What you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online in 2021

Steven Rondina • August 12, 05:47

For the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo made an abrupt pivot from completely accessible online multiplayer to a subscription-based system. The Nintendo Switch Online service is a unique one that features online play alongside the ability to a select number of NES and SNES games.

Nintendo Switch Online does operate quite differently from PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live, and features wildly different prices. Here’s everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online.

What is Nintendo Switch Online?

Nintendo Switch Online is a subscription-based service for Nintendo Switch that offers access to online multiplayer for certain titles, a handful of free games, and access to emulation apps for select NES and SNES games. The service is effectively the Nintendo Switch’s answer to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live, but with fewer features overall. The full list of features includes:

  • Access to select free games including Super Mario Bros. 35
  • Online play for other games
  • Access to a library of NES and SNES games
  • Save data cloud storage
  • Extra features on Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app

Exclusive deals on Nintendo eShop

Generally speaking, online Nintendo Switch Online membership is only required in pay-to-play games. This includes Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and more. For the most part, free-to-play games do not require Nintendo Switch Online membership. There are some exceptions, such as Tetris 99.

How much does Nintendo Switch Online membership cost?

There are two Nintendo Switch Online membership plans, one for an individual and another for a family. Individual plans can be purchased for different increments of time, while family plans can only be purchased for one-year periods. The price points are:

  • One month (individual): $3.99
  • Three months (individual): $7.99
  • One year (individual): $19.99
  • One year (family): $34.99

The family plan is designed to work for a family across multiple profiles and Nintendo accounts, including multiple Nintendo Switch units. This plan is ideal for groups of three or more.

What NES and SNES games come with Nintendo Switch Online?

Many notable NES and SNES games are available for Nintendo Switch Online members. The offering library spans several genres, and most gamers will be able to find something of value.

Some of the biggest NES games that are available include:

  • Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, 3, and The Lost Levels
  • Metroid
  • Punch-Out!!
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • The Legend of Zelda 1 and 2
  • Gradius
  • Kid Icarus
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • Ice Hockey
  • Excite Bike

The SNES also has a long list of all-time great titles available to players, as well as some games that never saw a release outside Japan. Highlights include:

  • Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island
  • Super Mario All-Stars
  • Super Metroid
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Super Mario Kart
  • KIrby Super Star
  • Donkey Kong Country 1, 2, and 3
  • Breath of Fire 1 and 2
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Star Fox 1 and 2
  • Kirby’s Dream Land 3
  • Kirby’s Dream Course

Alongside some of these games are “special edition” versions, such as a version of The Legend of Zelda where the player starts with every item and a version of Mario Kart that has all cups available right at the start. 

Unfortunately, both the NES and SNES catalogs have several notable omissions in the form of popular third-party games. As of this writing, games like Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Bubble Bobble, and Contra are missing, as are any installments in the Final Fantasy and Castlevania series. 

Some of these may be made available over time, but it is unknown when or if any of these might come out.

Which online multiplayer games don’t require Nintendo Switch Online membership?

Most free-to-play games don’t require Nintendo Switch Online membership. A short list of prominent games that fall into this category includes:

  • Pokemon Unite
  • Apex Legends
  • Fortnite: Battle Royale
  • Arena of Valor
  • Brawlhala
  • Paladins
  • Warframe
  • Smite

There are a number of other Nintendo Switch titles that are available for play without Nintendo Switch Online membership, and the list is growing larger over time. The biggest Nintendo Switch titles, such as Pokemon Sword and Shield, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate all require Nintendo Switch Online membership to play online.

Is Nintendo Switch Online membership worth it in 2021?

Nintendo Switch Online membership is a great value for those who want to play Nintendo’s biggest releases online, but isn’t necessarily worth it for everyone. 

For those who want to visit friends’ farms in Animal Crossing: New Horizons or battle opponents in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo Switch Online membership is a must as players can’t gain access to online features without it. On top of that, the $20 price tag is lower than what other online services charge.

But if someone is primarily into single-player games like Super Mario Odyssey, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Octopath Traveler, they won’t necessarily get as much value out of Nintendo Switch Online.

Whether a player will get their money’s worth out of Nintendo Switch Online membership varies from person to person, based on the types of games they enjoy playing. There is definite value there for many gamers, between the classic games and cloud storage on offer. But the centerpiece is still the online multiplayer, which isn’t required for some of the Switch’s biggest games and isn’t appealing to everyone.

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