Nintendo 64 games on Switch Online running into some trouble

Posted on November 3, 2021

Nintendo 64 games are finally available to play on Switch thanks to Nintendo’s recently launched Switch Online + Expansion. Whilst the jury is still out on the value of the offering, it hasn’t taken long for the internet to light up with concerns and criticisms over the quality of the emulation on offer for some of the Nintendo 64 titles that make up the core offering of the proposition.

Some of the more common criticisms are in relation to things such as draw distances, frame rate drops and apparently that classic ‘fog’ that was a feature found across the Nintendo 64 library, taken to the next level in the Switch Online version of Ocarina of Time. This has lead some to form the view that the Switch Online version of Ocarina of Time in particular is actually worse then last gen ports. Ouch.

It won’t take you long to find footage of some of these Nintendo 64 titles chugging along and crashing on the good old Switch. Unfortunately these issues aren’t Ocarina of Time specific either, with Mario Kart 64 being called out for input delay and also nasty latency and frame rate issues trying to race online, which is a key feature of the collection. Oddly, apparently it also wants you to insert a controller pack (which is what we called the N64 memory card back in the day) to save any time trial data, which obviously you can’t do on Switch.

Aside from the technical drama, fans are also confused by odd button mapping if you are trying to play on a Switch controller instead of the now sold out N64 replica. In short, the classic N64 controller had six buttons on the right, the four yellow ‘C’ buttons were primarily used for view points or mapping items in games like Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time. The Switch controller only has four, so they have mapped two of them to the shoulder buttons, making some of the titles an awkward play. What’s worse is that they are locked and cannot me remapped to your preference.

It isn’t too surprising that there could be some emulation issues with this batch of Nintendo 64 titles. It’s not that the titles are particularly demanding on hardware, it’s just that consoles of the day were designed differently than they are now with custom architecture/chips. Add in the fact that developers would colour outside the lines to get the results they wanted and you end up with a difficult ask. Even trying to emulate N64 titles on a modern PC is a hit and miss affair. Really, the games weren’t designed with emulation in mind so maybe ports would have been the way to go.

In fairness, this may not be the experience with ALL subscribers to the new service, so if you are enjoying getting into some Mario Kart 64 on your Switch then that’s awesome for you. For me, I think ill just stick with the original hardware.