Everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online

The Nintendo Switch has officially made the jump online, and Switch fans have flocked to the new service to compete with friends and foes alike. The aptly titled Nintendo Switch Online is comparable to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live in that its primary function is to grant access to online multiplayer. A subscription to the service, however, also nets you a library of select NES and SNES games. That said, Nintendo isn’t looking to fully replicate its competitors when it comes to the Switch’s online service.

Here’s everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online.

Further reading

Individual/Family subscription models

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.

Family subscriptions, meanwhile, cost $35 per year. To take advantage of this bulk subscription, you need to be linked in 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 apiece.

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 1-year Nintendo Switch Online memberships.

Nintendo Switch Online is (mostly) required for online multiplayer

nintendo switch deals

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.

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

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.

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

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 the current list of 29 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.

Brawl Brothers Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island Stunt Race FX
Demon’s Crest Super Puyo Puyo 2 Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics Super Tennis Super Mario World
Kirby’s Dream Land 3 Breath of Fire Super Metroid
Star Fox F-ZERO Super Soccer
Super Earth Defense Force Kirby’s Dream Course The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Super Mario Kart Pilotwings Breath of Fire II
Kirby Super Star Super Punch-Out!! Star Fox 2 
Pop’n TwinBee Smash Tennis Panel de Pon
Operation Logic Bomb
Wild Guns
 

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. Nintendo confirmed to Business Insider that more NES games will come to the program, just not on a monthly schedule. So, we’ll get them when we get them.

Metroid NES Open Tournament Golf River City Ransom Solomon’s Key Clu Clu Land
Tennis Mighty Bomb Jack Pro Wrestling Ninja Gaiden Wrecking Crew
Balloon Fight Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream Baseball Wario’s Woods Donkey Kong 3
Dr. Mario Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Soccer Blaster Master Volleyball
Tecmo Bowl Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels Super Mario Bros. Kirby’s Adventure City Connection
Yoshi The Legend of Zelda Double Dragon StarTropics Donkey Kong
Gradius Adventures of Lolo Super Dodge Ball Kid Icarus Vice: Project Doom
Ice Hockey Super Mario Bros. 2 Ghosts’n Goblins Star Soldier Crystalis
TwinBee Super Mario Bros. 3 Excitebike Donkey Kong Jr. Journey to Silius
Mario Bros. Double Dragon II: The Revenge   Ice Climber Vs. Excitebike Kung-Fu Heroes
Atlantis no Nazo Eliminator Boat Duel  Shadow of the Ninja  Rygar   

Tetris 99 is exclusive to Nintendo Switch Online

Nintendo Switch Online subscribers also gain exclusive access to Tetris 99, a wild battle royale version of the classic puzzle game. If you’re a Tetris fan, playing this 99-person iteration is arguably worth the subscription price alone.

Exclusive NES and SNES wireless controllers (they’re sold out for now)

At one point, Nintendo offered some pretty sweet NES and SNES controllers that would attach to your Switch just like Joy-Con. These controllers were exclusive to Nintendo Switch Online users but have since sold out, just like the system itself right now. When they were available, the NES controllers were $60 and the SNES controller would set you back $30. While it’s rare that you’ll find them in-stock, Nintendo seems to have some of the SNES controllers currently available—but you’ll be limited to one per Nintendo account. 

Member-only offers

The SNES and NES Joy-Cons are part of Switch Online’s member-only offers. Although one of the only offers right now is for some in-game gear for Splatoon 2, member-only offers change regularly. But, if you’re interested in a free jersey and some Squidkid V shoes for your character, all you need to do is download the code sent to your email. 

Editors' Recommendations