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Nintendo Accounts Vs. Network ID: What’s The Difference?

Nintendo gamers may have come across two account-related terms: the Nintendo Account and the Nintendo Network ID. These two things are, indeed, different — but they’re equally important for Nintendo gaming. So, how are the two related, and what is each used for?

A Nintendo Account is used to facilitate purchases on the Switch, while a Nintendo Network ID is used for purchases on Wii U and 3DS. You can link your Nintendo Network ID to your Nintendo account to share funds between the two accounts.

These two accounts can be pretty confusing, even for the most avid Nintendo fans fans — especially if you don’t know how they work and their purposes. Let’s take a closer look at both so that you can proceed without a hitch.

What Is a Nintendo Account?

Nintendo Switch with user icon over a red background

As the name suggests, a Nintendo Account is an account system used for various Nintendo services, such as buying games from the eShop and the My Nintendo Rewards System. It was introduced in March 2016 and is the primary account for all online games and downloads.

You can give your Nintendo Account a nickname to differentiate it from other accounts that use your Switch. However, it can’t be used to find a lost Nintendo Switch.

What Is a Nintendo Network ID?

A Nintendo Network ID (NNID) is a service that provides content and games via the internet. It allows you a range of Nintendo Network services, such as downloading content and software, sending and receiving messages and images, and playing games with users around the world.

You can also use your NNID to check your user settings. Before we go too much further, if we should point out our related guides you might need on finding your NNID, more details on what the NNID is and how it works, and what to do if you’ve accidentally gotten your Nintendo account suspended.

What’s the Difference Between a Nintendo Account and a Network ID?

The short answer is that the Nintendo Account is used to facilitate purchases on the Switch (on Amazon), while the NNID is for making purchases on Wii U and 3DS.

A Nintendo Account gives you access to online services like the eShop. It also grants you access to the Nintendo loyalty service and rewards system.  

On the other hand, a Nintendo Network ID is used on the Wii U or 3DS family system. It allows you to purchase downloadable software through the eShop. 

You can link your two Nintendo accounts to facilitate the transfer of money between them. For instance, you can send money to your Nintendo Network ID from your Nintendo Account and purchase games from the Wii U eShops.

Linking the two accounts also earns you redeemable points and can be used on all your Nintendo devices. There are two methods to link your Nintendo Account and Nintendo Network ID:

Via Nintendo Account Website

This is the easier of the two methods and is relatively quick. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Using your smartphone or computer, visit the Nintendo Account website.
  2. Sign in using your username and password.
  3. Scroll down and click on ‘Linked Accounts.’
  4. Click ‘Edit‘ and choose ‘Nintendo Network ID.’
  5. Use your username and password to link the accounts.

Using Nintendo Switch

Close up of Switch home screen with games

You can also use your Nintendo Switch to link your two accounts. Make sure that your Nintendo Switch menu is updated to version 3.0 or higher to display the 3DS and Wii U icons.

  1. Go to the Nintendo Switch Home screen and choose your user icon.
  2. Select ‘Friend Suggestions.’
  3. Use the L and R buttons to highlight the 3DS or Wii U icon and then press ‘Next.’ If you can’t select the Next button because it’s grayed out, then it means that you’ve already linked the two accounts.
  4. Key in your Nintendo Account password and press ‘Next.’
  5. Use your Nintendo Network ID username and password to sign in. You have linked your accounts!

There aren’t many reasons why you’d want to unlink your NNID from your Nintendo Account. However, Nintendo still gives you that option. In this case, all of your funds will be transferred to your Nintendo Account.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use your computer or smartphone and go to the Nintendo Account website.
  2. Sign in using your User ID/ Email address and password.
  3. Select ‘User Information‘ from the menu.
  4. Scroll down and click ‘Edit‘ next to Linked accounts.
  5. Select ‘Nintendo Network ID‘ to uncheck the box.

You have successfully unlinked your NNID from your Nintendo Account.

Linked Accounts Offer More

Now that you’ve linked your Nintendo accounts, there’s so much more that you can do. Check out all the goodies the Wii U and 3DS eShops offer and purchase them ASAP — Nintendo announced that they’ll be closing the Wii U and 3DS eShops from March 2023.