10 best retro games on Nintendo Switch Online to download and play right now

Here are our recommedations for classic Nintendo games you can enjoy today

Best Nintendo games
(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Nintendo's answer to Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus took some time to arrive, but Nintendo Switch Online is now thriving and surviving. 

The membership not only lets you play Switch games online with friends, it also comes with a library of retro titles that you can check out any time you like, and that library is now so big that it can be a challenge to know what to pick. 

We've gone through it with a fine-toothed comb to find the hidden gems and old classics that you should get downloaded onto your Nintendo Switch ASAP. You do need to be a Switch Online member, but the good news is that these are just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more brilliant games to discover for yourself.

Super Mario Bros. 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

There are a whole bunch of Super Mario Bros. games available through Nintendo Switch Online, and picking the best is a fool's errand, but Super Mario Bros. 3 has a heck of a lot going for it. It sports truly classic controls and some fantastic levels.

Introducing the Tanooki suit and other fun power-ups, it also has a mesmerising soundtrack and just feels unbelievable to play. You can also be rest assured that you're playing a vital part of gaming history.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Zelda series has some amazing retro titles to offer up too, and our first pick would be the fantastic A Link to the Past, a game so good that there's a full remake for Switch, too. 

The original still holds up incredibly well, though, with interesting puzzles and enemies, and a brilliant sense of place that makes exploring its dense world really fun and memorable.


(Image credit: Nintendo)

3. Tetris (GameBoy)

Tetris was and remains a sensation almost unlike anything else – it's hard to even properly capture the phenomenon that it turned into upon release, so going back to play the original GameBoy version is a real treat. 

It's a game that feels as timeless as anything, thanks to its essential simplicity, but there's also a genuine thrill in hearing that iconic theme tune coming out in its chiptune doots and beeps. 

Super Mario World

(Image credit: Nintendo)

4. Super Mario World (SNES)

Put simply, if you enjoy playing through Super Mario Bros. 3, you absolutely have to move on to Super Mario World. It feels just as masterful with an expanded colour palette and complexity.

Whether it's better or not is a debate that may never get concluded, but being able to play both World and 3 on your Switch easily is a total treat.

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

(Image credit: Nintendo)

5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)

You need to shell out a bit extra for the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack if you want to access Nintendo 64 or Game Boy Advance games, but doing so feels well worth it when you consider that you get access to classics like Ocarina of Time.

There are plenty of people who'd still put this in the top spot of an all-time games ranking. It feels just as cohesive and carefully designed today as it did years ago, with some of the most beloved locations, tunes and moments in all of gaming.

Golden Sun

(Image credit: Nintendo)

6. Golden Sun (GameBoy Advance)

We're using Golden Sun here to really count as two games, because its sequel The Lost Age is just as fantastic and a direct continuation of its story with some radical twists. 

These might be the best turn-based RPGs ever released on the Game Boy Advance, with stunning pixel graphics and a really lovely, surprisingly gutsy story that has plenty of interesting moments. Its magic system is extremely memorable, the music is gorgeous, and both games are well worth checking out. 

Yoshi's Island

(Image credit: Nintendo)

7. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)

Look, no one can pretend that Nintendo's back catalogue isn't dominated by Mario games, but they're just fantastic, so who cares? Yoshi's Island is a bit of a twist, in that you play not as Mario but as Yoshi taking care of a bawling baby version of the moustachioed plumber. 

It's a brilliant platformer that gives you all-new tools and movement options to feel radically different to previous Mario games, along with a lovely pastel art style.

Metroid Zero Mission

(Image credit: Nintendo)

8. Metroid: Zero Mission (GameBoy Advance)

The Metroid series was pretty mature by the time the GameBoy Advance arrived, but that didn't stop it from dropping what some would call one of its best outings on the little handheld. 

It's a remake of the original Metroid, so we'd argue it's the version you should play. There are major upgrades to both the gameplay and the visuals, even though the heart of the game is very much the same.

Donkey Kong Country

(Image credit: Nintendo)

9. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

If you want to get in on the Donkey Kong hype and work out just why he's so beloved along with Mario, Yoshi and others, this brilliant platformer from Rare is where to start, with some of the best art and music ever.

It's challenging and rewarding in equal measure, and you'll still humming some of its tunes years after you beat it.

10. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GameBoy Advance)

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Another brilliant bit of Zelda adventuring, and one you could fit in your pocket when originally released, The Minish Cap is just unbelievably charming, seeing Link teaming up with a talking cap to vanquish evil.

It has some wonderful gameplay twists and classic dungeons to offer up, with a vibrant look that remains cute and lovely to this day.

Max Freeman-Mills

Max is a freelance writer with years of experience in tech and entertainment. He's also a gaming expert, both with the games themselves and in testing accessories and consoles, having flexed that expertise at Pocket-lint as a features editor. He has tested all manner of tech too, from headphones and speakers to apps and software.