Nintendo Switch Online is a relatively cheap service that comes with cool perks.
With the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo finally decided to join Microsoft and Sony in charging for online play. Like Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus, Nintendo Switch Online is the only way to play many of the Switch's biggest online games, including Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Overwatch, Splatoon 2, and more.
Those playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons will probably want to sign up for Nintendo Switch Online to experience the game's multiplayer aspects, and you also need the subscription to use Animal Crossing: New Horizons' NookLink service, which is part of the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app. With Switch Online, you can use the app to scan QR codes of custom patterns made in past Animal Crossing games to bring them into New Horizons. You can also voice and text chat with other players.
While it's a bummer to pay for something you used to get for nothing, the service does have its perks, the biggest of which is a growing library of classic NES and SNES games, available just subscribing. Here's an overview of what you need to know before subscribing to Nintendo Switch Online, including its pricing and perks.
First, some good news: Nintendo Switch Online costs significantly less than the competition. Nintendo only charges $20. You can pick up a three-month or one-year individual subscription at Amazon or sign up directly at Nintendo, making it significantly cheaper than Sony and Microsoft's services, which cost $60 a year. Here's the breakdown of pricing for a single account holder:
- One month -- $4
- Three months -- $8
- One year -- $20
If you have multiple people in your house who want their own accounts, you'll need to spring for the family plan. It costs $35 per year and allows up to eight people to play online, which is actually a pretty good deal even if you just want to turn a bunch of your friends into a family (we won't tell).
With that out of the way, let's take a look at all the perks that come with the service.
Without Nintendo Switch Online, you can't play games like Mario Tennis Aces, Splatoon 2, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online without a subscription. The same goes for third-party games like Diablo 3: The Eternal Collection.
If you look at the Eshop page for online first-party games like Mario Tennis Aces, you'll see a disclaimer warning that online play will require a subscription. Some free games, like Fortnite, don't have the disclaimer and can be played online for free.
Nintendo Switch Online App
Some games, like Fortnite, have voice chat built-in. Unfortunately, many games--including Nintendo's first-party titles--don't. And while voice chat is a standard built-in feature for PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live, that's not the case with Nintendo Switch Online.
This feature is already in place, but to talk with other players while playing online, you need to download the Nintendo Switch Online app (you can grab it here: iOS, Android). Yes, you'll need two separate devices to play and talk to people online. Otherwise, it might be better to link up with your friends via a third-party service like Discord.
Save Data Cloud Backup
If you lose your Nintendo Switch and buy a new one, all of your save data goes with it. But with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, most of your save data is backed up on Nintendo's servers.
Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and cool breezes when it comes to Nintendo's cloud saves. Some games don't support online save data, and if you let your subscription lapse, you could lose your saves.
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Access to Classic NES Games
PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold subscribers get free games each month they can download and play on their respective systems. Nintendo Switch Online subscribers will get a similar benefit, but with much older games.
Switch Online subscribers have access to a selection of 50 classic NES titles at this point, and new games are added every once in a while. The games also have added online play, so you won't need your second player to be in the same room with you. You can check out the full lineup thus far below.
- Mighty Bomb Jack
- Donkey Kong
- Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Balloon Fight
- Ice Climber
- Dr. Mario
- The Legend of Zelda
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Double Dragon
- River City Ransom
- Ghosts'n Goblins
- Tecmo Bowl
- Pro Wrestling
- Ice Hockey
- Solomon's Key
- NES Open Tournament Golf
- Super Dodge Ball
- Wario's Woods
- Ninja Gaiden
- ADVENTURES OF LOLO
- Blaster Master
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
- Super Mario Bros 2
- Kirby's Adventure
- Kid Icarus
- Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
- Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
- Star Soldier
- Donkey Kong Jr.
- VS. Excitebike
- Clu Clu Land
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge
- City Connection
- Wrecking Crew
- Donkey Kong 3
- Kung-Fu Heroes
- Vice: Project Doom
- JOURNEY TO SILIUS
- Shadow of the Ninja (Coming soon)
- Eliminator Boat Duel (Coming Soon)
Switch Online also allows you to purchase the Switch-compatible NES controllers seen above so you can play the classic NES games how they were originally intended. The pack costs $60, and the limit is one per Nintendo account. They're fairly limited, however, and are only for sale occasionally.
Access to Classic Super NES Games
In September 2019, Nintendo revealed SNES titles would also be available to Switch Online subscribers. The current list includes 24 classic SNES games, such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Breath of Fire, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. As with the NES titles, local and online multiplayer is enabled for these SNES titles, and they'll also include the Rewind feature that lets you dial back a few seconds in-game to undo a mistake. See the full list of SNES games available now on Switch below:
- Super Mario World
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
- Super Mario Kart
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Super Metroid
- Star Fox
- Stunt Race FX
- Kirby's Dream Land 3
- Kirby's Dream Course
- Super Ghouls'n Ghosts
- Demon's Crest
- Super Soccer
- Super Puyo Puyo 2
- Breath Of Fire
- BRAWL BROTHERS
- SUPER E.D.F. EARTH DEFENSE FORCE
- Super Tennis
- Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics
- Star Fox 2
- Super Punch-Out!!
- Kirby Super Star
- Breath of Fire II
- Pop'n TwinBee (Coming soon)
- Smash Tennis (Coming soon)
Unsurprisingly, Nintendo also offers an official SNES controller that's compatible with Nintendo Switch and exclusive to Switch Online members. As the pack includes one controller rather than two, it costs $30, half the price of the NES controller bundle, and there's a limit of four purchases per Nintendo Account. And like the NES controllers, these controllers aren't always around, so you'll have to check back to see if they're up for grabs.
Nintendo also offers exclusive special deals and offers to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. Those offers include a download code for exclusive Splatoon 2 in-game gear (12-month memberships only), the classic NES and SNES controllers detailed above, and access to the free-to-download battle royale game Tetris 99. Nintendo previously offered a voucher deal where you could buy a pair of game vouchers for $100 and redeem them for two games, potentially saving yourself $20 if you stick to full-price ($60) titles. You can't sign up for that deal anymore, but already-purchased vouchers can still be redeemed up to a year afterward.