Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
If there’s one takeaway from this week’s Nintendo Direct—the company’s shockingly effective press conference replacement/cult-stoking system of online announcement videos—it’s that We Love Katamari is finally getting a modern remaster. (Okay, yes, technically they also released a new trailer for Zelda: Breath Of The Wild sequel Tears Of The Kingdom, but that can’t really compare to our joy at getting to roll the ball all over again.) But if there’s a second takeaway, it’s this: Nintendo finally seems to have and noticed that it has one of the best handheld libraries of all time, and all those games have just been … sitting there, lazing around, and not making Mario any damn money for a year or so now.
Nintendo used to put those games to work regularly: The eShop for the company’s late, deeply lamented DS and 3DS handhelds was filled with Virtual Console versions of many of the best Game Boy games of all time. (My personal 3DS still plays host to Donkey Kong ’94, Kirby’s Pinball Land, and other beloved classics.) But now that the sun has set on those venerable two-screen weirdos, some of those masterpieces have begun to fade into the dustbin of history once again.
Well, no more: Nintendo announced during the direct that it was officially adding Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games to its subscription-based Switch Online (in the case of the Game Boy titles) and Switch Online Expansion Pass (in the case of the GBA games) services. The announced titles are an impeccable (if small) list, too: Two of the best 2D Zelda games (Link’s Awakening and the underrated Minish Cap), Wario Land and Warioware, and charming oddities like Gargoyle’s Quest and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. It’s a great collection, even if you’re not willing to shell out 50 bucks a year for the Expansion Pass portion of the collection.
Meanwhile, the DS also got some love: I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but as one of the biggest supporters that odd little touchscreen system ever had, it was heartening to see some of its best oddballs get their time to shine. A remake of charming dead person puzzler Ghost Trick; the continued promise of a new Professor Layton game; a Fantasy Life sequel; the Advance Wars reboots: If nerdy kids were furtively playing it on the bus in the 2000s or 2010s, it seems to be getting a new version some time in 2023, all headed to the Switch.
The crown jewel for me—and I’ll confess to being such a stan for this series that it functionally short-circuits my critical faculties—is news that Atlus’ first three Etrian Odyssey games are getting an HD collection on both Switch and PC. The Etrian games are my ultimate nerd titles: Story-light, combat-heavy turn-based dungeon crawler RPGs where you make your own maps, and build your own parties out of complex character classes and skills. The first two games (originally released in the U.S. in 2007 and 2008) got remakes on the 3DS, but the vastly superior Etrian Odyssey III has gotten very little love since it came out in 2010. These games represent, for me, the very best of what the DS and 3DS could do: Extremely focused and accomplished modern entries in genres that had fallen by the wayside, big-budget approaches to low-budget styles of gaming that—in the case of the Etrian games—capture the old-school magic of being lost in a maze, desperately fending off monsters as you scramble for the exit. It’s heartening to see Nintendo embrace the spirit that powered these systems, importing it into the hybrid handheld/console Switch. Certainly, it’s the most exciting news to come out of this week’s Direct—give or take a new-old Katamari game, of course.