Nintendo Switch Online Service Offers 20+ Free NES Games, But It's Not Virtual Console

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After months of silence, Nintendo finally shed more light on its premium online service for Switch. The subscription service launches this September and is required to play games such as Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online, but it also comes with some additional perks for subscribers, including a library of classic titles.

Nintendo will offer subscribers to the Switch online service access to a selection of NES games as part of its “NES – Nintendo Switch Online” program. At launch, the lineup will consist of 20 titles, although the company says that more games will be added to the library “regularly.”

Only half of the titles in the initial lineup have revealed thus far, but they consist of some of Nintendo’s best-known NES games, including Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, Balloon Fight, and Dr. Mario. The remaining 10 titles will be announced “in the future.” The full list of confirmed NES games includes:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Donkey Kong
  • Dr. Mario
  • Ice Climber
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Mario Bros.
  • Soccer
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Tennis

On top of being able to play the classic NES titles solo, each one is playable online for the first time thanks to newly added online features. According to Nintendo, “Depending on the game, players can engage in online competitive or co-op multiplayer, or take turns controlling the action. Friends can even watch each other play single-player games online, and ‘pass the controller’ at any time.” The NES games also support voice chat through the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app.

In addition to the classic NES library, the Switch online service offers subscribers the ability to back up their game data via cloud saves. As mentioned above, it will also be required to play Nintendo games like the aforementioned Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe–as well as the upcoming Mario Tennis Aces and Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido–online. However, Nintendo says that other Switch games “will vary,” and players will not need to have a subscription to continue playing Wii U and 3DS titles online.

The Switch online service rolls out this September. Subscriptions will be available for one month (US $4 / £3.49 / AU $6), three months (US $8 / £7 / AU $12), and one year (US $20 / £18 / AU $30). Nintendo will also offer a Family Plan for US $35 / £31.49 / AU $55, which allows subscribers to invite up to seven other Nintendo Account holders, even on different consoles, into a family group and have access to the same membership benefits.

Nintendo has yet to announce if classic games from other legacy consoles, such as the Super NES and N64, will be offered on Switch, but the company did confirm that it will not bring back the Virtual Console service. In a statement to GameSpot, Nintendo said, “There are currently no plans to bring classic games together under the Virtual Console banner as has been done on other Nintendo systems.”

However, while the Virtual Console moniker won’t be returning, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other classics can’t appear on Switch in other forms. The company also reiterated, “There are a variety of ways in which classic games from Nintendo and other publishers are made available on Nintendo Switch, such as through Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo eShop or as packaged collections.”

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