Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack now available

Many fans were excited by the prospect of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack but later balked when they found out about the pricing structure. Now that the service is here, how much value is it really providing? In review, Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack offers a modest collection of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games and adds enjoyable modern enhancements such as portability, local and online multiplayer, save states, and rewinds. However, issues with online play and the quality of the emulation are noticeable flaws in the service. Combine that with frustrating issues such as the inability to remap controls, and Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack becomes a service that can only be recommended to the most dedicated of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis fans.

A fine addition to your collection?

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack includes access to a collection of Nintendo 64 games, Sega Genesis games, and the Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise DLC. Specifically, it includes nine Nintendo 64 games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Sin & Punishment, as well as 14 Sega Genesis games with the likes of Castlevania: Bloodlines and Strider. Depending on your region, you can also choose between the North American or European versions of some games, which is a nice touch for those with a particular preference. Modern features from the base Nintendo Switch Online service return such as save states, rewinds, and display options like pixel-perfect or the CRT filter. Paired with the inherent portability of Switch, these features represent some very welcome functionality upgrades to every game.

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack review Nintendo 64 Sega Genesis game emulation selection quality online multiplayer

While a lot of these games have been sold in collections or as individual ports and remasters over the years, the Nintendo 64 games mostly had not been playable on modern platforms. With that in mind, there are some genuinely exciting and classic games to dig into here, and they’re just as fun as ever. However, the current selection feels limited for how much is being paid for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. Nintendo has already confirmed more games will be added such as Paper Mario and Banjo-Kazooie, and a recent datamine suggests many more are coming beyond those announced. Yet, right now, it’s hard to recommend the service over other competing platforms’ options unless Switch is your only console.

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack review Nintendo 64 Sega Genesis game emulation selection quality online multiplayer

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is a mixed bag

The majority of games in both collections run well and without any noticeable issues, especially on the Sega Genesis side. Resolutions are generally sharp, frame rates are steady, and I didn’t notice any input lag (but your mileage may vary). That said, some more basic issues quickly became annoying. The service doesn’t make use of the Nintendo 64 Controller Pak, meaning that features like saving ghost data in Mario Kart 64 aren’t possible. Likewise, game descriptions for each title are nice, but adding digital manuals would have been far more useful for players new to any of these titles.

On any Switch controllers, the N64’s C buttons are mapped to the right analog stick, and since buttons can’t be remapped, it leads to awkward control layouts. The lack of customizable controls also meant that it was frustrating being unable to change the default inverted first-person aiming in Ocarina of Time. Unfortunately for Ocarina of Time fans, it was also the only game in which I found substantial issues. While the frame rate and resolution were great, emulation-based bugs resulted in inconsistent fog effects, water looking worse than in past versions of the game, and noticeable differences in coloring. Compared to Ocarina of Time’s emulation on the Wii and GameCube, as well as the superior Nintendo 3DS version, it’s a disappointing effort. It may have been the only game I experienced issues in, but it’s still underwhelming to be given a subpar version of one of Nintendo’s greatest hits.

Image credit: Modern Vintage Gamer

Those that picked up the now-sold-out Nintendo 64 controller will find fewer problems with the game collection offered in Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, as it provides control schemes that more accurately match the original games. It has a nice rumble effect and even added functionality thanks to Switch buttons on the top, such as a screenshot capture button. It may be just as awkward to hold the controller as ever, but being able to use the Z button for targeting in Ocarina of Time or to hold an item in Mario Kart 64 definitely feels more natural than Nintendo’s contemporary control schemes.

Multiplayer mayhem

Nintendo 64 fans will remember how split-screen multiplayer was a large component of what made the system so much fun. That still holds true with Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, albeit with some caveats. All types of Nintendo Switch-compatible controllers can be connected for a group of up to four people to play on the same screen where supported, and there were no noticeable issues with input lag or bugs in my playtime in these modes.

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack review Nintendo 64 Sega Genesis game emulation selection quality online multiplayer

Meanwhile, the new online component of multiplayer is a bit different. Playing N64 and Genesis games online with friends is a genuinely cool novelty that breathes new life into titles like Mario Kart 64 or Streets of Rage 2. It’s an appreciated benefit of bringing these titles to the Switch. However, as you would expect from any Nintendo game with online features, the connection isn’t always consistent. Instances of lag and disconnects during matches are not uncommon, and it is part of a pervasive ongoing issue that Nintendo needs to address.

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is only for the most dedicated Nintendo and Sega fans

There is definitely enjoyment to be found in Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack thanks to the quality of titles on offer and contemporary quality-of-life enhancements. Being able to play classic games like Streets of Rage 2 or Star Fox 64 portably and with modern benefits like save states and rewinds, as well as local and online multiplayer options, adds fantastic new value to these legacy titles. Yet, a limited selection of Nintendo 64 games combined with awkward control schemes, online connectivity issues, a lack of Expansion Pak support, and emulation-based glitches makes it hard to recommend Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack to anyone except the most dedicated of Nintendo and Sega’s audience.

A review code for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack was provided by the publisher.

Our review policy.

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack

7

There is definitely enjoyment to be found in Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack thanks to the quality of titles on offer and contemporary quality-of-life enhancements. Being able to play classic games like Streets of Rage 2 or Star Fox 64 portably and with modern benefits like save states and rewinds, as well as local and online multiplayer options, adds fantastic new value to these legacy titles. Yet, a limited selection of Nintendo 64 games combined with awkward control schemes, online connectivity issues, a lack of Expansion Pak support, and emulation-based glitches makes it hard to recommend Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack to anyone except the most dedicated of Nintendo and Sega's audience.

Pros
  • Most of the games run well and are as great as ever
  • Local and online multiplayer
  • Save states, rewinds, and other quality of life features
  • The Nintendo 64 controller alleviates control problems and is wonderfully nostalgic
Cons
  • Currently limited new library
  • Online play is prone to lag
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has emulation issues
  • Can’t remap controls
  • No Expansion Pak support
Chirag Pattni
Psychologist and long time gamer. Has a love-hate relationship with technology and enjoys all things Japanese.

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