Nintendo Switch Online promotional art

Nintendo has introduced an additional subscription tier for Switch owners who want to play online and take advantage of some additional features. So what does the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack include, and is it worth it?

What Is the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack?

The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack allows you to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online and claim some additional features, including more emulation options and downloadable content (DLC) packs for select games.

A standard Nintendo Switch Online subscription costs $19.99 for 12 months (with monthly and tri-monthly subscriptions available at $3.99 and $7.99 respectively), plus a family option for up to eight account holders at $34.99 per year. The expansion pack costs $49.99 per year or $79.99 for a family membership.

You can subscribe to both of these services using your Switch by selecting the “Nintendo Switch Online” button on the console’s dashboard.

What Does the Switch Online Expansion Pack Include?

The expansion pack includes everything you get with a standard Nintendo Switch Online membership: access to online play, the NES and SNES apps for playing older titles, cloud saves, access to the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app, and special offers.

Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass

You also get access to additional features including Nintendo 64 (N64) and Sega Genesis emulation, plus DLC for two popular Nintendo titles: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While access to the N64 and Genesis apps is gated to the expansion pack, the DLC packs can be purchased separately and kept forever.

More May Come to the Expansion Pack in the Future

When the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack was first announced it only included access to the N64 and Sega Genesis apps and the Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons which launched a few weeks later. There were a handful of popular N64 titles like Mario Kart 64 and Super Mario 64, plus Genesis titles like Streets of Rage 2 and Ecco the Dolphin.

After launch, N64 titles like F-Zero X and Banjo-Kazooie also became available for play, with Nintendo promising more games will be added in the future. This is how emulation worked with the NES and SNES apps and is likely key in Nintendo’s strategy in keeping subscribers happy.

Perhaps the biggest inclusion to date though is the announcement that the upcoming DLC for Mario Kart 8: Deluxe will also be included with the expansion pack. This DLC adds 48 courses, with the final installment not due until 2023. It seems like Nintendo is keen on expanding the value proposition of the expansion pack to include upcoming DLCs where possible.

Nintendo could follow suit with other upcoming titles like Splatoon 3 or the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s even possible that the company could add existing DLC packs for games like Smash Bros. Ultimate, though there’s no precedence for this as yet. Upcoming emulators could be gated behind the expansion pack, a move Nintendo has already committed to with the N64 and Genesis.

The take-away is that the expansion pack has already improved in terms of value since being introduced less than 12 months ago.

The Expansion Pack’s Value Is Subjective

Whether or not you find value in the expansion pack depends heavily on how you use your Switch, and how you measure value. It also depends on what other devices you have access to, and whether the convenience of access to features like N64 and Sega Genesis emulation is worth it to you.

Like any subscription-based service, you only get access to the features bundled with the expansion pack for as long as you’re subscribed. If you decide to cancel your subscription then you’ll lose access to everything, including DLC content for games that you own like Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

N64 Emulation on the Switch

If you decide to buy the DLC for these games outright, they are yours forever. You’ll always be able to access them for as long as Nintendo’s servers remain online. Each of these DLC packs can be purchased for $24.99 separately, which means outright ownership currently costs the same as a year’s subscription to the expansion pack.

Emulation of the N64 and Sega Genesis (as well as any future systems Nintendo decides to add to the higher tier) may also appeal at face value. Nintendo seems to have decided to drip-feed titles rather than release a large library at once, and there has been some criticism about the way the company has implemented emulation.

Early reports of the service were poor, noting a lack of fog and texture downgrades in titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nintendo followed-up with an update that seems to have improved things, but there’s still a way to go. If you have a portable handheld emulator or another device you’re happy to emulate these platforms with (like an Xbox) then Nintendo’s offering falls rather flat.

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For sheer convenience, you can’t beat Nintendo’s implementation of N64 emulation, and there’s no legal grey area in terms of the legalities of dealing with ROMs to contend with either.

RELATED: Nintendo Switch Emulation: What You Need to Know

You Can Still Buy Nintendo Switch Online for $20

As time goes on, the expansion pack may become an even bigger value proposition. Anyone who is already subscribed will be able to take advantage of any additions as they arrive.

But if all you want is a basic suite of features including online play and cloud saves, a standard $19.99 Nintendo Switch Online yearly membership is all you need. If you don’t play Animal Crossing, don’t want extra Mario Kart 8: Deluxe tracks, and don’t care about playing N64 or Genesis titles on your Switch, then the expansion pack probably isn’t worth it to you.

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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