Mar 2, 2023 - Technology

Nintendo's vanishing classics

Change in the number of <span style="color: #333; background-color: #c4bebb; padding: 2px 5px;">Game Boy</span> and <span style="color: #eee; background-color: #494786; padding: 2px 5px;">Game&nbsp;Boy&nbsp;Advance</span> games available by Nintendo system
Data: Axios research; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

The addition of 15 classic Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games to the Nintendo Switch last month will be deeply offset by the removal of 155 titles for those platforms from the online marketplace for two outgoing Nintendo platforms this month, according to an Axios check of the systems' online stores.

Why it matters: Nintendo's back catalog, comprising scores of Mario, Zelda and Pokémon titles, is beloved by millions of players, but the company makes it challenging for users to purchase and play those games on recent hardware.

  • This week, gaming historian Phil Salvador noted on Twitter that a third of all Pokémon games released since the series' start in the late 1990s will soon become commercially unavailable to buy and download on Nintendo platforms.

What's happening: On March 27, Nintendo will shut off the online shops for its 3DS and Wii U platforms, cutting off access to their libraries of classics.

  • Beyond the Game Boy collections, that includes 94 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games, 51 Super NES games, 21 Nintendo 64 games and 31 Nintendo DS games offered through Wii U. The 3DS sells more than 150 games for classic systems too.
  • Nintendo has been slow to match those offerings via its more recent Switch console. That device launched in 2017 and began adding games from classic Nintendo consoles in late 2018. Its vault of classics, available to paying Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, includes 60 NES and SNES games apiece and 22 Nintendo 64 games, but nothing from the DS.

Be smart: Keeping classic games available requires developing emulators that can make modern systems run old software, a non-trivial task.

  • Some frustrated fans will turn to unauthorized emulators that can run pirated copies of classic games on computers and phones, but Nintendo routinely sends its lawyers to stymie such moves.

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