Retro

Love retro games? It’s time for a Nintendo Switch

How the Nintendo Switch allows you to play retro games

Classic Nintendo titles like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda live on in their cultural influence and direct contribution to game development. Released in 1985 and 1986, respectively, these two iconic games led to numerous sequels, extensive imitations and endless numbers of influenced works. But what if you want to play these practically ancient pieces of gaming history?

Modern access to classic games

Until a few years ago, the only aboveboard way to play the original Mario and Zelda was to track down an original Nintendo Entertainment System console and physical copies of the games. With three and a half decades under its belt, though, the NES isn’t usually available at your local game store these days.

Can you use emulators to play classic Nintendo games?

Emulators let you play various console games on a PC by using special instructions that turn your PC into a simulated console. The actual emulation software is legitimate and completely legal. However, downloading the ROM files that contain the games is the same as downloading any copyrighted content without permission. In other words, it’s illegal.

More so than most console manufacturers, Nintendo dislikes emulators. In theory, it might not be immoral to use an emulator to play a game that you already own a copy of. According to Nintendo, even this is a big no-no.

So where does that leave the well-meaning gamer who just wants to fire up Donkey Kong 3? Lucky for those people, the Nintendo Switch Online subscription first introduced in 2018 now provides access to a huge library of games from the NES, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis systems.

What is Nintendo Switch Online?

The relatively affordable NSO subscription offers an impressive variety of retro games. Some of them are nearly impossible to play otherwise. But it does more than add hundreds of new titles to enjoy. It also enables online play with and against friends and strangers, in addition to cloud saves.

The basic tier costs just $20 per year and provides access to NES and SNES games. The expanded $50 yearly package adds a decent collection of N64 and Sega Genesis titles. If you grew up with these games or want to see what the first golden age of gaming was all about, it’s tough to beat the subscription package’s value.

Why is the Nintendo Switch so popular?

Nintendo consoles aren’t always known for cutting-edge technology or eye-popping graphics. The N64 and its groundbreaking 3D gaming were exceptions to that. Traditionally, though, Nintendo falls back on pure fun and high-value entertainment to get people hooked on its games.

To that end, the quality of Nintendo’s games plays the biggest role in the device’s popularity. Packed with lovable characters, deft storytelling, meaningful themes and well-designed action, the Nintendo catalog has something for everyone.

For that matter, numerous respected gaming publications hail The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as the absolute best release in gaming history. It just so happens to only be available on the Nintendo Switch and Wii U consoles. A not-insignificant number of gamers have purchased brand new Switch consoles exclusively to play that one game. In other words, Nintendo certainly appears to be doing something right with its content.

Retro gaming on the Switch

Nintendo Switch console

There are two models to choose from currently in active distribution. The Nintendo Switch OLED hit the market in October 2021 and sports a high-contrast display with perfect black levels and a satisfying appearance overall. Aside from the OLED screen and an Ethernet jack in the dock, though, it’s fundamentally identical to the original Nintendo Switch. You can save a bit by going with the original model, but it won’t look nearly as good in handheld mode.

On the other hand, the Nintendo Switch Lite should be on your radar if you don’t plan on docking the console to a TV. Like the iconic Game Boy, the Switch Lite is an exclusively handheld device that’s engineered for remarkable durability. Note that some Switch titles don’t work on the Switch Lite, particularly those that rely on motion controls.

Nintendo Switch OLED

Nintendo Switch OLED

This is the console’s most recent update and the version that’s most commonly recommended for new buyers.

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Nintendo Switch Lite

Nintendo Switch Lite

In the spirit of the original Game Boy, this highly portable console is about as convenient and durable as they come.

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Nintendo Switch Original

Nintendo Switch Original

It’s less expensive than the OLED version, but the screen doesn’t look anywhere near as good.

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Headphones

Whether over-ear, on-ear or in-ear, headphones are overwhelmingly more satisfying for gaming than TV speakers. Plus, the small size and high portability of the Switch make personal headphones the perfect companion.

Nintendo only recently enabled native Bluetooth audio support on the Switch. That means you can now connect wireless headphones directly to the console without an adapter. Any Bluetooth headphones should work decently well, but it’s worth considering a pair optimized for low latency if you play a lot of fast-paced games.

While wireless headphones can be convenient, nothing beats the simplicity and reliability of wired headphones. In particular, wired earbuds are as portable as they get. Many affordable earbuds sound great for gaming, and you can get relatively premium pairs without too much of an investment.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

These all-around great wireless headphones deliver powerful connectivity and above-average sound quality at a reasonable price.

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Logitech G435 Headset

Logitech G435 Headset

While it is a touch bulky, this gaming headset beats most of the competition in real-world testing of its Bluetooth latency.

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HyperX Cloud Stinger

HyperX Cloud Stinger

This is just about the lightest and most affordable gaming headset from a big brand name, and it doesn’t sound half bad either.

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Betron BS10 Earbuds

Betron BS10 Earbuds

These affordable and durable in-ear headphones are evidence that you don’t have to spend much for good sound quality.

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1More Triple Driver

1More Triple Driver

Great audio quality and premium construction make these sound and feel far more expensive than they are.

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Nintendo Switch cases

There are various styles of cases to choose from. Broadly speaking, some cases are for transporting your Switch, and others are for keeping it safe and improving ergonomics while you’re playing. Some versatile options can do both.

Benazcap Case and Accessory Kit

Benazcap Case and Accessory Kit

In addition to a zippered pouch, it comes with various helpful accessories, including thumb stick caps and screen protectors.

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Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro

Supcase’s UB Pro series is especially popular for high-end smartphones. This Switch version adds traction to the console’s hand grips and durability to its body.

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Hori Slim Tough

Hori Slim Tough

This is one of the most compact and protective options for the full-size Switch.

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ProCase Flip Cover

ProCase Flip Cover

This one keeps your console safe from damage while you’re transporting it, and it is easier to hold when you’re playing.

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Nintendo Switch controllers

The Switch’s OEM Joy-Cons are reasonably well-made, but they’re a bit too small for many adults to use comfortably. There are quite a few alternatives that fit more readily in most people’s hands. Many of the best (but not all) are manufactured by Nintendo or at least officially licensed. A rare few controllers are designed to replace the Joy-Cons in handheld mode and provide more precise control.

8bitdo Pro 2

8bitdo Pro 2

While engineered and labeled to match the Switch, this also happens to be one of the top wireless controllers for PC gaming.

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Nintendo Switch Pro

Nintendo Switch Pro

Nintendo’s official high-end controller is a must-have for games that rely on subtle motion controls.

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PowerA Enhanced

PowerA Enhanced

This officially licensed controller lineup comes in a variety of stylish skins that match some of the console’s most popular titles. It’s the perfect choice if you or someone in your family is obsessed with addictive franchises, such as Animal Crossing.

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Hori Split Pad Pro

Hori Split Pad Pro

If you play in handheld mode a lot, you’ll probably end up wanting an upgrade to the standard Joy-Cons. This licensed, two-piece controller from popular manufacturer Hori offers just that.

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Other great Switch accessories

Some other add-ons are nice to have, such as tempered glass screen protectors that protect your investment. Additionally, high-capacity microSD cards are all but essential if you plan on maintaining a large library of games.

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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