No, online multiplayer gaming on the Nintendo Switch requires a paid subscription to Nintendo Switch Online. However, there are some limited options available for free online play along with several great ways to enjoy local wireless multiplayer without extra costs. This guide covers everything you need to know about the free and paid services for playing with friends on Switch.
What is Nintendo Switch Online and How Much Does it Cost?
Nintendo Switch Online is Nintendo‘s premium subscription service that opens up online play along with other benefits. It costs $3.99 monthly, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 annually for an individual membership. There‘s also a family plan for up to 8 accounts across multiple Switch consoles that goes for $34.99 per year.
Here‘s a quick breakdown of everything included with a Nintendo Switch Online membership:
Online multiplayer gaming – Connect and compete with players worldwide on popular Switch titles.
Cloud saves – Backup your game progress to Nintendo‘s servers.
Special offers – Get exclusive member discounts on select digital purchases.
NES & SNES games – Growing library of classic 8-bit and 16-bit Nintendo titles.
Voice chat app – Chat with friends during online play using the Nintendo Switch Online app.
Tetris 99 – Battle 98 other players simultaneously in this frenzied free-to-play version of Tetris.
Nintendo Switch Online is required for online multiplayer access on most Switch games including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Splatoon 3, Mario Strikers: Battle League, and many more.
Free Games Offering Online Play
While a subscription is generally needed for online multiplayer on the Switch, there are some exceptions. Several popular free-to-play titles allow you to jump into online matches without paying anything.
The mega-popular battle royale game is free on Switch and supports online lobbies of up to 100 players. Squad up or go solo as you scavenge for weapons and materials to be the last one standing.
This soccer-with-cars game has built a huge community around its addictive online matches. Show off your skills by pulling off wild trick shots, passes, and game-winning goals against players worldwide.
A team-based third-person shooter focused on high action tactics. Select your character with unique skills and weapons then work together to dominate the opposition.
Combine elemental magic and powerful gauntlets in this battle royale game set in a fantastical world. Soar across the skies and unleash fiery attacks as the arena shrinks around you.
Super Kirby Clash
Team up to 4 players locally or online to take down massive bosses as Kirby. Unlock jobs with different weapons and abilities while collecting treasure to grow stronger.
The classic block-stacking puzzle game turned competitive with 99 players racing to be the last one standing. Knock out opponents by targeting them with Garbage blocks. Included with a Nintendo Switch Online membership.
Nintendo still has room to grow when it comes to friend lobbies, invites, and other social features compared to PlayStation and Xbox. But the selection of solid free-to-play online multiplayer games makes the Switch worth considering if you don‘t want recurring subscription fees.
Local Wireless Play
One major perk of the Nintendo Switch is the ability to connect multiple consoles together wirelessly for local multiplayer sessions. This allows friends nearby to play compatible games together without needing an internet connection or paid subscription.
Here‘s how to set up a wireless local multiplayer session between Switch systems:
Gather 2 or more Switch consoles within 30 feet of each other. Make sure each device is charged enough for gameplay.
On each Switch, from the main menu go to System Settings -> Internet -> Connect to the Internet and select Local Communication instead of your WiFi network.
On one Switch, load up a compatible multiplayer game like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and select Local Play.
On the other Switches, open the same game and also choose Local Play. The systems should now detect each other.
Select the host Switch profile to connect to and choose a playable character. Once all players have joined, start the game!
Up to 8 Switch consoles can connect this way for wireless local multiplayer so long as the game supports it. This allows your crew to play games together without having to share devices or purchase additional copies.
Must-Have Controllers and Accessories
To fully enjoy Switch multiplayer, especially local play, having enough controllers and the right accessories makes all the difference:
Extra Joy-Cons – Each additional Joy-Con allows for another player with most games supporting up to 8. At $79.99 for a pair, it‘s an investment, but worth it for big multiplayer parties.
Joy-Con Charging Dock – $29.99, Charges up to 4 Joy-Cons at once so you never have to stop the fun to recharge.
Pro Controller – $69.99, The premium controller for Switch with a traditional feel and 40 hour battery life. Ideal for hardcore gaming.
Switch LAN Adapter – $29.99, Plug into the Switch dock for more stable internet connectivity during online play.
Controller Carrying Case – $12.99, Safely store and transport Switch controllers on the go. Holds up to 4 Joy-Cons or 2 Pro Controllers.
Comfortable Grip Case – Starts at $7.99, Makes holding the Switch for long play sessions easier on your hands.
Screen Protector – $6.99, Protect the display from scratches during intense gaming.
MicroSD Card – Starts at $19.99, Required storage space for downloading multiplayer games digitally.
Loading everyone up with controllers and keeping them charged allows everyone to join in the action. Protecting the Switch console itself ensures it will hold up during competitive gaming marathons.
Tips for Sharing Digital Games
For families or roommates that want to share a digital game library on Switch, it helps to understand game sharing and profiles.
Only one profile on a Switch can be designated as the purchaser. This allows other accounts to access downloaded games.
Set your main Switch as the "primary console" to share content with secondary devices authorized with other accounts.
You can play your shared digital purchases on both your primary and secondary consoles simultaneously.
Physical game cartridges can only run on one device at a time.
With game sharing properly configured, you and family members can play multiplayer online together while only buying one digital copy of the game. Just be sure to agree on settings to avoid issues.
Playing Multiplayer Games Offline
You can still enjoy awesome local cooperative and competitive multiplayer on Switch without an internet connection. Some games offer bot matches that allow you to play offline against computer-controlled opponents.
For example, in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate up to 4 players can battle against CPU fighters set to various difficulty levels when offline. This allows you to get in valuable practice and have unpredictable matchups even without real opponents available.
Playing multiplayer games offline is also great for younger kids since you don‘t have to worry about interactions with strangers online. Set up tournaments against bots to keep the rivalries with siblings and friends burning bright.
Console or Handheld Multiplayer?
A benefit of the Switch is you can enjoy multiplayer both docked on a TV in console mode or as a handheld device. Each offers pros and cons:
Docked Console Multiplayer
- More immersive experience on a big screen.
- Works better for local wireless play when farther apart.
- Allows using the official Switch Pro Controller.
- More portable for gaming on the go.
- Better for huddled around gameplay during travel.
- Local wireless connections don‘t work as far apart.
Ideally having a full console setup at home and using a case to take the Switch on the go gives you the most flexibility for multiplayer gaming in any situation.
Setting Up Family Accounts
The Switch allows you to add user accounts for family members so that everyone can have their own saves, track progress, and customize settings:
Go to System Settings on the Home screen.
Select Users -> Add User to create a new account.
Link the account to a Nintendo Account profile.
Set parental controls like playtime limits if needed.
With separate accounts, up to 8 players can share a Switch while keeping game progress intact. You can also share a family membership to Nintendo Switch Online.
For families, I recommend designating an adult as the primary purchaser account. This allows other accounts on the device to access downloaded games and subscriptions.
Kids can then play without worrying about purchases or messing up important save data. Make sure to agree on settings as a group first!
How Does Nintendo Switch Online Compare to the Competition?
Here‘s a quick rundown on how Nintendo Switch Online stacks up against PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold:
|Service||Price||Games||Cloud Saves||Social Features|
|Nintendo Switch Online||$19.99/year ($34.99 family)||NES & SNES classics. Tetris 99.||Supported||Limited options|
|PlayStation Plus||$59.99/year||Monthly modern free games||Supported||Advanced social and streaming|
|Xbox Live Gold||$59.99/year||Monthly modern free games||Supported||Advanced social and streaming|
While priced lower, Nintendo Switch Online offers fewer contemporary free games compared to PlayStation and Xbox subscriptions. Social features are also less robust on Switch.
However, the ability to play classic Nintendo games may appeal to those feeling nostalgic. Local wireless multiplayer is also free on Switch unlike competitors.
Conclusion – Get the Most Out of Switch Multiplayer
As a lifetime gamer who owns all major consoles, here is my advice for having the best multiplayer experiences on Nintendo Switch:
The subscription is worthwhile if you plan to play games online regularly. Splurge on a family membership to share the benefits.
Supply enough extra controllers and accessories for your crew to avoid taking turns. Pro Controllers are great for mature gamers.
Understand console sharing functions to access one digital copy of multiplayer games across accounts.
Take advantage of free titles like Fortnite and Tetris 99 which are too fun to pass up.
Try out the variety of play modes – linked local wireless, online, same-screen, and handheld.
Set up parental controls and individual accounts so even younger kids can safely get in on the action.
Social elements still need work, but Switch has come a long way with added features since launch.
For recommendations, games like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Mario Party Superstars are must-have local multiplayer experiences in my opinion. Have fun gaming with friends and family on the Switch!