The Virtual Console Vs Nintendo Switch Online

    Nintendo Switch Online has replaced the Virtual Console but is the service up to the standard of previous Nintendo offerings? Furthermore, do subscription services like Xbox’s Game Pass and NSO really suit video games? This article explores these issues and looks back at the Virtual Console.


    Gamecube Re-Releases and Birth of Wii Virtual Console

    Back in the times of the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube in the early 2000s, console and internet integration, as well as the fact most consoles had no internal memory, meant that you couldn’t download games onto your home system. Instead, it was common for old games to be included alongside sequels as bonus games, or as incentives to pick up new full retail releases. Sometimes, you could play old games within the gameplay of a newer game, which is kind of like playing a game within a game. Animal Crossing on GameCube is a good example of this, where you can play multiple NES games. There were also, as there are now, retro compilations released for systems.

    However, with the introduction of the Wii and its internal memory (which was by no means unique to the Wii since the Xbox 360 had a hard drive and was released before it), all you needed was a half-decent internet connection to be able to download games. I think someone in their teens or early 20s at the moment might not realize just how awesome the Wii Virtual Console was (since it was released over fifteen years ago now). There were 10 systems on the Wii Virtual Console, including the Genesis/Megadrive, Neo-Geo, Sega Master System, SNES, and N64. There were even direct ports of classic arcade games like Golden Axe and Space Harrier.

    Classics on Virtual Console

    The selection was diverse and there were tons of games from most of the systems on the service. Games like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Street Fighter 2 are just some of the highlights. The Virtual Console from after the Wii era is lacking so many third-party games that the original Virtual Console had. We’ve yet to see such a diverse game lineup in any other type of legacy content support regardless of console. But anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that not only did the Virtual Console have a range of great games that you can’t find now in one place, but these titles you could download onto your system. They were yours forever. Nowadays, we, unfortunately, have to comply with reality: streaming services.

    Game Pass

    Subscription Services and Streaming: Is It ideal for Gaming?

    With better internet connections becoming widely available in the last decade, streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime (among many others) have become really popular. With the introduction of Xbox’s Game Pass in 2017, high-quality video game subscriptions and streaming services arrived. While I see the convenience and good value of videogame subscription services, is it really ideal for gaming? Many games, such as role-playing games and most story-driven games, are not short experiences and it takes ten times (or more) the length of a movie to finish them. This means that having to stream (which can be disrupted), or having a subscription service that you might not be able to afford, isn’t always ideal if you actually want to finish the game.

    Also, collecting and gaming have always gone together. Many hardcore gamers really wish we still lived in the days of games coming with game manuals and other bonuses that used to be included with video games. I really don’t want to finish a game on a subscription service, lose the subscription, and then have no record of finishing it. With both physical and old Virtual Console games that you downloaded onto your device, you would have a record of your gaming achievements. That is as long as the cartridge battery doesn’t die or your console doesn’t brick. But even then, that is unlikely to happen with every device or game in your collection. The Wii wasn’t the only console to have a great Virtual Console. There are two more systems that had this online shop.

    Wii Menu

    Virtual Console of Wii U and 3DS

    The Wii U and 3DS had a similar interface presentation to the Wii. They also borrowed the Virtual Console feature from the Wii. The 3DS Virtual Console was released quite a while after the handheld’s launch, unlike the Wii. However, it is the only system with Virtual Console that has Game Gear, Game Boy, and Game Boy Colour games! So, on 3DS you can play classics like the original Pokemon Red & Blue, Tetris, Shining Force: The Sword of Hayja, and Shantae. These games are cheap, similar to all Virtual Console games, and on 3DS there are also NES and SNES (‘New’ 3DS exclusive) games. The Wii U has GBA and DS titles on its Virtual Console, with DS titles being possible because of the Wii U’s tablet controller.

    Unfortunately, both the Wii U and 3DS eShops and Virtual Consoles will close this March for good. That will be the end of the Virtual Console as an operating brand. It will have operated from 2006 to 2023, which definitely isn’t a bad run. I know loads of people will miss it. The Wii definitely had more games on its Virtual Console and a greater diversity of systems, but the Wii U and 3DS both also had their own exclusive systems on the service. It’s always been a retro service. I can’t see developers and publishers stopping letting players download full, new titles, but what Nintendo has done with Nintendo Switch Online says otherwise. It means that we can no longer download individual retro titles to keep forever. 

    Super mario Land 2 3DS

    Birth of Nintendo Switch Online

    When the Switch was released in 2017, there was a long wait until Nintendo revealed what it would do with its online service and legacy content. When we did finally find out, it was revealed that not only would we not be able to download retro games, but also that the service would only have NES games available. It was a massive disappointment. To go from the amazing diversity of the Wii VC to this backward, minimal online service was a slap in the face to most of those who have played games since the 80s, 90s, or 2000s. 

    Since then, the service has improved and it now has SNES games. However, to access N64 and Genesis/Megadrive games (not a great range of consoles), you have to pay an even higher subscription rate. I mean, if fifteen years ago we could have had ten systems on an online service, why do we only have four now? There’s not even the option to permanently download these games, which is just a disgrace. It’s still definitely not worth the money since these games could be emulated (even on a £50 Android phone) for free. Plus, there’s still no sign of GameCube games hitting the service. Will GameCube games be kept hidden in Nintendo’s vault forever? 

    Nintendo Switch Online

    Return of Virtual Console?

    The Virtual Console might be on its way out for now, but it is possible it could be brought back. However, with the increasing popularity of video game streaming services, maybe downloading individual retro games will not be possible for much longer. At the very least, a new way to purchase Nintendo legacy content will probably be introduced. You can still purchase old digital titles on the PS Store. The Switch is nearing the end of its lifespan, and it would massively help Nintendo if they incorporate a better online service with their next console. The Virtual Console was great, but everything changes. Maybe it’s time for a new legacy service, but just please don’t make it a subscription and streaming service.

    Latest articles

    Latest Articles