While there are tons of awesome Nintendo Switch games worth playing online, it’s not a major selling point of the console—at least in the same way that it is for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
Perhaps that’s why Nintendo doesn’t charge nearly as much for its online service as Sony or Microsoft do for theirs.
And even if you don’t play any Nintendo Switch games over online multiplayer, Nintendo Switch Online offers another benefit that makes a subscription worthwhile: a bunch of NES games!
Here are some of the best NES games you get with a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online, including a nice mixture of notable hits and lesser-known hidden gems you may have overlooked.
1. The Legend of Zelda
Is it possible to compile a list of the best NES games without including The Legend of Zelda at the top? This incredible franchise-launching action-adventure RPG pioneered all kinds of concepts that still influence gaming today.
The first Zelda game may not offer hundreds of hours of gameplay like, say, Breath of the Wild… but there’s still about 10 hours of fun to be had. It’s truly one of the pinnacles of retro gaming.
What if The Legend of Zelda was more linear, set in modern times (at least, modern at the time it was released), and had a yo-yo for its main weapon instead of a sword?
The result would be pretty close to StarTropics! This top-down action-adventure game was killer for its time, but severely underrated. It even had some RPG elements, making it feel like an SNES game with NES graphics.
3. Kirby’s Adventure
The Kirby franchise may not be as popular as Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon, but Kirby’s Adventure—the follow-up to Kirby’s Dream Land for the Nintendo Game Boy—shows us how Kirby ended up being one of Nintendo’s top-selling franchises of all time.
In fact, it was Kirby’s Adventure that introduced Kirby’s iconic ability to copy an enemy’s powers by eating them. If you’re going to revisit only one of the early Kirby games, this is the one!
Crystalis is a full-fledged action-RPG that was released on the NES and promptly flew under the radar for most. And while the SNK-developed game wasn’t a hit at release, it has since become a cult classic of sorts—meaning you need to play it if you haven’t!
5. Ninja Gaiden
The idea may seem less-than-original now, but when Ninja Gaiden was released for the NES, its mixture of platformer and beat-em-up gameplay was novel and exciting.
Yes, it’s a little like Castlevania in some ways… but did Castlevania have ninjas? No. It didn’t. That alone makes Ninja Gaiden worth playing if you have Nintendo Switch Online!
6. River City Ransom
River City Ransom is another one of those NES games that failed to draw much attention at release, but later picked up enough fans to become a cult classic.
In this side-scrolling beat-em-up, you explore River City and fight against various high-school gangs (and gang leaders) as you try to rescue your abducted girlfriend. You steal their money, which can be spent on books that increase your skills in RPG fashion.
The amazing thing about River City Ransom is that it’s a non-linear open-world adventure. How they accomplished this on a system as primitive as the NES, I’ll never know—but they did!
7. Vice: Project Doom
Vice: Project Doom is the stuffed-crust pizza of video games from its era. It took gameplay that was remarkably similar to Ninja Gaiden, and threw in a bunch of other features, including Spy Hunter-style driving and Wild Guns-style gallery shooting.
And yet, instead of clashing and becoming a mess of game mechanics, the various gameplay styles worked together surprisingly well, resulting in an awesome NES experience.
8. Wario’s Woods
Wario’s Woods took the falling-blocks gameplay of Tetris and twisted it together with the color-match mechanic of Dr. Mario. Unlike Tetris, where you control the falling blocks, Wario’s Woods has you switch blocks around after they land in random spots.
If you’re a puzzle game fan, this is a great retro game to revisit because you get to experience the seeds and roots of the genre.
9. Balloon Fight
Okay, Balloon Fight might be a straight-up clone of the arcade hit Joust for the Atari… But you know what? It doesn’t matter, because it’s been close to four decades since it released and the game still holds up!
The version of Balloon Fight on Nintendo Switch Online even includes an adventure mode that’s worth trying out at least once.
10. Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Ghosts n’ Goblins is a run-and-gun platformer game series that started on arcade machines and later found its way to the NES (and PlayStation and Xbox and more).
Often considered one of the hardest video games, be prepared to die a lot. But that’s part of the charm of old-school arcade games, isn’t it? You’ll have fun! There’s a reason why Ghosts ‘n Goblins is one of Capcom’s best-selling game franchises of all time.
More Retro Games on Nintendo Switch
If you’ve got an extensive history with earlier gaming consoles like the NES, you may be itching for even more retro gaming goodness—beyond what Nintendo Switch Online offers.
In that case, there are plenty of other classic retro games you can play on the Nintendo Switch, and most of them are quite affordable. Not sure where to start? Check out our roundup…