Nintendo has always had a combative relationship with preservation, if not its own history. Despite cultivating a large player base, spanning seven console generations, the publisher has often made it more difficult than it needs to be to return to its classics. The best GBA games have effectively been lost to time, while a great many of the best Game Boy games and best GameCube games are prohibitively expensive in the second-hand market. Want to go back and replay something like a Metroid Prime or The Legend of zelda: Minish Cap? Then you, my friend, are shit out of luck. The tide is changing after the February Nintendo Direct, where it was announced that Nintendo would be putting a selection of Game Boy, GB Color, and Game Boy Advance games on Switch, along with remasters of cult-classic GC titles.
This has been a long time coming. The expansion of the Nintendo Switch Online service has been gradually adding some of the best retro games to its library from the NES, SNES, and N64 eras – there's even a selection of best Sega Genesis games on there; which, if you remember the Sega versus Nintendo rivalry which defined gaming in the '80s, shows just how far we've come as an industry. To see Nintendo finally tapping into the nostalgia of millennials, the folks who spent their formative years playing games through the '90s and early aughts, means that those who wouldn't be caught dead on a road trip without a GBA to hand will finally have a way of reconnecting with their childhoods. And for the rest of you, I dare say you're finally able to have an easy way to play some of the best Mario, Zelda, and Metroid games of all-time.
Welcome to the Minish Cap fan club
In the spring of 2002, my father gave me a choice: Xbox or GameCube. I remember the first time I saw Halo: Combat Evolved and Project Gotham Racing running in a local video game retailer – specifically, I remember them blowing my goddamn mind. But the Xbox controller wouldn't fit my tiny 12 year-old hands, so we walked outta that store with a purple GameCube, Luigi's Mansion, Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader, and Burnout. I think he was disappointed. But I was hooked – I fell in love with that console and its ridiculous controller, the antithesis of ergonomic design; it was the only thing that could get me to put my Game Boy Advance down. Over the years, I've long dreamed of returning to some of my favorite games of that generation. And that's been easier said than done.
After a brief flirtation with minimalism, the vast majority of my GameCube games are gone. I've lived in like 12 apartments over the past 10 years, and the chaos of moving subsumed much of my GBC and GBA collections. I accepted my fate a long time ago. Weird GameCube delights like Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean would just be a game I forever regret selling. I'd probably never get to play those incredible Zelda games developed by Capcom again; The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages / Oracle of Seasons, and The Minish Cap. Legendary games like Golden Axe, Metroid Fusion, and Fire Emblem were to become increasingly dusty memories. The closure of the 3DS storefront only reaffirmed this, which was once one of the only ways to easily access GB and GBA games – if there's a lesson to learn, it's that you shouldn't put off a little nostalgic indulgence while you still can.
The nature of nostalgia is this strange, unknowable part of the human condition. There's dozens of new games for 2023 releasing each week, so why am I excited to sit at home this weekend and play Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins? A 30-year old Game Boy platformer that I forgot existed until it flashed on the screen during the Nintendo Direct, unlocking memories of a wasted youth battling Wario through his video game debut.
Maybe I'll go back through The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX and it'll give me some new perspective on the wonderful Zelda: Link's Awakening Switch remake, or sit down with Metroid Prime Remastered and reaffirm my theory that it's the most innovative FPS of the past two decades. Maybe it'll turn out that all of these games are garbage, and that the trajectory of my life would have been different had I walked out of that store in 2002 with an Xbox instead.
I think that's why I'm so excited about a collection of Game Boy and GBA games coming to Switch – it's an opportunity for me (for all of us, of a certain age) to see if these games are really, truly, as good as we remember them being. I also hope that this opens the door for more GameCube remasters; if Baten Kaitos is a marginal success, would it signal to other publishers that it's worth the investment?
Good gaming lord I hope so, because I want to be able to play Viewtiful Joe on the go. I've been desperate to replay Skies of Arcadia Legends for over a decade. What I would give to be able to play Eternal Darkness or Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes again. Hell, while we're at it, let's get the legendarily weird Game Boy Color games Metal Gear: Ghost Babel and Resident Evil Gaiden back into circulation. And let's hope that this is just the beginning of millennial gamers reconnecting with the games they grew up playing.
For more on Nintendo's handheld hybrid, be sure to check out the list of upcoming Switch games coming in 2023 and beyond.