As physical releases slowly fade and digital-only gaming continues to rise, it's nice to know that game sharing is still possible on the Nintendo Switch. Whether it's for sharing games among family members or friends, there are several built-in functions that technically allow Switch users to download and play games or DLC on other systems. There are a few caveats, of course, specifically when it comes to playing a single game on two different consoles simultaneously or trying to take a single game online with multiple players. Don't worry, we're here to help. Read on to learn everything we know in our Nintendo Switch game sharing wiki and FAQ.
Nintendo Switch Game Sharing Wiki | Frequently Asked Questions
Given that family plan and game sharing on the Nintendo Switch isn't exactly self-explanatory, there are a few questions or concerns that are worth addressing immediately. The first is that game sharing isn't technically a feature on the Switch — if anything it's kind of a misfeature, with sharing being made possible due to the interaction of Primary and Secondary user accounts.
With that in mind, here are a few frequently asked questions that should help owners understand just what their Nintendo Accounts are capable of with regards to game sharing.
Does the Nintendo Switch allow games to be played on more than one console?
Yes, it is technically possible to play digitally downloaded Nintendo Switch games on more than one console or Nintendo Account. However, it is not an explicit function of the Nintendo Switch software.
Can I simply log in to a new Switch system to play my games?
Not necessarily; digitally downloaded Nintendo Switch games are only made available to the primary console on any given Nintendo Account, but secondary accounts allow users to install their purchased games on other systems. It's not currently possible for a user to simply log into a new Switch and start playing their games, not without creating a secondary account first.
Can other users play the digital games I've downloaded to my Switch?
Yes, any user who logs into a Nintendo Switch system will be able to play games downloaded by the primary account holder on that system.
Can I log into my friend's Switch and allow them to play my games?
Yes and no; it is possible to log into another Switch in order to share games, but it requires changing the primary account holder on that system.
How can I share my Nintendo Switch games with friends or family members?
That's what the rest of this guide is meant to address. Keep reading as we explore Nintendo Switch game sharing below.
Nintendo Switch Game Sharing Wiki | How game sharing works
If you've made it this far, hopefully you understand that the Nintendo Switch isn't exactly set up for traditional game sharing. Physical copies of games can always be moved from system to system; that is one of the biggest reasons so many gamers prefer physical releases. Rights for digital games are harder to track, however, and are therefore digital releases are more strictly controlled.
Still, it's possible to share digitally downloaded Nintendo Switch games with other users, assuming a few conditions have been met. Specifically, in order to share digitally downloaded Nintendo Switch games without having to constantly activate or deactivate Nintendo Accounts, users must log into a new Switch system and create a secondary console on their account.
In a nutshell, this ties into Nintendo's family-oriented offerings: The idea is that the primary account holder, possibly a parent or guardian, can purchase games that can then be used on secondary consoles such as those used by children.
Looking to transfer saves instead of games? Check out our guide on how to transfer save or game data between Nintendo Switch systems.
There are a few caveats. First, the secondary system will need to connect to the internet every three or so hours to verify the current standing of the primary account. It's also not possible to have two users playing the same game on the same account; if the primary account holder launches the game while it's running on the secondary console, the secondary console's game will be suspended. Finally, primary games on the secondary Switch can only be accessed through the secondary account.
Nintendo Switch Game Sharing Wiki | How to share games and play simultaneously
To share games between Nintendo Switch systems, users will need to create both primary and secondary accounts. With that said, primary and secondary accounts can't run the same game simultaneously. To get around this issue, the most popular method involves making a third (non-secondary) account on the primary Switch, then logging into the secondary account on the additional console.
Here's a brief breakdown of how this method works assuming we're dealing with at least two accounts and two Switch systems, which we'll call Switch A and Switch B.
- Log into the primary account on Switch A, the main Switch system. Use this account to purchase and download games.
- Create a secondary account tied to the primary, and use it to log into Switch B. From there, games can downloaded by going through the Switch eShop and using the re-download option.
- Finally, create a second (and separate) user account on Switch A. This account can be used to play the games downloaded by the primary account, but is otherwise not created as a primary or secondary account.
With this method, one user can play games on Switch A while another can use the secondary account to play games on Switch B. However, if the primary and secondary user try to play the same game simultaneously, the secondary user will be kicked offline. This is the reason for the third account, which can run the games tied to Switch A without kicking secondary user on Switch B offline.
This process is meant to allow primary account holders to share their games with secondary accounts. The catch is that the secondary account is tied directly to the primary, and its rights do not trickle down to subsequent users. However, additional users on the primary Switch system can still access games regardless of individual accounts rights, creating a loophole that allows two systems to play one owned copy of a digital game.
Nintendo Switch Game Sharing Wiki | Family plans
Family plans are not directly tied to Nintendo Switch game sharing. They are offered alongside individual Nintendo Switch Online subscription plans, but differ in the amount of users they allow to reach online functions. While Family Memberships do allow separate NSO access for individual users, they do not change the effective or intended functions of game sharing. More information on family plans can be found at the Nintendo Switch Online website.
Family and game sharing was always meant to be a feature on the Nintendo Switch; it just doesn't work exactly how many players would expect. Fortunately, the procedure above should help users who want to play games across multiple Nintendo Switch systems, especially if they're trying to play cooperatively or competitively online. For more how-to tips and tricks for Nintendo's hot hybrid handheld, swing by Shacknews' Nintendo Switch home page.
Kevin Tucker posted a new article, Nintendo Switch Game Sharing and Family Plan Wiki & FAQ
This is confusing as fuck. I'm considering picking up a switch lite for my son, this makes me want to go physical going forward :(
It is the easiest way. Though with the primary and secondary accounts, you'd both be able to play digital games as normal, just not simultaneously. He'd at least be able to access all the game's you've purchased, forgoing any other parental controls.
A third system breaks the magic.
So...I have my Main Switch with a Family Account Setup for both of my Children (on each of their own Switch Lites). I purchased games digitally on MY System some time ago, but when I go under their Nintendo Accounts to the eShop, I don't see any of the titles I've purchased on MY switch under the Re-Download section. I assume I'm doing something wrong? Do I need to log into my eShop account or something?
Yes! Me too!! I wonder if since this article Nintendo has removed the ability for secondary accounts to to use the primary accounts purchases?? I can even login to my account on my sons switch to download the games as a workaround but even then it won’t allow me to open the game if I select my son as a user. The party might be over sadly!!
I've just got two switches and have just been through this rigmarol. I am able to play a single game, at the same time, on either switch.
Solution for Me:
Switch A: Configure a Primary Account linked to email switchA@email.com - Name the profile linked to it as ChildB.
Switch B: Configure a Primary Account linked to email switchB@email.com - Name the profile linked to it as ChildA.
Ensure both profiles are available on both switches.
On the switch that the games have been redeemed against, the secondary user should launch the game (Switch B primary user).
On the other switch (Switch B), the game should be launched with the other account (Switch A primary user).
This way both systems can run the same games at the same time. The downside? Both need to connect to the internet to launch the game, and then once every 3 hours.
... I'd like to think my explanation was simple, but fuck me this system is needlessly painful. Hope this helps someone.
I should explain a little further. With this, as long as child B always uses switch A, and child A always uses switch B, and there's an internet connection for auth... all should be good.
If child a uses switch a, and child b uses switch b... the game will pause on one of the systems.
I've not bothered with the actual family accounts at all.
PLEASE can you help me? I am going through this right now and I am going crazy trying to figure this out. I bought 2 x nintendo switch lites for my kids. I also bought a family membership, because I read that was the way to share games that have been downloaded. I created a main account, then each child has a child account. I downloaded games on console 1. On console 2, the games are displaying, but when i go to play them, it says the user doesn't have access, even though that user is connected to the family group and technically should be able to play the games. WTF?! what am I doing wrong?