There is no shortage of exclusive games that will sadly be lost in March of 2023 when Nintendo finally retires the eShop for Wii U and 3DS. But there are three extremely specific pieces of Nintendo’s digital history — already exclusively released only in Japan — that will become much, much harder to legally get your hands on. But first, just a bit of history.
Most of us know the name Nintendo Power from the American magazine but Nintendo Japan used the name for a service that ran from 1996 through 2007 and allowed owners to flash games onto Super Famicom and Game Boy RAM carts. As there was only so much room on the carts to hold the games it was essentially a rental service but if you were really determined you could keep them around. More on that later. Through the service’s lifespan Nintendo released 15 exclusive titles and only 4 of them were ever brought forward to an eShop:
Famicom Bunko: Hajimari no Mori – Wii U eShop
July 2007 (Wii), August 2013 (Wii U)
Metal Slader Glory: Director’s Cut – Wii U eShop
December 2015 (Wii U)
Balloon Fight/Balloon Kid GB – 3DS eShop
October 2011 (3DS)
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe [Nintendo Network reward] – NOT Available Digitally
January 2014 (3DS)
You can read more about the Nintendo Power hardware and service on Wikipedia, Nintendo Wiki, and surprisingly on Nintendo.co.jp where many of its original pages remain accessible (although Archive.org saved the good stuff).
Before anyone worries too much, it looks like everything from the Nintendo Power service has been dumped and backed up at this point. There are even English patches for some of the dialog heavy releases. But, if you want to own a legitimate copy of these games after March 2023, you’ll have to track down someone’s cartridge from Japan that happens to still have your desired game flashed to it from before the service shut down in 2007. Surprisingly, there are a few copies kicking around on eBay with games intact but it’s slim pickings out there if you’re really determined to own a physical copy.
Until next year it’s great to know that at least 3 of those ephemeral games can still be bought and downloaded in an official capacity, given that you have a Japanese 3DS or Wii U anyways. Thanks to BowzasaurusRex for pointing out this very specific and intriguing niche of Nintendo history that I personally never knew about.