Why It’s a Good Thing the Nintendo Switch Won’t Feature Retro Releases

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Nintendo)

Nintendo Switch fans are angry at the moment.

After over a year of conspicuous silence, Nintendo executives have finally spoken out about one of the biggest things that have been missing from the new console.

Y’know, apart from the paid online subscription.

The Virtual Console, the brand under which Nintendo has been re-publishing classic games over the past decade, is no more.

According to Nintendo:

“There are a variety of ways in which classic games from Nintendo and other publishers are made available on Nintendo Switch, such as through Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo eShop or as packaged collections.

Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online will provide a fun new way to experience classic NES games that will be different from the Virtual Console service, thanks to enhancements such as added online play, voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online app and the various play modes of Nintendo Switch.”

That probably sounds like nonsense to a lot of people. Sorry about that.

Put simply, Nintendo has come up with a new way to share old games, which they’ve titled Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online.

Apparently, they don’t actually want anyone to be able to talk about this service. That’s the only reason I can think of for why they’d give it such an obtuse name.

The NESNSO will involve limited-time access to classic NES games for subscribers that pay for Nintendo’s new system. You might recognize this as a pretty frustrating and limited way to actually get hold of classic games.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not entirely opposed to seeing Nintendo bury their classic games.

I suspect that the company has some sneaky plans in play here. I think they want to sell more Classic Mini consoles. They’re likely hoping that a few years of holding classic games hostage will make people even more excited when they eventually roll this back and start publishing classic games on the Switch.

In the meantime, though, gamers get a wonderful gift: a forced opportunity to play brand new games.

That Which is New is Old Again

Looking at the lineup of indie games on the Switch, it’s clear that, first and foremost, Nintendo is trying to build a catalog of titles that would look perfectly at home on the SNES. Pixel art and chiptunes are everywhere. These games are pure nostalgia, but they come with new, innovative ideas.

Essentially, playing an indie game on the Switch feels like trying out a brand new very old game.

I like this idea. Instead of taking the easy route and picking up “Harvest Moon” for the fifteenth time, gamers are instead forced to try out the arguably superior “Stardew Valley”. Instead of “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past”, gamers can try out “Blossom Tales”.

Seriously, play “Blossom Tales”. It’s awesome.

Yes, it sucks that Nintendo is forcing this broadening of its audience’s palate. At the same time, though, I can’t help but be optimistic about a world where hardcore Nintendo fans are playing new, different games.

Sometimes, we all need a little push to discover something new. I can’t imagine that games like “Golf Story” would have got as much attention on the Switch if the device already had a lively Virtual Console.

So don’t grieve for old games. They’re probably going to show up on the Switch sooner or later.

In the meantime, we get to try some completely new titles that would have otherwise been overshadowed by yet another re-release of “Super Mario World”.