Analysis: Why these N64 games will likely never come to Switch Online
Don’t get your hopes up waiting for these classics to appear, because there are many reasons they won’t
After years of finger-crossing and speculation, Nintendo 64 games are finally available as part of the Nintendo Switch Online service.
Granted, it may not be exactly how we’d expected it: annoying issues at launch and the fact an extra fee is required means this isn’t quite what some of us had in our heads when we imagined N64 games on the Switch.
Still, despite this, Switch Online’s Expansion Pack is now one of the more convenient ways to play Nintendo 64 games on modern TVs and, more importantly, on the move.
The internet being the internet, though, now that the N64 app is here that doesn’t mean the speculation ends. With nine games available at launch and a total library of 304 games released for the console in the west, players have immediately turned their attention to what’s coming next.
A recently datamined list that appears to put the games in alphabetical order has only further fuelled the discourse, and we’ve seen plenty of “I hope we get Game X” tweets flying around since the N64 app launched.
While many of these are almost certain (we’ll be stunned if the likes of Wave Race 64 and Super Smash Bros don’t show up at some point), we’ve seen other suggestions that it’s safe to say are non-starters.
With that in mind, below are a list of games that will almost certainly never appear on Nintendo Switch online, for various reasons.
If any of these titles are in your own personal list of games you’re hoping to see on the service, you should probably uncross your fingers now. Nothing’s 100% certain, of course, but it’s safe to say these probably won’t happen.
Reason: Expired entertainment licence
Let’s get the biggest one out of the way first. As soon as Nintendo 64 games were confirmed for Switch Online, many players immediately started wondering what the chances were of GoldenEye coming to it.
After all, as arguably the greatest multiplayer game on the system and the one that brought FPS deathmatches to the console gaming mainstream for the first time, the addition of online multiplayer (if it worked) would have some paying for the Expansion Pack for that alone.
Sadly, unless some extremely large hoops are jumped through, the chances of GoldenEye appearing on Switch Online are smaller than Oddjob.
To re-release the classic shooter, Nintendo would need to negotiate the rights to the James Bond licence and potentially likeness rights for the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane and everyone else whose faces were digitised in the game.
Let’s not forget, this is a feat so complex that it caused Microsoft to shelve an already completed HD remaster for Xbox 360.
As with all games in this list, you should probably Never Say Never (Again), but the chances of seeing GoldenEye on Switch are likely to be a big fat Dr No.
See also: Any other game with a big movie, TV or other entertainment licence will probably be a no-go because those licences will have to be renegotiated.
That means the brilliant karting game Mickey’s Speedway USA (which was also developed by Rare), Activision’s Spider-Man and yes, even Superman 64, will never end up on Switch Online.
WWF No Mercy
Reason: Disgraced roster member
As the greatest wrestling game ever made, fans of the squared circle have been begging for a No Mercy re-release for years now. Sadly it won’t ever happen in its original state, and that includes on Switch Online.
There are many reasons for this. Firstly, the WWE doesn’t tend to give the nod for re-releases in general, partly because many of the superstars in their old rosters are now working elsewhere, and there are numerous contractual problems that emerge as a result of this.
For example, AEW currently employs Chris Jericho, Billy Gunn, Christian, Mark Henry and Matt Hardy, all of whom are in No Mercy.
A more pressing reason, however, is the presence of Chris Benoit in the game’s roster. After a horrific double-murder suicide that left Benoit, his wife and his son dead, the WWE swiftly vowed never to mention Benoit ever again in any of its products.
For No Mercy to even be anything other than a non-starter, Benoit would have to be removed from the game, and since it doesn’t appear that any of the N64 games on Switch Online are going to be modified in any way there’s zero chance of No Mercy making an appearance.
See also: No Mercy wasn’t the only N64 wrestling game to feature Benoit in its roster. He enjoyed a run at WCW too, meaning WCW/nWo Revenge, WCW vs nWo World Tour and WCW Mayhem all included him, meaning they all have no chance of a re-release before you even take the other contractual issues into account.
ClayFighter 63 ⅓
Reason: Culturally inappropriate content
The ClayFighter games may not exactly have been the pinnacle of the one-on-one fighting genre but their quirky sense of humour and claymation art style earned it a cult following that remains to this day.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that ClayFighter 63 ⅓ has a good shot at appearing on Switch Online, given that Claymates – a platformer from the same developer – came to its SNES library earlier this year.
However, even though the first two ClayFighter games have seen recent re-releases on the likes of the Evercade console, 63 ⅓ is a slightly different matter because one of its characters is pretty questionable by modern societal standards.
The fighter in question is Kung Pow, a Chinese martial arts chef who ticks every stereotype in the book and has awful mock English lines like “would you rike soy sauce with that”. It was bad enough in 1997, but a quarter of a century later it doesn’t fly in the slightest.
See also: There are also a handful of other games with dated stereotypes that would raise more than an eyebrow were they to be released today. Platformer fans may want to see Gex 64, but its Kung Fu themed stage has some questionable Chinese stereotypes of its own.
Fighting game Fighters Destiny may see a Switch Online release at some point, but its sequel Fighter Destiny 2 probably won’t, partly thanks to a character called Abdul who shouts “save me Allah” when he falls out of the ring.
Ken Griffey Jr’s Slugfest
Reason: Expired athlete sponsorship
Nintendo used to own the Seattle Mariners baseball team, and decided to make the most of this by publishing a series of sports games featuring their star player, Ken Griffey Jr. Two of these were released on the SNES and another two came to the Nintendo 64, with the last and most feature-heavy being Ken Griffey Jr’s Slugfest.
Like so many other sports games of the era, however, having an athlete’s name assigned to the game’s title was a surefire way of assuring it would never see a re-release without having to sort out another licensing deal with the athlete.
Of course, practically any sports game with real athletes in its roster would be unlikely to be added to Switch Online anyway (which is why there’s still a chance for International Superstar Soccer 64 – make it happen, Konami).
However, when a star’s name is actually part of the title that makes it even less likely, and we really don’t see Nintendo going to the effort of arranging another deal with Griffey Jr, especially given that he retired 11 years ago and Nintendo gave up its Mariners ownership in 2016.
Incidentally, while we’re at it, you can forget F1 games like F1 World Grand Prix I and II making an appearance – not only because of the F1 licence and driver names, but also the sheer number of car manufacturers and sponsors involved.
See also: If having a game with an athlete’s name in the title all but kills its chances of a Switch Online re-release, that means you can say goodbye to Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside, CyberTiger and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey.
It also means no Michael Owen’s WLS Soccer 2000, though that’s probably for the best.
Reason: Already has a remaster on Switch
When it was originally released, Doom 64 was heralded as a fantastic polygonal take on id Software’s seminal first-person shooter.
Whereas other systems like the PlayStation, Saturn, 32X and even the SNES had received straight ports that attempt to replicate the original PC version of Doom, the N64 version was a completely original game.
All the levels were entirely new, an impressive new lighting system was implemented and the enemies were all redesigned.
Doom 64, remains a great game to this day and the presence of the 2016 Doom reboot and Doom Eternal on Switch shows that neither Nintendo nor Bethesda have issues with the series appearing on the Switch.
What’s the problem then? Well, Doom 64 is already on the Switch. A remastered HD version was released in 2020 and it seems unlikely Bethesda wouls allow the standard version to be added to Switch Online and discourage potential sales of the HD version.
See also: Doom 64 isn’t the only game that’s received a shiny HD version on the Switch. Turok Dinosaur Hunter and its sequel Turok II: Seeds of Evil also have remasters on the system, as does Star Wars Episode I Racer.
If you fancy playing those on your Switch, chances are you’re going to have to fork out money for their new standalone versions.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Reason: Licensed music
The previous example of Doom 64 should already be an indication that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater will probably never make it to Switch Online, purely because Activision already has an HD remaster of the first two games of the series on Switch.
That said, even if hell did freeze over and Activision decided to play ball in theory, there would still be another hurdle to overcome in the form of the licensed music included in the game.
Although the Nintendo 64 cartridge format’s limited storage space meant the vast majority of its games had relatively basic music compared to the CD audio of the PlayStation and Saturn, the eventual emergence of audio compression (including MP3) meant that over time developers were able to squeeze music onto carts.
As a result, some of the games released a few years into the N64’s life offered reasonable helpings of licensed music. Tony Hawk was one such game, with its reduced version of the iconic soundtrack that helped make the PlayStation version so popular.
Even though Activision renegotiated and regained the rights to the music for the recent HD remaster, that deal likely wouldn’t have included an N64 re-release. As such, it would likely have to license the music yet again for a Switch Online port. We don’t see that happening.
See also: The N64 was fairly light on games with licensed soundtracks, but if the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is out, that means Pro Skater 2 and 3 are out too.
Another big example would be Wipeout 64, which would require nods from the likes of Fluke and Propellerhead before it could be considered (and that’s if current IP owner Sony was up for it in the first place).
Pokemon Stadium 1 & 2
Reason: Needs a peripheral to work properly
It seems odd to suggest that an IP as globally popular as Pokémon would struggle to get on Switch Online.
But it’s not so much the fact that it’s Pokémon that makes Pokémon Stadium extremely unlikely. After all, Nintendo’s already confirmed that Pokémon Snap will be coming in the future.
It’s more the fact that Pokémon Stadium’s central mechanic revolved around the Transfer Pak, a small device that plugged into the Nintendo 64 controller and let players connect a Game Boy cartridge to it.
Players could insert their Pokémon games and import the Pokémon they’d caught into Stadium, then use them to take part in fully polygonal 3D battles.
With no Transfer Pak compatibility in Switch Online, Pokémon Stadium becomes a severely cut down game. It’s not completely unplayable – you can still play it with ‘rental’ Pokémon – but the soul of the game is missing without the Transfer Pak.
The only way we can see it working is if the Game Boy library does eventually come to Switch Online, including a Pokémon game, and there was a way to get that save data over to the N64 app.
We reckon Tepigs will fly before that happens, though.
See also: Pokemon Stadium isn’t the only game that revolves around a peripheral that doesn’t work in Switch Online.
Hey You, Pikachu! came with a special microphone that let players talk to Pikachu in a sort of virtual pet style game. Given that the Switch doesn’t allow for voice chat in its full-price games, we don’t see it bending over backwards to let you say rude things to Pikachu instead.