The Understated Value Of Virtual Console


Almost every time I hear Virtual Console being talked about these days it’s with heavy criticism. While pretty much all that criticism is warranted, I think I still want to take a minute to just talk about how valuable the service has been. It really is one of the main reasons I even power on my Nintendo hardware these days.

I made a pretty big post almost two years ago about what VC does right and what it does wrong, and not much seems to have changed since then. It remains a point of much squandered potential for Nintendo, but what we have now has still managed to give me a lot of gaming value in multiple ways.

Right now a main reason I even turn on my 3DS these days is to play Super Mario Bros. 3. I completed it for the first time last May but since then it has probably become of my favorite games to return to. The way it treats each run like a session of a board game — your progression through the worlds is determined by a lot of factors you can game in ways you can’t in more recent Mario titles, extends its replay value to a shocking degree. A lot of people might feel a similar way about the original Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario World on the Wii U Virtual Console.

I haven’t just used VC as a way to revisit classics though. Possibly the most valuable thing about it — and the thing I keep pointing out to people who say nobody cares about re-buying old games, is that I’ve used it to discover a lot of games too. Probably half the “Late to the Party” posts I’ve made on this blog have been about games I discovered through VC like The Last Blade or the 1994 Game Boy Donkey Kong, which is now probably one of my favorite Game Boy games. When you think about it, to a newcomer these old games are just as valuable as any new retro-style indie game that comes out. I’ve still got a whole backlog of classics I have yet to buy or play as well, like the Oracle Zelda games, the Wario Land series, Super Castlevania IV, and a lot more. If for whatever reason I only owned Nintendo hardware, I would probably still have enough of these games to occupy my time.

Technically though, you could say the same about other services that sell classic games, like PlayStation Network and GoodOldGames, or even Steam. I’ve gotten similar amounts of value from discovering old PC games, and there are quite a few classic PlayStation games I find worth investigating for the first time. A lot of the criticism of Virtual Console comes about because other services are showing a better way to sell people old games.

All that value is really because of the kind of longevity almost any good software can have. Most people I know don’t immediately upgrade to the latest version of whatever software they use for work. I still type all my work out on Microsoft Office 2007. By the same token lots of people will continue to play a great game for years or even decades if a developer keeps supporting it. It’s pretty much the norm on PC, as opposed to certain games that are now annualized under the console model.

What sets VC apart from similar services is it has managed to bring people a good chunk of the 8 and 16-bit eras of console gaming in an accessible, legitimate way. Those eras probably do deserve a better service but by themselves they still represent in my opinion one of the best reasons to own Nintendo hardware today. If Nintendo could just push that a little harder it could have a monster on its hands.

This is why one of my main hopes for the NX, whatever that thing is, concerns Virtual Console. I really just want cross-platform VC games. If I can transfer the copy of Super Metroid I bought in 2007, start a new game on the NX console or whatever it uses to interface with the TV, and then continue that game on a handheld, I’m down. That’s a major selling point in itself. Imagine what that would mean if people could do the same with Pokémon Red.


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One thought on “The Understated Value Of Virtual Console

  1. Still have some great ideas for a Midway Games compilation, wanna hear?

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