When the Nintendo Switch launched back in 2017 it didn't come with any dedicated online multiplayer service to match PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live, but after over a year of waiting the Nintendo Switch Online subscription arrived in September 2018.

Here’s everything you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online if you're considering subscribing.

What is the Nintendo Switch Online Service?

Essentially, it’s the Nintendo equivalent of PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold - a paid subscription service that gives gamers the ability to play games with friends online. You’ll always be able to play single-player and local multiplayer games, but you need to subscribe to access online multiplayer.

How much does it cost?

With Sony’s yearly PS Plus subscription setting PS4 gamers back £49.99/$59.99 and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold costing £39.99/$59.99 per year, the main concern for most Switch gamers is the cost of the Nintendo Switch Online Service.

Thankfully, Nintendo hasn’t followed the trend of expensive yearly subscriptions, and Nintendo Switch Online costs £3.49/$3.99/€3.99 per month, £6.99/$7.99/€7.99 for a three-month subscription and £17.99/$19.99/€19.99 to get access for a year. You can also access a free seven-day trial to see if the service is for you without committing up front. 

You can subscribe from your Switch, or simply buy three or twelve-month subscriptions from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

There’s also a Family membership on offer. It’s a little more expensive and only available in the form of a 12-month membership, but provides the service on up to eight Nintendo Switch profiles – even across different Switch consoles. For that privilege, expect to pay £31.49/$34.99/€34.99 per year.

What else does the Nintendo Switch Online Service offer?

Like Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo offers other benefits alongside access to online multiplayer. The headline of the service is access to an ever-growing list of classic NES and SNES games at no extra cost. There were 20 titles available at launch, with more being added on a regular basis. Titles so far include Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Ice Climber and Balloon Fight, some of which for the first time include multiplayer gameplay.

Depending on the game in question, Switch players will be able to join online competitive or co-op multiplayer, or take turns controlling single-player games. You’ll also be able to watch friends play single-player games online and ‘pass the controller’ at any time. And, like modern games, all classic NES titles will support voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app.

You can also download the Nintendo Switch Online app for iOS and Android. It was introduced alongside Splatoon 2, and offers voice chat functionalities alongside game-specific functions.

Oh, and for those worried about their precious game data, you’ll be glad to know that the online service also offers save data cloud backup - though it's worth noting that not every Switch game supports this for some reason, so check which games you play will support cloud saves.

As well as that, Nintendo promises exclusive features in the mobile app and access to special offers on the eShop, including a few subscriber-exclusive products like NES and SNES-style controllers for the Switch.