Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES and NES libraries are growing a little bigger next week with the arrival of five more games. As usual, however, this month’s batch largely consists of obscurities, with the biggest addition (outside of Japan, at least) being Nick Arcade staple Joe & Mac. The new titles are likely solid, as all the games Nintendo has added to the service thus far have generally been, but this unexciting selection highlights what has been an ongoing problem: Switch Online’s classic games libraries will never feel complete without major third-party releases.
While most of Nintendo’s own SNES and NES titles are already available on the service (with a few notable holdouts), Switch Online is still sorely lacking many third-party games that helped define those classic consoles. The NES would not have been as beloved as it was without, say, Castlevania or Mega Man, and the SNES had an incredible selection of RPGs like Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana. These games are among the best on their respective systems, but none of them are available on Switch Online yet, which is disappointing.
There are undoubtedly hurdles to these games coming to the service. Secret of Mana, Castlevania, and Mega Man, for example, are all available on the Switch already as part of their own collections, which makes it unlikely that we’ll see them added to Switch Online. After all, what incentive would Square Enix, Konami, and Capcom have to give these games away to NSO subscribers when they could sell the titles and profit directly? But even if you’re content being able to purchase these games on Switch, there are still some classics–such as the original Metal Gear and the NES/SNES Final Fantasy games–that aren’t playable on the system in any form.
Nintendo Switch Online – NES Library Overview Trailer
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Even some of Nintendo’s own SNES and NES games are still absent from the service. EarthBound and its NES predecessor, EarthBound Beginnings (which went unreleased in the West until Nintendo put it out on the Wii U in 2015) have yet to be added, and the same holds true for the beloved Super Mario RPG. Given how deliberately Nintendo metes out its classic game releases, there’s a good chance that these titles will be added sometime in the future; after all, the company only recently added the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, more than a year after NSO’s SNES library first launched. Even so, their absence does the service no favors.
That’s not to bemoan the deep cuts that we do get on Switch Online. It’s fun to see Nintendo unearth obscure titles that even an old fogey like me has never heard of, and some–like Vice: Project Doom–are now among my favorites. Still, these are no replacement for the likes of Final Fantasy or Castlevania, and they don’t drum up nearly the same level of excitement or interest among fans.
If classic games from other platforms like Game Boy and the Nintendo 64 were available on the Switch, these omissions wouldn’t feel nearly as glaring, but that is not the case. While Wii, Wii U, and even 3DS featured a robust selection of legacy games from older Nintendo consoles under their Virtual Console banner, the only classic Nintendo titles on Switch (outside of some Arcade Archives releases) are available exclusively through Switch Online’s SNES and NES libraries. We’re more than four years into the Switch’s life, and the only N64 game Nintendo has released on the system thus far has been Super Mario 64, and only as part of a limited-time compilation that is no longer for sale.
There is always the possibility we could see these big third-party SNES and NES games added to Switch Online sometime in the future. Castlevania, Mega Man 2, and Final Fantasy were all included in the NES Classic, while Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasy VI were available on the SNES Classic, so there’s a chance Nintendo will work out some kind of arrangement to add them to the Switch service. As it currently stands, however, NSO’s SNES and NES libraries are primarily buoyed by first-party games, with a smattering of third-party releases and obscure gems–and unless that changes, the service will continue to feel like a missed opportunity.