Nintendo Switch Online just got a whole lot better at emulating N64 games

N64 controller
(Image credit: Future)

The latest Nintendo Switch update has brought improvements to N64 emulation on Nintendo Switch Online – meaning that classics like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are now running a whole lot better. 

When N64 emulation launched with Nintendo Switch Online's Expansion Pack tier, Ocarina of Time in particular suffered from graphical issues and noticeable input lag.

As reported by VGC, the latest update to the platform not only adds Banjo-Kazooie to the roster of N64 games, but also makes some improvements to the quality of emulation overall.

Switch dataminer OatmealDome took to Twitter to share their own findings with the Nintendo Switch Online update, and noted that a texture glitch in Ocarina of Time – one that removed the water's transparency in the room where you fight Dark Link – has now been fixed.

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Another dataminer, LuigiBlood, added that the N64 ROMs themselves haven't been altered in any way, owing the fixes to actual improvements to the emulator. If true, it would mean that Nintendo has started to make good on its promise of improving Nintendo Switch Online's N64 emulation.

The latest update hasn't fixed everything, however. Twitter users are still finding that a bug that causes Paper Mario to crash during the Game Over screen. There's also no support for the N64's Controller Pak, meaning there's still no way to properly save or load games outside of Nintendo Switch Online's suspend point solution.

Ocarina of Time was arguably the most in need of improvements, and while issues still exist (the emulated version still can't render fog), tweaks to certain textures and a reduction of input lag bring the game a bit closer to that original N64 experience.

However, it is disconcerting that issues are being found in games released post-launch, such as Paper Mario. Nintendo will have its work cut out for it if this trend continues, especially if evidence of at least 38 N64 titles coming to Nintendo Switch Online turns out to be accurate.

Given how Expansion Pack is a fairly expensive upgrade from the base Nintendo Switch Online tier, the service's N64 emulation simply couldn't stay in such a shoddy state forever. And thankfully, improvements are starting to crop up as more games are added to the service.

We'll be interested to see the state of N64 emulation on the system in February, when The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask launches. As the Ocarina of Time sequel shares many assets with its older counterpart, Nintendo will surely want emulation to be in top condition, especially considering Majora's Mask is often regarded as one of the best N64 games.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.