would be a wonderful addition to the Switch Online service. It was home to a lot of high-quality games, with deliciously varied exclusives, ports and remasters
Moving beyond our Metroid obsession — hey, it's been a long time, okay? — the GBA would be a wonderful addition to the Switch Online service. It was home to a lot of high-quality games, with deliciously varied exclusives, ports and remasters. At the time it was considered almost like a portable Super NES - that wasn't quite accurate, but it attracted a library befitting that status. You can scroll thorough our list of the Best Game Boy Advance games and get a feel for just how good it was at its peak. And yes, it had Mother 3 and a whole bunch of outstanding RPGs.
So, if GBA doesn't arrive soon for Switch Online, why would that be? Well, as mentioned before Nintendo isn't often known to hurry itself with product roll-outs, especially when expanding its online service. We also don't know if any further reboots from that era would prompt Nintendo to hold back; after all, we had The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening reboot a couple of years back which may or may not have put GB on the backburner, while in December we're getting a double GBA remaster with Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp.
All of that said, if a select Advance library does eventually arrive, it's a retro platform that'll be very well suited to the Switch. Its resolution and screen dimensions better suit modern 16:9, not perfectly but better than the original Game Boy library. The GBA's library has also aged well, and is full of excellent first-party titles that would draw big hype among fans online.
This is all assuming, of course, that Virtual Console as a concept is to remain mothballed, which seems to be the case. Needless to say there are still some that would prefer the option to buy individual favourites from Nintendo's back-catalogue than wait for them to gradually roll out as part of Switch Online. But, well, that doesn't seem likely.
In any case, if we get Game Boy / Game Boy Color soon it will rightly gain headlines, and plenty of Nintendo fans old and new will have some retro classics to enjoy. As is tradition, though, we'll likely be left wanting more.
Let us know below the GBA games you'd like to revisit on Switch given the chance.