Best games on Nintendo Switch Online
Image via Nintendo

10 best games on Nintendo Switch Online

From the catalogs, what are the best of the best?

When you buy the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you get a slew of retro games through the platform’s online library of older titles. Of course, there is a step above just the regular ole service with the higher tier, the Expansion Pack. However, you don’t have to pony up for more just to play some treasured classics.

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For those of you looking to sample some of Nintendo’s retro library, I’ve got some suggestions on where to start with the now 100-tile collection of classics. These are the best games for the base Nintendo Switch Online subscription.

The 10 best games to play on Nintendo Switch Online

Since we’re excluding Expansion Pack titles, the following games are from either the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Game Boy, or Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). If a game you like from these catalogs and they aren’t on the list, fret not — these are just the best of the best in a massive library beloved by many of us.

Tecmo Bowl Nintendo Switch Online
Screenshot by Destructoid

10. Tecmo Bowl (NES)

Sports games and Nintendo don’t go hand-in-hand now unless Mario is involved, but Tecmo Bowl is an exception. Despite being a game from the late ‘80s, this one still holds up a lot better than most modern American football games. It’s simple enough to break into even for the folks not quite so sports savvy and there’s no overly convoluted set of controls just to get your players moving.

Metroid Nintendo Switch Online
Screenshot by Destructoid

9. Metroid (NES)

The Nintendo Switch was made for sidescrolling games, namely Metroidvanias. So, why not take a trip back to the late ’80s and see the game that started it all? The original NES Metroid definitely shows how dated it is, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It’s loads of fun and will have you hooked from the moment you discover the out-of-the-way or less obvious path forward. The movement takes some time to get familiar with, but if you stick around, it’s well worth putting that effort in.

Donkey Kong Country Nintendo Switch Online
Screenshot by Destructoid

8. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

After being the fellow who would hold Pauline captive in the 1980s, Donkey Kong would eventually get his own 2D sidescrolling adventure where he’s the good guy. He’s also accompanied by Diddy Kong, who you can swap to on the fly if the situation requires it. 

Its gameplay is akin to the Super Mario games in that you can jump on enemies’ heads to defeat them. You can also throw things or use a close attack to deal damage. Still, it provides its own kind of fun that shows the quality of the 16-bit era. What a glow-up, good guy story for the Kong.

EarthBound for the SNES
Screenshot by Destructoid

7. EarthBound (SNES)

It’s wild to look back on this game and see the Mother series only started to take off in western regions after Ness and Lucas became a staple in the Smash Bros. franchise. Still, now that the ’90s RPG has become popular and made available for NSO subscribers, EarthBound still holds up. So, to all of you hungry for more Mother releases, the oldest western release is at least far more available now than it was back then.

Legend of Zelda Link to the Past Nintendo Switch Online
Screenshot by Destructoid

6. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Fans of top-down games, especially the Zelda games, have to have played this at some point. A Link to the Past is one of the better, if not the best of the games in this style. The first Legend of Zelda game was exceptional in so many ways, but A Link to the Past is just more memorable, more fluid, and overall more fun.

Tetris, as it appeared on the original Game Boy, in a screenshot from the Nintendo Switch Online version
Screenshot by Destructoid

5. Tetris (Game Boy)

If you want to break away from the highly competitive nature of Tetris 99, you can always fire the OG Tetris up on the Game Boy app. It plays a lot differently than modern Tetris because pieces automatically snap the moment they make contact on the surface. 

You’ll also be unable to see an outline of where your pieces will drop, so there’s a challenge within itself right there. Tetris on the Game Boy is based on classic rules, but it’s still such a fun time regardless.

Nintendo Switch Online's title screen for Super Metroid on the SNES
Screenshot by Destructoid

4. Super Metroid (SNES)

If you want even more Metroid that’s faster-paced and has more fluid gameplay, then the third game of the series will provide just that. It’s just an overall better time than the original game, with just the right amount of difficulty that won’t have you pulling your hair out.

Kirby Super Star, as it appears from the Nintendo Switch Online boot screen
Screenshot by Destructoid

3. Kirby Super Star (SNES)

There’s something about the older Kirby games that just have more charm and character to them. They’re simple enough and follow the whole “pink blob eats enemies and takes their powers” aspect of the game. Then there are the minigames on the side to take a break between the main story that just feels like a good kind of padding.

Even though Kirby games are doing just fine and are still prevalent in today’s market, it’s a fun trip down memory lane to see the early days of his adventures.

The Killer Instinct Nintendo Switch online opening screen, with the Rare logo in the bottom left
Screenshot by Destructoid

2. Killer Instinct (SNES)

Killer Instinct is an awesome fighting game that acted as healthy competition against Mortal Kombat in the ’90s. While not as gory, it still had great, over-the-top action, sporting a roster of ten wildly different and memorable characters. For the time, it was impressive, and so fun to play, even for those who aren’t into fighting games. 

This is the game that introduced the “c-c-c-combo breaker!” and the echoed “ultra!” sound effects that we all still use from time to time. Novelties aside, it’s such a great addition to the lineup of current games on the Switch’s SNES library.

Super Mario World Nintendo Switch Online title screen, with Mario from its 1990 / 1991 launch
Screenshot by Destructoid

1. Super Mario World (SNES)

Super Mario World is touted as one of the best 2D Mario games of all time because of the mechanics, the music, and just how much exploration it has. This is the game that introduced the Cape Feather, which is iconic for all the wild verticality that you can perform. It also has the hilarious P Balloon that inflates Mario or Luigi and lets them fly in all eight directions for a short time. You can’t forget the different Yoshis with their own respective abilities, either.

Most people will play this game from start to finish, but there is more than meets the eye once you clear the Switch Palaces or revisit previous levels with proper power-ups. If you never played this game in any way, you have to.

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Elliott Gatica
Contributing Writer - Elliott has been writing about video games since he was in high school. Carrying that momentum forward, he has now appeared in outlets such as App Trigger, Attack of the Fanboy, and now Destructoid. He focuses heavily on Warframe, but he is also an avid fan of fighting games and shooters. When he isn't here, he's probably getting salty in Mortal Kombat 1 or climbing the competitive ranks with his friends on Overwatch 2.