The Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack has finally arrived, delivering a small catalog of N64 and Sega Genesis games included with a $49 annual subscription. One of the main perks of this latest upgrade is the ability to play every multiplayer game in the catalog online with as many players as the source game supports. In other words, you and three friends can hop right into Mario Kart 64, Dr. Mario 64, and Star Fox 64 no matter where you are. But it's not exactly an intuitive or efficient experience. So here are some tips to make it better.
How to join a Nintendo Switch Online multiplayer
To join a friend's N64 or Genesis lobby in Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, you must first download the respective N64 or Genesis NSO app from the eShop. Once you have installed and authenticated everything, you'll come to the game catalog screen.
Shift the left thumbstick to the left to access the side menu, and scroll down to the third icon on the list that looks like a human silhouette next to a globe. It reads, "play online." When you press A on that, it will bring you to this screen after a short wait.
We don't have any friends actively playing N64 games online right now, but if we did, their names would show up below. To join the lobby, press A on the friend's name, and it'll drop you into whatever game that friend happens to be playing. From there, it's up to the host to back out to the main menu and fire up a multiplayer match once the whole group has joined.
How to create a Nintendo Switch Online game lobby
If you prefer to be the lobby host, select A to "play while you wait" on the button below your friends list. After doing that, you'll have the option of setting up a passcode for the lobby if you choose to do so. Passcodes must be a three-digit number featuring digits zero through nine.
Once you've set up a passcode (or not), it will create an online session. From here, you can invite friends by taking a look at your friends list. You can send an invite to any available friends, and they'll be able to join your game as long as they're a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscriber.
As described above, friends will drop into your game and be brought into the instance as you play. You may need to back out to the menus to select a multiplayer mode to get the action started.
How to limit lag in Nintendo Switch Online
As it stands just one day after the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack launch, performance in online games, especially on N64 titles, has been spotty at best. The on-screen indicator may show weak connection strength even when using fast broadband wifi. You may be all too familiar with the "your connection is unstable so that the audio may be interrupted" error message.
Unfortunately, there probably isn't a guaranteed way to fix all these problems entirely, as most of the blame comes down to Nintendo's terrible netcode. Still, there are a few things you should know to make the situation a little better.
- Location matters: While it may not crop up very often in other online multiplayer scenarios these days, how geographically close you are to the players in your NSO lobby matters. As of now, you probably won't have great matches with friends halfway across the country, so you may need to limit your circle a bit. It stinks, but playing with friends in your state should help your framerate substantially.
- Play with fewer players: Even though Nintendo has allowed lobbies of up to four players to enjoy N64 titles, the online multiplayer experience functions much better with two or three people in the party instead. We know that's a buzzkill. But that's just how it is.
- Plug into Ethernet: Switch is a very wifi-friendly console, but when it comes to NSO multiplayer, you should probably be hard-wired if you can. If you're fortunate enough to have a Nintendo Switch OLED Model, that dock has an ethernet port. For the standard Switch, you can purchase an officially licensed adapter for about $25 that plugs into the USB slot of the dock. Switch online connectivity isn't great even with Ethernet, but it's still better than wifi. The more wired connections you have in your lobby, the better off you'll be.
The unfortunate reality is that NSO Online play struggles when it comes to N64, but we hope the situation can improve over time.