The Nintendo Switch bridges the gap between the handheld console and the home console in a unique way. All in all, it’s a great addition to the Nintendo family, with superb hybrid capabilities.
Five years after the launch of the Nintendo Switch, it remains as popular as ever. As we get closer to the festive season each year, more and more copies get snapped up. Like the Wii motion controls, the glasses-free 3D of the Nintendo 3DS, or the experimental second screen of the Wii U, the Switch’s innovative hybrid design has helped Nintendo to continue to blaze its own trail.
What we have here is significantly different from what we’ve seen before and the Nintendo Switch provides the best of both worlds. You can game on the go at your own behest or cutch down at home to make the most of the chill Nintendo Switch atmosphere. As the list of best Nintendo Switch games gets bigger with exclusive party games and top-tier third-party titles.
Whether you’ve already made your purchase or not, it’s hard to deny that the Nintendo Switch is a fine idea, mixing some of what made the Wii and Wii U appealing for gamers (even if developers had a more challenging time figuring out how to make the most of the latter device).
The Nintendo Switch brings with it a central idea that can benefit literally every game, not just the select few that can use motion control or a second screen. Who hasn’t at one time wanted to pack up their console and take it with them? Essentially, the Switch delivers on this hybrid idea. You’ll find it a solid, premium handheld that can flip into docked mode and work as you’d expect a home console.
At the same time, the Nintendo Switch certainly isn’t perfect: most of the issues it has are a consequence of the way that it dares to try and do everything at once, and it doesn’t always get the compromise right.
Those who aren’t sold on its hybridity and want that classic Nintendo handheld experience will no doubt be interesting in the compact, lighter alternative: the Nintendo Switch Lite, which offers a solely handheld Switch gaming experience. For those after something more premium, there’s also the Nintendo Switch OLED, which mainly improves the portable aspect of play.
Nintendo Switch: price and release date
- What is it? Nintendo’s hybrid console
- When did it come out? March 3, 2017
- What does it cost? $259.99 / £259.99 / AUD$435
The original Nintendo Switch launched over five years ago, arriving on March 3, 2017. While it previously cost $299.99 in the US, £259.99 in the UK, and $469.95 in Australia, Nintendo gave this a small price cut after the Switch OLED model arrived last October.
Nowadays, you’ll find it going a new RRP worldwide of €269.99 / £259.99 / $259.99 / AU$435. Thankfully, Nintendo has confirmed there won’t be a price hike just yet for the Nintendo Switch in the wake of rising global inflation, unlike the recent hikes for Oculus Quest 2 and PS5. So, if you’ve not yet picked up any of the Nintendo Switch family, there’s no need to rush.
Nintendo Switch: design
- Three form factors: handheld, console (docked) and tabletop
- Lots of accessories, which are at risk of being misplaced
In the box with your shiny new Nintendo Switch, you get the main console, two detachable controller sides (Joy-Cons), a grip which enables you to combine these controller portions into a more traditional gamepad, two straps which can make them into two individual controllers, and a dock for plugging the console into your television.
You also get a USB Type-C power cable (with a non-detachable power brick) and an HDMI cable for connecting the device to your TV. If you think that sounds like a lot of accessories, then you’d be right: we suspect many Nintendo Switch owners will have misplaced at least one or two of these within a few months.
We’ve wrapped our Joy-Con straps around our Joy-Con grip just to keep everything together, but we’d love some way of attaching them to the console, so they don’t end up getting misplaced. It’s a pretty novel (not to mention somewhat complicated) setup, so it’s worth delving into each of the different ways you can use the console.
Nintendo Switch: handheld mode
- Bigger than traditional handhelds
- Slightly cramped for the right hand due to right analogue stick
- Split D-pad on the left side
First in the Nintendo Switch modes is the handheld mode, the form factor most like the hardware devices that came before the Switch. In this configuration, you attach the two controller portions (the Joy-Cons) to the left and right edges of the screen, then game much as you can with the PlayStation Vita.
In fact, the size and shape of the console’s analogue sticks make it feel a lot like a modern Vita, though it’s not as solid because of the joints that exist between the Joy-Cons and the screen. Along the top of the Nintendo Switch is a slot for game cartridges, a headphone jack (Bluetooth headphones are now supported after a post-launch update), a volume rocker and a power button.
The bottom of the device is less busy. You’ve got the kickstand for tabletop mode (more on this later), which conceals a small microSD slot for expandable storage. Internal storage on the Nintendo Switch is limited to just 32GB, so if you’re planning on downloading games rather than buying them, you’ll want to invest in a Nintendo Switch SD card (capacities up to 2TB are theoretically supported).
Check out our unboxing video of the Nintendo Switch below.
The detachable Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons have a lot going on. The right-hand side has the classic A, B, X, and Y button configuration, an analogue stick (slightly awkwardly placed underneath the face buttons) and two shoulder buttons. A small plus-shaped button is the equivalent of the Wii U’s ‘Start’ button and a home button for reaching the console’s system-level menus.
Across on the left, Joy-Con, it’s a very similar story, as you would expect. You’ve got a minus button that acts as the console’s ‘Select’ button, a share button for taking screenshots and video (in selected titles), an analogue stick, two shoulder buttons, and the most un-Nintendo D-pad we’ve ever seen.
Instead of the classic cross D-pad Nintendo utilized since the NES, the left Joy-Con has a set of four circular buttons that are identical in shape to the face buttons on the right Joy-Con. This design decision, which appears very odd at first glance, is so the left Joy-Con can be used as an individual controller, with the D-pad acting as face-buttons in this configuration (again, more on this later).
Nintendo Switch: console mode
- Connects to your TV via an included dock
- Docking process is seamless, and can be done mid-game
The second Nintendo Switch form-factor is console mode. You place the main portion in the included dock, which connects the device to your television – you’re then free to detach the Joy-Cons to control the Switch from a distance.
The way the console transfers the viewing experience from its own screen to the television is as seamless as it could possibly be, and you don’t even have to pause your game. Everything happens in real-time. Detaching the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons can be a little fiddly, admittedly: it’s done by holding small buttons on their backs and sliding the controllers up.
The TV dock is roughly the same size as the Nintendo Switch’s middle portion. Around the back, you’ve got a USB Type-C port to provide the console with power, an HDMI port to connect it to your television, and a USB Type-A port. On the left-hand side of the console are two additional USB ports, mainly used for charging your Switch controllers as you play wirelessly (more on this in a moment).
If you want to use the Nintendo Switch with multiple televisions throughout your home, you can buy additional Switch docks, which make it easy to transition from one screen to another, plug-and-play style. You can even use an OLED model’s dock, which has a built-in Ethernet port.
Nintendo Switch: tabletop mode
- Screen can also be detached and propped up on a table
- Great for two-player gaming, but four players on the console’s small screen is a push
The final form factor for the Nintendo Switch is what Nintendo calls ‘tabletop mode’. Using the kickstand attached to the back of the screen, you can prop the console up on a table and then detach the Joy-Cons for some semi-portable gaming. In theory, this is perfect for long journeys on public transport where you have a tray table to place the console on; in reality, we found it a bit of a mixed experience.
We do like being able to use the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons in the grip rather than having them attached to the console – the grip provides just enough extra plastic to make the controllers much more comfortable in the hands, and having the console a little further away means your sitting posture can be a lot more natural.
Tabletop mode is also great for multiplayer on the Switch. Detaching both Joy-Cons to allow two people to play against one another is a pleasure: it makes the Nintendo Switch perfect for whipping out at small gatherings where you’ll already have everything you need for a multiplayer session. However, a couple of issues prevent the console from fully capitalizing on this intriguing tabletop mode.
First is the kickstand. Although it’s rubberized, which means that the Switch doesn’t slide around, it only supports the console at a single height. If your tray table is a little closer to you, then there’s no ability to prop the console up so that it’s facing you more directly, and instead, you’ll be stuck with the screen pointing at your chest rather than your face.
Second is the Nintendo Switch charging port, which is inaccessible when you use it in tabletop mode. During a recent train journey, this meant that although we were in the perfect situation to use tabletop mode, we ended up using the console as a handheld to charge it up.
Finally, the Nintendo Switch screen is just a little too small for multiplayer gaming for more than two players. Four-player Mario Kart is almost impossible due to the size and resolution of the display (we found ourselves putting our faces inches from the console to be able to make out distant details).
Overall, tabletop mode on the Switch feels better suited to short periods of use, which is a shame when it feels like it should be the de facto way to use the Nintendo Switch over long periods.
Nintendo Switch: set-up
- Set-up is simple enough
- Console needs to be told whether Joy-Cons are being used together or separately
Setting up a brand new Nintendo Switch is refreshingly simple; you’ll be pleased to learn. If you’re using the device as a handheld, attach the Joy-Cons, press the power button, and… er… that’s it.
If you want to play Nintendo Switch games on your TV, you need to plug the dock into the TV via HDMI, then hook it up to some power via the included USB Type-C power lead. The console then easily slips into the dock.
Pairing the controllers is a little more complicated than with other devices because of the fact that they can either be paired or used separately. The way you tell the Switch which controllers you’re using is to press both the L and R shoulder buttons in whichever configuration you’ve opted for. So if you’re using the Joy-Cons individually, you press the buttons on the Joy-Con straps to indicate this is the case.
On the software side, the console asks for the standard combination of Wi-Fi details and user account set-up info. These details are a doddle to input on the console’s touchscreen – the keyboard isn’t quite as good as a phone’s, but it’s much better than a typical console experience. Afterwards, games can be played off a cartridge or the Nintendo Switch’s internal memory.
Nintendo Switch: recent updates
Nintendo’s continued building upon the Switch since the Lite’s launch. Alongside the launch of the Nintendo Switch Lite and Nintendo Switch OLED, it’s also seen continued system updates.
Between reminding us to use our Nintendo Switch reward points and adding Nintendo Switch software folders to better organize our library of games, a Nintendo Switch Online achievements system also went live. Elsewhere, you can now add friends through the Nintendo Switch Online companion app, available on iOS and Android mobiles. It means adding friends is easier than ever on Nintendo Switch.
There’s no end of upcoming games to look forward to, but if you’re after the older classics, fear not. Thanks to the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, there’s a continually growing library of NES and SNES games to play. If you’ve opted for the Expansion Pack, there’s Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and more N64 games are coming. We’d say keep your Nintendo Switch Online subscription for now.
Let’s not forget Nintendo has designed some absolutely classic controllers in its time – the original NES controller wrote the blueprint that console controllers have followed ever since, the N64 was the first console to have a controller with an analogue thumb-stick, and the Wii (for better or for worse) introduced the world to motion-controlled gaming.
With the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has attempted the seemingly impossible in creating a system that’s simultaneously one whole controller and two separate controllers, while also functioning as controllers in the handheld mode.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: general impressions
- By trying to do many things at once the Joy-Cons don’t do anything perfectly
- HD Rumble tech is impressive – but developers need to find a use for it
Ultimately these multiple roles mean the Nintendo Switch controllers end up being jacks of all trades and masters of none. None of the controller configurations are unusable, but we’ve used more comfortable controllers in the past that have had the advantage of only having to do one job very well.
The left Joy-Con’s D-pad sums up the problem in a nutshell: rather than going for the cross D-pad that Nintendo has been using since the NES, the D-pad is instead split into four separate buttons to allow them to be used as face buttons when the Joy-Con is utilized as an individual controller. The result is a D-pad that you’re not going to want to use for classic games that rely on it a lot, such as Street Fighter.
The Nintendo Switch analogue sticks also feel like a compromise between form factors: too small for a traditional gamepad, yet big enough that we wouldn’t want to throw the device too carelessly into a rucksack for fear of one of them snapping off.
You do have the option of buying separate accessories which don’t have these issues (the Nintendo Switch Pro controller being a prime example), but in this review we’re going to limit ourselves to talking about what you get in the box, since this is the primary way most people are going to be using the console – at least initially.
One part of the Switch controllers that we absolutely love are the face buttons. They’re a little smaller than those on other consoles, but they’ve got a really satisfying click to them that we really appreciate. The Joy-Cons feature an interesting form of rumble, which Nintendo has dubbed ‘HD Rumble’. From what we’ve seen so far this isn’t just a marketing gimmick – it feels like a step forward for rumble tech.
One mini-game in the launch game 1-2 Switch has you milking cows, sure, but it also counts the number of (virtual) balls inside a Joy-Con. It’s impressive just how well the HD Rumble creates the impression of there being real balls inside the controller. Another mini-game impresses by tasking you to crack a safe by feeling the click of a dial as you turn it.
Both mini-games have us excited for the possibilities of HD Rumble in the future, but the success of the technology depends on the ability of Switch developers to make use of it – the potential is there, but we’re still waiting for a killer app. Nintendo made practical use of the feature in the Switch 3.0 OS update – if you’ve lost one Joy-Con but the two are still paired, you can make the other vibrate to find it.
There were initially reports of connectivity issues with the left Joy-Con on the Nintendo Switch, something which we experienced ourselves. The problem is that sometimes during gameplay, the left Joy-Con’s connection just drops out completely. Fortunately, Nintendo is now offering a Joy-Con repair service for any broken ones, so we’d advise sending yours in if you experience connectivity issues of any kind.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: handheld
- Handheld controls are a little cramped and awkward
- Right analogue stick in particular is uncomfortable
It’s in the handheld configuration that the Nintendo Switch controller’s deficiencies are most apparent. The main problem is the low positioning of the right analogue stick, which we found very difficult to operate comfortably.
Either you hold the Switch precariously on the tips of your fingers in order to operate the analogue stick with the tip of your right thumb, or you hold the device more tightly and operate the thumbstick with the inside of your thumb knuckle, which feels rather cramped and awkward.
Looking back, the Vita layout is very similar, but the increased weight of the Nintendo Switch makes it much more difficult to comfortably hold on the fingertips. It’s a mode that we think works in small bursts, but it’s not comfortable over longer periods.
If you’re gaming on Nintendo Switch on a flight, for example, we’d expect most people to opt to put the console in tabletop mode on the tray table in front of them. We are, however, fans of the shoulder buttons, which manage to feel big enough without impacting on the depth of the console too much.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: grip
- Analogue sticks smaller than traditional controllers
- Overall the controller is comfortable and nice to use
- Clicky face buttons are especially appealing
The main way we expect people will play with the console when it’s docked is by combining the two Joy-Cons together into a single controller. This is done by using the included Joy-Con grip, which the two sides slide neatly into.
We were initially concerned when it was revealed that the Joy-Con grip that comes with the Nintendo Switch is unable to charge the two controllers – this means that if you want to charge your controllers you’ll need to plug them back into the console’s screen.
The Joy-Cons’ battery life is rated at 20 hours, so we’d be surprised if they ever run out of battery mid-game; at the same time, having to dismantle our controllers after every play session is somewhat annoying. A grip that charges the Joy-Cons is available, but this is sold separately. Aside from charging concerns, we were surprised with how the Nintendo Switch controller feels when assembled in the grip.
Although the analogue sticks are a little small, we found them perfectly usable for lengthy Breath of the Wild play sessions, and the addition of a little more plastic massively helps the ergonomics of the controller as a whole.
It’s just a shame that the controller doesn’t have a proper D-pad on its left side: as it stands you’re going to need to buy the Pro controller if you want that traditional Nintendo controller feel on the Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: individual controllers
- Oddly positioned buttons due to having to work as a combined controller
- A nice option to have if you want a friend to join you for multiplayer
Split the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons apart and they can work as individual controllers complete with an analogue stick each, four face buttons, and (if you attach a Joy-Con strap) two shoulder buttons. It’s this configuration that feels like it’s required the biggest compromise in Nintendo’s pursuit to make them work in multiple ways.
On the left Joy-Con the D-pad/face buttons are in the centre of the controller, which means your right thumb is uncomfortably far over, and the same is true of the analogue stick on the right Joy-Con. The asymmetrical configuration also makes describing controls to another person very difficult, since the control buttons have different names between the two Joy-Cons.
The lack of hand grips is also prone to causing cramp if you use the controllers over long periods, especially if the game you’re playing relies heavily on the Joy-Con’s shoulder buttons. As a final point, the shoulder buttons can feel a little stiff to press, which adds to the discomfort of using them over long periods.
So while this configuration might work in a pinch if you want to let a friend join you for a couple of rounds of Mario Kart, we don’t see it being something you’ll want to spend a lot of time with. Additionally, you’ll need to remember to carry the Joy-Con straps with your Nintendo Switch if you want to use the shoulder buttons, which will be an annoying inconvenience for most people.
Alternatively, you can use the two Joy-Cons as a single controller while split apart. Here they function identically to when they’re assembled into the Joy-Con grip, although we found it much less comfortable because of how cramped the right analogue stick ends up feeling.
Again, this feels like a compromise, this time for when you’ve forgotten your Joy-Con grip. We can’t see ourselves using this configuration much at all unless a motion-controlled game specifically calls for it in the future.
Nintendo was a little late to the online party. While Microsoft stormed ahead with its Xbox Live service and Sony got to grips with the PlayStation Network, Nintendo was languishing with inconvenient friend codes and limited voice chat options.
After a lengthy initial wait, Nintendo Switch Online is in full swing. As you’re probably aware, it brings with it the ability to save games in the cloud, access to a host of classic NES games, and of course online multiplayer. The downside is you have to fork out £3.49 / $3.99 to Nintendo every month for the basic plan.
Nintendo Switch: online multiplayer
- Basic service has been online for a while
- Full service launched in October 2018
Online multiplayer was available in some games from the launch of the Nintendo Switch, but now it’s here in full – if you’re willing to pay for it. We’ve already had a play around with the console’s companion app, which was compatible with Splatoon 2 right away.
You could invite friends to matches, and voice chat with them, even if the whole process was rather cumbersome. Using a separate device isn’t ideal, and connectivity usually wasn’t perfect. Since the full Nintendo Switch Online service launched, things improved with direct in-game invites, but these aren’t often utilised.
What we can tell you is that regular updates to the Nintendo Switch companion app and the firmware on the console itself have continued to introduce some very welcome features – such as the ability to add friends directly from your 3DS and Wii U Friend Lists.
Nintendo Switch: local wireless multiplayer
- Easy to set up and join other players
- Supports up to eight Switch consoles
Local wireless multiplayer within a game such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe works very well in our experience. We used three Nintendo Switch consoles to have six people playing at once and found the entire process simple to set up, with no lag or connection problems.
To set up an online multiplayer game using local wireless, players simply start up Mario Kart and select local wireless mode for either one or two players within the game itself. After this, one player will set up a room which the other players then join, and the player who set up the room selects the race rules.
Each player will be given the chance to vote for their track preference and the game will randomly choose a track from those that players have voted for, much like online play works. If you have two players to one console, then the screen will split for each of you to see your place in the race, but you won’t see what everyone else is seeing on their screens unless their consoles are in front of you.
In the specific case of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the maximum number of players that you can have in a single race over local wireless is eight, with one or two players per Switch. You can also do LAN matches with up to 12 players. However, if you don’t have multiple consoles then up to four friends can play on a single Nintendo Switch console in TV mode, or in tabletop mode.
Alternatively, if you have a lot of friends and a lot of consoles to hand, up to 12 consoles in TV mode can be connected via LAN Play, with one or two players per connected Nintendo Switch. However with each player required to have their own USB Ethernet adaptor, it’s unlikely that many outside of tournaments will end up using their Nintendo Switch consoles in this way.
Nintendo Switch Online
- Limited functionality at launch
- Full service arrived in October 2018
Nintendo Switch Online certainly looks better than what it’s offered in the past, but it still falls short of what competitors Sony and Microsoft are doing. The service costs $3.99 / £3.49 / AU$5.95 if you’re paying month by month, with the monthly cost dropping slightly if you commit to more months at once.
And remember those are the prices for one user. If you’ve got a family on your Nintendo Switch then you’ll be looking to sign up for the more expensive family plan which costs £31.49 / $34.99 per year. It seems like a fair bit more, but it does allow up to eight accounts across multiple consoles, meaning you get a decent discount if you know a few people with Switch consoles who are willing to split.
Large parts of the service function through an app on your phone, so you’ll have to have it on you if you want to use some of the online functions. The service also offers its own somewhat limited version of Sony’s PlayStation Plus free games and Microsoft’s Xbox Games with Gold, giving players access to a small library of 20 NES games at launch (with modern features like online multiplayer).
Nintendo has continued adding NES and SNES games regularly but if you opt for the more expensive Expansion Pack, there’s Mega Drive and N64 games too.
Something a lot of people have been waiting for has also arrived with the online service: cloud saves. Those who subscribe to the online service can finally back up their saves for the games they’ve plugged hundreds of hours into (though they do have to pay for the privilege).
Though the Switch launched without the popular video streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime we’ve come to expect from consoles. Nintendo was quick to promise that these services would come to the console ‘in time’, though five years on, this remains sparse.
Hulu is the first of these services to have launched. It’s US-only, but we’re hoping this is a good sign that other streaming services will be arriving soon. YouTube and Crunchyroll have since arrived, too.
Nintendo Switch: eShop online store
- eShop available at launch with modern games
- Retro games available through Nintendo Switch Online
Like the Wii U before it, the Nintendo Switch features an online store that will allow you to download games rather than buy them in-store.
If you’re looking to download your games instead of buying them in a physical format, you should buy a microSD card for your Nintendo Switch. The console’s internal memory is limited to 32GB, an amount which is already too small for one game, Dragon Quest Heroes.
As for the Virtual Console seen on previous Nintendo devices, that’s not coming to the Nintendo Switch. Instead, retro games are available through the online subscription service we’ve already mentioned. We like the eShop’s minimalist design. Along the left are sections for Recent Releases, Coming Soon, Charts, Current Offers and Redeem Code, alongside some search functionality too.
You can add upcoming games to your Watch List, and there’s also a section for downloading previously purchased titles to your Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is clearly planning to continue to add to the store as time goes on, too.
This original review was based on the Nintendo Switch model released at launch. However Nintendo has since updated its standard model to one which boasts a longer battery life.
With the Nintendo Switch having to work as a handheld as well as a home console, we were initially worried that the console’s graphical abilities would be limited. Internally the Switch is using an Nvidia Tegra X1 chip, which is broadly similar to what was found in the Nvidia Shield.
That’s not exactly a bad thing considering the Shield is a 4K-capable set-top box, but you have to remember that as a portable device the Switch needs to make compromises to ensure decent battery life. At launch, concerns over graphical horsepower appeared to be partly borne out, but we wouldn’t call them deal-breakers.
Nintendo Switch: graphical performance
- Roughly equivalent to Wii U
- Not on a PS4 or Xbox One level
- Strength of Nintendo’s art direction makes up for technical shortcomings
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example, runs at a resolution of 720p on the Wii U, while this is boosted to 900p on the Switch when docked and outputting to a Full HD screen (4K output isn’t supported).
On the surface this suggests the Switch has the graphical edge on the Wii U, but we experienced frequent frame rate drops when playing the game on our television. Meanwhile, when played on the Switch’s own 720p screen, the game maintained a consistent frame rate.
These observations would suggest that we’re looking at a new console with roughly equivalent power to Nintendo’s last-generation system, but we’ll see how the situation improves as developers continue to get to grips with the new hardware.
Nintendo has never been one to push the graphical envelope though, not really. Past games such as the Wii U’s Mario Kart 8 have certainly looked good, but this has been more as a result of their distinctive art style than the technical prowess of their graphics. We’re thankful then that this has tended to be a strong suit of Nintendo’s in the past.
The look of the games (in handheld mode at least) is also helped by the quality of the Switch’s screen. Although it’s only a 720p resolution, the screen is bright and its colors are vibrant. It’s not up there with the best smartphones on the market, but it’s definitely a step above Nintendo’s past handhelds.
We’ll have to see what the Nintendo Switch achieves in the graphical department going forward, but this certainly isn’t a console to rival the likes of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Since the release of Sony and Microsoft’s new generation successors, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, that technological gap has only widened further.
Still, the games we’ve played look very good for handheld games, but as console games they don’t quite have the same fidelity of current-generation games on other consoles.
Nintendo Switch: battery life
- As low as 2.5 hours for graphically intensive games
- Enough for a commute, but longer journeys might prove problematic
- Ability to charge over USB allows use of portable battery packs
Much has been made of the Switch’s battery life, which Nintendo has claimed will last between 2.5 and 6 hours. In our experience this claim has rung true. When actively playing Zelda we got around 2.5 hours, which was enough to cover our commute to and from work in a single day before we charged the Switch overnight.
If you’re looking to use the console for a longer period, such as on a flight, then there are a couple of things you can do to squeeze some more battery life out of the console – turning on airplane mode for example (although this prevents you from detaching the Joy-Cons), and dimming the screen.
Additionally you’re able to use portable battery packs, but this is hardly ideal, and we found that the Nintendo Switch draws so much power that at best they prevented the battery from dropping during play, rather than actively recharging it.
It’s difficult to compare this battery life to previous handheld consoles, as even on the Switch itself this battery life will vary massively between different games, but we’ve seen a rest-mode comparison that put the Switch ahead of the Vita and PSP, while losing out to the DS and GameBoy Advance.
The bottom line is that this is a console that should be able to deal with your daily commute, but might struggle with longer journeys.
Update: This page originally covered the games that launched alongside the console. However after five years on sale, the number of games on the Nintendo Switch has increased significantly – check out our guide to the best Nintendo Switch games for a constantly-updated list of the games you absolutely need to pick up.
- Plenty of good games over the first 12 months
- Eventual success will rely on third-party developers
- Lack of graphical parity may harm long-term support
The Nintendo Switch’s launch lineup comprised a combination of ports of existing games such as Shovel Knight, World of Goo and I Am Setsuna, new entries in existing franchises like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Bomberman R, and all-new games like Snipperclips, 1-2 Switch and Fast RMX.
All in all it wasn’t a bad launch lineup, but the first 12 months that the Nintendo Switch was on sale also saw big new releases in the form of Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Splatoon 2 and Arms.
Nintendo of America’s now-former president, Reggie Fils-Aime, said in an interview that we could see more of Nintendo’s big first party titles come to the console in one form or another. Since then, we’ve seen fan favorites like Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Luigi’s Mansion, Kirby, Advance Wars and Mario Strikers: Battle League arrive.
How this will continue playing out isn’t fully clear, but Fils-Aime did say that a main Nintendo development philosophy is to have at least one of its classic franchises on every platform. In its first year, the console received ports of big games like Minecraft and FIFA. Though hardly new, these remain important for consumers who don’t plan on using the Switch as a second console, but their primary gaming device.
The real test in the long term will be how third-party developers (i.e. those not financed by Nintendo directly) embrace the console. Although its graphics are good for a handheld, we worry that a lack of graphical parity with PS4 and Xbox One will prevent developers from easily supporting the console alongside those devices, which may harm the number of game releases it gets in the future.
So far there have been some positive signs for third-party support on the Nintendo Switch. Rocket League developer Psyonix brought the game to the console, for example, and Snake Pass’ launch suggests games can be brought over to the Switch without too many compromises.
Mario and Zelda have always been excellent games. Still, without the likes of franchises with more regular release schedules like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, you might find yourself lacking games to play in the long run. Thankfully, Nintendo usually releases at least one first-party game each month, so there’s never a major drought.
We’ve had the chance to try out a select portion of the console’s games at launch, so read on for our thoughts.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Impressive modernization of a classic franchise
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of Nintendo Switch’s launch lineup. Although the game also arrived on Nintendo’s older Wii U console, the thought of being able to take a full-on, modern Zelda on the go was always going to be a compelling proposition.
But quite apart from being the best handheld Zelda game ever made, the game is also up there with being one of the best in the series too. It feels fantastically broad and open, with dozens of weapons to find, items to craft, and environments to explore.
Yes, the game breaks with tradition in so many ways but the experience still ends up feeling quintessentially Zelda, with all the charm that this entails. If you’re picking up a Nintendo Switch or have done already, then Breath of the Wild is an absolutely essential purchase. It won’t be long before its direct sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, also arrives.
- An interesting showcase of the hardware, but doesn’t quite have the staying power of Wii Sports
Like the Wii before it, the Nintendo Switch introduces new technologies to gaming that haven’t been explored before. Whereas the Wii had Wii Sports to show off these new concepts, the Switch is banking on 1-2 Switch to demonstrate what the new hardware is capable of. The result is a mini-game collection, which cover everything from sword-fighting, Wild West gunslinging, and cow-milking.
It’s a fun collection of games, but we don’t think it has the same ‘replayability’ as the classic Wii Sports did. The fact this isn’t a pack-in game and requires a separate purchase doesn’t help it, either.
The games are more about performing in front of your friends than outright winning. For example, one game has you pulling yoga poses and trying to keep as still as possible for as long as you can, but since the Joy-Con is only tracking the movement of one hand, there’s nothing forcing you to actually hold the pose specified by the game (aside from drawing the ire of your friends).
There’s also no single-player mode for you to practise with when you’re away from a group of pals. Overall the game is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s a fun one to use to show off your new Nintendo Switch to friends.
- A great little co-op indie game
One of the nice surprises of the Switch launch event way back when was Snipperclips, a small puzzle game in which two players solve puzzles by cutting sections out of each other and changing their character’s shapes.
It’s a delightful, charming, little game, and with its budget price tag we think it’s another essential purchase for anyone who owns a Nintendo Switch.
Just Dance 2017
- A competent entry in the series
You’ve almost certainly heard of Just Dance, the dancing series that first premiered on the Wii way back in 2009.
The game tasks you with completing various dance routines, either on your own or with a friend, and judges your progress based on the movement of a Joy-Con in your hand (unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a way to use two Joy-Cons simultaneously).
Much like 1-2 Switch, there’s little to stop you cheating and not dancing with your whole body, but (also like 1-2 Switch) this is meant as a party game, so social niceties will hopefully stop you from spoiling the fun.
It’s not the most feature-packed or technically advanced game in the world, but if you’ve enjoyed Just Dance games in the past then this appears to be a very serviceable version for the Nintendo Switch.
By all accounts the Nintendo Switch has had an amazing start to life, with a number of excellent exclusive games and solid sales. However, the complete package (including Nintendo Switch Online) has only recently become available, so we’ll have to reserve judgment on that part of the wider Nintendo Switch experience for the time being.
When compared with the handheld consoles that have come before it, the Nintendo Switch blows them out of the water with its graphical quality, which comes close to the last generation of consoles. This is helped by its impressive screen which is bright, crisp, and colorful.
Providing the console with a controller that also doubles as two individual controllers is a very neat inclusion, and should mean that you’re always able to join a friend for a quick multiplayer game while you’re out and about.
We’re pleased to report that the Nintendo Switch docking and undocking process is impressively seamless too, with games that don’t even need to be paused before being plugged into a television. We also like the pattern of regular updates that Nintendo has established: Fortnite has just been added, for example, and the online service seems set to shake things up once again.
The phrase “jack of all trades and master of none” may sound negative, but the impression the Nintendo Switch has left us with is that sometimes compromise is necessary and good.
Yes there are better home consoles out there with controllers that can be good at doing just one thing, and yes there are handhelds out there that have better battery life and a more compact form-factor, but no other piece of gaming hardware has attempted the sheer number of things as the Nintendo Switch does – and then delivered so competently on so many of them.
The graphics aren’t the best around, but they’re good enough that they don’t feel dated. The controller isn’t the most comfortable, but it never feels outright difficult to use. The battery life isn’t the best, but it’s enough for daily use.
All of these trade-offs have been born out of compromise and an attempt to make something that works in so many situations, and on that final point the Nintendo Switch is a great success.
What remains to be seen is if, in the years ahead, its games library can shape up to be something you’ll want to play both at home and on the go, and whether its online service can compete with the existing efforts from Sony and Microsoft. If both of these play out well, Nintendo will have found a set of compromises worth making.
So is the £259.99 / $259.99 / AU$435 asking price justified? At this point, the answer seems to be a resounding yes. Nintendo has released excellent game after excellent game for the system, and the hardware does a great job of making these games come alive.