10 best retro games to check out on Nintendo Switch Online

Take a look at the best games the Switch Online subscription has to offer (Images via Sega/Nintendo)
Take a look at the best games the Switch Online subscription has to offer (Images via Sega/Nintendo)

The Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) has seen a divided fanbase ever since its introduction. While the online subscription service is the cheapest among all three console makers (Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft), it does offer a multitude of retro games for fans to re-visit. Their current catalog spans across NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64 and Sega Genisis games.

Each retro platform's lineup consists of some of the biggest games ever released on those consoles. Despite the curated selection, there are still dozens of games combined to sift through. So here are the 10 best games that every Nintendo Switch Online subscriber should play.

The following games from Nintendo's lineup are some of the best ever made

10) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis)


The Sonic series has been Sega's poster child and still is, all these years later. The 1992 Sega Genesis sequel to the acclaimed original also received universal plaudits from critics, highlighting an improved game on all fronts.

The fast-paced sidescrolling and collectibles-driven gameplay is similar to the first. Now, Sonic partners with the much-beloved Tails to stop Dr. Robotnik's plans from stealing the Chaos Emeralds.

9) Earthbound Beginnings (NES)


This is where it all began. Nintendo's cult classic JRPG series "Mother" first saw a localized release on the Wii U Virtual Console with Earthbound Beginnings in 2015. The game follows a child canonically named Ninten in 20th century USA. The kid is thrown into a weird journey featuring supernatural and extraterrestrial events.

The gameplay is turn-based and challenging and the design is kind of dated in some areas; but narratively it's what fans have come to expect, with the same weird charm.

While the sequel Earthbound (or Mother 2) on SNES is a better game overall, Beginnings is an interesting dive into the origins of the beloved Nintendo series.

8) Kirby Super Star (SNES)


Nintendo's beloved pink mascot has been a fan-favorite since the NES days, and his 1996 SNES entry is by far one of the best titles in the series. Unlike other entries, Super Star is more of a collection of sub-games.

There are eight of them, including two mini-games. The six core "games" feature a traditional Kirby platforming and power system, but now players can expel the powerup and summon an NPC to tag along with the pink puffball.

Spring Breeze, for example, is a remake of Kirby's Dream Land. Meanwhile, Milky Way Wishes is a grand and challenging adventure with a unique twist; instead of swallowing enemies to gain their abilities temporarily, Kirby can permanently unlock them progressively and use them when needed.

7) Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)


Another SNES classic, DKC2 is often considered to be one of the best games in the Nintendo franchise. It was developed by Rareware (now owned by Xbox) and released in 1995; after Donkey Kong is kidnapped by King K. Rool. Diddy and Dixie Kong team up to save the barrel-chucking gorilla.

Gameplay is a refinement over its predecessor, featuring similar jumping and platforming across tough scenarios. Players will need to swap between the duo and use each of their individual abilities to progress.

Alongside other platformers on this list, it is regarded as one of the best 2D entries in the genre.

6) Paper Mario (N64)


If there was one genre the Nintendo 64 was sorely lacking in, it was RPGs. Compared to the competition, the PS1, Nintendo's debut 3D machine got very few games from the genre. Paper Mario was one of them and also one of the best releases on the system.

In a typical Super Mario affair, Princess Peach is once again captured by the notorious Bowser, so Mario must find the Spirit Stars to help get her back. For a game released 22 years ago, it sure hasn't aged a day in the visual department thanks to stylized graphics.

The combat is turn-based, often utilizing input prompts/QTEs to boost power; items and abilities can be used to aid Mario and allies against foes from the Mushroom Kingdom.

5) Mario Kart 64 (N64)


Arguably the greatest co-op experience on the Nintendo 64, Mario Kart 64 is infamous for its reputation as a party game and for destroying friendships. The first 3D entry in the series, this 1996 arcade racing game pits characters across the Mario series into a series of matches on go-karts.

The game boasts a large number of maps to race across, littered with secret paths to gain the upper hand and randomined power-ups to slow down your foes. The Switch Online rendition has an online multiplayer as well, for up to four players.

4) Super Mario World (SNES)


Often regarded as the best 2D Mario game so far, Super Mario World was a Super SNES launch title back in 1990. It was the start of a new generation of Mario games, especially obvious with its striking visuals. While the core gameplay is the same as before, it introduces several new elements.

For one, yes, Bowser is back to his usual shenanigans, but this time in the Dinosaur World where the Italian plumber meets Yoshi. The cute green dino is a crucial aspect of the platforming with his jumps and glides, and so is the new cape allowing Mario to soar through great distances.

Couple that with Nintendo's knack for excellent level design, and players have got a platformer that will be remembered for generations to come.

3) Banjo-Kazooie (N64)


This right here is the best 3D platformer on the N64, much to the chagrin of Mario 64 fans. Rareware's 1998 adventure featuring the iconic bear-and-bird duo is a game like no other on the market even today. Speaking of the protagonists, the titular Banjo and Kazooie go on an adventure to take down the evil witch Gruntilda.

The duo's moveset is solid, from starting jump attacks to shooting out egg projectiles. The game features sprawling levels with tons of secrets to uncover, collectibles to find and many levels to unlock.

There isn't just a large amount of content here, but it's also surprising how varied each of the challenges and set-pieces can get.

2) Super Metroid (SNES)


This legendary installment in Nintendo's legendary sci-fi non-linear platformer series launched in 1994 for the SNES. Paired with Konami's Castlevaia Symphony of the Night, it is known to be responsible for coining the term Metroidvania - exactly why it continues to inspire games to this day.

Super Metroid follows bounty hunter Samus to planet Zebes inorder to take down the Space Pirates. For anyone who has played a derivative Metroidvania before, the gameplay will feel right at home as Samus gracefully platforms across the innards of Zebes and battles the hostile fauna of this alien world.

There are challenging bosses to fight, secrets to collect and a large, progression driven world to explore.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

Released in 1998 for N64, Ocarina of Time is often considered to be the best game ever made. Young protagonist Link is thrust into a journey down a dangerous path to stop the evil Ganondorf, who wants to take over the world.

The campaign takes players through sizable environments teeming with charming NPCs and smartly designed dungeons with many foes; Link also gains new items while exploring each dungeon, at the end of which lies a boss that tests the players' dexterity with what they have learned so far.

Nintendo's debut 3D entry in their renowned action-adventure franchise single-handedly revolutionized 3D gaming. Many elements that are staples in modern 3D games, like lock-ons and advanced 3D movement through space were pioneered by Legend of Zelda's first 3D outing.

It remains a nostalgic experience for many who have stuck with the young boy's adventures even 40 years since the franchise's inception. The game also has an updated remaster on the Nintendo 3DS.

The standard subscription only includes the NES and SNES games, while the N64 and Genesis titles require the additional Expansion Pack upgrade - a premium edition of the Nintendo Switch Online service.

The base individual NSO subscription costs $19.99 yearly, while the Family package (for up to eight members) costs $34.99. On the other hand, the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack costs $49.99 annually and the Family sub costs $79.99.