The Nintendo Switch is, undeniably, a colossal success, and it has done so through a mix of clever hardware innovation, some utterly stellar first-party games, and by becoming something of an indie machine (Nintendo’s near emotional bond with Devolver Digital has been a blessing for us all). All of that said, it still feels like Nintendo is only half flexing its muscles with the Switch when it comes to nostalgia.
Nintendo has a back-catalogue rich with some of the greatest video games ever released, and yet we’re seeing a pitiful amount of that library available right now on the Switch. It makes no sense from a business perspective, and we are all clamouring for the chance to buy and play Ocarina of Time and Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Switch.
Admittedly, milking nostalgia is a double-edged sword. The argument that the video game industry relies on its remasters and remakes rather than getting creative with fresh, new IPs is a valid one… to a point. If Nintendo had leant hard on nostalgia from day one of the Switch’s release rather than charging out of the gate with Breath of the Wild and, shortly after, Super Mario Odyssey, things would not have gone as well as they did. The Switch needed to stand on its own two feet. Now that it has, however, it’s time to lean just a little on that sweet, sweet nostalgia.
Perhaps even calling it nostalgia is bad practice (and this might be a topic for another day). Nostalgia is a pretty dark work when you dwell on it: the concept of looking back on happier bygone days for comfort and happiness rather than innovating and pushing forward into the future. But Nintendo is innovating. It is pushing forward, being bold, being creative. So rather than calling it nostalgia, perhaps it’s better to look at re-releasing classic games as a celebration of Nintendo, of their legacy; their artistry.
Every generation, Nintendo innovates and pushes boundaries in both its hardware and its games. Even the Wii U gave us Splatoon and Mario Maker. And so, with Nintendo, there is no nostalgia. Because the ‘bygone days’ weren’t better. We aren’t clinging to the happy days of the past. Nintendo still owns it. And so, they needn’t worry about the stigma of nostalgia when it comes to re-releasing their classic games, because all they would be doing is strengthening their roster and celebrating their legacy.
Now, to be fair to them, Nintendo are making slow progress in this area. The fee for Nintendo Switch Online is a reasonable one, and it does give those who pay it access to a wealth of NES and SNES games. And a lot of the games that are missing from those console libraries are down to licensing issues, which is a real shame. But Nintendo is more than that. Some of the best games ever made were released on consoles that Nintendo has failed to provide us so far.
Perhaps it’s down to the assumption that everyone still owns a Wii U and a 3DS. After all, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were both re-released in 3D on the 3DS and were hugely well-received by fans and critics. Then we got Wind Waker HD on the Wii U and, even the Switch has then received ports of Wii U gems like Bayonetta 2 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. But it speaks to the sheer amount of incredible games in Nintendo’s arsenal that this still isn’t good enough. And I say this on behalf of the fans and to Nintendo’s business model. How many fans would put down $50 tomorrow for an HD Switch port of Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Metroid Prime Trilogy? I know I would. Chrono Trigger is available on iOS and Android. That one really stings.
The fact is: the 3DS is dead, and the Wii U has been buried for some time. The Switch represents Nintendo wholly and completely, and it is one of the greatest video game consoles ever made. Browse the Switch eShop and you can see a healthy mix of AAA first party games, high quality indie darlings and experimental games, and ports of classic games from companies like CAPCOM who, by the way, have been killing it with their ports of classic games like Resident Evil 4 and Onimusha while also refining their old formula on the PS4 with Resident Evil 2 and 3.
Speaking of Resident Evil 4, which was originally exclusive to the GameCube, that console is an underrated gem with a very refined A+ library of exceptional games, including Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin, and Wind Waker (a favourite Zelda of many fans, myself included). Now that Nintendo have delivered some great NES and SNES games, it’s time they provide Nintendo Switch Online subscribers with a solid library of N64 and GameCube games at the very least.
It feels like there must surely be a plan in place. That Nintendo are stretching these nostalgia ports across the Switch’s lifespan. Rather than giving us what we all want within the first few years of the Switch’s life, they’re spreading it thin across its lifespan. First the NES, then the SNES. Maybe before 2021 is over, we will get the N64 back catalogue we’re all clamouring for. But does this really make sense from a business perspective? And is it worth frustrating the fans over?
Speaking personally for a moment, I don’t pay for Nintendo Switch Online. I don’t really do multiplayer and the selection of NES and SNES titles isn’t enough to entice me. But I would pay double the current subscription fee if the service also provided a library of N64 and GameCube games. And if I’m not alone in this, that means there’s a river of money that Nintendo is simply refusing to drink up for no good reason.
Perhaps their thinking is that they need to gently and steadily release batches of classics from past generations as a way to keep subscribers invested, and I get that. Release a batch from a different console each year and keep the hype consistent. That should mean 2021 is definitely the year of the N64, and 2022 will be the year of the GameCube. But I won’t be paying until then, and neither will a lot of Switch owners. However, I’d still be paying now and next year if Nintendo had given us N64 and GameCube titles last year. This means their supposed thought process, which seems sensible at first glance, doesn’t actually carry water.
Nintendo Switch Online aside, it still doesn’t make sense that we haven’t received a Switch port of Wind Waker HD from the Wii U, when we got Bayonetta 2 so early on in the Switch’s life. That game is just sitting on a shelf, collecting dust.
Even more frustrating than this is how Nintendo have dangled an HD re-release of Super Mario Galaxy over our heads for years after porting it over to the Chinese Nvidia Shield TV, alongside Twilight Princess and Mario Bros. Wii. If Super Mario Galaxy has already been polished to a 1080p mirror sheen, and all the hard work is done, then why not release that version in Super Mario 3D All-Stars on Switch. Why wasn’t it available three years ago, like it was on the Nvidia Shield TV?
Nintendo perhaps needs to appreciate its own legacy a little more. They certainly did a tear-jerking job of celebrating the history of Mario in New Donk City and even moreso during his 35th anniversary, so why not continue that trend by giving fans more ports of classic favourites on the Switch, along with the availability of N64 and GameCube games for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. If the Wii U undersold and, ultimately, flopped, then send the Wii U’s Wind Waker HD to the Switch for Zelda’s 35th anniversary and give it the chance to sell like gangbusters. Follow CAPCOM’s lead, Nintendo, and milk your nostalgia a little, while also still providing us with incredible fresh experiences. We know you can do it, and we’ll happily pay you for your troubles.
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Will Heath is a freelance writer and digital nomad from the UK who mostly splits his time between London and Tokyo. He runs the website Books & Bao – a site dedicated to international literature and world travel – and writes about video games for Nintendo Link and Tokyo Weekender.