Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, the new, upper-tier online subscription that Nintendo announced at the end of September, is available as of yesterday. The $49.99 price tag — more than double the basic Nintendo Switch Online rate — brings the service’s price more in line with its cousins on PlayStation and Xbox. But what it offers, apart from access to multiplayer, is greatly different.
Here’s a primer on Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, the fine print of signing up for it, and what you get if you do.
Nintendo Switch Online launched in the fall of 2018 and, as an inducement to sign up, gave subscribers access to a large library of emulated Nintendo Entertainment System games. Super Nintendo games were added to the catalog a year later. This is in addition to online multiplayer, cloud saves, voice chat, a smartphone companion app, and a gradual series of additions to the NES and SNES catalogs.
Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack offers all that, plus a collection of nine Nintendo 64 titles and 14 Sega Genesis titles. It also gives subscribers Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ premium expansion, Happy Home Paradise, which ordinarily runs for $24.99
There’s a catch: Like the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection and Xbox Live Games With Gold, you only get access to the Animal Crossing DLC as long as your subscription is active. If you cancel your subscription, you lose access when the membership ends.
Likewise, players only get the N64 and Genesis games for as long as they maintain an Expansion Pack subscription.
What specifically do I get from the Expansion Pack?
The Nintendo 64 games offered are:
- Dr. Mario 64
- Mario Kart 64
- Mario Tennis
- Sin and Punishment
- Star Fox 64
- Super Mario 64
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- WinBack: Covert Operations
- Yoshi’s Story
Nintendo has announced that it will offer more N64 games, such as Pokémon Snap, Paper Mario, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Mario Golf, F-Zero X, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. It hasn’t given a date for when these or other titles will be available, though.
The Sega Genesis games offered are:
- Castlevania: Bloodlines
- Contra: Hard Corps
- Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Golden Axe
- Gunstar Heroes
- Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium
- Shining Force
- Shinobi 3
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- Streets of Rage 2
It’s worth mentioning that, of the Sega Genesis titles, all but MUSHA and Ristar are included in the Sega Genesis Mini’s catalog of 42 games, if you bought one of those back in 2019.
Also of note: Some of these Sega Genesis and N64 games will be playable via online multiplayer, so you won’t need to be on the same couch to play Mario Kart 64 with friends.
What happens if I already have a basic Nintendo Switch Online?
Nintendo will sign you up for a pro-rated subscription whose expiration roughly coincides with the date when your standard Nintendo Switch Online membership would expire and be rebilled. The subscription will then auto-rebill at the full $49.99 amount, for a full year. Nintendo says subscribers will be shown the full price and expiration date of their first Expansion Pack membership term before they click to purchase it.
What if I’m part of a family membership?
Those who have bought a family membership for Nintendo Switch Online can only upgrade to a family plan for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, which is $79.99. You can’t change it to an individual Expansion Pack membership. You’d have to let that family plan run to its expiration and buy a new individual membership at whatever tier of service you want, the same way you’d get out of a family plan on standard Nintendo Switch Online.
That also means that, if you’re a member of a family plan, you can’t simply buy the Expansion Pack upgrade for yourself, either. You’d have to drop out of the family plan and buy a new subscription altogether at $49.99.
This FAQ has more, but the basic rules are:
- If you have Nintendo Switch Online for yourself, you can upgrade to any other option (individual Expansion Pack for $49.99; Family membership for $34.99, or Family membership with the Expansion pack at $79.99)
- If you get Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack for yourself, you can only upgrade to a Family membership with the Expansion Pack ($79.99).
- If you have a Nintendo Switch Online Family membership, you can only add the Expansion Pack at the Family level of service ($79.99).
Can I downgrade from Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack to standard Nintendo Switch Online?
The short answer is that Nintendo has made this a difficult, multi-step process.
First, a user would have to disable the auto-renewal on their Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership (within 48 hours of the current term’s expiration). Note that once you do this on your account, you can’t reactivate rebilling for Nintendo Switch Online, for that account, from that point forward. Then they would have to let that Nintendo Switch Online account lapse and sign up for a Nintendo Switch Online standard membership at its rate.
In summary, even though the extra features are billed as an “Expansion Pack” these are all discrete subscriptions; there’s no way to just strip out the Expansion features and go back to your old tier of service. You have to run to the end of the Expansion Pack subscription and buy a new one.
Should I buy Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack?
The value you get out of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack will greatly depend on your enjoyment of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games. If you’re buying it just for the Animal Crossing: New Horizons DLC and plan on downgrading once you’re tired of it, remember, that content disappears from your game.
You would be better off making a one-time purchase of the DLC for $24.99; it’s $5 cheaper, and you have Happy Home Paradise permanently. Buying this subscription for the Animal Crossing expansion effectively signs you up to pay $49.99 a year for as long as you want to play with it.
The Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games comprise some greatest hits with a wide fandom, for sure — Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, Super Mario 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time highlight the N64 side of things; Sega Genesis gets you Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Streets of Rage 2, Ecco the Dolphin, Strider and others. And as mentioned above, some games feature multiplayer functionality.
And there’s the opportunity to play these games with replicas of their consoles’ original controllers. Those controllers are also $49.99 each. (The N64 controller is sold out on the Nintendo Store; the Genesis gamepad is available — it’s the three-button version, though; a six-button throwback pad is available only in Japan).
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