Opinion: Nintendo’s Free Game Program Should Start With Heavy Hitters

Written by James T. George

The details of Nintendo’s new online service are still incomplete. We know it will hit the Switch sometime this fall and the current rumors are a $30.00 price per year in the United States. What that $30 gets you has never really been fleshed out aside from some generalizations about services for matchmaking, chat, and a free game initiative.

While we wait to hear more from Nintendo about the infrastructure-type details, we know a little more about the games they will give away to paid members. These will be classic Nintendo games, currently stated to be from the NES and SNES era, and they will rotate in and out each month. There are plenty of legitimate and pressing concerns over this practice, as they are not gifted games, but instead are more like loaned games. Once they are no longer the flavor of the month, you’ll have to buy them to keep playing. Competing services currently gift games to users (Xbox 360 Gold Subscribers) or give you unrestricted access to free games as long as you are a subscriber (Xbox One Gold and PlayStation Plus Subscribers).

Nintendo needs to embrace Backwards Compatibility too, like Microsoft has.

Nintendo needs to embrace Backwards Compatibility too, like Microsoft has.

There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss Nintendo’s less-than-ideal subscription incentive, so keep an eye out for that later. Right now, I’d like to give Nintendo some suggestions on which games to loan us first. Nintendo’s library of classic games is extensive, and there are so many great titles to choose from. Nintendo has already suggested that some of these games will be tweaked to permit online play, but I would guess that the majority of titles will be similar to past Virtual Console offerings of an emulator with a rom file.

So while Nintendo begins their trek into the new realm of paid-services, here are the first few months’ worth of games I think would be great starter offerings to draw people in. I think these titles should be “heavy hitters” in the Nintendo library, featuring popular titles from the systems they are featuring and should provide a considerable time-investment to experience.

Month 1: Super Mario All-Stars with Super Mario World (SNES)

To me, this would be a mic-drop moment for free games. Having the entire NES and SNES library of main-series Mario games would be killer. The amount of content included in this bundle is on a level where a single month would not be enough time for most players to tackle. Five classic games, including the notable first release of the Japanese version of Super Mario 2, which was called “The Lost Levels” in the United States. Technically, this game actually features remasters of 4 of the 5 games included. All the NES titles (Super Mario Brothers, Lost Levels, Super Mario Brothers 2, and Super Mario Brothers 3) were all remade in an SNES engine, featuring more colors, scrolling backgrounds, and the Super Mario World sound effect library.

Month 2: Super Metroid (SNES)

You can make arguments for most of the main-sequence games in the Metroid franchise, but I think the one that has been emulated most would be Super Metroid. The expansive map, plethora of gameplay elements, and overall scope of the game would make for a deep experience. Considering Nintendo is so stingy with Metroid these days, I would be a lot of younger players who may have not been around for this classic would enjoy playing it.

Month 3: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis)

Hear me out with this one. Sonic 2 is perhaps the most popular entry in the franchise’s Genesis era. During the time of the SNES’s run, it was one of the biggest competitors. It has simple controls, fast gameplay, and compelling platforming coupled with some interesting multiplayer race options and lots of replay value in the effort to unlock the best ending. If Nintendo was serious about showcasing third-party support, offering a Sega game would be a nice touch. Sega has a good track record of re-releasing games on all platforms, including the various iterations of Nintendo’s Virtual Console. I’m sure they would love to have some classic Sonic out there with Nintendo’s blessing. It would also be a strong statement: “We included two of gaming’s heaviest hitters with our new service.”

Month 4: Kirby’s Adventure (NES)

Kirby’s Adventure is the only Kirby game on the NES, but it’s one of his best. Kirby’s standard platforming staples are all here, and has plenty of content to keep players coming back for more. It also features the first appearance of fan-favorite Meta-Knight. As far as NES games go, this was originally released in the later years, so the system’s fullest capabilities were utilized, and it shows. Kirby’s Adventure offers some of the best visuals on the NES.

Month 5: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)

Easily one of the greatest ports of an arcade game on the NES, TMNT2 was a great showpiece for brawlers on a home console. Visually, it was colorful and well animated, and the audio was top notch. The arcade version of the game was capable of allowing four people to play at once, so if Nintendo (and Konami, the developer) were to put this one out, I’d love for them to patch it to be four player online.

Month 6: The Revenge of Shinobi (Sega Genesis)

Another Sega game on the list that would be a great addition to this selection. As a platformer, it’s a classic showcase of the genre, and is a great look at what early Genesis games were capable of (it was released in 1989, originally). It also featured some interesting character cameos, which prompted revisions of the game to remove them after copyright issues cropped up. Batman, Rambo, Godzilla, and more were all showcased through the use of a shape-shifting enemy. It also has a killer soundtrack.


Nintendo would be wise to pull out some games of this quality in the first 6 months of the service. It would be a great incentive to get gamers to see the value in subscribing, and could pave the way for more classic (but often unavailable) games to be showcased to the masses. At the very least, Nintendo should try to highlight releases of games not previously launched on any Virtual Console iteration. We’ve replayed the original Super Mario Brothers time and time again, but there are so many other titles that have not seen the light of day in decades that would be great to showcase to a considerably larger audience than when they first released. Partnering with other classic game developers, like Sega, Atari, and Namco, would be a solid gesture too, opening up the service to even more deep libraries of classic titles.

Like Vectorman.

About the author

James T. George

Jim, a proud native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, enjoys a variety of things other than games, movies, music, sports, and technology, but usually falls prey to character limits when filling out

%d bloggers like this: