What Is the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack and Is It Worth the Price?
After Nintendo launched the Nintendo Switch Online service in 2018, it didn’t undergo any major changes until October 2021. At that point, Nintendo announced an Expansion Pack for the service that adds more value—at an additional cost.
Let’s look at the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack to see what it offers and whether you should sign up.
What Is Nintendo Switch Online?
In case you’re not familiar, Nintendo Switch Online is an optional paid subscription service available for the Nintendo Switch system. It grants you several benefits, including access to online multiplayer, cloud backup for your save data, and a selection of classic NES and SNES titles.
See our full overview of Switch Online for more details.
What Is the Switch Online Expansion Pack?
The Expansion Pack includes everything from the base Switch Online plan, plus some additional benefits. It’s available as a separate subscription, meaning that the core Switch Online service is still available and unchanged.
Upgrading to the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack (its official name) brings three main benefits:
- The Nintendo 64 Switch Online app, which lets you play a selection of classic N64 titles.
- The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive outside of North America) Switch Online app, which similarly includes a set of Genesis/Mega Drive games.
- Access to DLC packs for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Splatoon 2.
Like the existing NES and SNES libraries included with Switch Online, the N64 and Genesis titles include quality-of-life emulation benefits. These include save states, which let you stop and pick up from anywhere (not just where the original game had save points).
Nintendo Switch Expansion Pack: Included Games
Your interest in the Expansion Pack will likely depend on how many of its games you want to play, so let’s list those next.
Games Included in the N64 Switch Online Library
At the time of writing, the following Nintendo 64 titles are included in the Expansion pack:
- Dr. Mario 64
- F-Zero X
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
- Mario Kart 64
- Mario Golf
- Mario Tennis
- Paper Mario
- Pokémon Puzzle League
- Pokémon Snap
- Sin & Punishment
- Star Fox 64 (Lylat Wars in PAL regions)
- Super Mario 64
- WinBack: Covert Operations (Operation: WinBack in PAL regions)
- Yoshi’s Story
While more titles may arrive for the service in the future, Nintendo hasn’t mentioned any additional upcoming games.
Any games that support local multiplayer, such as Mario Tennis and Star Fox 64, are also playable online with friends. You can’t matchmake with random opponents, though.
Games Included in the Genesis/Mega Drive Switch Online Library
The Switch Expansion Pack also lets you play these classic Sega Genesis titles:
- Alien Soldier
- Altered Beast
- Castlevania: Bloodlines
- Comix Zone
- Contra: Hard Corps
- Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
- Dynamite Headdy
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Golden Axe
- Gunstar Heroes
- Light Crusader
- Mega Man: The Wily Wars
- Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
- Shining Force
- Shining Force II
- Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- Sonic Spinball
- Space Harrier II
- Streets of Rage 2
- Super Fantasy Zone
- Sword of Vermillon
- Target Earth
- Thunder Force 2
- ToeJam & Earl
- Zero Wing
Interestingly, several of these games were never officially released for the Genesis in North America. As with the N64 titles, any multiplayer-enabled games (including Gunstar Heroes and Streets of Rage 2) are playable with friends online, but there are no public matches.
Nintendo Switch Expansion Pack: Included DLC
In addition to the included games, the other major part of the Switch Online Expansion Pack is a few DLC packs for big Switch titles. Let’s review what you get. Note that you must own the original title to access its DLC.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Happy Home Paradise
Happy Home Paradise is the only paid DLC pack for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In this expansion, you visit distant islands to design vacation homes for various villagers, completing their dream look with an inventory not limited to what you’ve collected in the game.
This gameplay is similar to the 2015 game Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer on 3DS. With the Expansion Pack, you have full access, but it’s also available to purchase separately for a one-time $24.99 cost.
If you cancel your subscription down the road, you’ll retain some items earned for your own home from the DLC, but will lose access to the archipelago where the main vacation home designing takes place. Check out our tips for New Horizons to get the most from the game.
Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion
This single-player add-on for Splatoon 2 allows you to play as an Octoling and take on dozens of missions in a mysterious underground subway.
Compared to the main game’s longer missions, these are short, challenging tests of your skill. If you enjoy Splatoon 2’s core mechanics and want to push them further, this is the pack for you. When you clear the expansion, you’ll also be able to play as an Octoling in Splatoon 2’s online multiplayer.
The Octoling Expansion typically costs $19.99. If you let your Switch Online subscription lapse, you won’t be able to access this DLC until you either resubscribe or purchase it.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass
Instead of announcing the next Mario Kart game, in February 2022, Nintendo announced a huge expansion to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in the form of the Booster Course Pass. This will bring 48 remastered courses from previous Mario Kart titles—including the mobile Mario Kart Tour—into the Switch game.
Nintendo is releasing these packs in six waves through the end of 2023. At the time of writing, only the first wave is available, and it offers two cups (eight tracks) to enjoy. If you drop your Switch Online membership, you’ll have to pay the regular price of $24.99 to access these new courses again.
How Much Does the Switch Online Expansion Pack Cost?
The Switch Online Expansion Pack is only available as an annual membership; there’s no option to pay monthly like the base plan. Subscribing to the Expansion Pack costs $49.99 for 12 months, compared to $19.99/year for the regular subscription.
Like the standard Switch Online plan, you can also subscribe to the Expansion Pack using a family membership. This costs $79.99 for 12 months, and allows up to eight Nintendo accounts to enjoy the benefits. Thankfully, you can share a Switch Online subscription with friends who don’t live at the same address.
To sign up, open the Nintendo Switch Online tab at the bottom of your Switch’s home screen. You can also visit the Switch Online membership page to sign up using your computer. If you’ve already paid for a Switch Online membership annually, you can get a prorated discount when you upgrade to the Expansion Pack, based on the time remaining in your plan.
New Nintendo Switch Replica Controllers
Note that alongside the Expansion Pack, Nintendo also released replica N64 and Genesis/Mega Drive controllers. Aside from being rechargeable instead of wired, and including Switch controller buttons like Home and Capture, they’re almost identical to the original versions.
These cost $49.99 each, and you must subscribe to any Switch Online plan to purchase them. However, as of this writing, both controllers are sold out due to high demand and it’s not clear when more stock will arrive. They’re not required to play the new games, but do make it a more authentic experience.
Is the Switch Online Expansion Pack Worth It?
Now that we’ve covered the details, we can discuss whether the Switch Online Expansion Pack is worth the cost. And at $30 more than the base plan, it’s not as easy of a sell.
There are a couple of factors to consider in your decision—chiefly the value of the games included.
If You Only Want Specific DLC or Genesis Games
If you’re only interested in one of the DLC packs, it makes more sense to pay $20 or $25 to own that expansion forever, instead of being locked into paying $50 per year to access it.
Similarly, if you’re primarily looking for the Sega Genesis games, you can get more retro titles without a subscription by buying Sega Genesis Classics for $30 on the eShop. This doesn’t include every game that Switch Online does, but has far more games overall. This compilation also packs in the same convenience features as Switch Online, like rewinding and online multiplayer.
If You Primarily Want N64 Games
The Expansion Pack has more value if you want access to the N64 library. Unless you still have a Wii U, there’s no easy way to legally play these games on a modern system, making it a more attractive deal.
At launch, there were some major problems with the quality of N64 emulation on Switch. These included input lag and problems with the visual rendering. Thankfully, most of these problems have been patched up in the time since. One persistent issue is that you cannot remap the buttons for the N64 games, leading to awkward control layouts (unless you buy the sold-out replica controller).
Overall, the emulation options are lousy compared to the options available for graphics, controls, and similar when emulating on PC. However, this collection does pack in some of the top-rated N64 titles. If you’ve been looking for a way to play these titles, paying for a year to check them out isn’t a terrible value.
If You Want to Play All the DLCs
If you plan to play the DLCs for Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the Expansion Pack has much more value. Those three packs are valued at $70 total, so if you pay for a year’s worth of the service to experience them all, you’ve gotten a deal.
However, keep in mind that for the Animal Crossing and Mario Kart expansions, you’ll probably want ongoing access. The Splatoon 2 DLC isn’t something you’ll worry about much after clearing it.
The Expansion Pack’s Price Is Too High
The Expansion Pack being poorly priced compounds all its other problems. PlayStation Plus Essential and Xbox Live Gold each cost just $10 more ($60/year), yet they offer monthly free games, deeper discounts during sales, and a much better online infrastructure. Switch Online, meanwhile, offers a pitiful excuse for party chat with its janky app implementation, and has additional classic games arrive at a glacial pace.
The Expansion Pack is worth joining for a year, for most people. That’s enough time to experience each of the DLCs and play through some of the Genesis and N64 games you want to try. After that, you may wish to drop down to the base tier unless Nintendo adds more value.
We’d recommend finding a few friends and subscribing to the shareable plan. That way, you can drop the price down to as low as $10/person/year, which negates some of the above worries.
Switch Online Expansion Pack: Decent, but Expensive
The Switch Online Expansion Pack adds more classic games to the service, but at a high cost. You can get individual DLC and the Genesis games cheaper by purchasing them outright, and the Switch’s N64 emulation isn’t the best way to play those games. However, there’s still enough here to make it worth the price for some.
We’d recommend finding a few friends to bring down the cost if you don’t have another way to play these games. That’s just one method of spending less on Switch games.
Read the full article here