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Is Nintendo Switch multiplayer free?

Most multiplayer gaming on the Nintendo Switch requires a paid subscription to Nintendo Switch Online. There are limited exceptions, but you‘ll miss out on many popular online multiplayer titles without the membership.

A closer look at Nintendo Switch Online

As an avid gamer and streaming enthusiast, I‘ve done extensive research into Nintendo‘s online offering. Here‘s what you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online:

It‘s the gateway to online multiplayer for most games

The Nintendo Switch Online membership unlocks online multiplayer access for the vast majority of Switch games. Without it, you‘re restricted to local wireless multiplayer only.

Popular titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Splatoon 2, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and hundreds more require the membership for online play. It‘s an essential purchase for multiplayer fans.

It‘s inexpensive compared to rival platforms

At just $3.99 monthly or $19.99 annually, Nintendo Switch Online is very affordable compared to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold. The table below shows how the pricing stacks up:

Service Monthly Price Annual Price
Nintendo Switch Online $3.99 $19.99
PlayStation Plus $9.99 $59.99
Xbox Live Gold $9.99 $59.99

As you can see, Nintendo‘s offering is less than half the monthly cost and roughly 1/3 the annual cost of the competition. For budget-focused gamers like myself, this is a major plus.

It offers more than just online play

In addition to online multiplayer access, a Nintendo Switch Online membership provides other useful benefits:

  • Free classic NES and SNES games
  • Cloud save data backup
  • Exclusive member offers and discounts
  • Smartphone app integration

For retro gamers like me, the classic game libraries are a great nostalgia trip. And features like cloud saves provide peace of mind against lost or damaged consoles.

What games allow free online multiplayer?

Now, as mentioned earlier, there are some exceptions where games allow online multiplayer without a Nintendo Switch Online membership.

Based on my research, here are the major free-to-play titles with free online play:

  • Fortnite
  • Rocket League
  • Paladins
  • Smite
  • Warframe
  • Realm Royale
  • Arena of Valor

It‘s a fairly small list, but includes some excellent and popular games like Fortnite and Rocket League. For players focused solely on those titles, a membership may not be necessary.

Some other multiplayer games like Pokemon Unite or Super Bomberman R Online offer limited access for free accounts. But full functionality generally requires a membership.

Local multiplayer options

For in-person multiplayer fun with family and friends, the Switch also supports free local wireless play.

Wireless local multiplayer

By placing multiple Switch consoles in close proximity, up to 8 systems can connect wirelessly for local multiplayer sessions. Almost all multiplayer Switch games support this "couch co-op" style of play.

Gathering with friends for Mario Kart or Smash Bros tournaments is a blast using wireless local multiplayer. No internet required!

Multiplayer on a single Switch

Several games also support multiplayer on a single Switch console using multiple controllers. With the included Joy-Con controllers and some extra accessories, 2-4 players can often play together on one screen.

Great examples of single-screen local multiplayer include Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Party, and Overcooked 2. No additional Switch consoles needed!

Is a membership worthwhile for most gamers?

While the free games are nice, I believe a Nintendo Switch Online membership is worth it for most gamers simply for the online multiplayer access.

Here‘s a recap of the key benefits:

  • Online multiplayer in 100+ Switch games
  • Classic NES & SNES game libraries
  • Cloud save backup on supported titles
  • Exclusive member discounts
  • Smartphone app integration

For only $20 annually, a membership pays for itself quickly compared to buying games individually. And connecting with friends online to play Mario Kart or Splatoon is extremely fun.

As a budget-focused gamer, I highly recommend Nintendo Switch Online to unlock online play. The price is very reasonable and unlocks so much great content.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to share multiplayer tips and tricks.