Nintendo's ‘Pac-Man 99’ turns the classic single-person game into a battle royale

The new, competitive spin is free for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers.

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For all its 8-bit, retro arcade simplicity, Pac-Man can be a surprisingly stressful game. The grating sounds, the incessant chase, the ever-increasing pressure... honestly, it’s kind of a nightmare, when you think about it. At least there’s never been a way to, like, compete against nearly 100 other players simultaneously in a bid to be the last Pac-Person standing, right?

Ah, would you look at that? Well, at least this is a simple case of human hubris. It’s not like anyone’s let AI are similar games from scratch, thus getting them one step closer to their own self-awareness... wait, what? Oh c’mon.

The free-for-all that’s free for all — Beginning today, Nintendo Switch Online subscribers can download and play Pac-Man 99 for free, a game that pits you alongside — you guessed it — 98 other Pac-Men in a competition to see who can be the last yellow muncher standing. Similar to Nintendo’s earlier retro royale remix, Tetris 99, players will navigate their own games individually while earning level bonuses to strategically deploy against their opponents. The number of potential roadblocks includes Jammer Pac-Men to slow down competitors and Sleeping Ghosts that can be sent out to other players’ games, alongside personal power-ups to give you an edge over everyone else.

Yet another win for the Nintendo Switch — Although a minor addition to the Switch’s many perks, titles like Pac-Man 99 only further solidify the gaming console’s hold on the market. Despite hitting the market just over four years ago, Nintendo’s current flagship recently garnered its highest sales numbers during 2020’s holiday season. Outside of its actual entertainment value, the Switch is also widely considered to be the least ecologically harmful gaming option available these days (not to mention the cheapest). And, with the potential to (unofficially) install Android 10, it’s also got a bunch of unsanctioned use cases.

As Ars Technica points out, this actually isn’t the first Pac-Man multiplayer offering, although it already sounds to be a vast improvement. Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle was released last fall, but given that it arrived via Stadia... well, you can imagine the issues that came with it.