Backward compatibility has been a staple on Nintendo systems dating back to the Game Boy Color’s support for original Game Boy games, but with the rumored proprietary cartridge-based design of the upcoming NX console, it would appear that native, physical media-based backward compatibility is out of the question. But what about emulation via the Virtual Console? For Wii and GameCube games, Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry thinks it’s very possible.
Unlike past Nintendo platforms, which iterated on more powerful iterations of IBM’s PowerPC technology, the rumored design for the portable/home console hybrid includes Nvidia’s Tegra X1, the processor used in the mobile Nvidia Shield. This means that any games played through backward compatibility would have to be emulated, similar to the situation Microsoft found itself in when it first launched backward compatibility on the Xbox One.
Using an Nvidia Shield running the GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin, Digital Foundry tested some of the systems’ biggest games and were left with results that suggest the NX will indeed be able to play the older consoles’ games, albeit with some technical concessions. In both its native resolution and at an upscaled 1080p, the GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine holds at a fairly steady 30 frames per second, with drops of between one and 10 frames on the Nvidia Shield.
Mario Kart: Double Dash was less lucky, dropping from 60 frames per second to only 30 when upscaled to 1080p. This also contributes to slowdown, which could affect your enjoyment far more than the lower framerate.
It’s unlikely that Nintendo would drop backward compatibility with the NX given its history with both the Wii U and 3DS Virtual Consoles, but it will be interesting to see just how far the company will take it on the new machine. Given that it’s not intended as a complete replacement for the 3DS or the Wii U, perhaps full support for GameCube and Wii games on the system isn’t a necessity.