How to Save Big on Nintendo Games with Gold and Platinum Points

From its oddly draconian Virtual Console to its daisy-chained voice chat, Nintendo's walled- garden approach to online profiles tends to raise a few eyebrows. But, if you know how to navigate the Big N's online space, you can make it work for you, and even save a little money in the process.

Nintendo Platinum Points and Nintendo Gold Points are two digital currencies that tie into a user's My Nintendo account. When you first sign up for an account, you'll get a brief message about how Gold Points can get you slight discounts on new digital games — for example, 300 points will get you $3 off your next purchase. Useful, but not terribly exciting.

What's much more interesting, though, is that with a little legwork, you can cash in your Platinum and Gold Points for substantial discounts on digital downloads. The deals come and go, so I can't guarantee that you'll find the exact game you want, at the exact time you want to buy it. But you can save up to 50 percent on some excellent titles, so it's at least worth a look.

What are Gold and Platinum Points?

Nintendo Gold Points are a digital currency that you earn from buying new Nintendo games. Each gold coin corresponds to 1 cent. Switch, 3DS and Wii U games from the digital eShop net you 5 percent of your purchase in Gold Points, while physical Switch games grant only 1 percent. For example: If you buy a new $60 Switch game in the eShop, you'll get 300 Gold Points. If you buy that same game at your local Best Buy, you'll get 60 Gold Points.

Either way, Nintendo will add Gold Points to your account automatically; you don't have to go through any tedious registration processes. Gold Points expire 12 months after you acquire them.

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Nintendo Platinum Points are similar to Gold Points, except that you don't need to purchase anything  to earn them. Instead, Nintendo awards them based on clerical tasks (linking your My Nintendo account with Facebook, and so forth), website minigames and mobile game milestones.

If you play Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp or Fire Emblem Heroes, you probably already have a lot of Platinum Points racked up.

If not, you can earn plenty just by setting up a My Nintendo account and following a few social network prompts on Nintendo's website. Platinum Points are viable for six months; after that, they disappear.

How do I get Nintendo deals?

To cash in your Platinum or Gold Points, the first thing you need is a My Nintendo account. If you've ever purchased something through the Nintendo eShop, you probably already have one. However, to make full use of it, you'll have to log in with an internet browser. Just, sign in, and follow the prompts.

You can combine older 3DS accounts together with newer Switch ones, create a profile from scratch or start linking all your social media profiles. Nintendo will award you some Platinum Points for your efforts, and explain a little bit more about how the digital currencies work. Oddly enough, neither the 3DS nor Switch eShop offers any of this functionality.

First off: If all you want to do with your Gold Points is get a few bucks off your latest Switch or 3DS game, that's your prerogative. After all, these points don't last forever, and saving a couple of dollars is better than saving nothing at all. When you buy a new game via the eShop, the purchase screen will ask whether you want to apply your Gold Points for a discount, and if so, how many.

However, there's a much better way to apply your Gold Points, and that's through Nintendo's well-hidden Just For You offers. On the main My Nintendo page, you can click Redeem Points, and cash in your Gold and Platinum Points in six different categories. Five of them — in-game rewards for mobile titles, PC wallpapers, 3DS themes and so forth — are thoroughly disappointing. But hidden away at the bottom, you'll find a category entitled 3DS/Wii U software discounts.

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It's no secret that Nintendo rarely offers sales on its games, and they tend to stay at their initial prices for years after they come out. Nintendo's Just For You discounts represent some of the most substantial savings you can get on Nintendo titles outside of major holiday sales. Nintendo refreshes the selection every few months, but at the time of writing, the deals include 40 percent off The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, 40 percent off of Kirby's Epic Yarn, 30 percent off Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and 30 percent off Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Credit: Nintendo

(Image credit: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Credit: Nintendo)

No, the games are not the absolute biggest hits in Nintendo's back catalog — and at present, there are no Switch deals available. But at the same time, almost every piece of software on offer is an excellent, exclusive title, and you can cash in on the deals with digital currency that you probably already own.

Click on the deal that you want to access. (Some cost Platinum Points; some cost Gold Points. The distinction between the two seems rather arbitrary.) Click Redeem, confirm your transaction, and then purchase the game, either through your web browser or your game system. The deal will stay on your account for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but it's probably better to buy the game before you forget.

So, there you have it. Nintendo's Just For You deals are a little abstruse and unpredictable, but also potentially quite substantial. And, when you think about it, that's not a bad metaphor for Nintendo's whole modus operandi. If you're looking to pad out your 3DS library or catch up on a few Wii U hits before the system recedes entirely into the mists of history, you may as well check your My Nintendo account first. Your Platinum and Gold Points won't last forever, and neither will the deals.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.