Nintendo Switch Online is available from today. That means if you want to play certain games online, you’re going to need to fork out for a subscription.
But it also means that, should you subscribe, you get access to a pretty nifty library of NES games. 20 in total, it’s basically a NES Mini built into your Switch. It’s not quite as cute, but it’s a hell of a lot more convenient.
Accessing the games is easy: there’s an installer free to download from the eShop. Anyone can download it, but to see any content you’ll need to subscribe to the Online service – which you can also do from the eShop.
The NES library is nicely presented and easy to navigate. You can play the games in single player, local two-player or online with a friend. In two-player mode, using a Joy-Con each, the controls are a little fiddly when trying to navigate menus. But it’s a nifty functionality to extend the replayability of the games in the library. We all know that playing in co-op is always lots of fun.
You can see the full library in the image atop this post. The highlights for me are Zelda, Yoshi, Dr. Mario, and, of course, Super Mario Bros. 3. Perhaps the best Mario game ever made. When you’re in a game, it operates similarly to the NES and SNES Classic consoles; you can suspend at any time, and create save points at any point of the game. Seriously handy if you’re going to be dipping in and out of these games for short bursts.
The games can be played at 4:3 aspect ratio, or ‘pixel perfect’, both with black bars either side of the screen. If you want the true retro effect, you can also enable a CRT filter in the settings menu. This is pure emulation – don’t expect shiny HD textures, but the games look nice and crisp on the Switch’s screen. Handheld mode is clearly going to be the best way to enjoy this collection of NES games.
Other benefits of the Switch Online service include, of course, the ability to play games online. It’s currently unknown exactly what third-party games you’ll need the service for – some remain to be free, including Fortnite – but you’ll definitely need to subscribe for all first-party Nintendo games. You can also back up your saved games to the cloud, finally. That’s pretty easy to do – simply click ‘+’ on a game icon, and select the ‘Save Data Cloud Backup’ option. It’s seamless. There are also “exclusive offers for members” to be available, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see what they are.
A single subscription is available for £18/$20 a year, or a family membership can be purchased for £31.50/$35, which allows up to eight users as part of the same family group to share the benefits. Sure, one more subscription just to be able to enjoy all the features of our own games is a bit of a drag, but I’d wager the £18 a year fee is more than worth it for the NES collection alone. That’s less than £1 a game! You can’t really argue with that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play Super Mario 3.