Since 2017 we’ve seen a steady supply of Hamster’s Arcade Archives releases bringing arcade classics to the Switch eShop. What’s more, the series includes previously unreleased or hard-to-find arcade games from Nintendo itself. Having been so well acquainted with many of the NES versions, and it’s been wonderful to rediscover these games in their original (and sometimes quite different) arcade form over the past few years.
The number of titles in the Arcade Archives list grows on a near-weekly basis, so below we’ve reproduced the full list of Arcade Archives releases available on Switch eShop to date. With a variety of options to tailor each game’s presentation to your personal tastes, you can even flip the screen 90° for a more authentic rendition of games originally designed for an upturned CRT screen. Throw them in your Flip Grip and you’ve arguably got the best way to play these games in 2020, short of having the original arcade cabinets, of course.
New releases will be added to this list as they drop. The games are listed in alphabetical order, and it’s worth remembering that certain games – Castlevania, for example – start with a sneaky ‘VS’, so they’ll naturally be near the bottom. Alternatively, you can view them in our database sorted by Release Date or User Rating. Please note that we have NOT included the ACA Neo Geo releases here – we’ll have a separate guide for Neo Geo games on Switch before you can say “how many!?!”.
And if this huge list is a tad overwhelming, you’ll find our picks of the best Arcade Archives games on Switch at the bottom. You know, just to get you on the right track.
Arcade Archives Switch eShop releases – Complete list
Looking at that list and don’t know where to start? Then check out our picks of the best Arcade Archives games – in no particular order – to get you off on the right foot.
The best Switch Arcade Archives games…
Available for the first time since being tucked away as a bonus in Donkey Kong 64, Mario (or rather Jumpman) may seem quite limited in his abilities (and death by a short fall is very old-school), but Donkey Kong is still a fun game. Tougher than the NES port, it can get quite addictive as you seek to improve your high scores. Should the many re-releases of the NES version have failed to impressed, there’s nothing here that will win you over, but for fans of the game, this Arcade Archives release is something of an ‘ultimate edition’. Three versions of this classic with a few display options and HAMSTER’s usual array of modes and online leaderboards make this a great choice for high score chasers and people who wish they were more like Billy Mitchell.
Made by people that would go on to make Metal Slug, Irem’s In the Hunt is an excellent shoot-’em-up and a great fit for the Switch. Giving the final frontier the elbow in favour of a sub-based maritime excursion, it offers something comfortingly familiar in the genre but shockingly, joyously different in execution. It stands out as a high-quality deep cut in the Arcade Archives catalogue of retro classics.
Track & Field remains as endearingly entertaining as it was when it first appeared 36 years ago. It’s a little on the pricey side considering it only has six events, one of which (the high jump) is a bit of a stinker, and is obviously a one-trick pony given its subject matter. But it still does that one trick better than most games that have succeeded it, so if you’re looking for a quick button-basher this is a good choice.
A side-scrolling shooter in the R-Type vein, except you fly a ship that sprouts tentacles, Irem’s X Multiply deserves to sit alongside its more famous stablemate. When we say ‘in the vein’, we mean very literally as this game takes you into body of a human being infected with parasitic alien life forms. Timely, you might say!
Switching a space-based setting for a more interior, biological environment that would feel at home in an Alien movie or the latter stages of a Metroid title gives the game a much different, darker tone to R-Type but it’s just as addictive and well worth downloading if the 1989 arcade original (or the PlayStation and Saturn ports) passed you by.
Punch-Out!! is not only a nostalgic slice of Nintendo’s arcade history, it just so happens to be one of the most enjoyable boxing games ever made, laying down the entire foundation not only for the whole series but for several other games adopting the ‘behind the boxer’ viewpoint. Over three decades later, it is still a joy to pick up and play, still proving to be extremely rewarding when you finally figure out your opponent’s ‘tell’ and proceed to take them to the floor. Besides ARMS and Pato Box, Switch has few boxing alternatives on the system and despite being a little lacking content-wise when set side-by-side with later entries in the series, the core gameplay loop still delivers the goods. Short, sweet and straight to the point, just like Mr. Sandman’s right uppercut, then.
Yet another Irem shmup for you (what can we say – we love ’em), Konami’s Life Force, née Salamander, is a Gradius spin-off and a rollicking good one which alternates between horizontal and vertical-scrolling stages. As with X Multiple, this too is set inside a life form, although this time it’s a giant alien fighting off a virulent strain of something or other.
Life Force is a challenging beast and the Arcade Archives version includes three version of the game – the original Japanese Salamander from 1986, the renamed North American version that included narrative and graphical alterations, and yet another iteration (also renamed Life Force) which went back to Japan the following year with further tweaks. Three games in one? What more do you want, jam on it?
Super Mario Bros. being playable on a Nintendo system is not particularly surprising, but that it should first appear on Switch in its VS. incarnation was unexpected. The excellent gameplay, catchy music and a large chunk of the levels are still present, but the new stages make for a different feel that muscle-memory won’t get you through. Those levels may have since appeared in The Lost Levels, but their inclusion here alongside changes to existing levels (including a different solution to a multi-path puzzle) make for a still enjoyable but tougher alternative way of playing, with highscore chasing also adding to the fun thanks to the online leaderboards. Even if you can play through the regular version of the game in your sleep, VS. Super Mario Bros. is an excellent – and challenging – choice for platforming fans.
Obviously, Super Mario Bros. is a classic. The last entry on our list certainly isn’t, although it’s still a fascinating little curio in this collection…
Sky Skipper may not be a Nintendo arcade classic like Donkey Kong, but its inclusion in the Arcade Archives collection is significant thanks to its rarity and obscurity. The 1981 game was a commercial failure and virtually all of its cabinets were subsequently converted to run Popeye instead. Of a handful that made it to America, only one is known to exist and it resides in Nintendo of America HQ, and it was from that cabinet that the ROM for this release was extracted.
Regardless of the game’s quality, it’s something of a miracle that we’re able to play it at all and it’s wonderful to have it preserved and widely available now on Switch. For that reason alone, it’s worth investigating if you have the slightest interest in Nintendo’s arcade history.
With so many to choose from we’re just scratching the surface. It’s certainly worth bearing in mind the age of these games – that ‘Archives’ title is apt as many of these games belong in a museum and its a thrill to have them on Switch in such fine form. Give them time and the classic gameplay of the best of them still shines through.
Let us know which of Hamster’s Arcade Archives games you’ve most enjoyed, and which ones you’d avoid, with a cheeky comment below.
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