Nintendo Switch Online
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Nintendo Switch Online is a premium service that provides online play, retro games, a dedicated mobile app, exclusive offers, and, cloud saves for the Nintendo Switch. To put it another way, this is the Switch equivalent of PS+ or Xbox Live Gold.

This FAQ details everything that there is to know so far, including information on the new Expansion Pack for the service.

Nintendo Switch Online - FAQ

What Is Nintendo Switch Online?

Nintendo Switch Online is the Switch's premium online service that provides access to online multiplayer, free NES and SNES games (accessible within specific apps) that support on and offline multiplayer, a dedicated mobile app, exclusive offers, and the ability to upload all of your save data to the cloud.

What Is The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack?

The latest addition to the service adds a range of Nintendo 64 and SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis titles to their respective apps (these are listed below). In addition, it provides access to the Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise DLC and other Nintendo DLC.

You can see full details on that in the guide below.

How Much Does It Cost?

The price varies depending on how you choose to pay, below is the standard Nintendo Switch Online pricing.

12 Months 3 Months 1 Month Annual Family Membership (up to 8 users)
£17.99 / $19.99 £6.99 / $7.99 £3.49 / $3.99 £31.49 / $34.99

There's also a family membership option that provides Nintendo Switch Online to up to eight Switches for £31.49 / $34.99 per year. That's less than £5 / $5 per user if eight people are signed up.

The Expansion Pack can be added to subscriptions by existing members, with a "pro rated discount depending on the number of days remaining in your current membership". Below are the prices for new customers taking the combined Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, with details at the time of writing only outlining an annual payment.

12 Months Annual Family Membership (up to 8 users)
$49.99 / €39,99 / £34.99 $79.99USD / €69,99 / £59.99

What Are The Rules For A Nintendo Switch Online Family Group?

The useful thing to know is that you don't need to be in a family, directly, to utilise the package and save money. You can establish a family group in your Nintendo Account and add new people by simply sending an email invite, if they join and have an account they have access to Nintendo Switch Online through the service.

It's limited to 8 users per membership, but if you arrange it with family and friends (splitting the price evenly, for example) you can get Nintendo Switch Online at a greatly reduced price.

Our guide for setting this up can be found below.

Can I Buy It With My Nintendo Gold Points?

You can use your My Nintendo Gold Points to purchase a Nintendo Switch Online membership in the Nintendo eShop. You can't use them for auto-renewal though, so you'll have to let it manually run out then purchase a second subscription with your points.

To get a year's worth of Nintendo Switch Online using only Gold Points, you'll need a whopping 2,000 of them. You can, of course, use as many Points as you have to get money off your membership instead.

Do I Need It To Play Free To Play Games Online?

No, Nintendo has clarified that free-to-play games will not require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription for online play.

Will It Affect The eShop And Any Other Switch Services?

Well, let's break it down. You can still buy games and use various online-integrated features for free, but NSO gives you access to online play. Below is what you get with Nintendo Switch Online:

  • Online multiplayer in any paid games that support it. This does not include free to play games.
  • The Nintendo Switch Online mobile app.

However, the following online services will remain completely free of charge:

  • Nintendo eShop.
  • Adding and managing your friends.
  • Sharing screenshots to social media.
  • Nintendo Switch Parental Controls (this includes the app).
  • System and software updates.
  • News feed.
  • Playing free to play online games.

Nintendo Switch Online - Mobile App

What Does It Do?

The mobile app was initially used for voice chat with other players, but it has somewhat fallen from attention. It does have a few specific game sections that have varied levels of interaction with you activities in the game.

Nintendo Switch Online - NES

Which Games Are Supported?

Originally the app was limited to Splatoon 2, but now it has varied support for a small number of games.

Nintendo Switch Online - NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis

Across four apps there are now over 100 retro games available. You can access NES, SNES, and Game Boy games with a standard Nintendo Switch Online subscription, and if you add the Expansion Pack you can also play Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, and SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis titles.

We maintain a full list of all available games in the guide below.

So I Need To Download Individual Nintendo Switch Online Retro Games?

No, each system's set of games is part of an app that you can download and use when you are a member.

What Happens To These Games If I Cancel My Subscription?

You can only play these retro games (via those apps) as long as you have an active subscription. The moment your subscription ends, you'll lose access to them.

Even active subscribers will have to "check in" with their console online once per week or they'll lose the ability to play them. This allows Nintendo to verify that you have an active subscription.

Can I Use The NES Joy-Con Controller To Play Them?

Nintendo released a pack of two wireless NES controllers to allow you to play your Nintendo Switch Online NES library just like in the good old days.

There's a catch though – you have to be a Nintendo Switch Online member to be eligible to purchase these controllers. Hopefully that won't prove too problematic for those with Family Memberships, where, presumably, only the 'master account' is eligible to purchase the controllers. If you can buy multiple pairs at once, fine. If not...

There's even worse news than that though. Those of you hoping to play the likes of Shovel Knight with an actual NES controller will be hugely disappointed, as these bad boys are only capable of playing NES games. In other words, they won't work on any other game. That's absolute madness, but that's Nintendo for you.

You charge them by sliding them into the sides of your console, just like Joy-Cons. They don't work like Joy-Cons though, so don't even ask.

Will GameCube, Game Boy And Other Nintendo Systems Feature?

Nintendo hasn't announced whether or not games from other systems will feature in Nintendo Switch Online. There have been rumours and speculation related to Game Boy and Game Boy Advance libraries, but they are unconfirmed.

Does It Replace The Virtual Console?

Sadly, it doesn't look like we'll see the Virtual Console on Nintendo Switch anytime soon. Nintendo confirmed as much to Kotaku. Here's the direct quote from our article:

There are currently no plans to bring classic games together under the Virtual Console banner as has been done on other Nintendo systems.

Remember that Nintendo chooses its words carefully, so while this states that the Virtual Console will not come to Switch, it doesn't actually state that classic games won't. All it says is that they won't come under the same banner as they did before.

So we're going to take a hopeful punt and pray that these games come to Nintendo Switch Online instead. Would be nice not to have to pay for them all over again, wouldn't it?

Nintendo Switch Online - Cloud Saves

How Do Cloud Saves Work?

You're able to upload all of your saves directly to the cloud automatically. Praise be to Nintendo!

When you have a membership this does take place automatically for all games that support the service.

Do All Games Support Cloud Saves?

Nintendo has announced that not all games will support cloud saving. The reason for this, according to Nintendo, is to avoid cheating. In some other cases it's likely due to the coding and structure of save data on individual third-party games.

You can see a list of games that do not support Cloud Saves in our guide.

Some justification for this is that some publishers and developers want to prevent players, effectively, rolling back negative changes in persistent games, or to regain items that they traded to other players, or to revert to a higher online multiplayer ranking.

Nintendo Switch Online - Members-Only Games

There are a few online competitive games that have free-to-play options for Nintendo Switch Online members. Below are the current options.

Nintendo Switch Online - Members-Only Offers

Nintendo Switch Game Vouchers

For €99,99 / £84 / $99.99USD, you can buy 'Nintendo Switch Game Vouchers'; you receive two for each purchase, and those vouchers can be redeemed on retail downloads from the eShop; this is a limited list primarily of first-party Nintendo games, along with a small number of third-party titles.

You can view the compatible list in the Nintendo Switch Online section of the eShop.

Nintendo Switch Online - Members-Only Items

Redeemable through the system's NSO app, there are currently four bonuses to download for specific games.

NES & SNES Controllers

Nintendo Switch Online members can go to their regional My Nintendo sites to order wireless NES and SNES controllers to use on Switch; sadly stock is difficult to find.

N64 and Mega Drive / Genesis Controllers

As is the case with the NES & SNES controllers, stock is an issue with new wireless controllers for the Expansion Pack game content. You can track up to date links for and get stock updates here.

Are you a subscriber to Nintendo Switch Online, and will you get the Expansion Pack? Is it lacking any features you really want? Let us know with a comment. We'll also happily answer any further questions you may have.