In the wake of the launch of Detective Pikachu Returns, I had planned to write about what other Pokémon spinoffs I’d like to see make a comeback on Nintendo Switch, just like Pokémon Snap did. There are a lot of fun ideas that the franchise’s older spinoffs played around with that I’d like to see revived Instead, a recent announcement from Nintendo made the poor preservation of older mainline Pokémon games a more pressing matter.
On Wednesday, Nintendo announced it will discontinue online Wii U and 3DS services in April 2024. While Poké Transporter and Pokémon Bank will still work after that happens, we’ve got an indication that those apps won’t last forever, which would significantly worsen one of the best aspects of the most modern versions of the classic Pokémon titles. This announcement was what pushed this feeling of want over the edge for me. I had previously thought it’d be neat for these few Pokémon games to come to Nintendo Switch. Now, with the announcement of the 3DS online services being discontinued, I see it as a necessity.
Pokémon Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Crystal were only available on Game Boy or Game Boy Color for a long time. To celebrate the franchise’s 20th anniversary in 2016, The Pokémon Company brought Red, Blue, and Yellow to the 3DS Virtual Console program. Gold, Silver, and Crystal were added to 3DS within two years. These fully featured rereleases let players trade and battle wirelessly and send Pokémon caught in them to Pokémon Bank.
Thanks to these rereleases, it’s possible to get Pokémon from every mainline game in the series to Pokémon Home. While this was the best way to play these games without emulating illegally, the last couple of years have made the 3DS a bad home for these games. First off, it’s now impossible for anyone new to buy these ports, as the 3DS eShop shut down in March 2023.
We’ve recently learned that online 3DS and Wii U services will shut down in April 2024. While Virtual Console versions of these classic Pokémon games technically won’t lose any features when online services go away, the writing on the wall is only getting more obvious. While Poké Transporter and Pokémon Bank are exceptions to the impending closure, even Nintendo’s support website hedges that those apps “may also end at some point in the future.”
As someone who still loves using their 3DS, I didn’t have a problem with the Game Boy Pokémon games not being available on other Nintendo systems — until now. Still, it’s clear that the 3DS will soon be a complete shell of what it used to be and that Poké Transporter and Pokémon Bank’s days are numbered. It’s time for The Pokémon Company and Nintendo to repeat what they did in 2016.
While this isn’t an outlandish demand — a certain segment of the Pokémon fanbase has begged for these Swtich rereleases for years — we are at a point where it’s not just a matter of the 3DS no longer being a viable home for Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Crystal. The Nintendo Switch’s online infrastructure for emulated versions of older games is finally ready, too.
Nintendo Switch Online has enabled its subscribers to play classic Nintendo games online with friends. This service was restricted to NES and SNES games for a long time, but the number of supported systems has expanded. In February 2023, Nintendo started adding Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles to the service as well, with online multiplayer and all. In fact, it’s possible to play Pokémon spinoffs like Stadium 2 and the Trading Card Game online on Nintendo Switch right now.
Importantly, Nintendo promised its current version of Nintendo Switch Online will carry over to future platforms. If it sticks by that promise, then we don’t have to worry about an imminent repeat of the situation that’s currently happening on 3DS. For all those reasons, it finally feels like a natural evolution for Pokémon oldest entries to make the jump to Switch Online.
Because Game Boy Advance is also supported, Nintendo could even re-elease Pokémon FireRed, LeafGreen, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald for the first time as well. There’s fan interest and a preservation-driven need for this to happen now. These are some of the most influential RPGs ever, and they deserve to be maintained and made available properly.
Whether they’re included in the subscription or sold separately, we need an easy way to legally buy and play these older Pokémon games on a modern platform. Nintendo’s next year of games is already chock-full of remakes, remasters, and rereleases, so doing this soon wouldn’t feel too out of place.
Although it’s fun to enjoy newer Pokémon games and theorize about what quirky ideas The Pokémon Company and Nintendo should explore next, it’s important that the series’ foundation titles not be lost to time. Nintendo Switch Online gives The Pokémon Company all the proper tools to preserve those games, so I’m hoping it’s just a matter of if, not when, this happens. Don’t let the history of Pokémon die out with the 3DS.