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Everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online

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Mario and pals posing under the Nintendo Switch Online logo.

Much like Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, the Nintendo Switch makes it easy to jump online and play with friends. The service, known simply as Nintendo Switch Online, has seen big changes over the years, and it now offers plenty more than access to online multiplayer. One of the biggest draws is its growing collection of games from N64, NES, and other iconic platforms — making Nintendo Switch Online a great way to access the best titles from past generations.

Nintendo offers a few different options when it comes to paying for Nintendo Switch Online, with both individual accounts and family accounts up for grabs. From its library of retro games to a smartphone application and special offers, here’s a complete look at Nintendo Switch Online.

Individual/family subscription models

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The standard Nintendo Switch Online comes in two subscription types: Individual and family. An individual subscription covers one user, and a family subscription covers up to eight. A one-year individual subscription costs $20. One-month and three-month subscriptions are also available for $4 and $8, respectively. It’s obviously most cost-efficient to purchase a year out of the gate if you plan on using the service semi-regularly.

Family subscriptions, meanwhile, cost $35 per year. To take advantage of this bulk subscription, you need to be linked to a family group. You can create a family group on the Nintendo Account website. Essentially, you and seven friends can get access to all Nintendo Switch Online features for less than $5 a piece.

Both subscription types are available for purchase on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Nintendo Switch Online is accessible via the orange navigational menu when you first open the storefront. Keep in mind that subscriptions automatically renew unless you opt out in the eShop menu.

Prepaid scratch-off cards can also be purchased at participating retailers for one-year Nintendo Switch Online memberships, as well.

Nintendo Switch Online is (mostly) required for online multiplayer

enemies get splashed in Splatoon 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Before Switch Online launched, Nintendo offered free online multiplayer for games like Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Now, you have to have a subscription to use the online features of first-party Nintendo games and most third-party games. The one major exception is Fortnite, which can be played online without a subscription. Other free-to-play games like Rocket League can be played without a paid Switch membership.

Nintendo Online is only needed for multiplayer over the internet, however. Those without a subscription can still use the Switch’s Local Wireless Play feature between two Switch consoles, with up to three players on each console.

You need to use the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app to chat

If you want to talk to your friends while playing online games, you need the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Yes, it’s annoying to have to use two devices to take part in a traditional online multiplayer experience, but we don’t make the rules. Fortnite, again, is the exception to this rule, as it allows voice chat on the console itself. Since this is a cumbersome solution, we recommend using Discord or a different communication app that you probably have already.

Adds the ability to save to the cloud

Nintendo Switch cloud backup screen.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of the biggest knocks on the Switch since launch was that there was no method for backing up your saves. If your console died, well, you were out of luck. With a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you can back up your saves to the cloud, ensuring that you won’t lose progress even if your console breaks.

Cloud saves work with most Switch games, but there are a few outliers. For instance, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Pokémon Let’s Go, Splatoon 2, Dark Souls Remastered, and Dead Cells do not support cloud saves. Nintendo has said that this is to maintain competitive balance in games like Let’s Go and Splatoon 2. Nintendo doesn’t want cloud saves to disrupt competitive rankings. In a game like Dark Souls, in which it autosaves pretty much after you do anything, reverting to a previous save from the cloud could potentially undermine the developer’s design.

For more details about which games work with cloud saves, check out the official Nintendo website.

Cloud saves can disappear after your subscription lapses

As a feature exclusive for Switch Online subscribers, it makes sense that cloud saves won’t last forever if you cancel your subscription. Once your subscription lapses, you won’t be able to access your cloud saves. After six months, they’ll be deleted entirely.

Subscribers get access to classic NES and SNES games

Collage of classic NES games.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of the major perks of the Switch Online program is the library of free classic games. For the first year of the service, Nintendo gave subscribers a steadily growing list of NES games. Nintendo sweetened the pot at the start of year two, adding SNES games to the program.

The games included save states, too, as well as multiple display settings (4:3, Pixel Perfect, and CRT Filter). Some of these games even have multiplayer, both local and online.

Though by default you can only play these games with an internet connection, you can download them to play offline for up to seven days at a time. If your subscription lapses, you’ll lose access to these games, just like you would with PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold offerings.

Here’s a list of the most pouplar  SNES games included with Nintendo Switch Online. Keep in mind that Nintendo plans to add more SNES games to the program in the future, but there is no set schedule for new additions to the SNES library.

BombuzalJoe & Mac 2: Lost in the TropicsStar Fox
Brawl BrothersKirby Super StarStar Fox 2
Breath of FireKirby’s Dream CourseStunt Race FX
Breath of Fire IIKirby’s Dream Land 3Sugoi Hebereke
ClaymatesKunio-kun no Dodgeball da yo Zen’in ShūgōSuper Baseball Simulator 1.000
Demon’s CrestThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the PastSuper Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Donkey Kong CountryMagical DropSuper Mario All-Stars
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong QuestMario’s Super PicrossSuper Mario Kart
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!Natsume Championship WrestlingSuper Mario World
Doomsday WarriorOperation Logic BombSuper Punch-Out!!
Earth Defense ForceThe Peace KeepersSuper Metroid
EarthBoundPilotwingsSuper Punch-Out!!
Earthworm Jim 2Pop’n TwinBeeSuper Soccer
F-ZEROPrehistorik ManSuper Tennis
Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy WarPsycho DreamTetris Attack
Fire Emblem: Mystery of the EmblemPuyo Puyo 2Tuff E Nuff
Harvest MoonShin Megami TenseiValis IV 
The Ignition FactorShin Megami Tensei IIWild Guns
Jelly BoyShin Megami Tensei If…Yoshi’s Island
Joe & MacSpanky’s Quest 

Here’s the list of NES games. Nintendo added multiple NES games per month during the first year of service. Now that SNES games have arrived, however, the monthly updates are no more. We have received new SNES games periodically, but not on a month-to-month basis.

Adventures of LoloDouble Dragon II: The RevengeKirby’s AdventurePro WrestlingSuper Mario Bros. 3
Adventures of Lolo 2Dr. MarioKonami’s Ping PongPunch-Out!!Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
Atlantis no NazoEliminator Boat DuelKung Fu HeroesRiver City RansomTecmo Bowl
Balloon FightExcitebikeKunio-kunRygarTennis
BaseballFamicom WarsThe Legend of ZeldaS.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack TeamTwinBee
Blaster Master Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of LightMappy-LandShadow of the NinjaVice: Project Doom
City ConnectionGhosts ‘n GoblinsMario Bros.SoccerVolleyball
Clu Clu LandGradiusMetroidSolomon’s KeyWario’s Woods
CrystalisIce ClimberMighty Bomb JackSolomon’s Key 2Wrecking Crew
Dig Dug IIIce HockeyMotherStar SoldierYie Ar Kung-Fu
Donkey KongThe ImmortalNES Open Tournament GolfStarTropicsYoshi
Donkey Kong 3Journey to SiliusNightshadeSuper Dodge BallZelda II: The Adventure of Link
Donkey Kong Jr.Joy Mech FightNinja GaidenSuper Mario Bros.
Double DragonKid IcarusNinja JaJaMaru-kunSuper Mario Bros. 2

N64 and Sega Genesis games for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack members

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack list of N64 games.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

During the September 2021 Nintendo Direct, a long-awaited announcement was made. Nintendo revealed the Expansion Pack for the online subscription service featuring N64 and Sega Genesis games. Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is available for $50 per year ($30 more than the standard membership). This serves as an enhanced version of the subscription service, offering more benefits.

Below are the new N64 and Sega Genesis games as of February 2024:

N64

  • 1080 Snowboarding
  • Banjo Kazooie
  • Blast Corps
  • Dr. Mario 64
  • Excitebike 64
  • F-Zero X
  • GoldenEye 007
  • Harvest Moon 64
  • Jet Force Gemini
  • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
  • Mario Golf
  • Mario Kart 64
  • Mario Party
  • Mario Party 2
  • Mario Party 3
  • Mario Tennis
  • Paper Mario
  • Pilotwings 64
  • Pokémon Puzzle League
  • Pokémon Snap
  • Pokémon Stadium
  • Pokémon Stadium 2
  • Sin & Punishment
  • Star Fox 64
  • Super Mario 64
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  • Wave Race 64
  • Win Back: Covert Operations
  • Yoshi’s Story

Sega Genesis

  • Alien Soldier
  • Alien Storm
  • Alisia Dragoon
  • Altered Beast
  • Beyond Oasis
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Columns
  • Comix Zone
  • Contra: Hard Corps
  • Crusaders of Centy
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Dynamite Headdy
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Ecco the Dolphin
  • Flicky
  • Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
  • Golden Axe
  • Golden Axe II
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Landstalker
  • Light Crusader
  • Mega Man: The Wiley Wars
  • M.U.S.H.A.
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Pulseman
  • Ristar
  • Shining Force
  • Shining Force II
  • Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  • Sonic The Hedgehog 2
  • Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball
  • Space Harrier II
  • Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • Strider
  • Super Fantasy Zone
  • Sword of Vermillon
  • Target Earth
  • The Revenge of Shinobi
  • Thunder Force II
  • ToeJam & Earl
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Zero Wing

DLC at no additional cost for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack members

Squid Kid from Splatoon 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack members also gain access to certain first-party DLC packs at no additional cost. The full list is as follows:

  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Pass
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Happy Home Paradise DLC
  • Splatoon 2 — Octo Expansion DLC

Keep in mind, you’ll have access to these packs so long as you remain a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack member. If your membership expires, you’ll no longer be able to access these expansions.

Exclusive games

Board littered with pellets in Pac-Man 99.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Nintendo Switch Online subscribers gain access to exclusive games that release periodically. One of the most popular is Tetris 99, a battle royale game that requires you to outlast 98 other opponents. Likewise, Pac-Man 99 is of the same vein. Collect pellets, consume ghosts, and dish out attacks to the other players. Another noteworthy inclusion was Super Mario Bros. 35. We say “was” because it has since been removed from the service, and was only present in celebration of Mario’s 35th anniversary. This, too, was a battle royale, in which players aimed to survive against 34 opponents while making their way through various Super Mario Bros. levels.

Exclusive NES and SNES wireless controllers

Exclusive NES wireless controllers packaged on a table.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

You can also get retro NES and SNES controllers if you’re a Nintendo Switch Online subscription-holder. These devices connect to the Switch and feel more like traditional, old-school controllers, rather than something like a Joy-Con. These are great for players looking to immerse themselves with older games, with controllers to match! The NES controller pack is $50, while the SNES controller is $30.

N64 and Sega Genesis controllers

Yoshiaki Koizumi holding the N64 and Sega Genesis controllers for Nintendo Switch.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Finally, Nintendo also announced N64 and Sega Genesis controllers for Switch. These, much like the NES and SNES controllers before, are only available for Switch Online members. They will both work wirelessly with the Switch and will cost $50 each. It’s unclear when these will launch, but it will likely be around the same time the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack comes out.

Member-only offers

Splatoon 2 characters wearing exclusive gear.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Member-exclusive promotions for Switch Online include a lot of perks beyond the retro controllers. If you’re a subscriber, you can get a free Tetris 99 download (and if you’re a hardcore Tetris fan, this alone makes it worth the cost), a free Nook Inc. silk rug in Animal Crossing, and Splatoon 2 gear. Additionally, the company will regularly roll out new perks, so members should check for new benefits.

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