How to find the best deals on Switch games in the Nintendo eShop

If you’re anything like us, you’ve already had a wonderful two years with your Nintendo Switch, and the honeymoon phase is with no end in sight. Although you probably spend way too much time trying to win a round of Tetris 99 Right now, between Nintendo’s first-party classics and the eShop’s vast catalog of famous indie titles, there’s always something new to play. However, this inexhaustible supply can weigh on finances, especially when the same the game is often more expensive on Switch than on PC and other consoles. But there’s a way to save a few bucks here and there by buying games at their cheapest price, and making your money work is just to shop around.

The prices of games in the Nintendo eShop can vary significantly from country to country. Sometimes it’s because there’s a sale in certain regions, and other times the games are just cheaper by default. For example, at the time of writing, hollow knight is $15 in the US, but the equivalent of $7.66 in the Mexico eShop – almost half the price.

The first thing you’ll want to do if you’re interested in pinching a dime is to bookmark this website, which tracks the price of every game in every regional eShop. It’s not exactly pretty, but you can configure the table to show prices in your preferred currency, search for specific titles, and see at a glance which games are the cheapest (and the most expensive).

Multiple Nintendo Accounts are your friend

To take advantage of cheaper eShop prices in other regions, you need a Nintendo Account for each region. Mining the global market is not without slowing down, you see, but fortunately, creating a new account only takes a few minutes at most. Naturally, the most important field in the web form is “Country/Region of Residence”. This dictates the location of the eShop you will visit when you eventually add the new account to your Switch.

The biggest annoyance with multiple accounts is that you need a unique email address for each one. It’s just not a problem with Gmail addresses, you might want to get one specifically to manage your additional Switch accounts if you don’t already use Gmail.

Without going into too much detail, the way Google manages its email domains means that one address can be multiple. Google ignores dots and + suffixes before @, and gmail/googlemail tails are interchangeable. Let’s say your email address is [email protected] These are just a few examples of modifiers you can use to register new Nintendo Accounts without having to juggle separate inboxes:

You can riff on these rules (or lack thereof) to your heart’s content – don’t forget to note which email address is tied to which region (+ country suffixes are good, no-frills reminders). Another pro tip is to create multiple Nintendo Accounts in one sitting. Even if you’re registering one in Canada to buy a specific game, you might want to open a Japanese account while you’re there, as online store prices in that region are consistently lower than elsewhere.

Nintendo Online Store

There is a way to skip this step altogether by changing the region of your main account. This is not recommended, however. To start, you must have an empty eShop wallet (zero funds) to change regions. That might not be a problem now, but if you end up using gift cards in another region, and you could, you might be stuck with leftover change that you can’t spend. And being locked into a regional eShop is what we’re trying to avoid here.

So, when you have a new registered and verified Nintendo Account, you need to go to your Switch, access the system settings menu and add a new user. For simplicity, call this user “Germany” or “Japan” or whatever, because the next step is to link a country-specific Nintendo Account to this newly created profile. Once everything is done, there it is ! The next time you visit the Nintendo eShop, the profile you choose will determine which country-specific storefront you enter.

Nintendo Online Store

It should be mentioned here that we only use these new accounts to purchase games. Once downloaded to your Switch, nothing prevents you from playing them with your main account. This means that your friends list will remain intact and online features will work smoothly, if you have a Nintendo Switch Online membership associated with your main profile.

Paying is the hardest part

We are now ready to make these agreements… sort of. The next hurdle to overcome is finding a way to pay. As Nintendo explains, “credit cards issued from your region will not work in another region’s eShop.” It doesn’t seem as clear cut as it looks, though. There are numerous Reddit threads and forum posts where people claim to have purchased from foreign online stores using their locally issued debit or credit cards. Some PayPal accounts work, some don’t. A payment method that was cleared is now rejected, and so on.

There’s nothing wrong with checking to see if a PayPal card or account is viable. Worst case scenario: he is rejected. You can also create a new eShop region-specific PayPal account using a fake address, but how involved you want to get is up to you. The only saving grace of going through the rigamarole to register additional Nintendo Accounts and PayPal accounts is that you only have to do this once.

Nintendo eShop Gift Cards

The easiest option may be to use gift cards, but this payment method East somewhat limiting. They’re only available in a handful of currencies – there are no South African rand gift cards, for example – which means that only many eShops allow you to add funds this way. Some of the most reliable sites for international gift cards include Play-Asia and OffGamers, PC Game Supply for North American currencies, and Japan Code Supply for yen cards in particular.

A quick Google search will bring up other sites selling gift cards, of course, but you’re a bit alone here. Some of them are relatively lo-fi – in other words, suspicious looking – so common sense is king here. Also, keep a few basic rules in mind:

1) Make sure you are buying codes that ship immediately, not actual physical gift cards. This should be relatively clear but double check anyway.

2) Ignore deprecated language in lists. Many product pages will use stock descriptions like “this can only be redeemed for purchases on the 3DS and Wii U”. eShop Money is eShop Money and can be redeemed for Switch purchases.

3) If you’re buying gift cards in US dollars and you’re asked to enter a zip code, research one for a state that doesn’t charge retail sales tax to get the best price (for example, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire or Oregon).

4) Don’t forget to check the exchange rate if, for example, you pay for a Japanese yen gift card in US dollars. If the retailer adds a large markup, it will reduce the savings you were hoping for.

5) The same issue may apply to paying for a gift card in a foreign currency. Make sure your bank won’t cancel any savings with transaction fees.

There are other potential pitfalls to using alien eShops that need to be considered. Some games may not support your language, especially those released specifically for the Japanese market (this information will be available in the eShop listing). You’ll also spread your Nintendo Gold Point rewards across different accounts, for example, so you won’t stack them up significantly.

Are you going to end up with unused gift card credit that you probably won’t use in the future? Will the savings you achieve be significant over the life of the console? In other words, the value equation is not limited to price.

Super Mario

Another question you need to ask yourself is if you are ethically comfortable with the gambling system this way. Some argue that by using foreign online stores you are not rewarding developers fairly for their work. Also, games are sometimes cheaper in certain areas to make them affordable for locals. In the long run, you could be partly responsible for price inflation if a developer gets wind that everyone is using fictitious accounts to get games for cheap.

That said, there’s nothing inherently sneaky about shopping around. You love what the Switch has to offer, want more, and want to be smart about how you spend your money. Or maybe you’re really excited about a game that has yet to be released in your region.

When the time is right

However, getting the most out of your Switch isn’t just about finding the best price at all times. Timing is also important. Beyond formal events like the Switch Summer Sale, there’s a constant roll of limited-time discounts that differ between eShops. You might want to dig it yourself, but there are plenty of resources to help you keep track.

nintendo switch

The NintendoSwitchDeals subreddit has a good summary table of popular games and the eShops where they are on sale. price of digital and physical copies worldwide.

enjoy while it lasts

Several years ago, changing regions in Steam to buy games at lower prices was simple. Now, it is impossible to spoof your location without using a VPN. Game giveaways were another popular way to move purchases between accounts and across digital borders, but Valve put a stop to that in 2014 by introducing region locking.

How long these similar loopholes will remain open on the Switch, then, is anybody’s guess. While there’s nothing legally questionable about shopping around, Nintendo may make the process cumbersome than it already is, or prices could start to normalize globally. For now, though, happy bargain hunting.

Images: Fandom (Kirby Super Smash Bros Ultimate transformed); GaijinPot blog (eShop yen gift cards); Pngfly (Nintendo characters with coins)

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Timothy C. Mayo