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Virtual Console, sometimes abbreviated as VC, is a specialized section of the Wii Shop Channel, an online service that allows players to purchase and download games and other software for Nintendo's Wii gaming console. The Virtual Console lineup consists of titles originally released on past consoles. These titles are run in their original forms through software emulation, and can be purchased for between 500 and 1200 Wii Points depending on system, rarity, and/or demand. The library of past games currently consists of titles originating from the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Nintendo 64, as well as Sega's Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis, NEC's TurboGrafx-16 and TurboGrafx-CD, SNK's Neo Geo AES, Commodore 64 (Europe and North America only) and MSX (Japan only). Virtual Console Arcade allows players to download video arcade games. Over ten million copies of Virtual Console titles have been downloaded as of December 2007.

Library history

While the gameplay remains unchanged for all of the classic titles offered for the Virtual Console, Nintendo has stated that some games may be improved with sharper graphics or better frame rates. Certainly, many PAL SNES games run with significantly reduced borders compared to the original cartridge releases. As with disc-based games, the Virtual Console service is region-locked — that is, different versions of games are provided to different regions, and game availability may vary from region to region.

Nintendo had stated that the Wii Shop Channel would not be used exclusively for retro games, and WiiWare games have appeared in North America as of May 12, 2008. These original games are made available through the WiiWare part of the Wii Shop Channel, as opposed to through the Virtual Console.

Satoru Iwata stated in a speech on March 23, 2006, that Nintendo, Sega, and Hudson Soft were working in collaboration to bring a "best of" series of games to the Wii. At the following E3, Hudson also declared it would bring upwards of 100 titles to the Wii's Virtual Console. Additionally, Hudson mentioned that its lawyers were working on acquiring the licenses to games from now defunct companies. Nintendo announced MSX compatibility on September 19, 2006, announcing on February 23, 2007 that the MSX titles Eggy and Aleste would be released in Japan. In February 2007, a heading for Neo Geo games was added to the Japanese Virtual Console page, and in September of that same year, games for that system appeared on the list of future releases, priced at 900 points each. Also in September Hudson announced that games made for the TurboGrafx-CD format would also join the Virtual Console beginning in October 2007, with five titles to be released for the remainder of 2007 and ten titles for 2008. They will be priced at 800 points.

On June 1, 2007, Nintendo of America issued a press release to announce the upcoming release of its 100th Virtual Console title, which was Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Within this press release, Nintendo stated that more than 4.7 million Virtual Console games had been downloaded, at a rate of more than 1,000 titles an hour.

Neo Geo support was added on September 18, 2007 for the Japanese Virtual Console, becoming the first addition to the list of consoles since the TurboGrafx-16 was added two days after the U.S. launch.

On October 9, 2007, Nintendo announced that 7.8 million Virtual Console titles had been downloaded, and as of December 2007, this number topped ten million.

Games from several new past consoles were added during 2008: Sega Master System on February 26, 2008 for Japan's Virtual Console, with other regions and Game Gear support under the Master System label to follow at currently unknown times; Commodore 64 support was added on March 28, 2008 for Europe's Virtual Console. and MSX support was added on May 27, 2008 for Japan's Virtual Console.

On February 23, 2009, the first 3 Commodore 64 titles (International Karate, The Last Ninja and Pitstop II) were added to the North America Virtual Console for the first time.

On March 25, 2009, simultaneously with Nintendo's Keynote Speech at Game Developers Conference, Nintendo launched 'Virtual Console Arcade', launching with four titles, Mappy, The Tower of Druaga, Star Force and Gaplus.

The Wii Shop Channel has functionality to allow games to be updated. This has been used four times so far to update Military Madness, Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (in North America and Europe), and Mario Kart 64 (in Europe and Australia). Several NES and SNES games released before March 30, 2007 have also been given updates in Europe and Australia to fix previous problems with the Wii component cables. These updates are free of charge to those who have downloaded a previous version of the game.

Third-party support

Unnamed Nintendo employees have reportedly speculated that licensing issues will be a predominant factor in determining whether a game is available for Virtual Console, giving the examples of GoldenEye 007 and Tetris as games that might be too expensive to license for the Virtual Console. Tecmo has announced its plans to "aggressively" support Virtual Console by re-releasing classic games. Though Tecmo did not specify which titles it intended to release, the company is responsible for many retro classics, such as Ninja Gaiden, Rygar, and Tecmo Bowl. Tecmo was the first third-party game developer to release a game on the Virtual Console (Solomon's Key for the NES). Since then, Capcom and Konami, among others, have also released titles.

Matt Casamassina of IGN reported that Raremarker titles absent of Nintendo-owned characters, such as Banjo-Kazooie, would be unavailable for purchase due to Microsoft's acquisition of Rare, but Rare has hinted the possibility of such titles being released on Virtual Console. SNK Playmore has announced intentions to release the Samurai Shodown series and a few other games to the Virtual Console which has brought the Neo Geo to the list of consoles available. Midway also plans to bring classic Mortal Kombat games to the Virtual Console.


Games downloaded from the Virtual Console library can be stored in the Wii's built-in 512 MB flash memory.

Wii system software version 4.0 allows Virtual Console and WiiWare games to be saved and played from a removable SD card. Firmware updates prior to 4.0 can only allow games to be transferred to SD cards for backup purposes; they cannot be played from this external memory. However, the actual playing of the game is not stored on an SD card, it is actually copied onto a temporary storage area and played off the Wii's actual hardware, meaning if you do not have enough space on your Wii, you cannot play the actual game. In the event of that, the player can move existing games over to the SD card until there is enough memory on the Wii to play the desired game.

Virtual Console games are locked to the Wii on which they were purchased—they cannot be transferred to another Wii via an SD card, although it is possible to purchase games in the Wii Shop Channel and send them as gifts to people on their Wii Friends list. This procedure does not work across regions and it has been reported that bought titles cannot be sent to users from other countries either, even if they are on the same region. In the event that a Wii is damaged and the Virtual Console games can no longer be played, Nintendo will provide support (if the serial number or console email name can be provided).

Game saves and save data

Game saving is functional and intact on the Virtual Console for all games which originally had a save feature on their cartridge. Saved games are saved to the Wii Internal Memory and function exactly as the original cartridge did. A game which in its original cartridge form did not have any form of save feature will not have any save game feature on the Virtual Console (though depending on its original system it may have the suspend feature as described below).

Most first-party N64 games used internal cartridge memory for game save data and thus will save properly on the Virtual Console. A select few first-party and nearly all other N64 game cartridges utilized the extra memory capability of the N64 Controller Pak. Saving of data to the Controller Pak is not supported by the Virtual Console, so for those games which used this feature, the save feature will not work properly in the Virtual Console.

An extreme example is that of Mario Kart 64 which uses internal cartridge memory for progress and save game data. Consequently all progress is saved properly (since it was saved to the cartridge itself) but one of the features in Mario Kart 64 (saving ghosts for racing at a later date) will not work since that particular feature utilized the Controller Pak, and the option to copy data to the Controller Pak won't function in those games.

Suspending play

Like other emulation software, the Wii Virtual Console enables the user to suspend play of a game at any time. To do this, users simply return to the Wii main menu from the game. Two exceptions to this are the N64 and Neo Geo, titles which do not support this feature. The N64 will allow play to be halted by returning to the Wii Menu but will require the person to start from the title screen to continue playing. Note that suspending play enables the player to pause the game indefinitely but does not function as a "save state" in that, once the game is resumed, the user will be able to pause play again (overwriting the suspend point) but will not be able to return to the previously suspended state.

The suspend feature will not be available if the user resets the Wii with the reset button on the front of the console during gameplay. Further, if the Wii loses power during gameplay, there will be no further suspend state, nor will there be a way to restart from the previous suspend state.


Virtual Console games can be played using three different controllers. The Wii Remote itself (turned on its side) can be used for NES, Sega Master System, TurboGrafx-16, and some Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Neo Geo games. The Classic Controller (sold separately from the console) can be used for all Virtual Console games. The controllers from the Nintendo GameCube can also be used for all games on the Virtual Console, except for some TurboGrafx-16 games. As a result of this, the wireless GameCube controller (the WaveBird) has seen increased popularity.

All Virtual Console games have their buttons mapped to the respective buttons on the controllers, however, in certain circumstances users can use X and Y instead of A and B, if the original controller does not have X and Y buttons (for example the NES). In certain titles, such as Nintendo 64 games, there may be specific controls tailored to the Classic Controller or GameCube Controller. Nintendo 64 titles that originally provided force feedback via the N64 controller's Rumble Pak peripheral however, are not supported by the built-in "Rumble" feature of the GameCube controller despite its capability of doing so.

With the release of Bomberman '93, it was revealed that TurboGrafx-16 games can support full 5 player games. Since a single Wii can only have four Wii Remotes and four GameCube Controllers connected at the same time, a combination of the two is needed for 5 player games.

Platform Wii Remote Classic Controller GameCube Controller
NES/Family Computer
Super NES/Super Famicom
Nintendo 64
Sega Master System
Mega Drive/Genesis Most
TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine Most
Neo Geo Some
Commodore 64
Virtual Console Arcade

MSX games also support USB keyboards, as the original system featured their input. However, Commodore 64 titles use a pop-up "virtual" keyboard, which can be toggled on and off by pressing the "1" button on the Wii Remote, and only then to set up the game (i.e. not for input during gameplay).


System Starting cost (Wii Points) Japan North
PAL region South
Europe Australia
Commodore 64 500
NES/Famicom 500 (400 in Korea)
Sega Master System 500
TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine 600
TurboGrafx-CD/PC-Engine CD-ROM 800
MSX 700
Mega Drive/Genesis 800 (600 in Japan)
SNES/Super Famicom 800 (600 in Korea)
Neo Geo 900
Nintendo 64 1000 (800 in Korea)
Virtual Console Arcade 500
Total games as of December 1, 2009


There were 38 titles of Famicom, Super Famicom, N64, Mega Drive, and PC Engine games available at launch on the Virtual Console for the Japanese region. The store updates on Tuesdays at 2:00PM JST and there are currently 526 titles available.

North America

There were 12 titles total of NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games available at launch on the Virtual Console for the North American region. Two TurboGrafx-16 titles were added two days later on November 21, 2006. New releases are typically on Mondays at around 12:00 PM EST/9:00 AM PST, give or take one or two hours , and usually consist of between one and three games each week. (In some weeks, no Virtual Console games are released since WiiWare games are also released at the same time.) North America saw its first release of Commodore 64 games on the service on February 23, 2009, and its first Virtual Console Arcade games on March 25. As of November 30, 2009, there are 333 Virtual Console titles available.

Though the Virtual Console lineup initially only covered games that had been released in North America, first George Harrison indicated in an interview that there was a possibility that Nintendo or other Virtual Console providers would localize Japanese games that have never been released in English. This later came to reality, and former Japan-only games have appeared on the North American Virtual Console. The first game to be added with such localization was Sin & Punishment from the Nintendo 64. While other previous Japan-only titles had been released through Virtual Console prior to this, the first being Battle Lode Runner from the TurboGrafx-16, added on April 23, 2007, this and all others were originally written in English and required no localization. Despite the fact others fit the category, there are only 22 titles listed under the "Import" genre: Sin & Punishment, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Ninja JaJaMaru-kun, Alien Soldier (although the game was previously available in North America through the Sega Channel), DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure, Puyo Puyo 2, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, Dig Dug, Gley Lancer, Super Fantasy Zone, Break In, Star Parodier, Cho Aniki, Final Soldier, Digital Champ Battle Boxing, Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou, Bomberman '94, Detana!! TwinBee, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Pulseman, Secret Command and Street Fighter II: Champion Edition. Furthermore, at least two import titles (DoReMi Fantasy , and Puyo Puyo 2 ) were released without any English translation, and thus only Japanese text is available in these games.

PAL region

A total of 17 NES, SNES, N64, Mega Drive and Turbografx titles were available at launch on the Virtual Console in Europe and 11 titles for the Oceanic region (Turbografx games were first added there from July 6, 2007). The store updates every Friday at 12:00AM CET, in Australia at 9:00AM and in New Zealand at 11:00AM AEST. The number of games per update has varied, but is usually 1 or 2. There are currently 320 Virtual Console titles available in Europe and 300 titles in Australia and New Zealand.

Though the Virtual Console titles primarily cover only the games that have been released in Europe, Nintendo UK has recently commented that there is a possibility that in the future, Nintendo will localize Japanese and North American games that have never been released in Europe. In March 2007, Hudson released three Turbografx games which were not originally released in Europe: Double Dungeons, Dragon's Curse, and Battle Lode Runner. Four Hanabi Festivals have been held since, releasing former Japanese and/or North American exclusive titles. There are currently 28 titles listed under the "Import" genre, released during the campaigns.

South Korea

There were 10 titles total of Famicom, Super Famicom and N64 games available at launch on the Virtual Console for South Korea. The store updates irregularly on Tuesdays. There are currently 40 titles available. Depending on the game, they are playable in either Japanese or English. Super Mario World is the only game that uses both languages. Companies currently supporting by publishing games are Namco Bandai, Hudson Soft, Irem, Konami, Nintendo, Taito and Windysoft.


Wired's Chris Kohler had protested the disparity between the American and Japanese libraries, both in quantity and quality. The difference between the two libraries became minimal at one point, leading him to change his stance, only to change it back once more as North American releases began to slow. In addition, Kohler has also criticized the overall release strategy, with a handful of games at the beginning and two or three every week. Kohler also took issue with the Virtual Console's aspect ratio which stretches the 4:3 games when the Wii's system settings are set for a 16:9 television. The pricing has also been criticized as too high, especially for the NES games, given the prices of many of the games available as used and the near-zero costs of manufacture and distribution. It has become apparent, however, that the effort involved in emulating these games can be significant, as evidenced by several serious bug fix updates (see "Library history", above) and by significant differences in the emulated versions' game features, including added capabilities (See "Differences from original games", below). Further adding to the cost is getting older games rated by the ESRB. All games released on the Virtual Console must be ESRB-rated.

Differences from original games

Nintendo has stated that the Virtual Console releases will be faithful to the original games, eliminating the possibility of graphical enhancements, customizable controls, or added online multiplayer features. However, for various reasons, the gameplay experience is not always identical to the original.

For example, some Nintendo 64 games originally required peripheral hardware in order to use certain features, and they now play the same way they originally would without the peripherals plugged in. None of the Nintendo 64 Virtual Console games feature force feedback, which was originally provided from a Rumble Pak although the GameCube ports of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask do use the force feedback from the GameCube controller. Mario Kart 64 no longer supports saving of "Ghost Data," which originally required a Controller Pak on the Nintendo 64. Cruis'n USA and Wave Race 64 also cannot access the option to transfer save data to and from a Controller Pak.

Some reviewers have reported that games play differently due to the different controllers. Super Mario World, for instance, has been cited as more difficult to play due to the GameCube controller's button placement. The Classic Controller, which has buttons arranged in a fashion very similar to that of the Super Nintendo's controller, or an adapter that allows an actual SNES controller to plug into the Wii's GameCube controller port, are better alternatives. The Nintendo 64 controller featured more face buttons than either the GameCube or Classic Controller, so most N64 games released so far have mapped the C-buttons to the right analog stick and the Z button to the L, ZL, and ZR buttons on the Classic controller, which some reviewers have described to be somewhat awkward.

Three NES games—Excitebike, Mach Rider and Wrecking Crew—did not originally have saving capabilities outside of Japan for their original releases, as they made use of a peripheral called the Famicom Data Recorder (which was never made available outside Japan) to save data of player-designed tracks and courses. This feature was fully implemented in their Virtual Console incarnations by way of saving the course data to the Wii's internal memory. One N64 Virtual Console game that does support an extra feature is Pokémon Snap which allows players to send one in-game photo to the Wii Message Board per day—emulating the original version's sticker-printing feature which could be used by bringing the Game Pak to special in-store kiosks.

Hardware differences aside, most Virtual Console games released thus far have not changed from their original versions; however, Nintendo 64 games render polygons at increased resolution. Some significant exceptions are F-Zero, when the player hits the rails on the track, the track no longer flashes in black as in the original SNES game. Tecmo Bowl, which originally featured real player names via the NFL Players Association, but because of licensing issues (Electronic Arts owns exclusive rights to the license), their names have been removed, and only their numbers are shown. A similar case has occurred with Wave Race 64, which had all of the Kawasaki ad banners replaced with Wii and Nintendo DS banners, because Nintendo's license with Kawasaki expired. Other documented changes are in Kid Icarus, whose password system has been altered so that only regular passwords work, but not special ones, such as ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS. A similar change has been made to Mario Golf, which originally had a code to enable password input for special tournaments. As seen in the in-game manual, this feature, as well as being able to use a Transfer Pak to transfer characters from the Game Boy Color version of Mario Golf, have been eliminated.

In the previously unreleased-outside-Asia title Sin & Punishment, menu commands and certain in-game text (all originally written in Japanese), have been translated into English. The title screen logo and in-game subtitles, haven't been translated from their original Japanese versions, although the game has always featured English voice acting, even in its original Japanese N64 release.

For the Virtual Console release of StarTropics, Mike's weapon has been changed from "Island Yo-Yo" to "Island Star", since Yo-Yo is still a trademarked term in Canada. A unique aspect of StarTropics on the NES was a saga involving a piece of paper, resembling parchment, that came packaged with the game. In later parts of the game, Mike receives an enigmatic message from his uncle through a third party. "Evil aliens from a distant planet...." "Tell Mike to dip my letter in water...." The correct course of action was to dip the physical piece of paper in water. It revealed a secret code that must be used in the game in order to advance. For the Virtual Console release, the letter is included in digital form with an image of a letter and a bucket of water at the bottom. When the player clicks on one of the images, the letter dips into the bucket and the code is revealed. In the European release, the letter simply has a "click here" link at the bottom of the letter.

Since the licensed use of the boss Spider-Man in the Mega Drive/Genesis game The Revenge of Shinobi was for a limited period of time, the game was subsequently prevented from being re-released in recent years on compilations and digital download services. The 2009 release for the Virtual Console features a new specific software revision that omits the Marvel copyright notice and replaces Spider-Man with a pink palette swap of the character that still behaves the same as the licensed Spider-Man.

The Virtual Console version of The Legend of Zelda is not the original NES release, nor is it the Japanese Disk System released, but instead the updated version featured in 2003's The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition compilation disc for GameCube. The core gameplay is identical to the original game, however it features the save screen and text changes made to the 2003 version, such as the opening intro text and copyright date.

Punch-Out!! (which is based on the "Mr. Dream" version from 1990) has at least one notable change from the NES version. One of Piston Honda's between-round quotes, on the NES version is as follows: "Where is the NHKmarker Camera? Hello, Tokyo!" NHK is an actual broadcaster in Japan, so (presumably due to trademark reasons) this has been replaced by "Where are my camera crew? Hello, Tokyo!" in the Virtual Console version.

The above changes to The Legend of Zelda and Punch-Out!!, however, were not made to the versions of the games included in Animal Crossing for the GameCube.

Reports have surfaced stating that when the Virtual Console version of Punch-Out!! is played in progressive scan, the game suffers from a lag in controls, which significantly raises the difficulty level compared to the NES version.

PAL issues

With the launch of the Wii in territories using the PAL television system, it has become apparent that in most cases the games supplied for the Virtual Console run in 50Hz mode and in their original unoptimized state. Unoptimized PAL games run roughly 17% slower than their original speed in 60Hz and have borders covering the top and the bottom of the screen. Setting the Wii console to 60Hz mode does not force the 50Hz game into 60Hz mode (as is possible on emulators and modified PAL consoles).

All currently released Nintendo 64 games are partially PAL optimized, resulting in full screen games (although still running in 50Hz and locked to the original slower gameplay speed). This optimization was not the case for the original cartridge versions of Super Mario 64, Wave Race 64 or Mario Kart 64, making the Virtual Console versions superior in that regard.

Additionally, some Super Nintendo games are also partially PAL optimized with reduced borders but still retaining the slower run speed of the original PAL release (Super Mario World, Super Probotector and Street Fighter II).

A select few games were already optimized in the original release to begin with, and are thus just as fast as their 60Hz counterparts this time around (the most obvious examples being Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest).

Turbografx games are the only Virtual Console games to actually run in 60Hz on PAL Wii systems; this is because the game data was never changed for release in PAL territories, the original hardware itself performed the conversion to a 50Hz signal.

One example of a poor PAL conversion is seen in the Virtual Console release of Sonic the Hedgehog, which retains the slower framerate, music and borders of the original PAL Mega Drive version, despite the fact that the GameCube release Sonic Mega Collection allows PAL users to choose which version of the game they want to play.

Recently, during Nintendo's 'Hanabi Festival' campaign, certain titles that were never released in Europe are being added to the Virtual console. Some of these games, namely the Japan only titles such as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, are run in 60Hz only, thus keeping the original speed and gameplay. A small reminder is shown when previewing the game's channel.Interestingly, these games can actually be played in both PAL60 (480i) and 480p modes. This makes these releases look significantly better on Progressive displays such as LCD TV's. The fast moving sprites in NES and SNES games generally create a significant amount of interlace artifacts on such displays that the 480p option resolves.

Initially, some PAL Virtual Console games would not display correctly on high-definition televisions when connected via the component lead. However, starting with the April 13, 2007 update of the PAL Virtual Console, certain newly added games, such as Punch-Out!!, support the "Wii Component Cable Interlace mode." This is a temporary fix to problems with various Virtual Console games being played over component cable on HDTVs. The mode can be enabled by accessing the operations guide of the game, and (with the Nunchuk attached) pressing the buttons Z + A + 2 simultaneously. A sound is played if the mode is enabled correctly. Several older games also have updates available to enable the feature, such as Super Castlevania IV. The mode can be disabled by using the same method, but with the button combination Z + A + 1 instead. A full list of games supporting this mode is available at, an English version can be found at

See also


  1. IGN: The Return of the NeoGeo
  2. バーチャルコンソール タイトル検索 - Wii
  3. Go Time: Hey Japan, Here Come The Neo Geo VC Games
  4. Where Are The TurboGrafx Virtual Console Games?
  5. Wii: TurboGrafx Games Now Live On Virtual Console
  6. [1]. "Nintendo Conference 2007 Fall" IGN. October 9, 2007.
  8. Boot/Save list
  9. Virtual Console Game Suspension Wii Delight
  10. IGN: Return of the Neo Geo
  11. Nintendo's Wii: A Gateway to New Experiences
  15. Turbografx games come to Wii Virtual Console
  16. IGN: UK Virtual Console am GO!
  17. Japan Gets Way Better Virtual Console Lineup | Game | Life from
  18. Retronauts Bonus Stage 6: Japan VC Sucks | Game | Life from
  19. [2]
  20. The Wii 4:3 Hall Of Shame | Game | Life from
  21. IGN: Virtual Console Up Close
  22. Wii Interview: Nintendo answers your VC questions -
  23. No fix coming for Mario Kart on Wii Virtual Console -
  24. Nintendo World Report - Virtual Console Mondays: February 5, 2007
  25. Nintendo World Report - Virtual Console Mondays: February 26, 2007
  26. GameSpot review: Excitebike (Virtual Console)
  27. Virtual Consolation Prize: These Broken Wings | Game | Life from
  30. [3]
  31. Punch-Out and Crippling HDTV Lag | Game | Life from
  32. [05]
  33. List of VC titles supporting Wii Component Cable Interlace Mode - The Virtual Console Forums

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