Nintendo Switch Online’s NES emulator already hacked to allow more games

Nintendo via Polygon

Nintendo Switch Online has been hacked within hours of its release, and players have already figured out how to play their own ROMs as well as the 20 NES games that come with the service. The process through which they’re doing so is reportedly easy enough that most fans will be able to replicate it, if given instructions.

The first video of a player launching a game that is not included in the official offerings was released last night. You can watch it below.

You can watch another short clip of an uploaded ROM being launched below.

It turns out that the emulation used for these NES games seems like a direct port of the software used in the NES Classic Edition, which makes it very easy manipulate. The NES and SNES Classic Edition have been opened to allow the addition of new games for some time now, and doing so is a simple process at this point, even for laypeople, using a program called hakchi. Doing so fixes one of the system’s most annoying issues, in fact.

So how easy is it to add your own ROMS to Nintendo Switch Online? We asked kapu, who wrote the tweets above, and who spoke with @OatmealDome and @Master_F0x when answering our questions.

“For someone without prior experience in running Switch mods, getting all of it set up at first is a bit of a process, but nothing too hard with proper instructions,” he told Polygon. “After an initial setup it’s insanely easy to swap out ROMs and add entirely new ones.”

He thinks that the ease in which players can add their own mods is just a side-effect of Nintendo making it easy to add new games in general.

“I have serious doubts that it points to any vulnerabilities, I’d say it’s just a side-effect of making it easy on them to add more games as they officially release more, thus making it easy for modders as well,” he explained.

The big question is whether Nintendo can, or will, ban consoles for uploading their own apps onto their Switches.

“From what I’ve been told, there’s a fair amount of telemetry and checking on the app for a valid setup, but ultimately I’m unsure,” kapu said. “Nintendo is very unpredictable when it comes to these things so for now I would heavily advise against anyone else doing it.”

To keep things simple, maybe don’t mess with this if you don’t already know how it was done. What’s important is that it’s possible, and it’s very unlikely efforts to hack Nintendo Switch Online will stop here.


I wonder if this opens the door to a "shadow" Switch that never connects to the internet and instead serves as a portable emulator box with 1000+ games on it. Not that I would do such a thing, but it seems possible.

It’s a little unnecessary. If you have the ROMs already, there are already portable devices that can do this and they have HDMI out too.

Portable devices with physical controls though? Not to mention detachable and easy for multiplayer? Yeah you can Bluetooth pair to a phone or laptop but it’s not as ideal either way. When the switch pro or whatever they call it comes out, I can easily see myself loading my old one up with emulators and roms.

The nVidia Shield works pretty perfectly for me (the one with the flip top).

Yeah, but I have a Switch and I don’t have one of those things.

That door is already wide open without this.

Damn… now I’m tempted to get Nintendo Online.

20$/year to backup my saves and play roms on the go sounds excellent.

Until you do your first 7 day check in and they ban your system and delete you cloud saves

Yeah, I know. That’s probably what will happen, which is why I probably wouldn’t try it. If only Nintendo allowed you to buy the old games.

I can’t believe that the only company who is doing BC and legacy games the right way is Microsoft right now.

Pro wrestling, starman, press start for somersault dropkick, splooge.

All the more proof people still want a real virtual console, in my opinion.

I really don’t give a damn what hackers do and I am annoyed when good websites like POLYGON indirectly promote hackery (in other words, illegal practices). Next thing will be to read how people can break into a bank.

thats a bit hyperbolic, dontcha think?

It all went downhill when the editors didn’t force us freeloaders to click on every ad. We’re stealing from those poor sponsors…

I mean, I would read/watch the heck out of a Polygon feature about how to rob a bank. They could even make it into a series.

Oh man, that sounds like a badass show. Banks get to boast about how great their security is, and the team gets to show how wrong they are. Everyone’s in on it, and the team gets like a week to figure out a break-in plan. Police and everyone are informed, and it’s a whole big thing.

That sounds awesome!

I suspect there are a couple of shows with this premise out there, but I wonder if any of them don’t go down the "professional criminal" route.

I’d be interested in watching a show where each season there’s a new small team that has no experience or training at all, and they have to over the course of multiple heists figure out where their strengths lie and what common bank vulnerabilities are out there. They’d fail every heist at first, but over time their success rate starts to improve and the tone of the security teams shifts from "ha, these idiots just walked in front of a camera with no masks" to, "crud, Simone is just really good at lockpicking now, how are we going to handle that?".

Or barring that, I guess I’d settle for a more tongue-in-cheek Polygon walkthrough series in the same style as a Dark Souls guide or something:

"Now it might be tempting in this next part to just try and take out all of the guards right at the beginning but trust me, they’ll just keep on spawning infinitely. And if you wait too long, they’ll even start showing up in body armor, so just move fast and don’t focus on them. I used to advise hiding behind the south pillar if things got too chaotic, but it looks like after my last run on this level the bank actually had it removed."

How is it illegal?? If your sideloading the games u physically own . u can mod you’re own console with cfw or anything else as you own it . So you’re comment FAKE NEWS

I hear you but what % of users who do this only sideload content they also physically own?

Why does that percentage matter?

Modding is not illegal, piracy is. Stop trying to stigmatize my legitimate rights just because somebody else might be breaking the law with them.

Which, by the way, isn’t going to work in any case. Every single ROM on the Nintendo Switch is already available online to anyone with even a passing knowledge of how the Internet works. It is way easier to pirate a ROM than it is to mod a console. So it doesn’t matter whether or not I can customize the Switch emulator’s interface or install Link to the Past Randomized on it; that is going to have zero impact on how easy or hard it is for anyone else to pirate ROMs.

Oh my god is it possible to follow a polygon commenter? This is gold.

You can always bookmark their profile’s page and see their comments?

There’s an interesting discussion to be had about the ethics of over long copyrights, of digital preservation, of having entire sections of gaming culture exist outside the law, of consumer rights over digital purchases and indeed over physical hardware purchases that embed software.

But this sort of reactionary ‘modding is crime, piracy is theft’ nonsense doesn’t really contribute.


It’s a huge grey area, both legally and morally, with lots of arguments to be made.

As one example, I personally don’t see anything wrong with using my modded SNES classic to play a fan translated copy of a Japanese game. The game is almost 30 years old, isn’t sold in either country anymore, and was never sold in the US. My only options for playing it are emulation, or pay $60 on etsy for a fake cartridge for my SNES. I’d rather be a pirate than pay one.

"Nintendo is very unpredictable when it comes to these things"

This is one of the most predictable stances that Nintendo has. Nintendo hates pirates. We will see a new F-Zero, Earthbound, Golden Sun, and Advance wars before they ease up on hating pirates.

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