Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
I was very late to the Nintendo Switch party. While everyone was enjoying The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, I was saving up money and waiting for a sale or a price drop. However, as more and more games kept releasing, that money I had set aside dwindled until it became nonexistent. For a while I started thinking I’d never get a Switch, but with games like Metroid Prime 4 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 on the way, I knew I couldn’t give up on the dream. So, as soon as 2019 hit, I pulled from my savings account and finally made the jump.
Having spent a little over a month with the console, I’m confident enough to talk about it. In this article, I’m going to grade five different aspects of the Switch (the games, the hybrid console gimmick, the online functionality, the battery life and the storage space) before giving it an overall rating. I’ll also be adding a tip to every section for those who are planning to get a Switch themselves, so be sure to check those out in order to make that first day setting things up as painless as possible. With that in mind, let’s get started!
Starting out strong here, the games are the main reason to own a Nintendo Switch, as should always be the case for a console. Coming in a few years after launch, I was overwhelmed by the amount of exclusive games available. With the dreaded Nintendo Tax in place and nearly every game still at its launch price, I couldn’t get everything I’ve been wanting to play. Donkey Kong: Country Freeze, Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 are just some of the many Switch games I don’t own, but even then, I still feel like I have plenty to play. I’ve put over 30 hours into the incredible Super Smash Brother’s Ultimate, finished the original Bayonetta, dabbled in Super Mario Brothers U and started building yet another a mansion in Minecraft. Even with all these great experiences, I’ve yet to tackle the lengthy single player titles like Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Octopath Traveler. The Switch has a solid free-to-play lineup as well, with games like Warframe, Fortnite and the brand-new Tetris 99 all available for no cost at all. It’s also primed to take over the PlayStation Vita’s position as my go-to place for indie titles, as smaller titles and a mobile platform are a killer combo. As for third party support, it still isn’t great, but it’s getting better with Bethesda and Ubisoft working to port some of their biggest games over to the Switch. The only huge downside of the Switch’s lineup is that new exclusive games don’t drop that often, as the platform falls somewhere between the lacking Xbox One and overachieving PS4 in this area.
With plenty of great games and lots of variety, the Switch succeeds at being a console worth owning just for the 2-3 major exclusives that release every year. Nintendo follows the philosophy of “quality over quantity”, and if the games remain as great as they are, that’s a good thing.
The Grade: B+
Tip for soon-to-be Switch owners: While I could use this section to recommend some Switch games, the required lineup is basically the same for everyone: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. So, let’s look at something else: Gold Coins. I mentioned the Nintendo Tax in the introduction to the article, and while that is frustrating, the way Nintendo helps cover real-life tax is neat. Every game purchase entitles players to Gold Coins, and these coins can be used to help pay for things in the Nintendo E-shop. You could cover part of your purchase with these coins and eliminate the tax on games or put them towards some DLC for your favorite titles. Gold Coins are a cool thing that I had no idea about when I first got ahold of my Switch, and they make for a solid reward system.
The Nintendo Switch advertised itself as being a hybrid console, an idea that brought about plenty of criticism due to the mess that was the Wii U. People wanted the fan-favorite company to play it safe and release a traditional console, but... Nintendo’s gonna Nintendo. Fortunately, trying something new paid off this time, as the Switch’s gimmick of being both a home and mobile console is a great one. Honestly, I’m always blown away by how good Switch games looks whenever I play them on the go for the first time. It’s hard to notice any difference in graphical fidelity and gameplay quality, making the Switch a must-have for any gamers on the go. Being able to put up the kickstand and detach the joy-cons allows for an extra level of freedom that makes portable play even better. The Switch isn’t only strong on the go, however, as it makes a solid home console too. Once it’s set up, the dock for the Switch makes for a super simple way to transition to playing on your TV. Regardless of which way the Switch is used, it works incredibly well.
It’s a remarkably simple design, with the mobile form of the Switch basically being a tablet with controllers and the dock having the appearance of a random charging station, but that simplicity only makes it better. A solid home console and an excellent mobile platform, the Nintendo Switch works because of its unique selling point.
The Grade: A+
Tip for soon-to-be Switch owners: If you plan on taking the Nintendo Switch with you while you’re on the move, this bundle is a spectacular. The main case is compact and sturdy enough to keep your Switch protected, and the smaller cases for game cards fit perfectly inside. However, the real highlight is the GoPlay grip. It turns the entire Switch into a game controller and makes playing on the go just as comfortable as playing with a Pro controller. Speaking of, if you don’t mind a wired controller, the PowerA controllers feel just as good as the Pro controller while sporting some nice, themed designs and costing $45 less. If you’re looking for cheap ways to make playing games on your Switch more comfortable, this is the way to go.
The Online Functionality
Yeah... I had to get to this at some point. Even the biggest Nintendo fans agree that the company has an outdated view of online gaming, and that certainly shows with this console. Friend codes are still a thing, and they’re just as annoying as before. The lack of any kind of achievement system is odd, and the much-publicized situation about a mobile app being required for voice chat is just as bad as people made it out to be. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing of all, though, is that there isn’t even a basic messaging system.
It’s impossible to easily communicate with new people you meet online, as you’ll need to:
1.) Add them to your friends list and hope they accept with no explanation of who you are.
2.) Download the mobile app and invite them to chat, hoping they have it themselves.
3.) Exchange personal details through the app and plan out when/what you want to play together.
For those who don’t use this poorly designed voice chat app, there really is no way to communicate with people through the Switch. Players can’t talk to their friends/those they meet online and tell them something simple like “get online” without contacting them on a platform that isn’t the Nintendo Switch, and it’s incredibly inconvenient. The only things that make this online service even somewhat acceptable are the cheap price point ($20 a year) and the access to a sizable library of classic NES games.
The cheap asking price and access to some free NES games save the online service from being a complete misfire, but it still does its best to be as bad as possible. No messaging system or achievement system, an awful mobile app for voice chat and a reliance on friend codes that are impossible to memorize and share easily are issues that shouldn’t exist. They do, though, and Nintendo deserves all the complaints they get about the online service.
The Grade: D
Tip for soon-to-be Switch owners: Honestly, don’t even bother with downloading the mobile app for voice chat. If you’re already going to need to be on your phone to communicate, using something like Discord is a much better option.
The Battery Life and Storage Space
I combined these two aspects of the Switch because there’s not too much to say here. I can’t be strongly negative or positive on either, because both the battery life and starting storage space are the definition of average. The four hours of gameplay players can get from a fully charged Switch simply gets the job done, no more, no less. The same can be said about the 32 GB of internal storage that’s built-in to the Switch, as it gets the job done... but eventually you’ll run out of space much like you would with a basic 500 GB PS4 or Xbox One. The one thing I do appreciate about the way storage works on the Switch is that you aren’t forced to buy into memory cards like with the original PlayStation or the PlayStation Vita. If you prefer your games digitally, grabbing one will be necessary sooner or later, but if you only play physical copies the default storage space can essentially last you forever since games on game cards won’t take it up.
Having the ability to ignore memory cards is a nice bit of flexibility for fans of physical copies, but those who like having their games in a digital library as opposed to on a shelf won’t have that luxury. The storage space and battery life are both fine, but those who plan on downloading a bunch of games and playing on the go for long periods of time will benefit from a memory card and an extra wall charger.
The Grade: C+
Tip for soon-to-be Switch owners: Car chargers are available to help keep your Switch charged, as are separate wall chargers. I was quick to grab a wall charger myself, as unplugging the dock and moving around my setup every day would be too much of a nuisance. As for memory cards, remember that they stack on top of the 32 GB of internal storage that the Switch has. A 64 GB card would be plenty, so don’t go overboard!
The Final Grade
Is the Nintendo Switch the best console ever? No, of course it’s not. It’s not even a primary console due to the lack of third-party support and poor online functionality, and both the battery life and storage space could be better. Yet even with these flaws, the Nintendo Switch is a great place to play games, and I’ve loved my time with it so far. As someone who’s still in college and spends a huge amount of time on-campus and away from my main gaming setup, having so many awesome Nintendo games available to me wherever I am is incredible. The games look and play great both on the Switch’s screen and on a TV screen, with the console being as powerful as it needs to be to make Nintendo’s games look and feel great. The entire concept of easily being able to swap between different ways to play the Switch works brilliantly, as it really is as simple as Nintendo claimed it would be.
So no, the Nintendo Switch isn’t a primary console... but it is the perfect secondary one. Those who get the Switch only to play exclusives and indies won’t be disappointed, and anyone who needs a way to play games while on the move should look no further. By being such a well-made hybrid, the Nintendo Switch is the strongest handheld console ever, and with its ever-growing library of games, it’s also the best. If you have a PlayStation 4 and/or a PC to play the games that the Nintendo Switch can’t, this system is a must-buy.
FINAL GRADE: B
Thanks so much for reading! If you’ve been looking into getting a Switch, I hope this post helped you in some way. As for me, I know I’ve been inconsistent lately, but I’ll try to post more often going forward. See you then!