In late 2021, Nintendo introduced the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack—an optional add-on for the company's online service that grants bonuses on top of what you get in the core Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Namely, extra retro games.
While the core Nintendo Switch Online subscription includes dozens of NES and SNES games, the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack throws in several Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games.
Seasoned retro gamers are probably familiar with many (or all) of the titles in the Expansion Pack, but newbies to the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis may have trouble figuring out which ones to play first.
Here are our picks for the best games in the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, focusing on five Nintendo 64 games and five Sega Genesis games included with the subscription.
10. Castlevania: Bloodlines
Castlevania: Bloodlines is one of the last entries in the franchise before the seminal Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so it's still old-school Castlevania—and by this point, the developers had plenty of time to work out the formula.
That said, the development team took a different approach, building Castlevania: Bloodlines from the ground up for the Sega Genesis. This makes it a different feeling game, both faster and more action-heavy.
9. Star Fox 64
The original Star Fox was a technical marvel on the SNES. Star Fox 64 aimed to do the same for the Nintendo 64, and largely nailed it with its superb graphics for the time. It's still largely on-rails, so if you're expecting free-roaming space battles, you won't find them.
Still, Star Fox 64 is a game that's so relatively short that you can play through it without committing hours upon hours on it.
8. Contra: Hard Corps
Contra: Hard Corps might be Contra at its most Contra. That might sound confusing if you've never played a Contra game before, but you'll understand right away once you dive into this one.
It's tough—bordering on unfair at times—so Contra: Hard Corps makes you feel like you've earned it when you make your way through a level.
This one is also filled with secrets and extras, from secret bosses to special endings depending on how you play through. If you love any Contra game, you owe it to yourself to play Contra: Hard Corps.
7. Gunstar Heroes
Gunstar Heroes is a run-and-gun shooter from developer Treasure, who created delightfully tough shooters in the 1990s. This was actually the studio's first game, which makes it that much more impressive.
If you've ever enjoyed Treasure's later shooters like Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, or Guardian Heroes, you should see where the studio started off.
6. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
These days, it's easy to play a Puyo Puyo game in the US. You can even load up one of the Puyo Puyo Tetris games on your Nintendo Switch and play it at the same time as Tetris. But that wasn't always the case.
That's why you'll so frequently hear Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine mentioned among older gamers. It was a Puyo Puyo game in everything but name, sneaking into the States disguised as a Sonic game.
If you carry your Switch around with you, it's always nice to have a pick-up-and-play puzzle game, and this is a great one.
5. Mario Kart 64
The kart racer genre existed before Mario Kart 64—after all, there was a Super Mario Kart before it—but Mario Kart 64 is where the idea of the kart racer as a genre might have been cemented.
The move to 3D was important, but Mario Kart 64 was also the first game in the series to add shortcuts as a viable strategy.
Some of these might have been exploits (we're looking at you, jumpable wall in Wario Stadium) but it didn't matter. Future Mario Kart games made much use of shortcuts and alternate paths.
4. ToeJam & Earl
ToeJam & Earl was an odd game when it first released, and it remains an odd game to this day.
It's marketed as an action game, but has more in common with rogue-likes and rogue-lites than you might imagine at first sight. The game's weird humor and strange vibe are also still very much on display.
None of the sequels that followed this first game had much to offer, but that doesn't matter. The original ToeJam & Earl remains a gem if you're willing to spend some time looking at it to see that.
3. Paper Mario
The Nintendo 64 wasn't exactly known as a platform for roleplaying games. None of the RPGs released for the system—of which there were only a handful—are worth going out of your way to play... except for one, which would be the famed Paper Mario.
Picking up where Super Mario RPG left off on the SNES, Paper Mario brings a more active combat system to the RPG. It also brings the Mario humor that would later become a trademark, but was still very much in its early stages here.
2. Super Mario 64
If you bought the limited edition Super Mario All-Stars connection, which has an arguably better version of Super Mario 64 included, you can ignore this entry and jump to the next one.
Still, when the Nintendo 64 was released, Super Mario 64 was the system seller. All these years later, like most Mario games, it still holds up.
For years after its release, Super Mario 64 remained the benchmark for 3D platformers. If you enjoy that genre at all, you owe it to yourself to either revisit Super Mario 64 or play it for the first time.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
For most gamers, there have been four important entries in the Zelda franchise: the original game, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and Breath of the Wild. If you've got the Expansion Pack, you can play every single one of those games on your Switch, along with a few others.
If you've never played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time at all but you have the Expansion Pack, give it a try. Even if you don't end up liking it, this is one landmark video game you simply have to experience.