When comparing the likes of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, Nintendo’s online services are by far the cheapest of the major three console platforms. To help alleviate the feeling that online services should be free, these platforms have been offering games included with your subscription. So why, now, is there growing pushback against Nintendo’s offerings?
Every time new Japanese titles are announced for the service, like Shin Megami Tensei or Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, you’ll likely see one game that makes you wish you spoke the language. Social media isn’t always the best indicator of what’s right and wrong, but there’s something to be said about Nintendo’s offerings when YouTube videos announcing the games are getting thousands of dislikes.
While Nintendo’s offerings are far from the best, there’s still a lot of great titles on the service. Although “best” is definitely in the eye of the beholder, let’s take a look at some of the most worthwhile games to check out on the platform from both the NES and SNES systems.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong-Quest
Although its predecessor gets more of the spotlight, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest is one of the most enjoyable games that the franchise has to offer. This time around you’ll be taking control of Diddy and Dixie Kong rather than the namesake for the series. There are still underwater and mine levels, but the overall game feels much more refined than its predecessor. Controlling the various animal friends you’ll come across is another highlight, as there’s just something inherently fun about making webs and jumping on them with your spider buddy.
Diddy’s Kong Quest also has a number of visually striking levels that standout, like the amusement park stage, which sees fireworks exploding in the distance as you race across a rollercoaster. David Wise’s work on Donkey Kong Country was already one of the most memorable soundtracks on the system, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise how great his work on the sequel was. From the moment you hear the menu theme, you know you’re in for a great adventure. The game features some of the most memorable tracks in the entire series, including “Mining Melancholy” and “Stickerbush Symphony,” which might be one of the best video game songs ever made. Originally intended as a track to go with “water or clouds”, there’s no doubt that this track made a long-lasting impression on fans of the franchise.
If you only have a short amount of time to play, one of the best games to jump in and get a couple of races in is F-ZERO. Though there are other racers like Super Mario Kart and Stunt Race FX on the service, there’s just something about F-ZERO that scratches a certain type of itch that you won’t find in the others. Whether it’s the overall aesthetic or the gameplay, there are special traits of this game that will have you coming back over and over again.
It’s a title that rewards precision on the track, as one false move will see you lose control. Playing through on the Switch alleviates that somewhat if you’re using the rewind feature, though. It’s one of the most visually appealing games on the service as well. The colors of the vehicles are vibrant and striking, and as the backgrounds fly past as you speed through, it really sets the futuristic tone that the series is known for.
The Legend of Zelda
The game that started it all for one of the pillars of the Nintendo catalog. The Legend of Zelda is not without its problems, a lot of which would be alleviated and improved on in its many sequels. However, its inclusion in this list is to highlight that there is still definitely fun to be had. Like many games of this era, it can be brutally cryptic and increasingly difficult as you try to make your way through its various dungeons. However, with the rewind and save state features that the online service provides, it’s one of the best ways to play through the game for newcomers to the series that might have jumped in with titles like Breath of the Wild or Skyward Sword.
Though most players won’t be breaking out a pen and paper to jot down maps that help you navigate its world, there’s still a great sense of exploration when playing The Legend of Zelda. Even if you’re someone who likes to use guides or maps found online, there’s still enjoyment in making your way through the game in that type of fashion. While you might have more fun with other NES or SNES offerings on the service, to see the influence of The Legend of Zelda is still something special.
In Star Fox, for those growing up with Nintendo consoles, going on space adventures with your ragtag group of anthropomorphic animal friends was truly special. Though there are improvements made from Star Fox to Star Fox 64, there’s a simplicity to the original that really shines through, even on revisits. Though it has its fair share of problems, most notably a rough frame rate that is often difficult to play through, there’s still a lot of positives. The music, for one, is incredible. Composed by Hajime Hirasawa, classic tracks from this soundtrack still resonate today, with the likes of “Corneria” still routinely making it into Super Smash Bros. games.
Like The Legend of Zelda, the original Star Fox is a great look into why this specific franchise has so many fans. It’s also a title that can perhaps open old wounds, as one can’t help but think about the way the series has been handled for decades now. In any case, fans will always have the original game to play, and the Switch online service is a great way to jump in and experience this classic title.
Never translated to English, the only story you’ll be getting from this Super Famicom game if you don’t speak Japanese is through the description the Switch gives you before launching it. Psycho Dream is another title in a handful of games that have been brought over to the West for the first time through the NES/SNES Switch Online offerings. Although it’s not translated, it’s still entirely playable.
What’s fun about Psycho Dream is that, even within the first level, you’ll encounter multiple different power-ups that completely change your attacks. You’ll have longer spin animations that increase your potency of hits, as well as utilizing different weapons. At one point you might even end up sprouting wings, which gives you a strong AOE (area of effect) attack, which easily takes out otherwise annoying enemies. If things get hectic you also have an all-out attack that obliterates enemies on screen, a great move that helps when you’re being swarmed.
As you play through a game called “Legend of the Fallen Capital,” in Psycho Dream you’ll be making your way through a desolate, rundown Japan. There’s a number of eye-catching environments, though at times they can become repetitive. Though this might not have the captivating gameplay that a Donkey Kong or F-ZERO might feature, the reason Psycho Dream is really included on this list is because of its standout, and frankly wild, enemy and environmental design. It’s a game that also lets you choose between two characters at the start of the game, allowing for some replayability.
One of the major problems that people need to understand when they’re frustrated with Nintendo’s offerings is the fact that many of the games they are hoping for wouldn’t be coming from Nintendo directly. Whether it’s Chrono Trigger or Super Castlevania IV, some of the system’s best titles come from third-party publishers. With that being said, some of Nintendo’s own best offerings are still absent from the console. This hurts even more when the Switch has no Virtual Console, a feature that the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U were praised for.
At this point in the Switch’s life it’s best to not expect anything out of these online services, and instead be happy by some unexpected announcements later down the road. If you don’t do that, chances are you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment every time. Even so, there’s still a lot of titles to spend your time with, and a number of classic titles worth revisiting or playing through for the first time.
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You can also watch Matthew Lillard film a Tic Tok during the interview.
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