After the failure of the Wii U and into the Ultra-HD gaming era of PS4 Pro and Xbox One X , some began to think that the days of a console with Nintendo on the front might have their last reached. But the naysayers were wrong, as the Nintendo Switch has proven time and again since launch – now with the portable Switch Lite alternative also launched, further bolstering its success – not just thanks to rethinking what a home and portable console can mean, but also thanks to some of the best games available on any gaming platform.
However, opinions are still divided. There is not the volume of third party titles or apps like on other platforms. The graphic fidelity is far behind what is also possible elsewhere. But that doesn’t stop boatloads of people from buying the console. And for good reason: it’s downright brilliant and does things differently. It might just be the console to buy out of the big three right now.
Rethinking the home console
There is no doubt that the Nintendo Switch is a clever little game console. It consists of a 6.2-inch tablet-like device, with a 720p touchscreen, stereo speakers and a kickstand on the back, so it can be used both hands-free and on the go. Yes, you can play Mario at home on the big screen, or on the console screen while traveling to work in the morning. That’s the main point of difference.
The two mini controllers, called Joy-Cons, click on either side of the small screen when you play solo. When docked this is also how they charge. They can also be removed and used as individual mini gamepads for games with two players or more, the console itself sitting on the table via a stand when playing remotely. Or they can be clipped on either side of a Joy-Con Grip to create a larger, more recognizable game controller.
This versatility is the Switch’s greatest feature. It’s not a new idea that a tablet can be connected to a TV for a home gaming experience, but Nintendo is making it ridiculously simple. As such, it feels original. Simply slide the portable console into a plastic case, which is both powered and connected to a TV via HDMI, and your game or Nintendo home screen will appear on the big screen instead.
In the docking station, the Switch increases the graphics experience to Full HD 1080p (from the 720p on the device itself). Not all games will achieve that – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild , for example, maintains a resolution of 900p in TV mode – but when they do, their graphics fidelity will at least be increased and approach that of an average Xbox One – or PS4 game (OK, so it’s not PS4 Pro or Xbox One X , but we don’t really care given the quality of the titles on offer).
If TV playing isn’t for you and you just want portable, then the Switch Lite , a completely different console offering, might be the better decision for you – which doesn’t have a dock and can therefore only be played on the go.
How Much Are Nintendo Switch Games & Downloads?
Games come in cartridge format so you don’t have to wait for them to download unless there’s a software patch. Just put one in the required slot at the top of the switch and it will appear on the menu screen. There is the Nintendo eStore, however, should you prefer to download full games to the Switch ‘s microSD card storage.
Cartridges are physically small, even smaller than 3DS games, so you have to be careful not to lose them. However, they are useful for throughput and extensive libraries can be easily stored. An interesting feature is that they are also treated with a non-toxic but bitter chemical to keep younger children from eating them. No, really – they taste awful.
The Switch’s menu system is simple and clean, with large, square thumbnails for games inserted or installed, and smaller menu icons to access the eShop, Social Sharing Gallery, change settings, check Joy-Con battery levels, etc. There is also a “news” section with the latest updates and information from Nintendo itself. This is full of tutorials and installation information when you first boot.
The eShop has become a more common feature than when the console first launched, with sections for recent releases, upcoming games and download code redemption. There is also Nintendo’s own online subscription service , Nintendo Switch Online , which is a must-have for online multiplayer games. There is a seven-day free trial, then it’s a paid subscription: £ 3.49 / € 3.99 / $ 3.99 per month (£ 6.99 / € 7.99 / $ 7.99 quarterly; £ 17.99 / € 19.99 / $ 19.99 per year); there is also a family plan for £ 31.49 / € 34.99 / ¢ 34.99 per year that gives access to family accounts (up to eight accounts in total).
In terms of apps, however, Nintendo lacks in this department. At launch, there was nothing at all. Because there is some content like YouTube, but there are no video streaming apps (except Hulu US only). Having a fairly sturdy portable screen in your bag and no way to watch Netflix , Amazon Video , BBC iPlayer, or any of the other video services just seems silly. Such equity would be vastly more appealing to those who might otherwise be fringe buyers. We suspect it is coming, but further plans are not yet concrete .
Yes, the Switch has to play games well and that should be Nintendo’s main focus, but gadgets are meant to simplify our lives, not make them more complicated, or make our bags heavier. We found ourselves having to take an iPad and the Switch on long trips, which isn’t ideal.
Does the Nintendo Switch come with a game?
We’re not among those who think the Switch is overpriced – the number of hours of play it gives us on flights when the in-flight entertainment was terrible has made it invaluable – but there have been several naysayers to criticize . The console is the same price as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 when they first launched. And in a world still recovering from and struggling with recession, Brexit and Donald Trump, that seems more than okay for what you get in the box.
The kick in the underworld comes with the cost of the games on top. Nintendo’s first-party games have always been pricey. They also rarely get much of a discount, with older titles maintaining a premium price for years. So, for example, if you buy Zelda on top of the price of the console, everything seems a bit more expensive. And let’s face it, that’s the main game everyone wants. Well, that and Pokemon Lets Go . Oh, and Animal Crossing . Actually, there are tons of great games out there, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
We also recommend coughing up for a microSD card, with at least 64 GB of storage. The Switch comes with only 32 GB on board – a meager amount considering the digital download version of Zelda alone takes up over 13 GB. A half-quality microSD card won’t cost you much, maybe less if you get a deal – so that should be added to the bill too.
Fortunately, that’s it. You don’t really need the Pro Controller or Joy-Con Charging Grip. The former is a nice accessory, with a more traditional gaming feel, but the Joy-Con Grip that comes in the box with the Switch is more than capable. It may look like a crooked dog’s face, but it feels great in the hand and we spent hours playing comfortably with a dog.
The Charging Grip is also pointless in our opinion. Before launch, a lot has been said about not including recording in the box, but it only adds a USB port so you can charge your Joy-Cons while you play by attaching a wire between the Grip and the Switch dock . We make sure to place the Joy-Cons on the sides of the Switch unit every day when we retire and that does the job just as well. Indeed, it keeps them tidy.
We’ve never had any battery life issues with the Joy-Cons – just the occasional interruption of the connection from the left side of the controller, which can be really annoying, but has been partially resolved via a software update – so when you consider how expensive the Pro Controller and charging grip are, that comes as good news.
Note, however, that the Switch itself can only play constantly for three to four hours in handheld mode before needing to be recharged. We’ve been on long haul flights and found that to be more than adequate, but even on those where we didn’t sleep – and had to kill that next big boss in Zelda, or get that extra star in Mario – a good tip is to just bring a rechargeable battery , just like a smartphone. Job done.
What is the maximum resolution of the Nintendo Switch?
Nintendo has finally entered the world of Full HD with the Switch (just in time to bend the back thanks to 4K) when playing on the big screen. So when docked, the Switch experience is pretty much as good as any rival. Yes, many Xbox One and PS4 games have better resolutions and / or frame rates than many Switch titles, but that’s all down to time and development experience. A number of Switch titles are 1080p60, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe .
The 6.2-inch console’s screen is capable of up to 60Hz (60fps) at 720p, so it looks great with colorful, smooth gameplay. We would have liked a little more contrast and text can sometimes seem a bit too small for our aging eyes, but it’s a more than decent game window – much better than the screen on the Wii U GamePad.
Audio is a bit weak but understandable given the small speakers. To be fair, most will use headphones in handheld mode anyway, although you’ll have to provide your own.
Oh, and we definitely recommend getting a case. We somehow scratched a small area of our Switch’s screen, which is not easily repairable.
What’s the best Nintendo Switch game?
Not that it’s all about resolution. It’s too easy to get stuck in that unnecessarily. No, the Switch is all about its unique games.
Okay, so there should have been a game in the box. The Wii came with WiiSports, the Wii U Premium Edition with Nintendo Land. The Switch should have had at least 1-2 Switch. Instead, that party is a separate purchase, making it overkill for a range of minigames designed almost exclusively to showcase the Joy-Cons’ movement capabilities.
Otherwise, your main issue is which Switch title to buy first. Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of our all-time favorite games. Super Mario Odyssey is arguably the best Mario game ever made. Splatoon 2 is fantastic. Even quirky titles like ARMS make for great online play. Not to mention the reboot of Zelda: Links Awakening .
While such titles are taking a fresh look at the family gaming fraternity, it’s not all cute cute. The Switch has also attracted big third-party developers, which doesn’t alienate hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool gamers in the process. Current titles like Doom and Skyrim show Bethesda’s dedication, with a lot more to come. And we’re currently working our way back through The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt .
The Switch is a revolutionary console. It doesn’t fade in the face of PS4 or Xbox One, it is walking its own path. For many, it will redefine on-the-go gaming, with top titles like Luigis Mansion , Animal Crossing, and even Skyrim available to play on the bus, train, plane, or in a doctor’s waiting room.
But even for some time after launch, the Switch continues to exude potential rather than achieve perfection. It would be made even bigger with a wider range of apps and streaming services. Although that’s actually nitpicking. This is primarily a game console.
The Switch may not have the graphics potential of PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. But we don’t care. Those are tied to tellies and cannot offer gaming joys like Zelda, Mario or Pokemon – three titles that are among the best games. And that is exactly why the Switch is a console you should buy.
However, if you want the console for handheld use only, the Switch Lite is a cheaper, portable only version that’s even better suited for certain gamers. How about that for choice, eh?