The Nintendo Switch has been a massive hit for Nintendo with amazing new first-party games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Then there are fantastic video game ports from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation which have new life breathed into them by going handheld.
Skyrim, for example, feels like an entirely new title now that we can take it on the go. Yet it’s not just these (relatively) modern games that have found an unlikely home on the Nintendo Switch. If you know where to look, you’ll also find some amazing retro titles from the 8- 16- and 32- bit console generations.
There are even a few retro PC ports thrown in as well! If you’re feeling a little nostalgic for the way games used to be, the following are the best Nintendo Switch retro games in our opinion.
DOOM 1, 2 & 64
Every main Doom entry is available on the Nintendo Switch. That includes Doom 1,2,3, 64, Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal. Only Dooms 1,2 and 64 count as retro mind you, but we thought you should know the extent of the available games. Yes, this entry has three titles. Just pretend we used the Konami code to cheat more entries into the list.
Doom 1 and 2 not only include great ports of the original games, Bethesda and ID have also added several of the very best Doom mods and conversions and keep adding more as time goes on. Which makes the first two games incredibly good value for money. Doom 64 was only ever available on the Nintendo 64 officially. In 2020 it received ports to PC and console, which included the Switch. It’s also a wickedly-good classic Doom experience.
All three of these games are amazing retro shooters where you fill the blood-soaked boots of a lone space marine fighting demons on Mars, Mars’ moons, in Hell and on Earth. Best of all, you can shoot your buddies via LAN or split-screen play. It’s a “hell” of a blast!
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour
Another classic shooter from the 32-bit era, this release of Duke Nukem 3D is perhaps our favorite. It’s certainly the best handheld version, supplanting the excellent yet overlooked Sony Vita port of the game.
Duke Nukem 3D was the rowdy, raunchy shooter that didn’t take itself seriously but still offered a pitch-perfect shooter experience. Duke has to deal with an alien invasion and the mass kidnapping of Earth’s babes.
This version of the game offers the classic Duke experience, but also a new true 3D rendering mode as well as an entirely new original episode! It’s a great way to play Duke Nukem on the big screen or on the go.
The Nintendo Online NES and SNES Collection
Instead of selling us their retro classic games yet again on Switch, Nintendo has decided to offer a NES and SNES game library to anyone who subscribes to the Nintendo Online service. The service is fairly cheap, especially if you’re using the family plan to cover multiple consoles, but you can also try a 7-day trial if you’ve never subscribed before.
It’s worth it just for the cloud save backup function, but locked in these two apps are some of the best 8-bit and 16-bit games ever made. These include heavy hitters such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid, but also quirky titles such as Zelda 2 and StarTropics. It’s amazing value for money and every Switch owner should try these Nintendo Switch retro games at least once. There’s a very good chance you’ll discover (or re-discover) an unforgettable title.
The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Classics Collection
Not to be outdone by erstwhile rival Nintendo, Sega have put out their own mega collection of classic titles for the ultra-popular Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive, depending on where you’re from) console.
Rather than charge you a monthly fee however, you can buy the entire collection outright and keep it forever. This is more than just a collection of ROMs, you access the games via a period-accurate virtual bedroom, with a shelf stuffed with some of the very best games from that generation. That includes Sega mainstays such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe, but almost every title is worth having.
The emulation is great, but not perfect. However, all but the most picky purists wouldn’t enjoy this excellent collection. It is worth waiting for it to go on sale, with 50% discounts happening once or twice a year. Simply wishlist the game to get an alert when the price drops.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection
This is the last collection on the list, but certainly not the least. Castlevania is half responsible for the birth of the “metroidvania” genre and this anniversary collection includes no fewer than eight classic Castlevania games, starting from the very first title.
It also includes Kid Dracula, a game released in Japanese only for the GameBoy, but now available in English. The collection includes a “History of Castlevania” book and features such as quick save. So you don’t have to go all the way back to the start of a level if a boss wipes you out. Which they will!
Sega Ages Virtua Racing
While this arcade hit did receive a lackluster port to the Sega Genesis and Sega 32X, this is the first time that a perfect port has been released for home systems. Not only is it perfect, it’s actually a significant improvement over the arcade original, with much sharper graphics and flawless framerates.
Virtual Racing may be short, but it’s addictive and great fun to play with friends. It’s also a historically important Nintendo Switch retro game, heralding the advent of true 3D graphics in arcades. Definitely pick this one up.
Sega Ages Phantasy Star
Phantasy Star is a significant title in the history of Japanese role playing games, but this first title was strangely hard to find. The three sequels are all part of the Genesis Collection mentioned above, but Sega finally made things right and released a perfectly emulated version of the game as part of the Sega Ages series.
This is a pure, good old dungeon crawler which originally paved the way for this branch of the JRPG family tree. It’s still an engrossing game to play today and the graphics preserve the very best of what the 8-bit Sega Master System could pull off.
Classic Final Fantasy Games
There is a long list of mainline Final Fantasy games on the Switch, but the only ones we feel deserve the “retro” label are numbers 7, 8 and 9. Given that older titles are not yet on the system.
All three have received quality of life improvements (such as cheats and fast forwarding) with Final Fantasy 8 getting a complete remaster. All of these games represent the best of the series in different ways, although 8 and 9 don’t get as much love as they deserve. Three epic adventures for very little money, who could say no?
Commander Keen in Keen Dreams
The last game on our list isn’t the best of its series, but we think it should be here because it’s actually a re-release of a classic MS-DOS platformer. While the consoles tend to get most of the attention for this genre of game, ID Software (of Doom fame) actually made a series of fantastic platforming games featuring the boy genius Commander Keen.
For our money the sequel Goodbye Galaxy is the better game, but Keen Dreams is still tons of fun and maybe if enough people buy it, Goodbye Galaxy will get the same treatment. Fair warning, there’s also a “Definitive Edition” of this game on the Switch eShop. This Nintendo Switch retro game version is more modernized, and makes big changes to the title. It’s a fine game in its own right, but if you want the original experience go for this one instead.
Which are your favorite Nintendo Switch retro games? Let us know in the comments and share the retro-gaming love!