Ever since Nintendo launched the Wii, it’s brought a version of its Virtual Console service to all of its handhelds and living room consoles. The titles available for each platform have varied with the system and the region in which you live, but broadly speaking, the VC has been used to round up titles from classic Nintendo systems including the NES, SNES, Game Boy, GBC, GBA, N64, GameCube, Genesis, MegaDrive, TurboGrafx-16, and Neo Geo. Games brought to the Virtual Console service were supposed to be as identical to their original versions as it was possible to be. While there are some issues with slowdowns or glitches in specific titles, Nintendo has hewed fairly close to this goal. But the Switch isn’t going to get a VC library — Nintendo is rolling that capability over to its Switch Online Service, instead.
“There are currently no plans to bring classic games together under the Virtual Console banner as has been done on other Nintendo systems,” a Nintendo spokesperson told Kotaku. It’s fair to note that the VC service, while providing some limited features for certain titles, like save states, always was a bit of a slapdash affair. It’s not at all clear, for example, why a title like Final Fantasy III / VI (in North America) would be available only for the Wii, but not on its successors, the Wii U or 3DS. Similarly, the living room consoles never saw the same GB, GBC, and GBA titles that were released for the 3DS on their virtual console.
Some companies have already brought classic game ports to Switch, and this work will continue, but there’s no plan to launch a unified Virtual Console service like what Nintendo has debuted for its other consoles. Instead, the company will launch a Switch Online Service for $ 19.99 a year, $ 7.99 for 3 months, or $ 3.99 per month. The new service will include the ability to save games in the cloud — a capability that Switch owners have been clamoring for since the Switch launched last March. You’ll also have the option to pay $ 34.99 per year instead of $ 19.99, but then back up the saved games from eight devices to the cloud under a single family account rather than paying on a per-device basis. And assuming the library of available games grows like older VC libraries, you’ll get access to a wide range of titles over time without having to buy them again on every device. We generally prefer ownership over eternal renting at ExtremeTech, but with prices as low as $ 20 per year, it’s hard to argue that the overall cost is a burden.
Nintendo has announced that there’s a library of 20 classic games that’ll be available to Switch Online Service subscribers when the service launches in September, including Balloon Fight, Dr. Mario, Super Mario Bros. 3, Donkey Kong, Ice Climber, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros., Soccer, Super Mario Bros., and Tennis. The Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app will apparently still be used to “enhance the online experience for compatible games through voice chat and other features,” and an unspecified list of Special Offers will be made available to members as well.