Nintendo Switch Online is an excellent gaming subscription service for anyone who primarily plays Nintendo games and would like to take advantage of features like online multiplayer and cloud saves for a wide selection of supported titles.
Additionally, a subscription to Switch Online allows you to access a deep library of retro NES and SNES games along with NSO exclusives like Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35.
In this list, we’ll be highlighting the best games on Nintendo Switch Online, including the best NES games, best SNES games, and best free games on Nintendo Switch Online.
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Super Mario Bros. 35
Release Date: October 1, 2020
If you’ve signed up for NSO and still haven’t checked out Super Mario Bros. 35, then you might want to act quickly before it’s taken off the service on March 31, 2021.
It was created to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the iconic Nintendo franchise and includes levels from the original Super Mario Bros. with modified mechanics and battle royale elements.
When enemies are defeated, they get sent to another player’s screen, and the coins you collect can be spent on random power-ups.
It’s a fun and exciting approach to the classic platformer gameplay Super Mario is known for, we just wish it wasn’t a timed released.
Release Date: February 13, 2019
Similar to Super Mario Bros. 35, Tetris 99 is a battle royale take on the well-known puzzle series that’s available to NSO subscribers.
It sees up to 99-players competing in rounds of traditional Tetris in real-time, with the goal of clearing lines as quickly as possible and sending ‘junk’ pieces to your opponents until they lose.
You have the option of focusing on one opponent or letting the game automatically target enemies for you.
Because of this, matches can ramp up pretty quickly and end up feeling a lot more intense than you would expect from a puzzle game.
Donkey Kong Country
Release Date: November 18, 1994
The original Donkey Kong Country for SNES was recently added to Switch Online and is worth revisiting for anyone who hasn’t played it since they were a kid.
Believe it or not, the game’s graphics were seen as revolutionary at the time of its release during the mid-90s, and the platforming gameplay is still enjoyable by today’s standards.
Donkey Kong Country played a pivotal role in revitalizing the franchise and shining a spotlight on developer Rare during their beloved partnership with Nintendo.
Release Date: August 6, 1986
Metroid is another heavy hitter in Nintendo’s extensive retro catalog that’s now available through Switch Online.
It focuses on a bounty hunter who travels to an alien planet to retrieve parasitic Metroids stolen by Space Pirates.
The game features sprawling 2D platforming environments that can be explored further by obtaining new tools that double as weapons.
Structuring a game this way was seen as bold at the time, but today we commonly refer to them as Metroidvanias.
Release Date: November 21, 1990
While Mario Kart has gone on to become a household name since its first incarnation on the Super Nintendo, F-Zero hasn’t fared as well, with the latest entry having released back in 2004.
Still, it’s worth checking out for anyone fond of the futuristic racer or who would like to dive into Nintendo’s vast catalog of beloved series that gone dormant over the years.
F-Zero is known for its fast-paced racing, high difficulty, fantastic soundtrack, and unique racers, including the series mascot Captain Falcon.
Release Date: August 2, 1990
Despite not being the version that includes Mike Tyson’s likeness, Punch-Out!! on Switch Online is still a fun arcade boxing game with puzzle-like gameplay.
It revolves around dodging incoming blows while landing your own hits on the enemy using a combination of memorization and quick reflexes.
Punch-Out!! ’s graphics were considered impressive at the time of its release, and the game is still fondly remembered for characters like Little Mac and his boxing coach, Doc Louis.
Release Date: February 21, 1993
The fact that Nintendo managed to get a pseudo-3D-shooter running on the SNES was quite remarkable considering the console’s hardware limitations.
While the original Star Fox may not be as revered as its N64 sequel, it features some of the best graphics and visual effects possible at the time.
Switch Online subscribers can also check out Star Fox 2, which never received an official release until the launch of the SNES classic in 2017.
Super Mario Bros. 3
Release Date: October 23, 1988
There’s no shortage of Super Mario games to help scratch that old school Nintendo itch, but if we had to pick from Switch Online’s offerings, we’d say Super Mario Bros. 3 is a cut above the rest.
While the original take on the formula is still quite enjoyable, SMB3 takes things a step further by raising the number of worlds to eight and including an overworld map for each one.
Additionally, new power-ups like the Super Leaf and Tanooki Suit allowed for new platforming level designs and challenges.
Super Mario Kart
Release Date: August 27, 1992
Anyone who enjoyed Mario Kart 8 can see how the series got its start by playing Super Mario Kart through Switch Online.
At the time of its release, the game was considered a graphical achievement, using free rotations and plane-scaling to create a 3D effect on the SNES hardware, similar to Star Fox.
It includes 20 tracks that will be familiar to longtime fans of the series, with fan favorites like Donut Plains and Rainbow Road included.
While Super Mario Kart is responsible for establishing some of the staples for the series going forward, it also features a fair share of unique quirks that aren’t present in later MK games.
Super Mario World
Release Date: November 21, 1990
The Super Mario World series features some of the best 2D platformers Nintendo ever made, and the original is definitely a must-play for any Nintendo fan.
Launching alongside the SNES, the game elevated Super Mario’s level design with new elements, better graphics, and a memorable soundtrack.
It also marks the first appearance of Yoshi as we know him today. While riding a Yoshi, Mario and Luigi can wield different powers to help them reach the end of a level.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Release Date: August 1995
Although it’s technically a sequel to Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island is structured very differently, so much so that Nintendo would make later Yoshi games their own separate subseries.
Instead of controlling Mario himself, you play as a Yoshi who’s been assigned to protect Baby Mario from enemies and hazards as you traverse 2D levels.
It’s paced a lot slower than other Super Mario games and places a bigger emphasis on puzzle-solving using Yoshi’s egg abilities.
Release Date: March 19, 1994
Super Metroid greatly benefited from the addition of 16-bit graphics, which allowed for more dramatic storytelling, immersive environments, and complex game mechanics.
In it, Samus returns to the tunnels of Zebes from the original Metroid in order to retrieve an infant Metroid that was stolen by Ridley.
Although the game revisits the underground labyrinth of its NES predecessor, it features more elaborate paths, puzzles, and secret objects you could reveal using Samus’ new visor tool.
Super Metroid is considered one of the most influential games of all time and has inspired countless games since its release.
The Legend of Zelda
Release Date: February 21, 1986
The original Legend of Zelda introduced all of the core elements we’ve come to expect from a Zelda title, marking the first appearance of Zelda, Link, and Ganon, as well as the Triforce and Hyrule.
Played from a 2D overhead perspective, the game has you controlling a young hero as he sets out to save a Princess and kingdom from the Prince of Darkness, later known as Ganon.
It was one of the first video games to let players save their progress as well as feature an open-world map, allowing you to explore the kingdom of Hyrule without restrictions.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Release Date: January 14, 1987
Nintendo decided to take things in a different direction for Zelda II, a follow-up to the original game that sees you yet again saving Princess Zelda, only this time from a side-scrolling perspective.
The game is a lot more action-orientated than the first, which focused on exploration, and features RPG elements not found in later games.
Link can use experience points earned to upgrade his abilities as well as cast various magic spells during battle.
Considering Nintendo’s never released another Zelda game in this style, The Adventure of Link is often regarded as the black sheep of the series, making it worth checking out.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past
Release Date: November 21, 1991
A Link to the Past is a prequel to the first two games in the series and revisits the gameplay found in the original Legend of Zelda.
While the game refines many of the mechanics and concepts of the first Zelda, it also introduces some of its own, such as making arrows separate items.
Link can walk diagonally and even run after obtaining the Pegasus Boots. Combat was expanded to give Link a new sideway sword attack in addition to his standard forward-facing one.
A Link to the Past also introduced the concept of multiple dimensions within the Zelda universe and is partially responsible for the messiness of the series’ separate timelines.
Release Date: December 9, 1988
Although most of this list focuses on Nintendo published titles, there are also a ton of great third party games included with NSO.
Ninja Gaiden is a challenging 2D side-scrolling platformer initially released for arcades before coming to the NES in the late 1980s.
In it, you take on the role of a ninja who travels to America to avenge his father’s murder and ends up entangled in a plot involving ancient demons.
The game is fondly remembered for its story and cinematic cutscenes, as well as its high degree of difficulty. Thankfully, it’s a lot more manageable to play using Switch Online’s save states feature.