Retroheads rejoice: this week marks the launch of Nintendo Switch Online’s Expansion Pack – the latest in their cloud-based cataloguing of all things old skool. And everyone here at Robot Republic is thrilled to see some of the very best Nintendo 64 and Sega Mega Drive / Genesis games making a long-overdue comeback.
All of the usual suspects complete this classic line-up: from your Super Mario mainstays and era-defining Zelda entries, to the blue blur’s best 16-bit blowout and a solid assortment of RPGs to boot, there’s something for everyone for a very reasonable price-tag – just £34.99 / $50 a year.
And though the slate is undeniably stacked with just about everything you could ever ask for, I can’t help but raise my hand tentatively from the back of the room… summoning my very best Ollie Twist, I’m pleading for more of this gamerific gruel to be slopped out onto our collective plates.
Why, you ask? Because there’s some bloody awesome titles out there that a brand-new generation of joystick-wanglers deserve to play. Let’s run down the very best of the rest that the N64 and Genesis have to offer (then head over to Twitter to badger the piss out of Nintendo’s poor social media interns…)
10. Pokémon Stadium N64 / 1998
Back when everyone’s favourite pocket-sized beasties were to the Game Boy what headlice were to every child in their first month back at school, Pokémon Stadium was the first dose of beating the snot out of Bulbasaur in 3D – and what a rush it was!
It’s likely the inability to transfer your Pokésquad to the game may see this one face a bit of a translation issue when making the jump to Switch, but honestly? We just want those addictive little minigames to make a comeback.
Nothing – and I mean nothing – will ever stand up to Magikarp’s Splash and Run, Rattata, Run.
9. TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist Genesis / 1992
Konami’s debut title for the Genesis was arcade anarchy brought straight to your living room – and it’s time we got to tickle these turtles again from the shiny screen of our Switches. It’s the perfect quick burst of brawling to fill the gap before the brand-new Turtles romp cowabungas its way onto consoles next year, too.
Offering everything we love about our mutant mates in a side-scrolling masterclass, it is a touch short, but that just means we have more time to crack on with playing the rest of the games on this list as well! Time to slay Shredder all over again, if you ask me.
8. Snowboard Kids N64 / 1997
While SSX Tricky might hold the gold medal when it comes to classic snowboarding video games, if you want a little more Mario Kart with your downhill darting, Snowboard Kids delivers. And, since there’s still been nothing quite like this game since, it’s time to see it hit the slopes again on Switch.
Offering a sugary-sweet soundtrack and some genuinely inspired track design, the game still holds its own in the modern era of party-racing outings. If you ask me, it’s loads more fun than 1080° Snowboarding too – the other wintry N64 racer – and would be a welcome addition to the console’s multiplayer portfolio.
7. Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse Genesis / 1990
I won’t even claim to know if a release of this classic platform adventure would be possible now Disney own pretty much the entire world of entertainment media, but a boy can dream! One of the very best Mega Drive games out there, seeing Mickey revisit this nostalgic outing would be a real boon to the overall catalogue.
That said, this was remade and released back in 2013 for the PS3 and Xbox 360 with much-improved graphics. But when it comes to charm and reliving those happy, childhood moments, a release of the original is what really needs to occur. Gimme all the cheese, lass.
6. Donkey Kong 64 N64 / 1999
Here here… here we go!
With the surprising announcement that Banjo-Kazooie is sprinting onto the Switch’s online expansion pack already, one would hope that some deal has been struck with Microsoft that allows more of Rare’s seminal releases to feature, too. And what better title than the collect-‘em-up classic featuring everyone’s favourite Kong?!
The game was, of course, featured on the Wii U’s Virtual Console in 2015, so it’s looking like it’s all coming up bananas for our tie-wearing ape. And I don’t know about you, but I want to swaaaaang from the chandeliers as Lanky Kong one more time (and I’m never not ecstatic to hear the best intro song in video-gaming history…)
5. Road Rash II Genesis / 1992
We all love a good motorbiking game. But what is always better than a straight-up racer is when you get to KICK THE CRAP OUT OF YOUR RIVAL RIDERS AND PUNCH THEM IN THEIR STUPID 16-BIT FACES…
Murderous intent aside, Road Rash II made good on its predecessor’s gameplay, bolted on a bad-ass soundtrack and made the multiplayer must-have for the era. Definitely still an ab-aching, laugh-a-minute crashfest, this would help bolster the fairly limited number of legit racing titles in this retro carnival.
4. Space Station Silicon Valley N64 / 1998
Wacky one-off video games give us some of the greatest joys. And long before Untitled Goose Game and Goat Simulator meme’d their way onto televisions the world over, Space Station Silicon Valley let you let loose as all manner of mechanical animals in a smile-inducing, puzzle-filled platformer that is as charming now as it was back in the 90s.
Unlike anything else you’re likely to have played, this really is the whole package: hilarious antics, space-age soundtrack and satisfying gameplay – it has to resurface on Switch. It’s been underappreciated for too long and would be a welcome addition to the growing retro library.
3. Earthworm Jim Genesis / 1994
As quite the retro icon, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Earthworm Jim is so high on this list. As run-and-gun platformers go, Jim was well ahead of his time with his bonkers blend of hilarious animations and challenging level design.
Another classic that has seen a remake already (first on mobile then, later, the Nintendo DS and Xbox Live Arcade), it’s clear that the platformer’s charm is still something people are invested in – and what better reason to suit up once more to save Princess What’s-Her-Name? GROOVY!
2. Diddy Kong Racing N64 / 1997
Some may argue that Diddy Kong’s cart racer is overkill on a console already boasting Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Team Sonic Racing and that decidedly average Nickelodeon Kart Racers crap, but there’s still so much Diddy does right: from the brilliant one-player adventure mode, to the unique hovercraft and airplane levels.
Often cited as one of the most desired games to get a sequel, this Mario Kart competitor still stands tall in the rankings of best party racer of all time. And, as the Nintendo 64’s eighth best-selling game, the proof is in the pudding (the banana-based pudding, of course).
1. Sonic & Knuckles Genesis / 1994
By the time the fourth iteration of the Sonic franchise dashed onto consoles across the globe in 1994, Sega had all but perfected its 2D-platforming gameplay – and then they added Knuckles as a playable character for good measure. The result was an era-defining sprint that still stands up to criticism almost 30 years later.
It tops this list because it not only paved the way for future fast-paced platformers, but is still considered by many to be the ultimate Sonic release – even when compared to The Blue Blur’s 3D outings. It’s time that a new generation got to gambol through Sky Sanctuary, don’t you think?
What games top your most-wanted listed for the Switch Online’s virtual catalogue? Sound off in the comments, and follow our boi Glitchqraft wherever your do a social media – he’s lonely and loves a good gaming chat! Speaking of which, you can listen in on our Switch Online and Retro Gaming Deep Dive on the Robot Republic podcast: The Gaming Manifesto – tune in right now!