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Is the Nintendo Switch Online Family Membership Worth It? A Close Look at the Plans, Pricing, Game Catalogs and How They Compare to Competitors

As a life-long gamer with over 30 years experience across every major console, I‘ve seen many variations of online gaming services. Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) stands out for its affordability and focus on retro gaming. But with formidable competition from PlayStation and Xbox, it‘s valid to wonder whether NSO family plans provide good overall value compared to the alternatives.

In this comprehensive tech guide, we‘ll conduct a detailed analysis of NSO‘s family membership tiers, from pricing to features to game catalog sizes. You‘ll get clear Nintendo Switch recommendations based on your household‘s gaming needs. We‘ll also see how NSO family plans stack up against the competition, with an outlook on how Nintendo can improve the service going forward.

Breaking Down the NSO Family Membership Plan and Its Core Offerings

The base Nintendo Switch Online family membership grants up to 8 Nintendo accounts across multiple systems online multiplayer access, cloud saving, smartphone features and an ever-expanding catalog of NES and SNES classics.

NSO Plans Comparison Chart

Cost Savings Breakdown

Based on the average cost of these membership features purchased separately across 8 accounts, here is the potential combined value:

  • Online multiplayer access for major titles: $240 ($30 per game x 8 users)
  • Cloud storage with dedicated server backup: $160 ($20 per account x 8 users)
  • Access to NES/SNES retro game libraries: $640+ (at $10 per title x 10+ games per user x 8)

When combined together, the base family membership provides over $1000 worth of complementary services and games access for just a $35 yearly fee. This represents immense savings compared to their standalone costs.

NES and SNES Classic Games Catalog

As a retro gaming enthusiast, I find immense value in the base membership‘s NES and SNES game vault alone. Between the diverse array of fan-favorite first-party franchises and innovative third-party classics, the ever expanding libraries currently contain:

  • 74 NES games – The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man 2
  • 56 SNES games – Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, EarthBound, Kirby Super Star, Super Castlevania IV

These lineups only scratch the surface of each console‘s expansive high-quality libraries. Suffice to say, there are hundreds of hours of quintessential Nintendo gaming ready to be explored by old fans and newcomers alike.

Note About Sharing Digital Games and DLC

One current limitation is that only the account purchasing expansion pack DLC and N64/Genesis games can play the entitlements. So while everything included is shareable, additional family members would need to play on the subscription owner‘s device.

Evaluating the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack Tier

The higher tier Expansion Pack adds Nintendo 64, Genesis and Game Boy Advance games alongside Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing fans. But with its $80 family pricing, is it truly worth the upgrade cost?

Breaking Down Each Retro Game Catalog

Here is the latest count for each platform offerings:

Console # of Games Notable Titles
Nintendo 64 23 Mario 64, Star Fox 64, Ocarina of Time
Sega Genesis 14 Sonic 2, Streets of Rage 2, Castlevania Bloodlines
Game Boy Advance 9 Metroid Fusion, Mario vs Donkey Kong

The included N64 and Genesis titles would cost over $350 to purchase separately. Factoring in quicksaves and rewind features for many games, this expands their replayability and accessibility to newcomers.

However, the piecemeal game additions with few surprises or heavy hitters has resulted in rather lackluster expansion reception. Besides these retro picks and Animal Crossing DLC, the extra $45 cost compared to base membership merits tempered expectations.

N64 Game Recommendations

For first-timers, I highly recommended diving into these 3D platforming pioneers that still hold up wonderfully today:

  • Super Mario 64: Quite literally the template for every 3D Mario game since. An astonishingly flexible and grand experience.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Arguably the greatest action-adventure game ever created. If you play nothing else, play this.
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Rare platforming mastery. Charming characters, stellar music and diverse worlds to explore.

Controllers for Retro Gaming

To play these classics properly, Nintendo also sells Switch compatible wireless controllers modeled after the original N64, Genesis and SNES gamepads. Investing in the real hardware ergonomics goes a remarkably long way towards recapturing that tangible retro gaming magic.

How Do NSO Family Plans Compare to Competitors Like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass?

Nintendo competes directly with Sony and Microsoft when it comes to modern online gaming services. How does Nintendo Switch Online stack up to the PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass alternatives?

Nintendo Switch Online

NSO family plans focus primarily on first-party games and online play. The value stems from its affordability facilitating multiplayer access across hardware owned by families. Retro game libraries are icing on the cake.

PlayStation Plus

Sony doesn‘t yet offer a direct family plan equivalent. But with complimentary monthly games and discounts, even PlayStation Plus individual plans offer strong utility for avid console gamers.

Xbox Game Pass

Arguably the industry gold standard service thanks to Day 1 access to brand new games and robust cross-play features. Cricket22, the latest addition in Game pass library after collaboration with Asianet, has already garnered rave reviews globally. Its upcoming family plan caps at 5 users but hits a sweet spot combining modern and classic gaming.

NSO Family Plan Report Card

Here is an objective grade breakdown across key service criteria:

Category NSO Family Plan Xbox Game Pass PlayStation Plus
Price Value A+ B B+
Features B A A-
Games Catalog B+ A+ A-
Cloud Storage C+ A B+
Overall Grade B+ A A-

No service scores perfectly. Game Pass strips away Nintendo/PlayStation exclusives your family may enjoy while costing considerably more. PlayStation Plus doesn‘t share games or perks across family members. Ultimately, NSO nicely fills the Nintendo multiplayer and retro niche.

Predictions and Improvements for Nintendo Switch Online Moving Forward

Nintendo has gone on record stating they have over 15 years‘ worth of classic games lined up for the expansion pack membership catalog. So what potential updates and improvements lie ahead?

Virtual Console Pipeline

Don‘t be shocked to see Game Boy Color or Nintendo DS games arrive down the road. Portable libraries tend to get overlooked but contain some of Nintendo‘s most unique experiences like WarioWare Twisted.

I‘d also bank on additions like GameCube or Wii games that were previous Virtual Console fixtures. Nintendo has no shortage of memorable last-generation content like Luigi‘s Mansion to leverage.

Must-Have Features

Nintendo needs to play catchup by incorporating modern features competitors offer:

  • Shareable game libraries across family members
  • Built-in lobby/voice chat
  • Groups and social activity tracking

Based on Nintendo‘s observed update cadence, I anticipate 2-3 major firmware upgrades over the next two fiscal quarters spanning these areas.

Closing Thoughts on the Value of Nintendo Switch Family Memberships

Ultimately, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo services all appeal to different gamer psychographics. As the only method available to play online and experience Nintendo‘s vast catalog of multiplayer, classic arcade and roleplaying gems, a Nintendo Switch Family membership remains an easy recommendation for fans deeply invested in their hardware and first-party game ecosystem.

Between its affordability and flexibility for families sharing games across multiple Switch systems, even the base $35 tier is a worthwhile value. The Expansion Pack caters to a niche retro gaming crowd willing to be patient as its benefits and software libraries expand year-over-year.

Online ecosystems are constantly changing. But based on over 30 years tracking this industry and direct experience enjoying these platforms, Nintendo Switch Online family memberships presently check enough boxes to warrant serious consideration for your family‘s budget and gaming time.