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Everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online

It took more than a year after launch, but the Nintendo Switch received its online service in September 2018. 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 also gets you a library of classic NES games. But 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.

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 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 five bucks a piece.

Both subscription types are available for purchase on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Nintendo Switch Online is located on 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.

Nintendo Switch Online is (mostly) required for online multiplayer

Before Switch Online launched, Nintendo offered free online multiplayer for games like Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8. Now you have to have a subscription to utilize 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.

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 smartphone app. The free app is available on iOS and Android. Yes, it’s annoying to have to use two devices to have a traditional online multiplayer experience, but we don’t make the rules. Fortnite, again, is the exception to this rule, as it includes native voice chat right there on your console.

Includes the power of the cloud saves

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 backup 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, 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.

Cloud saves can disappear after your subscription lapses

As a feature exclusive for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, it makes sense that cloud saves don’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, though, your cloud saves will be permanently deleted.

Subscribers get access to NES games

One of the major perks of the Nintendo Switch Online program is free NES games. When the service launched in September, Nintendo gave subscribers 20 NES games to play inside the Nintendo Switch Online app on Switch. Since then, Nintendo has added a handful of titles to the program. The games include save states and multiple display features (4:3, Pixel Perfect, and CRT Filter). Some of these games have multiplayer, both local and online.

Nintendo has been adding games each month to the program. Here’s the current list of games:

  • Metroid
  • Tennis
  • Balloon Fight
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • Yoshi
  • NES Open Tournament Golf
  • Mighty Bomb Jack
  • Donkey Kong
  • Ice Climber
  • Double Dragon
  • Gradius
  • Ice Hockey
  • Super Dodge Ball
  • TwinBee
  • Mario Bros.
  • Dr. Mario
  • River City Ransom
  • Pro Wrestling
  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Ghosts’n Goblins
  • Excitebike
  • Solomon’s Key
  • Adventures of Lolo
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Wario’s Woods
  • Blaster Master
  • Kirby’s Adventure

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.

Nintendo intends on expanding the service

During Nintendo’s most recent earnings report, it was revealed that Nintendo Switch Online has amassed eight million subscribers since launch. Along with online multiplayer and the free NES games, Nintendo is “working on continuing to expand the service offerings.”

It’s unclear at this time what that means, but there has been some speculation that SNES titles could come to the library of free games.

Exclusive NES wireless controllers

If you want to play the NES games with a traditional NES controller rather than the Joy-Con or Pro controller, Nintendo has an option for you. You can buy a pair of wireless NES controllers from Nintendo’s website for $60. To buy the NES controllers, you have to be a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber.

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