Home / Technology / Soap box: Nintendo Switch Online’s library is a snapshot of 90’s game shelves

Soap box: Nintendo Switch Online’s library is a snapshot of 90’s game shelves



Nintendo Switch Online SNES Games

Another trio of classic games has just been announced for Nintendo’s subscriber-only Virtual Console replacement, this time Claymates, Jelly Boy and Bombuzal. They all have one very special thing in common: They are all games no one asked for, and no one wanted.

Nintendo could have released something at all – like … let’s say Grounded, just to pull one random and definitely not loaded name out of a hat – and instead they gave us a selection of titles many people had to bother looking up just so they could figure out what they needed to get angry on social media about basically.

I will say it loud and proud, though: Nintendo made the right choice, and I hope more Nintendo Switch Online releases include games like these.

Up there with Super Mario World?  Of course not, but that does not make it worthless
Up there with Super Mario World? Of course not, but that does not make it worthless

Between understandably hazy memories and the internet that provides an endless font of “Best of” articles to read the very best of the SNES library when it’s available (which we of course happily and enthusiastically contribute to), is the fact that the games we judge to stand the test of time only reflects a very small portion of all the titles available for Nintendo’s 16-bit below.

We have been stuck in a very cured route of overly famous classics along with a sprinkle of rarities no one bought at the time, weird and misunderstood games that were renamed innovative and experimental decades later (now that no one actually had to pay for them) import games most could not buy it then, let alone read, and titles that – depending on the region – may not have existed at all. Chrono Trigger is officially one DS games for European Nintendo fans, to set a remarkable example.

And the unfortunate side effect of all this is that the best of the best has become our expected baseline; genre-molding conductive light oh-so-very-common; the impossible rare never more than a few random mouse clicks away. The latter example is an incredible blessing, but it has skewed thinking not only what the SNES was, but what it could also be.

The Nintendo Switch Online library is filled with an honesty we have lost over the years, as we have expanded our palettes and teased the game’s taste buds with retro ambiguities.

Super Nintendo was always more than Squaresoft’s RPG toy or Rare’s pre – made powerhouse, more than anything to be honored or appreciated, all nodding in quiet, uniform reverence for the “right” games and not even looking at the rest. It was a machine too everyone; for people who played FIFA, for children enchanted by the latest cartoon affiliation (which at the time would have been something like Animaniacs or Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose), for teens who are desperate to play Doom no matter what their parents said. The bedroom shelves did not bend under the weight of worthy Super Famicom imports or just European translation wonders like Pop’n TwinBee and The firefighters in the nineties, and Nintendo’s “unusual” choice of NSO offerings reflects the broader reality in a way that our own retro discussions rarely do.

The Nintendo Switch Online library is filled with an honesty we have lost over the years, as we have expanded our palettes and teased the game’s taste buds with retro ambiguities with all the speed and zeal we once showed when we brought a new console and willing. leaving previous generations. Bombuzal did not set the world on fire on the SNES release in 1990, and it is fair to say that it will not do now either, but it is something different, something unusual, something a sibling or a school friend would have bought used and placed next to the copy of Wing Commander or Jurassic Park.

The game’s new life on Switch is a chance for us to reset and adjust, not to play the same best SNES games of all time again – the games that everyone knew were the best of all time last year, and the year before that, and the decade (s) before that – but to play a wider, “truer” variety of SNES games. Playing games we have never heard of, games we have always intended to try, but never quite got to, games that can offer the most precious retro experience of all: a new experience related to something old and familiar, which makes us stop and think, a game we have not already formed an opinion about before it is downloaded.

You do not have to like any of the SNES games in Nintendo’s latest NSO offer or pretend that these are previously hidden gems. They are not terrible, but they are not so good, and I do not claim otherwise. But maybe, if you give them a try, you’ll find them a fun way to kill an afternoon. Or another awful experience moaning to a friend about the next time you talk to them. Or a happy reminder of how special and how far ahead of the pack your favorite classic has always been. These releases provide at least context for all the legends already there and the others you always hope they will add later; a chance to see the highs, lows and more honest examples of “regular” available on the hardware.

EarthBound SNES
Image: Nintendo

This article will take one very another tone if Nintendo’s retro Switch range was offered on a rotating basis, swapping valuable favorites like Yoshi’s Island or Donkey Kong Country for relative unknowns, but as it turns out, there are now over a hundred games to choose from on the service, including some of the biggest and best Nintendo games of the time, games that led to premium prices when they were new or were so hard to find at the time, those that were lucky enough to do so, still tell stories of long car rides or incredibly lucky swaps with friends. These games are still there and ready to play anywhere, anytime as long as your subscription lasts.

And those who are not? You can still buy Earthbound directly from Nintendo for the 3DS and Wii U right now if you really want to, and for far less than even the toughest eBay-acquired loose wagon will also cost you. If there’s too much of an obstacle to overcome for some reason, other less legitimate paths exist – and Jelly Boy will still be ready and waiting for you when you’re done.




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