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- The Nintendo Switch has been out for over six years, and it’s still worth buying.
- Although the Switch is missing a lot of modern features, it’s also packed with great games.
- For only $300, there aren’t many systems that offer more value than the Switch.
It’s been six years since the debut of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s flagship console/handheld hybrid. And after all that time, thanks in large part to a massive game library, the Switch is an even more attractive console now than it was at release.
Yes, it’s true that the Switch isn’t as powerful as its competitors, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Gamers who demand cutting-edge 4K graphics won’t get them on Nintendo’s system. But the Switch is still affordable, uniquely versatile, and — with its exclusive games and extreme portability — fun as hell.
I’ve played the Switch regularly since release, racking up hundreds of hours between a variety of great games. And for all its flaws, the Nintendo Switch is still an excellent budget-friendly console, even more than half a decade later.
With 3 distinct ways to play, the Nintendo Switch is easily the most convenient console ever
The Nintendo Switch’s main selling point is its unique design that enables it to function as both a portable and home console. With its built-in 6-inch screen, rechargeable battery, detachable Joy-Con controllers, and HDMI docking station, the Switch lets you play nearly any game in three different ways: Connected to a TV, using the Switch’s screen as a mini monitor (called “Tabletop” mode), and as a handheld.
Of these three modes, chances are that you’ll spend the majority of your playtime connected to a TV. Once the Switch is secured in its included dock, you can use an HDMI cable to plug the dock into a TV. This is the only way to unlock 1080p HD graphics, the highest resolution the Switch supports.
Meanwhile, Tabletop mode, where you use the Switch’s built-in screen and prop the system up to play with a wireless controller, is the worst of the three playstyles. Worse graphics, lower screen quality, and you have to deal with the Switch’s flimsy kickstand. I can’t stand playing this way for long periods of time.
But playing the Switch in handheld mode — using the built-in screen with the Joy-Cons attached — is an absolute blast. I’m near-sighted, and even with glasses on, playing games on a TV across the room tends to strain my eyes. Playing in handheld mode gives me a reasonably high quality screen (up to 720p) I can play almost any game on.
When it comes to portability, the Switch in handheld mode can’t be beat. Since the Switch itself is just a thin rectangle, it fits easily into all sorts of bags and cases. I take mine to work with me every day, and I love to take breaks by pulling it out for quick handheld Splatoon matches.
And although the battery life isn’t amazing — it’ll generally last between four to seven hours on a single charge, depending on what you play — it’s a great fit for plane rides, car trips, and commuting.
Motion controls are still a gimmick, but Joy-Con controllers are capable
Every Nintendo Switch comes with two tiny controllers called Joy-Cons. And much like the system, the Joy-Cons offer multiple playstyles.
The Joy-Cons work best when they’re attached to the Switch itself (for handheld mode) or the included Joy-Con grip, which turns your two Joy-Cons into one standard wireless controller. The compact button layout can take a while to adjust to — especially the separated D-pad — but once you do, it’s an excellent option.
Freehanding the Joy-Cons without the grip, however, feels pretty terrible. Each Joy-Con is too tiny to hold comfortably, and even with my average-sized hands, I struggle to move between the buttons and joysticks without cramping my thumbs. And playing with a single sideways Joy-Con is a miserably cramped experience.
The Joy-Cons do support motion controls, but very few games use these controls well, and even the few that do understand that they work best in small doses. For example, one-off Zelda puzzles that require you to flip the controller, or motion-assisted aiming in Splatoon and Metroid Prime Remastered.
If you plan on playing your Switch mostly in TV mode, I’d recommend investing in a bigger controller. The best option is Nintendo’s official Switch Pro Controller, but you can find other great options from brands like PowerA at more affordable prices too.
The Joy-Cons have another infamous issue: “Joy-Con Drift.” All official Nintendo Joy-Cons have a design that makes the joysticks prone to drifting, or acting like you’re moving them even when you’re not. All Switch owners should expect at least one of their Joy-Cons to start drifting eventually.
Nintendo does offer free Joy-Con repairs, but it’s a lengthy process that involves shipping the Joy-Cons to a Nintendo repair center.
The Nintendo Switch’s game library is packed with must-play exclusives
Compared to other consoles and systems, the Switch has a unique game library. If all you own is a Switch, you’re going to miss out on most popular yearly franchises (Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, etc.), and most major multi-platform releases. The few major releases that do make their way to the Switch (like FIFA or 2K) are usually years late, missing features, or run poorly.
But in return, the Switch has some of the best exclusive first-party games of any modern console. That includes RPGs like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, platformers like Super Mario Odyssey, fighters like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and life sims like Animal Crossing: New Horizons — you name a genre, and chances are that Nintendo’s produced one of the best games available for it.
Between these new exclusives, popular indie games like Undertale, and ports from older consoles like Metroid Prime, you won’t ever have trouble finding games to fall in love with on the Switch. There’s also no signs of Nintendo slowing down with new Switch games, as several big releases are on deck for 2023, including “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.”
And this doesn’t even mention the retro game libraries that you can unlock by subscribing to Nintendo Switch Online.
The only other downsides to the Switch’s game library are that first-party titles rarely go on sale (although they usually start at $60, which is less than PS5 or Xbox games), and it’s hard to browse for new games on the eShop, which is filled with a massive amount of shovelware trash.
Even for a Nintendo console, the Switch is missing a lot of modern features
Major multi-platform games aren’t the only thing that the Switch is missing.
The highest resolution that the Switch can manage is 1080p, which is a quarter the quality of the 4K industry standard. And don’t be surprised if your games — even if they’re first-party — lag, stutter, or suffer from long load times.
This is especially true if you’re playing online. Nintendo’s online infrastructure is notoriously crummy, meaning input lag and random disconnects are common. You also can’t voice chat unless you use a specific smartphone app. Despite this, most multi-platform games will still pair you up against players on other systems, putting you at an immediate disadvantage.
Due to the console’s small size, it doesn’t include much storage space: Only 32GB, although you can upgrade that up to 2TB with a microSD card. And it doesn’t have apps like Netflix, Spotify, or Disney Plus, making it a bad choice for a home theater.
If any of these drawbacks are deal breakers, then you’re better off investing in a PlayStation or Xbox, which are much more powerful and feature-filled systems. Nintendo’s main focus has always been great games and unique forms of play, which is what you’ll get with a Switch.
Nintendo Switch specs at a glance
Should you buy the Nintendo Switch?
Despite its flaws, the Nintendo Switch is a fantastic — and affordable — console. It’s got fun games in every genre, loads of ways to play, and more portability than any other console. What the system lacks in cutting-edge graphics and entertainment features, it makes up for with unique playstyles, an affordable price, and exclusive games.
But while the standard Nintendo Switch is great, it’s not our top recommendation in the Switch lineup. That honor goes to the Nintendo Switch OLED, a newer version of the console with minor — but very nice — screen and storage upgrades. It’s only $50 more than the standard Switch, making it a no-brainer if you can spare the money.
That said, the standard Switch is still an excellent purchase for buyers who want to save some cash. It’s also a better value for gamers who plan to play mostly in TV mode, since that playstyle won’t benefit from the Switch OLED’s improved screen.
If you’re willing to pay more, there are also a couple of other handheld consoles worth keeping in mind, including the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck is more expensive than the Switch and doesn’t have Nintendo’s exclusive games, but it supports tons of popular PC titles and can handle much better graphics. You might also consider the Logitech G Cloud, a handheld that’s designed for streaming Xbox Game Pass titles.
But no matter which way you fall, remember that the Switch has been around for a long time. Though Nintendo hasn’t hinted at a new system yet, there have been industry rumors about a Switch successor. But since all there is to go on is speculation, I don’t think it’s worth skipping the Switch over.