Nintendo has a poor track record when it comes to its online services, but with the Nintendo Switch Online – particularly the new expansion pack category – I think the company may have hacked it. Or at least I found a happy middle ground…
Not only have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Downloadable Content (DLC) for Splatoon 2’s A very smart move, but the N64 and Sega Genesis game library continues to grow at a surprisingly steady rate.
From Banjo-Kazooie and Mario Golf to the recent additions of Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball and Dynamite Headdy, Nintendo is giving subscribers well-intentioned classics to play every month, many of which have been given a new lease of life thanks to online multiplayer support. (Seriously, if you haven’t played Mario Tennis against a friend yet, I implore you to. It’s massive fun.)
Nintendo also addressed initial complaints about the state of the Switch’s emulation, which came under fire early on.
3 classic SEGA Genesis games made available to members of the #NintendoSwitchOnline + Expansion Pack! – Space Harrier II – Shining Force II – Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball pic.twitter.com/uhD21PEChkApril 22 2022
Games come intense and fast
Crucially, though, Nintendo has also avoided the previous predicament that held up the Wii U’s virtual console. Drip-feed games are no longer on the service at an icy pace, and because they’re all included as part of your Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you won’t need to Stack money to play The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask countless times.
There’s obviously no guarantee that Nintendo will continue this encouraging start, but we’re happy to see that nonetheless. The fact that there are now 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’s legendary virtual console.
The long-rumored additions for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance are sure to help. 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 will become even more apparent. Analogue Pocket has shown that there is still a very real desire to play Game Boy and GBA games, and playing them all on the Switch will be much more convenient and cost-effective to boot. Collecting vintage games isn’t cheap after all.
More than just eliciting nostalgia
But it’s not just the allure of playing games with stories from Nintendo’s past that helps Switch Online establish itself. The Kyoto-based company has made a very clear commitment in the past few years to include online multiplayer in all of its pre-eminent titles — something it was reluctant to do previously.
The Nintendo Switch Sports is a prime example of this and contains all the ingredients needed to be a hit when it comes to competitive online play. Throw in Mario Strikers: Battle League, Splatoon 3, and Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, and suddenly you’ve got a very strong case for playing Switch online which includes not only Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Mushrooms continue to improve
However, there’s no denying that Nintendo’s online offering still pales in comparison to what we’re used to on PS5 and Xbox Series X | S and PC. Voice chat requires the Nintendo Switch Online app which is frankly useless, you can’t send instant messages or share content directly with your friends, and you won’t find Nintendo games using super fast dedicated services.
To make matters worse, even the Wii U had a more powerful online component than the Switch. You didn’t need friend codes for one of them, you could video chat and voice chat with the Wii U GamePad, and it was home to the best social network ever created: the awesome and sorely missed Miiverse.
And when it comes to the absolute value? Well, the mileage will vary depending on how closely you relate to Nintendo’s back catalog of old titles. It’s not likely that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will be ditched as the current champion when it comes to value any time soon, even with Sony’s new PS Plus.
However, although it took a few years longer than I would have liked, it’s now clear that Nintendo has an online strategy for the Switch. By including proper online support in first-party titles, downloadable content for its most popular games, and an excellent library of vintage games that also allow you to play with friends, the company has been able to chart its own course in the online space uniquely the way Nintendo does.