Nintendo Switch review: Pure fun on a big-screen TV or on the go

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16

The Good The Nintendo Switch is a versatile hybrid game console that easily pivots between a big-screen TV and on-the-go portable. The initially slim game library now includes a good mixture of must-have Nintendo franchise exclusives, indie titles and even some decent PC ports.

The Bad No Virtual Console (yet) means no access to decades worth of classic Nintendo games. The screen feels small during tabletop sessions. Online multiplayer requires matchmaking on a smartphone app, and Hulu is the only entertainment app.

The Bottom Line The unique TV-or-mobile gaming proposition of the Nintendo Switch is now matched by a stellar library of games, including instant-classics like new Zelda and Mario titles.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Ecosystem 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 9

Nintendo's modular console-handheld is over two years old now, and still one of our favorite gadgets on the planet. The game library is fantastic, and a newer version with even better battery life (at the same price) exists now that you should get -- just make sure you buy the right model. Nintendo also has the lower-priced portable-only Switch Lite, which is excellent if all you want is a handheld game experience... but for the TV and multiplayer versatility alone, we still recommend this larger-sized Switch first.

Editor's note: This review was updated Dec. 6, 2019 with an Editors' Choice award and the above paragraph reflecting Switch variations on the market. It was previously updated from its earlier March 2017 version to reflect the impressive expansion of the Switch's game library, with the rating raised from 3.5 stars to 4. Otherwise the original review follows below.

When Nintendo's Switch was first released, laying out $300 (£280, AU$470) plus another $60 (£60, AU$90) for a game -- the admittedly fantastic Zelda: Breath of the Wild -- seemed like a lot. But things have changed.

Since its debut in March 2017, the Nintendo Switch has shown that Nintendo is still willing to take risks to separate itself from the rest of the pack, and at the same time innovate in way that no one could really see coming. The Switch is a fantastic hybrid console that offers plenty of unique and compelling gaming experiences all while providing a solid amount of indie titles that seem perfect for the platform. Nintendo still needs to address its Virtual Console void but overall the Switch is already a winner.

Since its launch, the Switch's eShop has been continually populated with great indie titles that support its growing full-priced standard offerings. Breath of the Wild was an amazing launch title and remains a superb 100-hour endeavor. And it's since been joined by Super Mario Odyssey -- the platform's second must-have exclusive game in just eight months. Now players can also enjoy Mario Kart 8: Deluxe Edition, Splatoon 2, Arms and other Nintendo-only titles. For digital-only titles we really love Thumper, Cave Story, Wonder Boy, Shovel Knight and GoNNER. Those aren't Nintendo-only exclusives, nor are recent or imminent titles such as Rocket League, Doom, Skyrim and Wolfenstein II. But for many of them, it's the first time you'll be able to play them on a plane without lugging a giant gaming laptop with you. More titles are released most weeks.

Even better, the Switch is no longer impossible to track down. And Nintendo is offering a version bundled with Super Mario Odyssey and a portable case for $380. It's not a bargain, but it includes the game every new owner will definitely want at a fair price.

Switched on

The Switch's instant success can be attributed to Nintendo swinging for the fences: the Switch is a hybrid console, meaning it can be played on a TV at home or on the go as a handheld. The Joy-Con controllers make the Switch a veritable Transformer: keep them attached to the sides in tablet mode, slide them off and prop up the screen on a table to play one- or two-player games, or dock the Switch in its included charging cradle to play on your big-screen TV. The idea is that you'll get the same basic experience regardless of how you play.

The Nintendo Switch is a much more elegantly designed console from top to bottom, light-years ahead of the plastic goofiness of its spiritual predecessor, the GamePad on 2012's Wii U. It feels solid in its construction -- expensive, even -- and demonstrates a mature refinement throughout. Even the operating system is clean and fast -- a stark contrast compared to what the Wii U ran on.

Just looking at the Switch's primary focus of being a practical home-and-on-the-go console, the Switch definitely nails it. There is something awesome about taking a huge game like Zelda -- or Skyrim or L.A. Noire -- with you wherever you go. It is perfect for my train commute to work, and it works well on a plane, too. And while battery life is far from marathon levels, there are solid options for charging the Switch when an outlet isn't available. Out of all the portable solutions I tested, the RavPower Power Bank became my go-to device. Its high capacity battery actually charged the Switch as opposed to slowing down battery drain.

At this point there are plenty of games to enjoy on the platform, all for varying prices. But if you're looking for entertainment beyond games you're mostly out of luck. But Hulu was unexpectedly added for US Switch owners in November, so maybe the likes of Netflix and Amazon may eventually follow.

But the bigger annoyance on the Switch is the curious dearth of retro gaming titles. A lot of work needs to be done in the Virtual Console department. Nintendo hasn't detailed how or when it will be migrating to the Switch. Whether or not any of the digital Virtual Console games you've purchased on previous Nintendo hardware will work on the Switch is also a mystery. But Wii, Wii U discs and 3DS ($138 at Amazon) game cartridges definitely don't work here.