There isn’t an official Virtual Console for the Nintendo Switch, but there are now over 500 retro games available through the eShop. Here’s our guide to making your own Virtual Console.
After years of selling classic games piecemeal on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS, the lack of a dedicated Virtual Console successor for the Switch has been puzzling and frustrating for Nintendo fans. The console’s versatility is perfect for revisiting the hits of the past, and it’s a shame that many classic first and second-party titles are not available on Nintendo’s latest console.
However, although the Switch doesn’t have a Virtual Console in name, it has nonetheless become home for hundreds of classic video games.
With the Nintendo eShop full to bursting, finding a specific title can be tricky. Here’s our do-it-yourself guide to assembling your own library of classic retro games on the Nintendo Switch. We’ll highlight a few of our favourites as we go.
Nintendo Switch Online – NES (40+ games)
Let’s begin the with the closest thing we do have to a Virtual Console. The growing library of games available through a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online.
The lineup includes many NES classics – with Famicom titles also available if you set up a Japanese account – and new games are added to the roster every month. The comparatively cheap price of entry for Nintendo Switch Online – just $20 a year in the US – makes this good value if you want to sample Nintendo’s early console efforts. Each game has been updated to support suspend points and online multiplayer, and there are also rumours that Super NES games could join the service in the future.
- Dr. Mario
- The Legend of Zelda
- Super Mario Bros 3
Classic Sega Games (60+ games)
The best entry point for classic Sega games is the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Collection. The Switch edition oddly omits a few classic Wonderboy titles, but most of the big names you’d expect – Out Run, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Gunstar Heroes, for example – are here. If you’re a retro enthusiast, M2’s Sega Ages series is also worth a look. Released as individual titles, each game includes new visual and audio options, and some useful – but optional – gameplay tweaks.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Out Run
- Phantasy Star
Arcade Archives (50+ games)
Hats off to the busy folks at Hamster Corporation, who continue to churn out release after release. Many of these arcade classics speak for themselves, with the likes of Bomb jack, Renegade, and Moon Cresta all enjoyable, despite their age. A selection of Nintendo’s early arcade efforts are also included, many of which are based on NES games, such as Excitebike, Ice Climber, and Super Mario Bros. Each title is similar enough to its console counterpart to feel familiar, but they often include subtle gameplay changes that were designed to keep those quarters coming.
- Vs. Super Mario Bros
- Donkey Kong
- Double Dragon
Neo Geo Games (110+ games)
Hamster Corporation is also diligently porting the impressive Neo Geo console back-catalogue. Games from the Metal Slug, King of Fighters, and Samurai Shodown franchises are among the treats on offer in a library that is over 100 titles strong, and grows by the week.
- Puzzle Bobble
- Metal Slug 3
- Money Puzzle Exchanger
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (23 games)
More classic SNK arcade games – and a few console variants – can be found in the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. The quality is as variable, but it’s another well-produced package that will appeal to gamers of a certain vintage.
- Alpha Mission
- Ikari Warriors
- Time Soldiers
Atari Flashback Classics Collection (150 games)
Speaking of quality, many of the 150 games included in the Atari Flashback Classics are quite dreadful. However, that doesn’t diminish this collection’s importance as a fascinating retrospective on the early years of console gaming. The absence of some notable licensed games, such as The Empire Strikes Back and the notorious E.T. is unfortunate, however.
Namco Museum (21 games)
Namco Museum is another beautifully assembled collection of games that covers some of the studio’s early arcade efforts, as well as the charming Nintendo GameCube curio, Pac-Man Vs. Comprehensive display options – including Tate mode – make this another recommended package.
- Dig Dug
- Pac-Man Vs.
Mega Man Legacy Collections (18 games)
Helmets off to the folks at Digital Eclipse who have lovingly compiled the full series of mainline Mega Man games (through to 2010’s Mega Man 10) across two volumes. A delightful museum of concept art and promotional assets, thoughtful presentation, and some optional new gameplay content sets the bar for all other retro compilations to beat. The two volumes of Mega Man X Legacy Collection are not as consistent, but are still essential for fans of the series.
Capcom Beat ’em up Bundle (7 games)
Capcom dropped this curious compilation of arcade fighters with little fanfare. Titles include Final Fight, Captain Commando, Knights of the Round, and Warriors of Fate, as well as Armored Warriors, and Battle Circuit, two games that were previously unavailable on console.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection (12 games)
Released to mark the 30th birthday of Capcom’s icon fighting franchise, the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection contains 12 arcade games taken from the Street Fighter, Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha, and Street Fighter III series. The underlying gameplay is timeless, and support for single Joy-Cons make it the perfect collection to have on standby to play with friends. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is also available separately.
Johnny Turbo’s Arcade (20+ games)
FTE Games are releasing some b-tier 1980s and 1990s arcade titles from Data East under the Johnny Turbo’s Arcade banner. Games released so far include Super Burger Time, Caveman Ninja, Nitro Ball, and Night Slasher.
Final Fantasy series
A bevy of retro Final Fantasy games are heading to the Switch to join the already available pocket edition of Final Fantasy XV, and World of Final Fantasy Maxima. PlayStation classics Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX are available now, with Final Fantasy XII to come in April, and the remastered version of the GameCube’s Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles to follow later this year.
Resident Evil series
Ports of the Nintendo 3DS games Resident Evil Revelations 1 & 2 are already available on the Nintendo eShop. They will be joined in the next few months by the remakes of Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0, plus the remastered edition of Resident Evil 4. All are recommended, but the extortionate pricing is a disgrace.
Miscellaneous computer, console, and arcade games
The Switch is also home to a small selection of random one-off games that were originally released on home computer or console.
A few examples are Clive Townsend’s classic ZX Spectrum game, Saboteur!, Delphine Software’s influential 1992 PC game, Flash Back, spy-caper Impossible Mission, and spy spoof James Pond Codename: RoboCod. A significant slice of video game history can also be experienced in the notorious FMV adventure game, Night Trap,
Arcade one-offs include the remastered Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, and R-Type Dimensions EX, which features the first two games in the sci-fi shooter series. Windjammers – which was originally released for the Neo Geo arcade system in 1994 – is also available, with a brand new sequel set for release later this year.
Remakes, remasters, and reissues
We couldn’t finish this roundup with a look at a few of the classic games that have had remakes or makeovers. The obvious title to highlight is Lizardcube’s Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, a stunning update to the Sega Master System classic, Wonder Boy III.
The Switch also now has its first Nintendo 64 game with the modest remaster of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Its sequel, the much better Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, is also on the way.
Activision’s Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy has been a huge hit, not that you need telling, and Pokémon Let’s Go Pilkachu and Let’s Go Eevee are excellent remakes of Pokémon Yellow.
Depending on your retro cut-off point, other games to check out include De Blob 1 and 2, Darksiders, Lumines, Disgaea 1, Cel Damage, Skyrim, L.A. Noire, and Okami HD.
This list is changing by the week, so keep an eye on our regular Nintendo eShop updates for the latest Nintendo Switch release news.
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