The 16 Best Retro Games on Switch
With so many different titles available, choosing the best Retro games on Switch is no easy feat. Here, we’ll count down the 16 best retro games on Nintendo Switch.
Retro games on Switch come in three different categories. Remasters are games that receive HD upgrades or modernized graphics. Ports are often bundles of older games released onto the Switch in digital or physical format. Finally, Virtual console titles are available for download through the Nintendo Switch Eshop.
For example, a list of the best Pokémon remakes would include games like Brilliant Diamond, Fire Red, and Soul Silver, but none of these titles will appear here as they do more than touch up the graphics (include newer Pokémon, abilities, types, etc).
Let’s take a look back on some of the best retro games and how they are improved significantly on the Nintendo Switch.
16. Starfox 64
“Short but sweet” is the best phrase to describe Starfox 64. The entire game can be beaten in about two hours if you only focus on the main story.
However, the replayability of this title comes from traveling down different paths, unlocking secrets, and seeing the multiple endings.
Starfox 64 offers on-rails shooter action where you must control your ship, blast down baddies, and watch your team’s back.
Nintendo has never quite managed to recapture the magic of the original Starfox 64, making it still the best game in the franchise.
15. Sonic Origins
A little premature, but Sonic Origins is scheduled for a June 23rd release, and we can’t wait. Despite this just being a port with no changes, it is the definitive way to play the original Sonic games on the Nintendo Switch.
Currently, Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2 are available for download through NSO. However, once Sonic Origins drops, you’ll be able to play through the full trilogy, complete with the Knuckles expansion and Sonic CD.
Sonic has had a rough ride over the years, but games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania prove that the initial premise behind the blue blur’s conception is still a great idea.
Sonic Origins will allow players to relive the magic of the original three titles that turned Sonic into a household name!
…And Sonic CD.
14. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Donkey Kong Country, originally developed by Rare, took a pixelated sprite and turned it into a recognizable IP.
Not only was this Donkey Kong’s first solo outing, but it was also one of the best 2D platformers on the SNES.
Donkey Kong Country was fun, but Donkey Kong Country 2 is where Rare really nailed the DKC formula.
Donkey Kong’s bulky and lumbering playstyle always had players preferring to play as Diddy Kong. Rare took notice and replaced DK with Dixie Kong in the sequel. Dixie’s short glide comes in very handy, especially when trying to pass some of the more difficult platforming sections.
The level design, music, and difficulty are all improved in DKC2, and it’s clear to see why many consider it the best entry in the trilogy.
13. Okami HD
Okami HD remasters the original Okami game with sparkly new graphics and a few quality of life improvements.
Okami isn’t that old of a game; originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2006. But, for a game with such compelling visuals and gameplay designed around creating beautiful brush strokes, it was in dire need of graphical polish.
This is exactly what you get with Okami HD. The core gameplay and story are left intact in favor of upgrading the art to near perfection.
12. Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece
Sakurai, you madman. Never did we envision a world in which a Disney property would make its way onto a Nintendo console. Yes, no specific Disney characters made the jump cross-platform, but managing to acquire the right to use Sora in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate deserves a round of applause.
With Sora on the system, it made sense that the Kingdom Hearts games would be made readily available for Nintendo Switch owners as well. Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece bundles:
- Kingdom Hearts
- Kingdom Hearts re: Chain of Memories
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (cutscenes only)
- Kingdom Hearts 2
- Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep
- Kingdom Hearts re:coded (cutscenes only)
That’s approximately 6 games worth of content for a single purchase. Furthermore, both KH1 and KH2 come in their final remix states, packing in as many quality of life and content updates as possible.
Unfortunately, these are only available as a Cloud game, meaning a constant internet connection is required to play these titles.
Keep your fingers crossed for a digital or physical release in the near future.
11. Final Fantasy VII & Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
Once bitter rivals, now turned best friends, Nintendo and PlayStation sure do have an interesting timeline. The outcry from fans had always pushed for the inclusion of Cloud in Super Smash Brothers, and when the day of his reveal finally came, yet another boundary was broken when it comes to console exclusives.
The Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII Twin Pack is a bundle of the two highly-acclaimed PlayStation titles. Final Fantasy VII, in particular, is often considered to be one of the best PS1 games of all time.
Final Fantasy VII is an amazing game from start to finish, with enough content to keep any gamer occupied for quite some time. The story is so plentiful, that the recent remake of the game has been forced to split itself into multiple releases just to incorporate everything the original had to offer.
Final Fantasy VIII, although less discussed among the fandom, is also a great title with a unique combat system (“Junction”).
Both these games will be able to scratch the itch of any avid JRPG fan, and FFVII especially will perhaps turn those who aren’t necessarily interested in the genre into die-hard fans.
10. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 took the top-down style Resident Evil was known for and modernized the franchise into a third-person shooter. For better or worse, the games that came after Resident Evil 4 (until the more recent titles) kind of did away with the whole “horror” aspect.
Resident Evil 4, however, nails the spooky aesthetic of a “zombie” invasion and puts tenseness, fear, and anxiety at the forefront of the player experience.
Ammo is scarce in this game, and it gets very stressful trying to decide whether you should take out a persistent enemy or risk dodging past them.
Ashley can get pretty annoying at times, but having to constantly look out for her adds another level of depth to the gameplay.
The dark and dreary atmosphere in Resident Evil 4 makes players feel even more on edge, as there is always a blind spot where an enemy can jump out and grab you.
The Nintendo Switch remake improves the graphics immensely and includes a few quality-of-life tweaks to make your play through that much more enjoyable. Overall, this is a great remaster of a classic retro cut.
9. Super Mario World / Super Mario All-Stars
This one was tough. On the one hand, Super Mario All-Stars comes bundled with the first three Super Mario Brothers games, including the Lost Levels. On the other, Super Mario World defined a generation of gaming and is still considered to be one of the best 2D platformers to ever exist.
Why not both?
Super Mario All-Stars is great for relieving days gone by and seeing where Mario came from. The early titles are just as challenging as they were in the past, and with no checkpoints, you’ll have to stay focused from World 1 to World 8 if you want to rescue the princess.
Super Mario World, on the other hand, builds upon the strong foundation of the NES games. Super Mario World brings in new powers, trickier platforming challenges, and Yoshi!
8. Pokémon Snap
Pokémon Snap is a stark departure from Pokémon spinoffs that came before it and spinoffs that would come in the future.
Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Stadium 2 had unique elements, such as the minigames, but the core of battling was always there. Similarly, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Colosseum, and Conquest are all different but still have you battling Pokémon.
Pokémon Snap is a relaxing on-rails “shooter” in which you must take scenic pictures of wild Pokémon. The better the picture, the higher the score.
By interacting with them, you can make these Pokémon angry, happy, or even evolve to get a better shot.
Taking pictures of Pokémon doesn’t sound all that exciting, but the level design, interactivity, and replayability of this game make it a beloved spinoff for most Pokémon fans.
So much so that New Pokémon Snap was released with critical acclaim! New Pokémon Snap does a lot with the original formula, including new Pokémon, levels, and even some boss fights.
However, Pokémon Snap for the N64 will always have a little more soul to it, and we highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t done so already.
7. Super Metroid
Metroid Dread’s recent release and good reception among fans is evidence that the 2D Metroid genre is still alive and kicking. Sure, the Metroid Prime Trilogy is great, but it’s nice to see a return to Samus’ roots.
Speaking of which, Super Metroid laid the groundwork for all 2D Metroid games that came after it. Zero Mission and Fusion all took gameplay and design inspiration from Super Metroid, making it perhaps the most influential game in the series.
Super Metroid is just as fun now as it was back then and birthed an entire genre. That being, of course, the Metroidvania.
For fans of Metroidvania games who perhaps didn’t know where the name comes from, Super Metroid is one of the best Metroidvania games on the Nintendo Switch.
6. The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening
When it comes to sequels, remakes, and remasters, things can get a little confusing. For the purposes of this list, we’ll be covering remasters but not remakes.
Case in point, Link’s Awakening has received a graphical upgrade that modernizes the title but changes nothing of the core gameplay.
Whereas remakes like Pokémon BDSP or Mystery Dungeon DX feel like newly designed games inspired by their original source material.
We good? We good.
With that clarification out of the way, Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch is a very charming and faithful remaster.
Not much is changed in the way of story or gameplay, but the modernized graphics truly help this title feel at home on the Nintendo Switch.
Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch is just as fun as the original Game Boy title. The Switch version is, by far, the best way to experience this game.
5. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time
What can be said about Ocarina of Time that hasn’t been said already? This game is many people’s favorite game of all time and is often in the running for the greatest video game ever made.
While this sentiment has died down over recent years, with more people picking apart its faults and shortcomings, it cannot be understated how groundbreaking Ocarina of Time was during its initial release.
Hyrule Fields has never felt so alive, and the sense of adventure has never felt as grand in a Zelda game as it does in Ocarina of TIme.
4. Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 had to place somewhere on this list. Mario Kart 64 fans have always been at bitter odds with Diddy Kong Racing fans when it comes time to decide the best cart race on the N64.
Whatever your stance is, Mario Kart is the one still making games to this day, and this is all because of the expert care taken when creating Mario Kart 64.
Mario Kart 64 includes a host of crazy items to turn the tide of any race. This keeps things interesting because, even if you find yourself in dead last, there’s always the chance a Lightning Bolt will propel you into first place!
Enjoyed best with local multiplayer, Mario Kart 64 is a chaotic frenzy of fun!
3. The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask
Ocarina of Time is praised by video game connoisseurs around the world. Not only is this considered to be the best Zelda game in the franchise, but the best game ever made!
Because of this, Majora’s Mask can sometimes feel a little overlooked.
However, considering this game was developed in about a year, it is so much better than it has any right to be.
The dungeons are shorter and fewer in number, and the whole game can be completed in a fraction of Ocarina’s playtime. This compelled the developers to create various sidequests to give the game more content.
These sidequests are what make Majora’s Mask so special and are where a bulk of the more interesting gameplay comes from. Highlights include fighting off the alien cattle rustlers and the always touching Anju and Kafei questline. Moreover, your reward for getting every mask allows you to lay the smackdown on Majora as the Fierce Deity!
The three-day cycle can get annoying at times, especially when you’re in the middle of a dungeon. But we should remember that Majora’s Mask strives to create an unsettling atmosphere.
The onlooking moon always within view, the creepy Mask Salesman, the grizzly mask transformation animations. All of these things, when used together with the constant stress of being on a time limit, make Majora’s Mask one of the tensest and most atmospheric Zelda titles to date.
2. Super Mario 3D All-Stars
No list of retro titles would be complete without some mentioning of everyone’s favorite plumber.
While Super Mario 64 is available through Nintendo Switch Online, Super Mario 3D All-Stars comes bundled with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy!
There isn’t much to say bout Super Mario 64 that hasn’t been said already. This game revolutionized the 3D platformer and cemented Nintendo as the king of the genre.
Super Mario Sunshine, on the other hand, is criminally underrated. Yes, some of the levels are… infuriating, to say the least. Highlights include:
- The Sand bird
- The lilypad level
- The Watermelon Festival
- Corona Mountain
- Rollercoaster balloons.
However, Mario’s control in this game has never been tighter. Furthermore, it’s incredible how all these resort-themed levels never felt too similar. Usually, in Mario games, you will find the generic snow, lava, and desert levels. Super Mario Sunshine’s setting doesn’t allow for such diversity, but every world feels just as unique as the last.
Finally, we have Super Mario Galaxy. While this might be too recent to be considered “retro,” Super Mario Galaxy is undoubtedly one of the best Mario games, if not one of the best video games, ever created. The design, the music, and the gameplay all come together to create a truly magical experience.
Unfortunately, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is no longer available to be digitally downloaded. Still, if you can pick up a physical copy via an online marketplace, we highly recommend doing so.
For only having two mainline titles, Banjo Kazooie has persisted in staying relevant for more than two decades since its initial release. It just goes to show that creating an amazing game will ensure it stays timeless.
After Rare was purchased by Microsoft, it looked like we would never get another Banjo Kazooie title on a Nintendo platform. However, everything changed when the bear and bird were revealed as DLC for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.
Suddenly, anything seemed possible for our favorite platforming duo.
What Super Mario 64 started, Banjo Kazooie ended, cementing itself as, perhaps, the greatest 3D platformer to ever exist. Banjo Kazooie has so much personality crammed into every last world, NPC, and line of dialogue.
Now that Banjo and Kazooie are back on the Nintendo Online Store, it’s looking increasingly more likely that we might finally receive the fabled Banjo-Threeie.