Nintendo Switch Online vs Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack

The key difference between the Nintendo Switch Online and the Nintendo Switch Online with Expansion Pack is that you get access to a wider range of games from the Sega Genesis, N64, Game Boy and Game Boy Advance libraries as well as DLCs from Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

The price difference between the two membership tiers is about US$30 for the individual subscription and US$45 for the family subscription that allows up to 8 accounts. 

Which Nintendo Switch Online membership should you get? 

I’ll be comparing them in greater detail, alongside a comparison table that hopefully clarify the differences to help you make a better decision, let’s get into it!

But first, if you’re new to the Nintendo ecosystem, here’s a quick overview.

What is the Nintendo Switch Online Membership?

Nintendo released its Nintendo Switch Online membership in Sep 2018. The Nintendo Switch Online membership is a paid service that lets you enjoy online play for compatible Nintendo Switch games such as Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Splatoon and many more. 

Prior to that, online gameplay was free, hence I was originally skeptical of this move. But in 2019, Nintendo boosted the value of the membership further by giving members access to selected games from the Nintendo library!

Nintendo Switch Online vs Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack

FeaturesNintendo Switch OnlineNintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack
Online Play✔️✔️
Save Data Cloud Backup✔️✔️
Access to NES and SNES Games✔️✔️
Access to N64, Sega Genesis and GBA Games✔️
Nintendo Switch Online App✔️✔️
Special Offers (Game Vouchers, Game Trials and more)✔️✔️
Selected DLCs and Expansions[Current offerings: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise and Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion]✔️ 
Price for Individual Membership (per year)$19.99 USD$49.99 USD
Price for Family Membership (per year)$34.99 USD (for up to 8 accounts)$79.99 USD (for up to 8 accounts)

Nintendo seems to be committed to making the Nintendo Switch Online a key product, and they have constantly been adding new features. You can find the latest features on the official website.

Which games require Nintendo Switch Online?

According to Nintendo’s FAQ, we’ll require a Nintendo Switch Online Membership if we wish to play co-op or competitively online on many first and third party games. 

You may be wondering if the game(s) you’re interested in require a Nintendo Switch Online Membership for online play. 

These popular games that require the Nintendo Switch Online membership include: 

  • Animal Crossing, 
  • Pokémon Scarlet / Violet, 
  • Pokémon Legends: Arceus,
  • Pokémon Shining Pearl / Brilliant Diamond,
  • Pokémon Sword / Shield,
  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate, 
  • Splatoon 2 / 3, 
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, 
  • Super Mario Party,
  • Super Mario Maker 2,
  • Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp,
  • Kirby series
  • Fire Emblem Engage,
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses, 
  • Bayonetta 3,
  • Minecraft Legends,
  • Persona 4 and 5
  • and many more.

You can also view the full list of 816+ games that require an active paid Nintendo Switch Online membership for online play by filtering for it on the Nintendo eShop.

Nintendo’s announcement of free games for Nintendo Switch Online members has tremendously increased the value proposition of the membership, making it more desirable in my opinion. 

You may be wondering about the free games that are available and whether you’d be interested in them. So, I’ve compiled the game lists here (it seems that Nintendo is drip releasing more games along the way, so do refer to the official website for the latest list!)

Nintendo Switch Online game list

At the point of writing, 130+ games from the NES, SNES and Game Boy game libraries are available for Nintendo Switch Online members:

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)Game Boy
ADVENTURES OF LOLOBRAWL BROTHERSAlone in the Dark: The New Nightmare
Balloon Fight™BombuzalGame Boy
BaseballBreath Of FireBurgerTime Deluxe
Blaster MasterBreath of Fire IIGARGOYLE’S QUEST
City ConnectionCaveman Ninja (also known as Joe & Mac)Game & Watch™ Gallery 3
Clu Clu Land™ClaymatesKirby’s Dream Land™
CrystalisCongo’s CaperKirby’s Dream Land™ 2
DAIVA STORY 6 IMPERIAL OF NIRSARTIADOOMSDAY WARRIORMetroid™ II – Return of Samus™
DIG DUG II™Demon’s CrestSuper Mario Land™ 2 – 6 Golden Coins™
Donkey Kong Jr.™Donkey Kong Country™Tetris
Donkey Kong™Donkey Kong Country™ 2: Diddy’s Kong-QuestThe Legend of Zelda™: Link’s Awakening DX™
Donkey Kong™ 3Donkey Kong Country™ 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!Wario Land™ 3
Double DragonEarthBound™Kirby’s Tilt ‘N Tumble™—Coming soon!
Double Dragon II: The RevengeEarthworm Jim™ 2Pokémon™ Trading Card Game™—Coming soon!
Dr. Mario™F-ZERO™The Legend of Zelda™: Oracle of Ages™—Coming soon!
EarthBound™ BeginningsFighter’s HistoryThe Legend of Zelda™: Oracle of Seasons™—Coming soon!
Eliminator Boat DuelJelly Boy
Excitebike™Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics
Fire ’n IceKirby Super Star™
Ghosts’n Goblins™Kirby’s Avalanche™
GradiusKirby’s Dream Course™
Ice Climber™Kirby’s Dream Land™ 3
Ice HockeyMagical Drop2
JOURNEY TO SILIUSMario’s Super Picross
Kid Icarus™Natsume Championship Wrestling
Kirby’s Adventure™Operation Logic Bomb
Kung-Fu HeroesPanel de Pon
MAPPY-LANDPilotwings™
Mario Bros.™Pop’n TwinBee
Metroid™Prehistorik Man
Mighty Bomb JackPsycho Dream
NES™ Open Tournament GolfRival Turf!
NightshadeSIDE POCKET
Ninja GaidenSUPER E.D.F. EARTH DEFENSE FORCE
Ninja JaJaMaru-kunSmash Tennis™
PinballSpanky’s™ Quest
Pro WrestlingStar Fox™
Punch-Out!!™ Featuring Mr. DreamStar Fox™ 2
River City RansomStunt Race FX™
RygarSuper Baseball Simulator 1,000
S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack TeamSuper Ghouls’n Ghosts™
Shadow of the NinjaSuper Mario All-Stars™
SoccerSuper Mario Kart™
Solomon’s KeySuper Mario World™
Star SoldierSuper Mario World™ 2: Yoshi’s Island
StarTropics™Super Metroid™
Super Dodge BallSuper Punch-Out!!™
Super Mario Bros.™Super Puyo Puyo 2
Super Mario Bros.™ 2Super Soccer
Super Mario Bros.™ 3Super Tennis
Super Mario Bros.™: The Lost LevelsSuper Valis IV
Tecmo BowlThe Ignition Factor
TennisThe Legend of Zelda™: A Link to the Past™
The ImmortalThe Peace Keepers
The Legend of Zelda™Tuff E Nuff
TwinBeeWild Guns
VS. Excitebike™
Vice: Project Doom
Volleyball
Wario’s Woods™
Wrecking Crew
XEVIOUS
Yoshi™
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link™

Nintendo Switch Online expansion pack game list

Expansion pack members get access to 70+ games from the Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance and SEGA genesis library:

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)Game BoyNintendo 64Game Boy AdvanceSEGA Genesis
ADVENTURES OF LOLOBRAWL BROTHERSAlone in the Dark: The New NightmareBanjo Kazooie™Kuru Kuru Kururin™Alien Soldier
Balloon Fight™BombuzalGame BoyDr. Mario™ 64Mario & Luigi™: Superstar SagaAlien Storm
BaseballBreath Of FireBurgerTime DeluxeF-Zero™ XMario Kart™: Super Circuit™ALISIA DRAGOON
Blaster MasterBreath of Fire IIGARGOYLE’S QUESTGoldenEye 007Metroid™ FusionAltered Beast
City ConnectionCaveman Ninja (also known as Joe & Mac)Game & Watch™ Gallery 3Kirby 64™: The Crystal ShardsSuper Mario™ Advance 4: Super Mario Bros.™ 3Beyond Oasis
Clu Clu Land™ClaymatesKirby’s Dream Land™Mario Golf™The Legend of Zelda™: The Minish CapCastlevania: BLOODLINES
CrystalisCongo’s CaperKirby’s Dream Land™ 2Mario Kart™ 64WarioWare™, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!Columns
DAIVA STORY 6 IMPERIAL OF NIRSARTIADOOMSDAY WARRIORMetroid™ II – Return of Samus™Mario Party™Kirby™ & The Amazing Mirror—Coming soon!Comix Zone
DIG DUG II™Demon’s CrestSuper Mario Land™ 2 – 6 Golden Coins™Mario Party™ 2Fire Emblem™—Coming soon!Contra: Hard Corps
Donkey Kong Jr.™Donkey Kong Country™TetrisMario Tennis™F-Zero™ Maximum Velocity—Coming soon!Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Donkey Kong™Donkey Kong Country™ 2: Diddy’s Kong-QuestThe Legend of Zelda™: Link’s Awakening DX™Paper Mario™Golden Sun™—Coming soon!Dynamite Headdy
Donkey Kong™ 3Donkey Kong Country™ 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!Wario Land™ 3Pilotwings™ 64Earthworm Jim
Double DragonEarthBound™Kirby’s Tilt ‘N Tumble™—Coming soon!Pokémon Snap™Ecco the Dolphin
Double Dragon II: The RevengeEarthworm Jim™ 2Pokémon™ Trading Card Game™—Coming soon!Pokémon Stadium™Flicky
Dr. Mario™F-ZERO™The Legend of Zelda™: Oracle of Ages™—Coming soon!Pokémon™ Puzzle LeagueGolden Axe
EarthBound™ BeginningsFighter’s HistoryThe Legend of Zelda™: Oracle of Seasons™—Coming soon!Sin & Punishment™Golden Axe II
Eliminator Boat DuelJelly BoyStar Fox™ 64Gunstar Heroes
Excitebike™Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the TropicsSuper Mario 64™Kid Chameleon
Fire ’n IceKirby Super Star™The Legend of Zelda™: Majora’s Mask™Light Crusader
Ghosts’n Goblins™Kirby’s Avalanche™The Legend of Zelda™: Ocarina of Time™M.U.S.H.A.
GradiusKirby’s Dream Course™WIN BACK: COVERT OPERATIONSMEGA MAN: THE WILY WARS
Ice Climber™Kirby’s Dream Land™ 3Wave Race™ 64Phantasy Star IV
Ice HockeyMagical Drop2Yoshi’s Story™Pulseman
JOURNEY TO SILIUSMario’s Super PicrossRistar
Kid Icarus™Natsume Championship WrestlingShining Force
Kirby’s Adventure™Operation Logic BombShining Force II
Kung-Fu HeroesPanel de PonShinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
MAPPY-LANDPilotwings™Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Mario Bros.™Pop’n TwinBeeSonic The Hedgehog Spinball
Metroid™Prehistorik ManSpace Harrier II
Mighty Bomb JackPsycho DreamSTREET FIGHTER II’: SPECIAL CHAMPION EDITION
NES™ Open Tournament GolfRival Turf!Streets of Rage 2
NightshadeSIDE POCKETSTRIDER
Ninja GaidenSUPER E.D.F. EARTH DEFENSE FORCESuper Fantasy Zone
Ninja JaJaMaru-kunSmash Tennis™Sword of Vermillon
PinballSpanky’s™ QuestTarget Earth
Pro WrestlingStar Fox™Thunder Force II
Punch-Out!!™ Featuring Mr. DreamStar Fox™ 2ToeJam & Earl
River City RansomStunt Race FX™Virtua Fighter 2
RygarSuper Baseball Simulator 1,000Zero Wing
S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack TeamSuper Ghouls’n Ghosts™
Shadow of the NinjaSuper Mario All-Stars™
SoccerSuper Mario Kart™
Solomon’s KeySuper Mario World™
Star SoldierSuper Mario World™ 2: Yoshi’s Island
StarTropics™Super Metroid™
Super Dodge BallSuper Punch-Out!!™
Super Mario Bros.™Super Puyo Puyo 2
Super Mario Bros.™ 2Super Soccer
Super Mario Bros.™ 3Super Tennis
Super Mario Bros.™: The Lost LevelsSuper Valis IV
Tecmo BowlThe Ignition Factor
TennisThe Legend of Zelda™: A Link to the Past™
The ImmortalThe Peace Keepers
The Legend of Zelda™Tuff E Nuff
TwinBeeWild Guns
VS. Excitebike™
Vice: Project Doom
Volleyball
Wario’s Woods™
Wrecking Crew
XEVIOUS
Yoshi™
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link™

Now that we’ve covered the key differences, pricing and game lists, you would already have an idea of which membership tier is suitable for you. 

However, some may still be on the fence wondering if:

Should I get the Nintendo Switch Online expansion pack?

A good way to decide if you should get the expansion pack option is to ask these two questions:

  • Will I be playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2 or Animal Crossing: New Horizons?

If the answer is yes, you would probably enjoy the expansion packs or DLCs for these games that come with the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion pack option. 

  • Do I want to play N64, SEGA Genesis and GBA games? 

If you think you’ll enjoy the game library, then the expansion pack option would be valuable to you.

Best way to subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online Membership for maximum value?

If you’d noticed the pricing, the family subscription is definitely more worthwhile. It would cost just ~US$4.40 per person per year (Nintendo Switch Online) or just ~US$10 per person per year (Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack).

Hence, if you have friends who are also gaming on the Nintendo Switch, you can share a family membership and play online together!

P.s. there are also people who are selling slots to their Nintendo Switch Online family subscription. You should beware of scams or overpriced subscriptions. 

Which Nintendo Switch Online Membership are you on?

As a solo gamer, I would not use most of the DLCs in the expansion pack. And although games like The Legend of Zelda series on Nintendo 64 and Gameboy Advance are enticing, I am currently still sitting on a backlog of games that I haven’t had time to play yet.

My main purpose for getting the Nintendo Switch Online Membership is to take part in Tera Raids and trades in the Pokémon Scarlet/Violet series.

Hence, I’m currently subscribed to the Nintendo Switch Online membership (without the expansion pack).

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re still comparing the two Nintendo Switch Online membership options, you may also be wondering about the following questions:

What additional benefits are available with Nintendo Switch Online?

In addition to online play and cloud saves, Nintendo Switch Online includes access to classic NES and SNES games, as well as the ability to use the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app for certain games.

Is Switch Online and expansion pack worth it?

If you like to play games online with a wider community of gamers, then yes the Nintendo Switch Online Membership is a must. And if you like to have a library of retro games at your disposal, then the expansion pack would be a better option for you.

Is there a free trial available for both options?

Yes, both Nintendo Switch Online and Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack offer a free 7-day trial for new members.

Is the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack permanent?

The Nintendo Switch Online memberships are subscriptions. There are 1-month, 3-months and 12-months subscription options. For the best value, go for the 12-months family subscription.

Can I play online multiplayer games with both options?

Yes, both Nintendo Switch Online and Expansion Pack allow players to play online multiplayer games.

What’s the price for the Nintendo Switch online expansion pack?

$49.99 USD for an individual subscription or $79.99 USD for a family subscription that can be used for up to 8 accounts.


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