4 Nintendo Switch Online Features That Make It Worth The Price

Most modern consoles offer some form of online membership with incentives to get you to shell out a bit more money on top of the cost of the system and games. The Switch is, of course, no exception thanks to the Nintendo Switch Online subscription plan introduced in 2018, about a year after the console's launch. Nintendo Switch Online has its fair share of enticing extras — or essential features that are obnoxiously locked behind a payment plan, depending on how you look at it. 

An individual Switch Online subscription will set you back $19.99 for one year, or $49.99 for a family plan covering up to eight user accounts. The rates are at least competitive with Nintendo's peers, though the perks don't quite measure up to Microsoft's and Sony's monthly free games, among other benefits. Even so, Nintendo Switch Online does open up a handful of useful features that may make the yearly cost worth your while.

Online play

Being able to play games online with other people is probably the most notable, and most common, benefit to Nintendo Switch Online — as with most other similar services. It's as basic a boon as one of these subscriptions can get, but it's also essential if you intend to partake of any multiplayer.

Yes, once upon a time online connectivity for a video game console only required a paid internet service, but it's worth remembering that said online features were often solely about playing over the internet. Sometimes you could also download games if the console actually had an online shop.

Also, keep in mind that online play doesn't just apply to racing your friends in "Mario Kart" or fighting over territory in "Splatoon." Other games that offer less typical forms of online interaction, such as "Dark Souls," will also require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription for all of the intended features to be available.

Access to old classics

A less obvious but still significant benefit to Nintendo Switch Online subscriptions is the ability to play a sizable (and growing) assortment of classic games across a handful of equally-classic consoles. Or, well, virtual consoles that utilize basic hardware emulation, anyway.

The basic Switch Online plan will net you access to digital libraries of Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Game Boy games from both Nintendo and third-party developers across a variety of genres. You won't just be playing the original games in their basic forms, either, since each library also adds the ability for you to save or load anywhere, "rewind" the action up to a certain point to fix your mistakes, and offers online and offline multiplayer (provided the game already supported two or more players in the first place).

If you want even more old-school games to choose from, you can opt for the more costly ($49.99 per year for Individual, $79.99 for Family) Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan instead. The Expansion Pack includes the previously-mentioned classic Nintendo consoles but also adds Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, and even the Sega Genesis to the mix. All of them have their own growing libraries of a variety of titles, along with save states and multiplayer and whatnot.

Bonuses and freebies

No matter what version of Nintendo Switch Online you're considering, both also come with the occasional special offer and other free goodies. These can include being able to download and play members-only games like "Tetris 99" and "Pac-Man 99," but you'll sometimes find little in-game bonuses like an exclusive rug for your "Animal Crossing" house.

Being a Switch Online member will also steadily earn you special points, usually by playing games as you normally would, which can then be used to purchase rewards like character portraits to use when creating your user icon. And if you have dreams of attaining an official Switch-compatible NES, SNES, Genesis, or N64 controller, well, those are also exclusive for Switch Online members. Unless you find them on the aftermarket, anyway.

Though the most practical freebies you're likely to capitalize on as a Switch Online member is the occasional free game trial. These trials, unlike demos, provide unrestricted access to the full version of whatever game they pertain to and you can play as much as you want for as long as you want — for a set amount of time, which is often a week. So for as long as the trial is available, you can try out the full version of the game with no strings (or money) attached. And if you decide you do want to buy the full version, your save data will carry over.

Cloud saves

Speaking of save data, one final significant benefit to signing up for Nintendo Switch Online is cloud saving. It works just like cloud saving on other modern devices in that your data is saved in cloud storage that's tied to your personal account. Granted, this won't always work for every single game you own since they have to support cloud saves in the first place (bad news, "Animal Crossing" players), but every game that does support it will let you save your progress outside of the Switch console itself.

Why is this important? Well, there are a couple of reasons. In the event that something happens to your Switch's internal storage — due to a glitch, sibling shenanigans, etc. — your cloud saves can be used to restore your progress once the issue has been sorted out. Similarly, if you upgrade or otherwise replace your Switch console, you can transfer your cloud saves over to the new model with ease.

If you want, you can also log onto a friend's Switch using your account and use your own cloud save data — with no need to pack your own hardware or SD cards. Though your friend will need to have their own copy of the game, or you'll need to bring your physical copy with you.