As the holiday season began to approach this year, I wrote out a wish list of games I hoped to receive from friends and family. The list has a lot of Nintendo Switch games… L.A. Noire, Doom, and, of course, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. All of them have been available on other platforms for at least a year – in the case of L.A. Noire and Skyrim, they’ve been out for more than six. Had I not played them, this would have been a great opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.
But I have played them. All of them.
I still own the original games and the hardware on which to play them. I have absolutely no desire to return to those versions of the games, but the prospect of playing them on the Switch brings back an inherent excitement I felt when I played them for the first time.
While much of the Nintendo Switch success stems from Nintendo’s outstanding first-party software lineup, with exclusives like Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2 drawing players to the Switch, the home/portable hybrid device has a knack for making even older games feel shiny and new, even ones we already own. It seems like every day on Twitter, or Facebook, or a forum, you see someone dreaming about getting to play one of their old favorites on the Switch.
And developers big and small are obliging them. From Resident Evil Revelations to Stardew Valley, the games of yesteryear are back on store shelves for the Switch, and the allure of “double-dipping” has never been stronger.
All Switch Everything
So what makes playing games on Switch so appealing? Most Switch ports, including larger games like Skyrim and Doom, don’t offer any special upgrades to make them stand out. Instead, the Switch hardware is a new feature unto itself. You can bring your Switch, and any game you love, with you into your living room, your bed, your car, or even the bathroom.
You can bring your Switch, and any game you love, with you into your living room, your bed, your car
The knowledge that you can carry the games you love with you everywhere, all the time, turns every game into a security blanket. It doesn’t matter if you ever will play your console on the toilet. It doesn’t even matter if you never actually take the console out of its dock. The option is there, and that instantly makes it more attractive than any other platform.
That concept seems to be very powerful for many of us, as it overrides many of the factors we generally consider when deciding to buy a game for the first time. Larger games like Skyrim and Doom do not run as well on the Switch as they do a gaming PC or other consoles. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which hits Switch next year, needs the power of the Xbox One X to consistently hit 60 frames-per-second, but it’s still coming to the platform. Ubisoft’s Steep is an online open-world action-sports game, and seems like a poor pairing with the console.
It makes sense that, since many of these games are older, we aren’t necessarily judging them technically. You already seen the bright, flashy, smooth versions of these worlds, now you’re just happy to be back in them. The prospect of being able to play them on the go is more valuable than maximizing the game’s resolution.
For those conscious of the business side of games, these sales can also serve as a “tip jar” for fans who want to give back to developers making games that they love. Given the recent lackluster sales figures of Bethesda’s linear single-player games, double-dipping patrons could make a game like “Wolfenstein III” more viable.
Can the Switch actually make old games better?
Looking further down the line, the flood of Switch ports will only grow. Indie developers, in particular, who have made games that wouldn’t tax the Switch hardware seem to be coming out of the woodwork to bring older games to Switch – Kentucky Routh Zero, Hollow Knight, and Darkest Dungeon are just a few of the games we’ll see on the platform next year.
There is the potential for the Switch to offer players more value than the novelty of playing games on the go.”
These will be simple ports, but there is potential for developers to use leverage the Switch to offer players enhanced versions of their games, rather than relying on the novelty of playing games on the go. From Software – the creator of Dark Souls – was listed on Nintendo’s “third-party partners” sheet when the system was first announced, and we have heard next to nothing on this front since then.
There is a pretty good chance the studio is working on something Dark Souls-related for the system. Dark Souls III would likely suffer from some graphical downgrades in order to fit on the Switch, but for longtime fans, having the opportunity to play the entire trilogy in one place would be wonderful. Likewise, as Activision is pressured by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare fans to release remastered versions of Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, these enhancements wouldn’t be necessary in a Switch collection – just throw the games on the platform and call it a day.
Some Switch ports have made an effort to make their re-releases stand out. L.A. Noire, for example, has new console-specific features, which add a tactile element to its investigation gameplay. Using the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers, players can manipulate objects in the environment, turning them as if they were holding them in their hand. It adds something crucial to the original’s game – how could you go back to turning a perpetrator’s gun with a control stick when you could actually turn it in your palm?
The Nintendo Switch lacks the power and online infrastructure to support every new game releasing on other platforms, and we’ll continue to see games launch only on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC for the foreseeable future. But for the games you miss playing, particularly those only previously playable on a system you’ve thrown into storage or even discarded, the Switch feels like the perfect excuse to relive your favorite gaming memories, and make new ones.