Today Nintendo announced that three more SNES games are coming to its Switch Online subscription service. Claymates, Jelly Boy and Bombuzal will be added to the library on July 28, bringing the total number of SNES games available to 55.
As was the case with the previous few updates, though, it’s probably fair to say the reaction to this news has been far from positive. You only need to take a brief glance at the replies to any of Nintendo’s official tweets to see an onslaught of negativity.
“Real talk, does anybody care about these additions?” asked one Twitter user. “Nintendo is really scraping the bottom of the barrel with these bargain bin titles,” another added.
“I say this as a dedicated, passionate, lifelong Nintendo fan,” stated a third. “I hope your next system is a sales disaster so you make an effort again.”
Well, as another dedicated, passionate, lifelong Nintendo fan, I personally believe that Nintendo’s Switch Online catalogue deserves a hell of a lot more credit than it’s currently getting.
Let’s get the obvious negatives out of the way first, if only to avoid the inevitable comments brawl: The rate at which Nintendo is adding new NES and SNES games is painfully slow. We aren’t even seeing new titles released on a monthly basis, so it’s deeply frustrating that we aren’t getting them more far regularly.
Like everyone else, I would also love to see new formats added to the service. Practically everyone wants to see Nintendo 64 games on there (and some possibly over-optimistic Switch owners are hoping GameCube games will be added too), but I would be happy with Game Boy and Game Boy Color at this point, to be honest.
These are separate arguments, however. It’s perfectly possible to be frustrated at the speed Nintendo is delivering new games and that we still only have NES and SNES titles, while still being happy with what’s currently available. These opinions are not mutually inclusive.
“It’s perfectly possible to be frustrated at the speed Nintendo is delivering new games and that we still only have NES and SNES titles, while still being happy with what’s currently available.”
The narrative that keeps being pushed every time Nintendo announces new titles is “this isn’t what we asked for, hurry up and give us Earthbound or Super Mario RPG”. Other games are cited, but these two appear to be the go-to titles requested ad nauseum instead of literally anything else being offered.
Let’s face facts, however: Earthbound was released on the Wii U Virtual Console, the New Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console and was one of the games included on the SNES Mini. If you desperately wanted to play Earthbound you would have found a way to buy it by now.
(And just to preempt the “but I don’t have those systems, I only have a Switch” argument, if you’re asking for something as relatively non-mainstream as Earthbound you’re clearly a Nintendo fan and almost certainly have one of the older systems).
It’s the same deal with Super Mario RPG, which appeared on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles and the SNES Mini. And that’s before you even start looking at the grey area that is emulation, where I dare say a sizeable number of younger players likely first discovered these games.
The argument against the games currently being added to Switch Online is “nobody asked for these”, but it’s precisely this reason that makes their addition so worthwhile.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in retro gaming already knows Super Mario World, A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Star Fox, Donkey Kong Country and the like. None of these games are new to anyone, they’re in the Switch Online library because they’re enormously popular and it would be downright bizarre if they weren’t there.
But let’s be honest, how many of you can hand on heart say you owned, played or had even heard of Jelly Boy? Especially because it wasn’t released in America, and often in the world of online retro coverage if it didn’t happen in America it didn’t happen at all.
I owned Jelly Boy back in the day. I genuinely enjoyed it, and I’m excited at the prospect of some people seeing it on the Switch Online app and trying it out for the first time because they’ve nothing to lose.
“I owned Jelly Boy back in the day. I genuinely enjoyed it, and I’m excited at the prospect of some people seeing it on the Switch Online app and trying it out for the first time because they’ve nothing to lose.”
It pleases me to think that of all those people trying it out for the first time, some will get a kick out of it. I’m not pretending for a minute it’s going to instantly become everyone’s favourite game, but there will be at least some people out there who’ll click with it and enjoy that sense of satisfaction that comes when you discover a ‘hidden gem’ you previously had no idea even existed.
That’s the real benefit of services like Switch Online: the fun of trying something you’ve never heard of and discovering you love it. SNES games on the Wii U and New 3DS Virtual Console cost $7.99 each, and at that price, you’re likely to only buy something you’re fairly sure you’re going to enjoy, rather than taking a random punt on something.
With Switch Online, you can open the NES or SNES apps and see the likes of Vice: Project Doom, Shadow of the Ninja, or Demon’s Crest and decide to try them out because you’ve got nothing to lose. And you may discover that all three games are great (which in my opinion they are).
Just before I published this article someone told me on Twitter that they discovered Journey to Silius thanks to its presence on Switch Online and it’s now one of their favourite NES games. I decided to ask if anyone else had similar experiences, and within 10 minutes was already receiving a bunch of replies.
Breath of Fire I and II. Mario’s Super Picross (a few people said this one). Panel de Pon. Smash Tennis. Nightshade. Fire ‘n Ice. All games that “nobody asked for” but earned new fans when they arrived on Switch Online.
To once again reiterate, just to make sure you didn’t miss the negative bit, the service isn’t perfect. The games aren’t coming fast enough, and there are still only two formats there. These are legitimate complaints and I continue to hope that Nintendo addresses them.
But please don’t be one of those people stomping their feet and moaning on Twitter because each new batch of games are terrible, even though they’d never heard of them five minutes ago, let alone played them. These are old games that didn’t sell very well so it’s perfectly understandable if you’re lacking in knowledge. That doesn’t mean they’re lacking in quality.
“These are old games that didn’t sell very well so it’s perfectly understandable if you’re lacking in knowledge. That doesn’t mean they’re lacking in quality.”
On July 21 Claymates, Jelly Boy and Bombuzal will be added to the SNES app. Please do me a favour and put down your Earthbound placards for a minute, turn on your Switch, adopt a positive attitude and try them out.
While you’re at it, have a go at some of the other games in there that aren’t household names. I personally recommend S.C.A.T., StarTropics, Demon’s Crest, The Ignition Factor and Wild Guns.
With any luck, as you check these new games out for the first time, you’ll begin to respect them for what they are, rather than resenting them for what they aren’t.