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How do you get the Nintendo Switch Online expansion pack for free?

Want to play classic N64 and Genesis games on your Switch, while also getting access to DLC for Mario Kart and Animal Crossing? The Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack adds these sweet bonuses, but costs a hefty $50 per year.

As a fellow gamer on a budget, I totally get not wanting to fork over cash for a subscription. The good news is – with a little effort, you can get the Nintendo expansion pack for free!

In this guide, I‘ll share multiple legit ways to enjoy the perks without paying. We‘ll cover:

  • Smart strategies to score free codes and trials
  • Maximizing value if you do pay
  • Key details on what‘s included (and what‘s not)
  • My honest take on if it‘s worth the money

Let‘s dive in and unlock those retro games!

An Overview of Nintendo Switch Online and the Expansion Pack

First, a quick primer on Nintendo‘s online offerings for the Switch.

There are two main tiers:

Nintendo Switch Online: $20/year individual, $35/year family plan

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack: $50/year individual, $80/year family

Here‘s what each membership includes:

FeaturesNintendo Switch OnlineExpansion Pack
Online multiplayer gaming
Cloud saves
NES & SNES games
Nintendo 64 games
Sega Genesis games
Animal Crossing DLC
Mario Kart 8 DLC

So in a nutshell, the Expansion Pack adds:

  • Access to Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games
  • DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Keep those key perks in mind as we explore ways to enjoy this upgraded membership for free.

Cost Breakdown of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack

First, let‘s quickly discuss the costs:

  • Individual membership: $50 per year
  • Family membership: $80 per year for up to 8 accounts

That‘s a big jump up from the regular Switch Online price of $20 per year for an individual or $35 for a family plan.

Nintendo has bundled a lot of value into the Expansion Pack. But that 50 dollar yearly cost understandably gives some gamers pause.

Next, let‘s look at smart ways to avoid that fee.

Clever Ways to Get the Expansion Pack Without Paying

Option 1: Free 7-Day Trial

This one is easy. Nintendo offers a free 7-day trial for the Expansion Pack membership.

Simply head to the Nintendo eShop, select Nintendo Switch Online, and choose the free trial.

7 days isn‘t a ton of time to enjoy the full catalog. But it‘s great for testing the N64 and Genesis libraries to help decide if the upgrade is worth it.

Option 2: Split a Family Plan

The best way to slash the cost is sharing a family plan. At $80 per year for up to 8 accounts, the price drops to only $10 per person!

Gather some gaming buddies or family members and split the cost. That‘s an absolute steal to enjoy online play, cloud saves, retro games, and DLC.

Option 3: Watch for Free Promotions and Giveaways

Now and then, Nintendo runs special promos offering free trials or discounts on Expansion Pack memberships.

For example, they recently offered people who purchased Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a free 7-day trial.

Keep an eye on gaming news sites and Nintendo‘s social media for future deals. Signing up for Nintendo‘s email list can help too.

Game companies, retailers, and streamers also sometimes hand out free codes through contests, events, and giveaways.

Enter any sweeps you can find online or on social media. With luck, you may score a free 1-year membership code!

Option 4: Cash in Credit Card Rewards and Perks

Certain credit cards offer rewards points or statement credits that can be used in the Nintendo eShop.

For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 5% cash back on PayPal purchases. You can use PayPal to buy eShop codes for the Expansion Pack.

Some cards also give hefty sign-up bonuses worth $200 or more in cash back. Between bonuses and ongoing rewards, you may be able to earn enough to fully offset the $50 yearly fee.

Check your credit card details to see if any gaming perks or cash back offers are available. Then game the system to unlock "free" money for your subscription.

Option 5: Enter Giveaways and Contests

As mentioned above, game companies and content creators sometimes give away memberships and eShop codes.

Search online and follow gaming personalities on sites like Twitter and YouTube. Enter any sweeps or contests you find to try scoring a free code.

If Lady Luck is on your side, you could win a full year membership without paying a dime!

Tips to Maximize Value if You Do Pay for the Expansion Pack

Scoring a completely free Expansion Pack membership takes some luck and effort. If you do decide to pay, use these tips to maximize value:

Share the cost of a family plan.

Adding family and friends and splitting the $80 yearly fee drops the price to just $10 per person. That‘s incredibly cheap access for what the Expansion Pack offers.

Redeem gold points from physical games for discounts.

When you buy physical Switch games, you earn gold points that can be used for eShop discounts. Save up points to knock a few bucks off the membership cost.

Buy discounted eShop cards/codes online or at retailers.

Sites like Raise, CardCash, and BestBuy often sell eShop credit for less than face value. You can save a few dollars on the membership with discounted codes.

Set a reminder to cancel before renewal if you‘re on the fence.

That way you can avoid automatic charges if you decide later the service isn‘t worth it for you.

Claim any free DLC included with the membership.

Make sure to download the Animal Crossing and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC packs while subscribed – they are free perks!

Key Differences Between the Expansion Pack and Regular Nintendo Switch Online

To recap, the main things only offered by the Expansion Pack are:

  • Classic Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games
  • Animal Crossing New Horizons DLC
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC

The regular Nintendo Switch Online still provides:

  • Online multiplayer gaming
  • Cloud save backup
  • Exclusive offers and discounts
  • Classic NES and SNES game libraries

So you‘re really paying that extra $30 per year specifically for the N64 and Genesis games plus the DLC.

For retro fans, it may be worth the premium. But if you just play modern Switch games online occasionally, the basic membership is probably sufficient.

Is the Expansion Pack Worth the $50 Annual Fee?

At the end of the day, whether the Expansion Pack is "worth it" comes down to your personal gaming preferences.

For nostalgic gamers who want to relive childhood favorites on N64 and Sega Genesis, it‘s probably a bargain. These libraries offer dozens of iconic retro games that would cost way more to buy individually.

But more casual or budget-focused gamers may not get $50 of value annually. The DLC extras are nice perks but not game-changing. And some may not care about the retro game catalogs.

My advice is to take advantage of the free trial first. This lets you experience the N64 and Genesis apps to see if you fall into the camp who finds them indispensable.

If those classic games bring a flood of nostalgia, the Expansion Pack is likely worth the plunge. You’ll unlock a treasure trove of childhood virtual adventures.

But if you generally stick to modern Switch titles, save your cash. The basic membership has you covered for online play, while letting you dip into the retro libraries for an occasional trip down memory lane.

And of course, try the tips in this guide to score that sweet free deal. A little effort can save you $50 each year.

I hope these tips help you decide if the Expansion Pack is a wise investment for your gaming needs. Let me know if any other questions pop up! Happy (frugal) gaming.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.