N64 games on Switch: Could the Nintendo Switch Pro finally bring those classic titles back to life?

Could Mario 64 on Switch pave the way for N64 games on Nintendo Switch Pro?

by Daryl Baxter

We’re now a few years into the Nintendo Switch. We’ve seen Breath Of The Wild and Mario Odyssey be critically acclaimed, people exchanging turnips in Animal Crossing, and others being amazed of their favourite games from the past being remastered, such as Onimusha and Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer.

But throughout its life so far, there’s been a growing want for retro titles to be released onto the system. The Online Service brought NES games back in 2018, followed by a SNES library last year, but there’s a niggling feeling that it can be doing more.

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With rumours of a Super Switch / Switch Pro potentially on the horizon, this is why I feel that, if N64 games were to come to the Online Service, they may only be playable on the next generation of Nintendo hardware.

Here’s everything you need to know about N64 games on Switch, from the story so far, to some thoughts on where this could be leading…

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Back down memory lane

Let’s think back to the days of the New 3DS; everyone was loving having a remake of Zelda: Majoras Mask on the handheld, and Smash Bros was in the midst of coming out for the 3DS and the Wii U concurrently.

But there was also the announcement that SNES games were to be coming to the Virtual Console, but only to the New 3DS… the regular 3DS, with its older hardware, did not get the SNES games.

There was a sense of puzzlement here; why would SNES games be playable only on this new system? But Nintendo claimed that the more powerful CPU in the New 3DS could run the games much more effectively and accurately, and didn’t want to hamper the experience.

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Eventually, fans relented and just accepted it as ‘the way things are’, enjoying Super Metroid on the handheld.

However, Nintendo fans are fighting back against Nintendo’s haphazard approach to Virtual Console. Their monthly announcements of the new NES and SNES games coming to Nintendo Switch Online are consistently the most disliked videos on Nintendo’s YouTube channel.

With pressure building on Nintendo to improve their online subscription service, they may try to expand their Virtual Console titles outside of the NES and SNES consoles.

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Mario Odyssey paid tribute to Mario 64, but we’re waiting on a Switch port of the classic.

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Why no N64 games on Switch?

Fast forward to 2018, and there was a hope that the ‘N64 Classic’ console could be coming, to follow in the NES Mini and SNES Mini, but alas, as of this post being published anyway, no such console exists.

With the releases of NES and SNES games on the Switch Online service, all eyes were on the service to feature N64 games as well. But even though certain groups out there have found ways to jailbreak the Switch and put N64 games onto the system, there’s a feeling that the hardware is almost reaching its limits if a library of such games has not been put on the system.

A SNES game has a size of 4MB, give or take, while an N64 game is around 25MB. If you have sixteen of these in a package on the Online service app, it could take a big chunk out of the onboard storage, and it could take up more memory than what’s been reserved for the Switch anyway to run it.

Instead of seeing classic N64 games appear on the Nintendo Switch Online service, it’s more likely that we’ll see remasters and remakes of these games start to pop up on the system. Reports of a 3D Mario collection coming to the Switch suggest Nintendo are keen to take this route instead, knowing that fans will splash out for remakes of these old titles.

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A beauty of a controller, wasn’t it?

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Why N64 games are hard to emulate

N64 games run on many different shaders and engines that have made it tricky to emulate, with Resident Evil 2 and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron being particular head-scratchers, alongside others like Ocarina Of Time only just having its own shader system be accurately emulated as of last year.

All of this adds into accurate emulation on the Switch being quite difficult. Speed is fine, but accuracy is what holds the memory of nostalgia; if you suddenly get graphical glitches that weren’t there before, it taints the memory of playing Banjo Kazooie when you were 9 years old.

I do believe the reports about Mario 64 coming to the Switch in an upcoming collection of classic Mario games, but a wholesale dump of N64 games (including ALL of your old favourites) would arguably be very difficult for the current Switch and its Online Service to handle.

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Could Mario 64 on Switch herald a Switch Pro with more N64 games??


What does the future hold?

Given the immense reaction from the internet over recent leaks that show Luigi is in Super Mario 64, there is still a huge fanbase desperate for more Mario 64 content. It’s only a matter of time before Nintendo delivers.

I believe that, eventually, a ‘Super Switch’ or ‘Switch Pro‘ will appear on the market – a new console with a faster chip, able to easily emulate the N64 library through the Online service, with a larger amount of storage, and more memory to easily handle the emulation. But the previous Switch will lose out to this, just like the original 3DS missed out on those SNES games.

A newer system needs to give fans reasons to upgrade to the newer model. The iPhone does it all the time, and so did the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. To pay a bit more for a more powerful model, which can run N64 games accurately, could be the way to go.

By going down the avenue which the New 3DS already walked down, this move from Nintendo could prolong the Switch brand as a whole, and give fans a nostalgia-fueled reason to fork out for a new one.

However, Nintendo I’m not sure Nintendo would risk dividing the player base by only allowing Switch Pro owners to play N64 games.

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Will we get GameCube games on the Nintendo Switch?

If Nintendo 64 games ever do make their way onto the Switch, fans will no doubt quickly turn their attention to the lack of GameCube games on the console.

You can read all about our thoughts on GameCube games for the Switch down below.

READ MORE: GameCube games on Switch: Will the Nintendo Switch ever support GameCube games?

Daryl Baxter