Nintendo Switch Online is ready to rival PS Plus and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate – sort of

Nintendo hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to its online services, but with Nintendo Switch Online – especially the new Expansion Pack tier – I think they may have cracked it. Or at least found a happy medium…

Not only the addition of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Splatoon 2 DLCs an extremely nifty move, but the library of N64 and Sega Genesis games continues to grow at a surprisingly steady rate.

From Banjo-Kazooie and Mario Golf to recent additions of Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball and Dynamite Headdy, Nintendo is giving subscribers true classics to play each month, many of which have been given a new lease of life through online multiplayer support. (Seriously, if you haven’t played Mario Tennis against a friend yet, I implore you to do so. It’s a lot of fun.)

Nintendo also responded to early complaints about the state of Switch emulation, which was criticized early on.

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Games arrive thick and fast

Nintendo Switch Sports players playing badminton

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Crucially, however, Nintendo has also dodged the previous pitfall that plagued the Wii U’s Virtual Console. With a Nintendo Switch Online membership, you don’t need to shell out any money to play The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask For the umpteenth time.

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There’s obviously no guarantee that Nintendo will continue this encouraging start, but it’s still nice to see. The fact that there are now well over 100 SNES and NES games available – something even regular Nintendo Switch Online subscribers can access – also gives me hope that the Switch will at least come close, or at least provide a real alternative to the Wii. legendary virtual console.

The long-running Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance additions would certainly help, of course. If Nintendo can add three new platforms to its service and include online multiplayer as you’d expect, the value of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack becomes even clearer. The Analogue Pocket has shown that there’s still a very real desire to play Game Boy and GBA games, and having them all on Switch would be a lot more convenient and cost effective to boot. Collecting retro games isn’t cheap after all.

More than just a nostalgia shot

Nintendo Switch Online N64 Genesis

(Image credit: Nintendo)

But it’s not just the lure of playing legendary games from Nintendo’s past that’s helping Switch Online establish itself. The Kyoto-based company has made a very clear commitment over the past few years to including online multiplayer in virtually all of its flagship titles – something it was previously reluctant to do.

Nintendo Switch Sports is a great example of this and has all the ingredients to be a smash hit when it comes to competitive online gaming. Add Mario Strikers: Battle League, Splatoon 3, and Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, and you suddenly have an extremely solid case for playing your Switch online that doesn’t just include Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

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More mushrooms to improve

Link riding his horse through a green field in Zelda: Ocarina of time

(Image credit: Nintendo)

That being said, there’s no denying that Nintendo’s online offering still pales in comparison to what we’re used to on PS5, Xbox Series X | S and PC. Voice chat requires the frankly useless Nintendo Switch online app, you can’t instant message or share content directly with your friends, nor will you find Nintendo games using super-fast dedicated services.

To make matters worse, even the Wii U had a stronger online component than the Switch. You didn’t need friend codes for one, you could video chat and voice chat using the Wii U GamePad, and it was home to the best social network ever: the wonderful and sorely missed Miiverse.

And when it comes to pure value? Well, your mileage will vary depending on your affinity with Nintendo’s catalog of older titles. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is unlikely to be dethroned as the current champion in value, even by Sony’s new PS Plus.

However, even though it took a few years longer than I would have liked, it is now becoming clear that Nintendo has an online strategy for Switch. By including proper online support in its first-party titles, DLCs for its most popular games, and a great library of retro games that also let you play with friends, the company manages to chart its own course in the space by line in a unique way. Nintendo style.

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