On Saturday, the world may have gotten its first look at an NES game officially running on a Nintendo Switch. You might think the weird thing about this news is how long it has taken for Virtual Console support to come to the Switch. But this isn’t a Virtual Console story.
Turns out, this is somehow weirder. Your Nintendo Switch may already have a fully playable NES game just sitting inside of it.
The news has emerged from SwitchBrew.org, a depository of hacking and file-system analysis for Nintendo’s latest console. After a major dump of “title” names from the system’s file system in July, users there discovered a “title” in the system named “flog.” The site’s original stub about flog alleged that this title contained a fully fledged NES emulator, but it said nothing else.
Saturday’s SwitchBrew update centers entirely around this mysterious flog entry, and it insists that this is an emulator wrapped around a single NES video game: the NES version of Golf first launched in 1984. (“Flog? That’s ‘golf’ backwards!”) According to poster “yellows8” (who previously created his own Github depository full of 3DS system exploits), this copy of NES Golf is just sitting on every Nintendo Switch console in the world, and it’s been designed specifically for Switch compatibility. Possible screenshots of the emulator in action, shown above, even demonstrate Joy-Con golfing motion controls.
This is particularly wild, as no emulated NES game, even during the waggle-heavy Wii era, has ever officially supported modern control updates like motion or touch-screen controls. Nintendo says that its upcoming online service will add online support for classic NES games, but it hasn’t announced motion-control upgrades or other gameplay additions to classics.
Yellows8 claims the emulator-wrapped game is installed on Switch systems dating back to the system’s original 1.0 firmware. The user also writes that “it’s unknown what exactly triggers launching this title.” Could there be a button combo, Joy-Con motion command, or even Amiibo-driven unlock required? Or is this just a hidden proof-of-concept of Virtual Console fare soon to officially launch? And how exactly did yellows8 get these screenshots if the user couldn’t load the hidden Switch game manually?
Update, 7:55 p.m. ET: In responding to Ars Technica’s questions, the researcher yellows8 claims to have personally tested the version of Golf found pre-loaded on Nintendo Switch. Yellows8 did not confirm exactly how the game was accessed, other than to describe the access as “unofficial”—meaning, the game was accessed in a way that an average system user might not be able to replicate. (Whether “unofficial” access means root system access, a hardware or software hack, or another exploit remains unknown.) Yellows8 also confirmed having played the game using both traditional Joy-Con buttons and motion control.
A Nintendo representative was unable to offer an official company response as of press time. (Instead, the rep offered a “ha!”)