On May 26, Nintendo announced that it was adding Congo’s Caper, Rival Turf!, and Pinball to the NES/SNES library on Nintendo Switch Online. The fan reaction was similar to the response after every one of these announcements: Overwhelming negativity.
On Twitter, most of the reactions to this announcement are complaining about this new lineup of games, begging for Super Mario RPG and other missing classic titles to be added, and claiming that Nintendo is lazy and not trying with these new additions.
When classic titles like Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars don’t come to the service in the update, any additions are immediately derided. While there are certainly areas of Nintendo’s approach to Nintendo Switch Online worth criticizing, this backlash raises an important question: Do people really want classic games preserved or just the ones they’ve heard of?
Nowadays in gaming discourse, players are quick to judge and immensely deride something if they’re displeased with one aspect of it. We’ve routinely seen that with Switch Online updates, but the knee-jerk reactions overlook some of the critical preservation the service is doing.
Pinball, for example, might seem like an outdated game at this point, but it was the first commercially released game from the partnership between Kirby developer HAL Laboratory and Nintendo. Its release helped cement HAL Laboratory’s relationship with Nintendo and former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s reputation.
“Looking back, the games that we developed in those days all involved big software ideas where the client was quite sure how to pull it off,” Iwata recalled about Pinball’s development and the early days of the Nintendo partnership in a writing featured in the Ask Iwata book. “Once we made something of a name for ourselves, we were lauded for our technical abilities, which led to a steady stream of work.” In an interview with Used Game Magazine, Iwata would even state that HAL used the NES Pinball game’s engine for the popular Pokemon Pinball games.
Not too shabby for a game that’s being dragged as a weak Nintendo Switch Online addition.
Pinball, Congo’s Caper, and Rival Turf! might not be all-time classics, but they’re enjoyable games that deserve to be preserved and remembered just as much as Super Mario World or The Legend of Zelda. While Pinball and Rival Turf! were featured on previous iterations of Virtual Console, it’s also worth noting that Congo’s Caper has never been re-released before now. The same goes for other previously derided Nintendo Switch Online additions like The Immortal, Fire ‘n Ice, Jelly Boy, Claymates, Bombuzal, and Nightshade.
As fans get angry at Nintendo for not featuring more notable games in these Nintendo Switch Online updates, the good that comes with preserving some of these NES and SNES games is often completely ignored. The reality is that it’s already put most of the most important NES and SNES games on this subscription service, especially the former. It’s inevitable that Nintendo would spotlight some of these lesser-known games on the service now that just a few stragglers remain.
While some of the discourse surrounding additions to Nintendo Switch Online is misguided, Nintendo is not free from blame. I’ve complained about issues with its subscription service and its library in the past, and see how its current approach to re-releasing classics is flawed in the wake of the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U’s Virtual Console. NES and SNES library updates aren’t on a consistent schedule, so it’s frustrating when a new batch of games is small and made up of obscure titles. Meanwhile, some of the subscription’s games have notable technical issues that need to be resolved post-release.
Some fans don’t like having to opt into an entire, expensive subscription to play these classics when they’d rather just pay for specific titles like they did on Virtual Console. Ultimately, Nintendo created a library and release schedule environment for Nintendo Switch Online that causes fans to immediately be displeased if the games aren’t all-time classics. Some games, especially on N64, are also expected to have issues, so, understandably, some fans would have a cautionary approach toward Nintendo Switch Online. Still, that anger should be toward Nintendo itself, not the games.
Nintendo can do better with Nintendo Switch Online. Still, fans can also discover, appreciate, and preserve the memory of some more obscure SNES and NES gems that Nintendo is adding. Instead of just complaining about Pinball or Congo’s Caper, try the games out for yourself and discover some hidden gems rather than just complaining and settling for playing the latest of many Super Mario World re-releases.