Nintendo Switch Online doesn’t have the same reputation as services like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Game Pass. Most people aren’t super fond of its primary purpose, which is for online multiplayer. 

Playing Nintendo games online should be fun but the service is unreliable and built on strange decisions, like requiring a smartphone to talk with party members. The best part of Nintendo Switch Online are the games available on the service.

It’s filled with questionable choices but there are also some must-play games that you should either replay or experience for the first time. As of writing, there are nearly 140 NES and SNES games available on the service.

It sounds like a great value but the issue is that games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and A Link to the Past can be buried under stuff like, well Fire ‘n Ice, which Nintendo decided needed to come back in 2021. These are the games you should start with, or revisit if it’s been a while and you’re looking for some Nintendo nostalgia. 

7 Essential Games You Should Play on Nintendo Switch Online

Blaster Master 

 
If you picked up a Nintendo Switch at launch then you probably played Blaster Master Zero. It was part of the Switch launch lineup, which was pretty limited.

It didn’t matter because one of the games was a Zelda game but everyone eventually ended up on the eShop to see what else was available. 

Blaster Master Zero is an extremely good game. It’s also the second reboot of the original Blaster Master. I think Blaster Master Zero is the superior experience and am not recommending the NES original instead.

It’s more to see how much of Zero lives in the 1988 original. They’re different in some ways but they’ve got a lot in common. It’s worth seeing where the magic all started. Video games are neat.

Star Fox 2 

 
Star Fox 2 was supposed to launch on the Super Nintendo but it just never did. It was completed in 1996 but Nintendo decided it was just too late. 3D technology had come too far with the PlayStation and Saturn so Nintendo decided to shelf Star Fox 2, even though it was finished.

Star Fox re-emerged with more polygons on the N64 in Star Fox 64. The rest is mostly history because Nintendo doesn’t make enough Star Fox games. Nintendo released Star Fox 2 over twenty years later on the SNES Classic and it’s easy to see why they held it back but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

It’s actually pretty fun. Nintendo was just absolutely right. It would have made Nintendo look inferior with how much 3D graphics were being pushed on the newer consoles. It was later put on Nintendo Switch Online and it’s the best place to play it.

It’s easier to abuse save states than on the SNES Classic, which is almost a requirement for some of these games. 

StarTropics


I love this game. I actually just played it for the first time this year. And I can’t recommend it enough. StarTropics is a top-down action-adventure game that’s really similar to Zelda in terms of gameplay and level layouts. 

You play as a boy on some tropical islands and wow, does it go places or what?! It’s really hard. Like really hard. Use a guide if you do play it because there are several parts that you’d have to somehow guess, especially when looking for entrances or the next place to go. 

You could also just watch a playthrough of it. It might be easier because you’ll need to use a guide a lot for the best experience. Just don’t skip this game. It’s super weird and worth seeing at least once. 

Super Metroid 


Super Metroid is quite possibly one of the greatest games of all time. It’s also one of two Metroid games available on the Switch until Metroid Dread releases.

This is a must-play game for anyone that enjoys the Metroidvania genre. This or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Play at least one of them. 

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels / Super Mario Bros. 2

 
Super Mario Bros. was an instant hit in America but Nintendo of America had reservations when it was time to localize the sequel. The video game market had crashed just a few years earlier and things were going well for Nintendo.

Oversaturation was one of the causes for the video game crash and Nintendo of America felt like Super Mario Bros. 2 was too similar to the first game. It was also really hard. 

Instead a different game was repurposed and turned into Super Mario Bros. 2 for America. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is Super Mario Bros. 2, or at least in Japan. It was brought to America and other regions years later on the Super Nintendo and other systems. 

In the end, everyone won. Japan got our Super Mario Bros. 2 (it’s called Super Mario USA) and we got the “real” sequel later. They’re both good for different reasons and it’s great that they’re both available, so they both get a spot. 

Japanese Games 

 
Shin Megami Tensei, several Fire Emblem games, and more are available to you as well if you create a Japanese account on your Nintendo Switch.

The system itself isn’t region locked. Nintendo just doesn’t release the same stuff in all regions. You can also access other eShops this way as well.

Related: 5 GBA Remakes We Need on Nintendo Switch