Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis are (nearly) here, so it is time to rank these games.
With the launch of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games on October 25, the world of Nintendo Switch Online’s retro games libraries just got way bigger and, with the addition of Expansion Pack, a little more complicated. As of now, you can pay a little bit of money for NES and Super Nintendo games as well as some online features - or you can pay a lot of money for all of the above plus Nintendo 64 and Genesis games and some Animal Crossing DLC. I’m not here to go deep on the value disparity and if it’s good or not. I’m just here to needlessly rank the games included on Nintendo Switch Online across the four retro platforms.
This will be hopefully an evolving list, potentially updated every time new games are added to the library. I’m not ranking every single game on Nintendo Switch Online. It’s going to be a Top 50. If you’re upset that a game missed the list, make a case in the comments and when it comes time to do an update, I’ll reevaluate. Listen, Jelly Boy missed the Top 50 but I didn’t think I’d like Jelly Boy until I played it. Sometimes all you need is a little poke to give a game a second chance.
That’s enough preamble, we got 50 games to go through!
- 50. WinBack (N64)
- 49. Strider (Genesis)
50 and 49 are essentially placeholders. I have fond memories of both from playing them in the past but I have not played WinBack in something like 20 years so even if I remember it being surprisingly good, who knows if it’ll be fun on Switch. Strider is arguably the best non-fighting game Strider appearance ever. It is well worth checking out on Genesis.
- 48. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)
Zelda II with save states and rewind takes what I think is a game with good ideas and obvious dated flaws in execution and turns it into a game where you can make the flaws less prominent and enjoy the good ideas. If you’ve been turned off by Zelda II in the past, it might be worth trying it out on Switch with a guide and liberal use of rewind and save states.
- 47. Super Mario All-Stars (SNES)
Super Mario All-Stars collects Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3 in an upgraded visual style for Super Nintendo. But the physics are a little off so that’s weird. Also every game featured is also available in NES form and with save states and the NES games are better in every way except maybe the visuals. It’s cool this is here, but if I’m going back to play old Super Mario Bros. games, I’ll hit up the NES versions.
- 46. NES Open Tournament Golf (NES)
One of the best golf games of its era, NES Open Tournament Golf is the first golf game to actually star Mario. He’s here with Luigi as player two and Peach and Daisy as caddies. And Donkey Kong as....an accountant?
- 45. Super Mario Kart (SNES)
Online play definitely makes this franchise-starting Super Nintendo game more appealing on Nintendo Switch Online, but being limited to just two players makes it more of a nostalgia trip than anything substantial. Still, considering the legacy this game has in starting Mario Kart, it’s important to at least check out.
- 44. Kirby's Dream Course (SNES)
A Kirby spinoff that settles nicely into the weird territory as it’s a mini-golf game with Kirby flourishes. Rewind might be your friend for some of the precision hits, but regardless, Kirby’s Dream Course is a unique game that is fun after all these years, and also a two-player game if you want to go online.
- 43. Ice Hockey (NES)
An early Nintendo sports classic, Ice Hockey is one of the most novel online multiplayer additions of the NES library. The simple and classic gameplay has endured over decades and while a lot of this ranking is based solely on the multiplayer potential, it’s still a fun game to mess around with by yourself.
- 42. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
I know I know I know. I take full responsibility for this list but I will remind you that I am open to lobbying. Anyway, Donkey Kong Country is a foundational platformer that basically won the early ‘90s console wars for Nintendo. I personally think it’s a flawed game with an incredible soundtrack, but I’m aware there are people out there that hold this as a nostalgic stone-cold classic.
- 41. StarTropics (NES)
Some racist tropes aside, I have a soft spot for the Americanized Zelda styling of StarTropics. The soundtrack is infectious and the adventure is an enjoyable mix of overworld exploration and puzzling dungeons. It’s not quite as out there as the time-traveling sequel, which is surprisingly not on Nintendo Switch Online yet, but the gameplay is much more solid.
- 40. Breath of Fire II (SNES)
Breath of Fire II is a great RPG with a legendarily bad localization. I’d recommend keeping an eye out on a guide to salvage some of the rougher edges of this Super Nintendo RPG, but considering the amount of RPGs of that era are few and far between on this service, it might be worth slogging through if you’ve got the itch for turn-based battles.
- 39. The Legend of Zelda (NES)
If you’re playing the NES Zelda game for the first time, you might have a bad time. It’s from a different era. It’s not friendly. However, there’s a reason why Nintendo invoked the original game so much during the marketing for Breath of the Wild. It really is an open adventure that lets you explore more or less however you want. It’s a puzzle in and of itself to just find dungeons! Rewind and save states are also pleasant here.
- 38. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES)
Yes - I think Donkey Kong Country 3 is better than the first one, Kiddy Kong be damned. This does go overboard with collectables and bafomdads and everything, but it’s a really well made platformer with a lot of weird Rare heart.
- 37. Adventures of Lolo (NES)
I have a big soft spot for this puzzle series so I’ll admit it’s probably ranked higher than most normal people would place it, but Lolo is still a great puzzle game with straightforward ideas that are teased and twisted around throughout tons of levels.
- 36. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
Are you still here after Donkey Kong Country? Well, here’s another one that might be less than the average consensus. Just listen to the Baby Mario cry on loop and tell me a game with that as a central mechanic is good. The visuals are awesome. It does a lot of good things, but I also don’t like how this game wired my brain to not accept less than 100% completion in a level and how frustrating it can be to do that here.
- 35. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (Genesis)
Puyo Puyo with a Sonic cartoon story. Sure, let’s go. This gets bonus points for appearing in Sonic Mania during a boss fight. Also it’s just a really good Puyo game. There are other Puyo games on Nintendo Switch Online, but this is the one that introduced me to Puyo so it holds a special place in my heart. If one of those is soundly better, I’m open to moving things, but Mean Bean Machine still rules.
- 34. Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES)
Kirby’s criminally overlooked late Super Nintendo game is a little on the slow-paced side, but the visuals are still incredible and the music might be even better. I always wrote this game off until years after its launch and I’m glad I discovered it.
- 33. Tecmo Bowl (NES)
Multiplayer bonus points are at play here because while the single-player march through Tecmo Bowl is fun, it’s always better to absolutely terrorize your friends with Bo Jackson.
- 32. Kirby's Adventure
Another late console Kirby release, but this one is one everyone has played. Kirby’s Adventure taxes the crap out of the NES, but it’s the game that set into motion the good elements of the Kirby series going forward and it remarkably still holds up.
- 31. Contra: Hard Corps (Genesis)
I don’t have as much experience with all the Genesis games so they could be movers on this list in the future. However, Contra: Hard Corps is an incredibly crunchy metal-as-hell Genesis game. Contra III on Super Nintendo isn’t on Nintendo Switch Online yet, but it doesn’t matter. Hard Corps has you play as humans and also a hovering robot and wolfman. There’s branching paths. It’s incredible.
- 30. Wario's Woods (NES)
I love Wario’s Woods and y’all are lucky this isn’t in the top 10. It’s a puzzle game with platforming elements and boss battles and Purple Wario and Toad and Birdo. A lot of people don’t like this game. I am not one of those people. Viva la Wario’s Woods.
- 29. Shining Force (Genesis)
Super Nintendo RPGs are in short supply but Genesis’ launch lineup has got you. Shining Force is a dated yet endearing tactical RPG from the developers of Golden Sun and Mario Golf Super Rush. Camelot hasn’t gone down the RPG well in a long time, but they used to do it all the time. This isn’t quite Fire Emblem, but if you enjoyed any old Fire Emblem games, you might be at home here. I’ll offer the caveat that this could be a fast riser because I haven’t played this game in a long time and it might hold up better than I remembered.
- 28. Castlevania: Bloodlines (Genesis)
Much like Contra: Hard Corps, Castlevania: Bloodlines is the less heralded Genesis release in a Konami franchise. Bloodlines has two different playable characters that feel unique. Also it’s just a great action platformer.
- 27. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)
Diddy and Dixie are the peak Kong pair in these games and Donkey Kong Country 2 is the best of the series on Super Nintendo.
- 26. Mario Tennis 64 (N64)
I’ve always been more of a golf guy than a tennis guy, but the prospect of online Mario Tennis 64 is exciting, even if Mario Tennis Aces exists and is actually a really strong online game. I could argue that the Nintendo 64 game offers a more pure tennis experience whereas Aces is more like a fighting game with some of the new elements. It’s nice to have options and with Mario Golf 64 promised for the future, we’ll have more Mario sports options than we have in a long time.
- 25. Mario's Super Picross (SNES)
I love Picross, so seeing a Japan-only Super Famicom game come over to America on Nintendo Switch Online is thrilling. This is definitely a dated Picross game, but the Mario flourishes are very enjoyable. Because of the language barrier, I can’t recommend Picross newbies to start here, but good news if you’re a Picross newbie: there’s a ton of good Picross games on Switch to start with.
- 24. Yoshi's Story (N64)
I’m aware Yoshi’s Story above Yoshi’s Island is sure to start a war, but I sincerely love this game and since nostalgia plays heavily into all of these retro games, it does help that I first played this when I was 10 years old. Still, the nonlinearity is neat, especially with how exploration heavy levels get as you seek out all the melons and different routes. Maybe this was disappointing as a full-priced Nintendo 64 game for some, but as a part of Nintendo Switch Online, it’s awesome.
- 23. Ninja Gaiden (NES)
A brutally hard NES platformer with a banger of a soundtrack and a glimpse at early video game storytelling. This might not be a game for everyone, but this is one of those hard games that always clicked for me. Though replaying it now, I’ve noticed my skills have atrophied as I usually tail off about two-thirds in.
- 22. Demon's Crest (SNES)
Demon’s Crest definitely settles into the role of being one of the better Super Nintendo games you probably never played. It stars Firebrand - a Ghosts ‘n Goblins enemy who previously starred in Gargoyle’s Quest 1 and 2 - and is a strong action platformer with a lot of world map exploration and even some RPG elements. This is a really good Capcom game that seemingly isn’t talked about that much, but it’s very good.
- 21. Star Fox (SNES)
If you’re sensitive to framerate, just skip to the next game, but if you can handle early 3D jank, the original Star Fox is a delight. The style is off the charts, especially with the stellar soundtrack and distinctive polygonal visuals. This is just an extremely creative and fun rail shooter that kicked off a franchise that may or may not still have multiple entries higher on this list.
- 20. Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)
While Mike Tyson’s name was never on the Super Nintendo Punch-Out game, gorgeous visuals more in line with the arcade games make this a great entry in the rhythm boxing genre. The characters are large and expressive and the thrill of the fight is ever present. Save states and rewind can be your friend if you’re just learning the ropes.
- 19. Panel de Pon (SNES)
You might know this game as Tetris Attack, but licensing means Nintendo can’t re-release a non-Tetris game with Tetris in the title. In lieu, we get Panel de Pon, the Japanese version. You get to see the origins of Lip, a character who has an item in Smash Bros. You also get supremely awesome puzzle gameplay, including a story mode and great two-player.
- 18. Star Fox 2 (SNES)
Star Fox 2 is now available to more than just the Super Nintendo Classic owners and the same caveat about being sensitive to framerates applies here because this game pushes the Super Nintendo to its absolute limits. But it also has big, bold ideas about the structure of a Star Fox game. This is a borderline roguelike and I still contend that if this game actually came out in the 1990s, our view of Star Fox would be forever altered.
- 17. Mario Kart 64 (N64)
Mario Kart 64 is extremely important to me even though, over time, I’ve come to recognize it as one of the lesser Mario Kart games. That being said, I’m giddy at the prospect of playing this game online with friends. A lot of the foundation for modern Mario Kart comes from this game and it’s exciting to be able to switch online between this 1997 classic and the Switch game that was released 20 years later.
- 16. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)
Super Mario Bros. 2 is one of the better black sheep games of Nintendo franchises. It changes up the formula of Super Mario Bros. significantly, but the slowed-down pace, multiple characters, and overall quirkiness make it a very strong game nonetheless.
- 15. Punch-Out!! (NES)
The gap between the NES Punch-Out and Super Punch-Out isn’t wide, but I’ll give the edge to the first one because of how memorable and iconic it is. The more rampant Rocky references are amazing and the training sequences add a lot to the feel. The fights themselves are tense puzzles that require creativity and rhythm, even if Mr. Dream is a pain in the butt.
- 14. Super Mario Bros. (NES)
The game that cemented Nintendo back in the NES days still fundamentally holds up extremely well. The jump feels perfect. The controls are great. It’s a little bit no-nonsense, but considering it essentially wrote the book for platformers, that’s not a complaint. This is well worth playing through if you’ve never done it before. Rewind and save states deserve no shame here.
- 13. Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)
Streets of Rage 4 was one of the best beat-’em-ups in recent memory and that’s partially because the original games on Sega Genesis were incredible. The Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack is amazing and it offers some of the best beat-’em-up gameplay of its time. Absolutely snag a pal and romp through this online.
- 12. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)
My favorite old Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 does a good job of actually balancing the thoughtful platforming with a need for speed. It still has those classic Sonic gotcha moments, but there’s a lot more creativity here. Also, it’s got a memorable soundtrack and for you online players, two player multiplayer.
- 11. Gunstar Heroes (Genesis)
One of Treasure’s best games (from an array of great games) is Gunstar Heroes, a vibrant and creative run-and-gun action game with stupidly quirky and cool levels, an excellent soundtrack, and an overall great feel. I only first played this game on Wii Virtual Console and it was impressive even more than a decade after launch.
- 10. Kirby Super Star (SNES)
Looking back, seeing how kitchen sink some of the Smash Bros. games felt shouldn’t have been a surprise after Masahiro Sakurai led the development of Kirby Super Star. This is a Kirby game that features multiple games and modes all with different play styles and themes. You can romp through an easy game, ride through a cinematic Meta Knight-featuring mode, and even explore a big cave and look for treasures. There’s so much variety.
- 9. Sin and Punishment (N64)
Sin and Punishment never made it out of Japan until the Wii Virtual Console and it wound up being very playable even if you’re not a native Japanese reader. This is just an incredible shooter that does wonderful things on the N64 hardware and is also just a dynamite experience overall.
- 8. Super Mario 64 (N64)
Here’s a weird one: Super Mario 64 is already available in probably a better form on Switch with 2020’s Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Also, that game is technically not available for purchase anymore. Super Mario 64 is still a foundational game with an incredible first half. It also may have aged a little poorly in the back half. Still, it’s a great way well worth exploring.
- 7. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Link to the Past wrote the book for Zelda games for 25 years and still stands tall as one of the best games in the series and, to some, one of the best games ever made. Being as I have it as 7th on this list, I might not agree with the last part, but it’s definitely an incredible game that should be borderline mandatory for every Nintendo fan to play.
- 6. Phantasy Star IV (Genesis)
Lament the absence of Final Fantasy on this service all you want, but if you’re sad you can’t play Final Fantasy 4, 5, or 6, you should just drop everything you’re doing and play Phantasy Star IV. It’s a game I personally have never played all the way through but it is widely considered one of the best RPGs of its era. If you like ‘90s RPGs, play this game.
- 5. Star Fox 64 (N64)
If you’re familiar with Nintendo World Report of the past few years, you might know our director John Rairdin. He loves Star Fox. A lot. By law, I can’t put Star Fox 64 that low on the list. It’s also a good thing I agree that Star Fox 64 absolutely rules, holding up very well to this day. The fact you can play multiplayer online is a major plus, too.
- 4. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
- 3. Super Mario World (SNES)
I’ll lump Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World together because it’s a razor thin margin separating them. I’ve settled on preferring World more, but I have no qualms with anyone wanting to bump 3 over World. They’re both enduring masterpieces that play to different strengths. Super Mario Bros. 3 has a slew of quick levels with a variety of fun power-ups. World has a more engaging overworld and Yoshi. Both are incredible.
- 2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
Ocarina of Time is such a hugely important game that even if the original 1998 release is more than two decades old, it’s still worth playing. Maybe we’re on the verge of getting a Zelda 3D All-Stars Collection with a better version for a limited time, but even still, Ocarina of Time is amazing and like Link to the Past did for the Zelda series, Ocarina of Time did for 3D adventure games. Z targeting changed my life.
- 1. Super Metroid (SNES)
With Metroid Dread out recently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and replaying 2D Metroid games. Through replaying all of them, one game still stood above the rest: Super Metroid. I also learned that people disagree with this, and that’s fine. I encourage you to make your own Top 50 list of Nintendo Switch Online games. I love this game and find even with janky platforming and some dated gameplay, Super Metroid endures. The environmental storytelling is untouched. The sound design and music is sublime. The boss fights, while tough, lead to some great payoffs. Just a really great game that, to me, is the class of Nintendo Switch Online’s lineup.
Once again, I’ll remind everyone that this list is, first off, my opinion and takes, and second off, subject to change as games are added. I’m also willing to contemplate some movement and adding games not on the list. Nintendo Switch Online has triple digits in game count and it’s a lot to sort through, but spend some time here and you can play some ‘80s and ‘90s masterpieces. And also some junk that is endearing in its own right.