Game Title: Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online
Company: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital (Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch Online Subscription)
Battery Life: 4.5 – 6 hours
Download: 58 MB

When the NES part of the Nintendo Switch Online service was announced, I was contemplating how to go about covering it. I imagined 20 installable NES games coming out and me doing separate Battery Tests for all 20 games and reviews for all 20 games and that intimidated me a bit. Thankfully, that’s not how they did it and I got a much better idea and grasp on it when the service launched.

Since the NES Games launched as a sort of Emulator Collection, I dove in and saw that even the Battery Life for all of the games was the same across all of the titles. So, instead of doing 20 reviews on 20 NES games, I decided to do one review on the application, itself.

So, here is my review of Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online!

Design / Features

NES 2 - games

Essentially, this is an emulator that currently features 20 NES games and more to come each month, from The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3 to more multiplayer-oriented games like Baseball and Tecmo Bowl, heavily encouraging the new online multiplayer feature added to these retro games.

This application does a lot of things right and some things not-so-right. When you boot up the app, the UI is pretty simple. On the left side-bar, there are options for 1 Player, 2 Player, and Online 2-Player gameplay for pretty much any of the games within the collection. It works very quickly and simply to switch between the three game modes, letting you connection separate controllers and joy-cons for doing 2-player play, be it local or online with friends.

There is also an option here for display types, from a 4:3 ratio, a smaller “Pixel Perfect” ratio, and a CRT Filter. This is also where one of the app’s issues comes into play. First of all, there are no options for full-screen play. The largest is 4:3 which raises the game as tall as the TV screen, but maintains a 4:3 ratio throughout. This lack of options in that regard is a bit of a downer.

NES 3 - mario

What I like more is how the games are set up. They are on a customizable grid and can change size dependent on how many titles are in each row. You can take any title and move it around where you want, which is a highly-requested feature for the Nintendo Switch UI, itself. This is a small convenience and organization option that is much-appreciated as the games don’t seem to be organized in a particular format from the get-go.

When you get into a game, things are a tad different. The game loads with borders on the sides with your profile and the controls for the game, specifically the Start and Select Buttons and the triggers that open up the Emulator Options, like Creating Save States and going back to the Game Selection screen.

NES 4 - save states

All in all, it’s set up in a pretty simple manner. Although you don’t receive the controls for each game, it’s not too hard to figure out, as it follows the original controls of the NES with, Mario as an example, A for jumping and B for running.

That’s one design feature I don’t agree with, though. This is, essentially, an emulator. As an emulator, the controls are locked in place. There is no way to customize the different button controls and that’s pretty easy to throw people off, especially with newer Mario games no longer using the A to Jump, B to Dash format. It’s certainly playable and enjoyable, but would be nice to have that little QoL feature that most emulated games have.


NES 5 - zelda

Now let’s get into performance and presentation. Visually, the games look exactly as they did back during the NES days, for better or worse. On the bright side, the pixels do look smooth without any blurring from being blown up, but they also come with graphical and audio glitches from back then.

To be more specific, the screen-tearing and music-cutting from the old Mario games are still here. So, anytime you grab a coin, its sound effect will cut out music for a minute or so. It is just straight emulation, with only the online play being added. Nothing was really balanced for fixed in these versions of these games.

The other thing about the visuals is that there is a temporary burn-in effect on the Switch’s handheld screen when using the emulator’s CRT filter. It doesn’t take very long to start to set in and it disappears after around 5-10 minutes, but it is a bit concerning when you play Super Mario Bros. 3 for awhile and can still see the blocks on your screen for awhile after.

Battery Life

Here’s where things get really nice. All games share the same Battery Life. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 29 minutes
Max Brightness + Low Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 51 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 03 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 28 minutes

It’s a little expected, but over 6 hours is great.

In conclusion, the NES app is a pretty spiffy-looking collection of games with added multiplayer along with some pretty neat organizational features. It definitely has some improving to do, though, from he lack of standardized emulation button and fullscreen options to the temporary burn-in for the CRT filter. Still, despite the flaws, it’s fun to have Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Switch.

Final Score: 7/10