Nintendo Switch Online: A SuperParent Guide

Everything you need to know about the Switch's online membership.

Nintendo Switch Online launched on September 18, 2018. This premium subscription service is similar to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, but is it right for your family?

We’re here with a complete guide to Nintendo’s online service, so you can make that decision.  

What is the Nintendo Switch Online service?

Nintendo Switch Online is a set of premium online features that you’ll need a subscription to access. The service is similar to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold (which both cost $59.99 per year), but it has a cheaper price tag (at most $34.99 for 12 months).

What’s included in the Nintendo Switch Online membership?

One of the biggest features is the ability to play Nintendo Switch games online with others, both competitively and cooperatively. Many games, such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, require players to have a Nintendo Switch Online membership in order to access online features. Other games (like Fortnite) don't require the membership to play online, but it depends on the game.

Subscribers also have full access to the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app on iOS and Android devices. The app lets users send invitations to their friends to play online games on the Switch, as well as chat with others. It also includes game-specific services, such as NookLink for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and SplatNet 2 for Splatoon 2. These areas give players access to features that may improve their experience with each game. For instance, the NookLink service allows Animal Crossing: New Horizons players to collect free points each day, which they can redeem for in-game items in New Horizons.

Parents, here’s something to keep in mind. Since players may have the option to chat with others while playing online, make sure to lay down some ground rules before letting your kids talk to others. Or, tell your littles they can only play games offline.

Is there anything else?

The Nintendo Switch Online service allows you to create an online backup of your game save data (all of your in-game progress) for “most” Nintendo Switch games, so you won’t need to start all over in these games if something happens to your Switch, or you decide to pick up a second console.

As reported, some games, like Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee, don't support this online backup, so you won’t be able to protect your save data in this way.

Subscribers can also play a curated selection of over 100 classic games that were originally released on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo. Some highlights include The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Metroid, and Super Mario Kart, just to name a few. The catalog of games is regularly updated with new titles, and some games include support for multiplayer gameplay. You can play these games as often as you want and for as long as you want, so long as you have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership.

In addition to these classic games, a few new games have been released that are only available for subscribers to play. For instance, as of this writing, Nintendo Switch Online susbcribers can play Pac-Man 99, as well as access online gameplay in Tetris 99 (that is, online play in Tetris 99 requires a Nintendo Switch Online membership).

Finally, subscribers have access to special deals and offers that may only be available to subscribers.

How much does the service cost?

Solo gamers can choose from three different plans:

  • One month: $3.99
  • Three months: $7.99
  • 12 months: $19.99

Families with multiple gamers in their household (and even multiple Switch systems) can subscribe to a family plan for $34.99 per year. This family plan allows up to eight different people to use the service across different Switch systems.

Parents, if your little ones have their own Nintendo accounts, you can create a Nintendo Account Family Group through your Nintendo Account settings, and then add your kids’ accounts to this group. That way, you’ll all be on the same family plan, and everyone will be able to access the online service’s features. Keep in mind, you can use the Switch’s parental controls to limit your kids’ online activity.

Am I required to subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online service?

Absolutely not. If you choose not to subscribe, you won’t have access to any of the premium features we talked about above, but you’ll still be able to play the games you’ve purchased. In addition, you’ll still have access to some online features, like the Nintendo eShop, the friends system, and the ability to share screenshots and videos on social media.

Is there anything else I need to know?

If you’re undecided on whether or not the Nintendo Switch Online service is right for your family, you can sign up for a 7-day free trial of the service by visiting the Nintendo eShop on your Switch.

In addition, in October 2021, Nintendo introduced a new Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan that costs more than a regular Nintendo Switch Online membership but includes more benefits. The Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan is priced at $49.99 per year for a single person and $79.99 per year for a family membership.

The Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan gives subscribers all of the benefits that are included in the standard Nintendo Switch Online membership, and they are also able to play a catalog of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, as well as access the Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise downloadable content (DLC) at no additional cost.

Disclosure: SuperParent's parent company, ReKTGlobal, works with Tetris as a client. SuperParent's coverage remains objective.