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Six Month Review: The Nintendo Switch Delivered On Its Lofty Promises

The Nintendo Switch came out earlier this year and the hardware looked great, but a few questions still lingered in the air. Would it have enough games to be worth it? Are you really going to play Mario Kart on your picturesque rooftop? After more than six months we’re taking a look back to see how the Switch holds up.

Are There Any Games For It?

When the Switch first came out, it had Breath of the Wild and…that was pretty much it. Since release, however, we’ve seen a ton of games come to the Switch. Splatoon 2, Arms, Mario + Rabbids, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe have given the Switch periodic boosts until Nintendo’s next  major landmark game, Mario Odyssey drops.

Mario Kart 8 is worth talking about on its own because technically it came out on the Wii U first. It might seem weird to count it as a Switch release, but it highlights a major benefit of the Switch. While the Wii was popular enough to end up in 100 million homes, the Wii U never touched that number. For everyone besides the most die-hard Nintendo fans, every re-release and Deluxe version of a game is effectively a new release for Switch fans. This includes Minecraft, Lego City: Undercover, and more.

The steady stream of new (or new-to-you) games for the Switch has made sure owners stay entertained. There may not be a major tentpole game every single month, but the games it does drop are good enough that you don’t get bored. Nintendo has cranked out enough good games to make the console worthwhile in its first year alone.

Does It Really Work As a Portable Console?

The idea of using your living room console as a portable handheld seems iffy on its face. Surely, you think, there have to be some sacrifices somewhere. While it’s a delicate balancing act, the Switch manages to stand daintily on the edge of that knife. Though, as you’d expect standing on a knife, there’s a little bit of pain along the way.

The portability gives certain games a whole new dimension. For example, Stardew Valley recently dropped for the Switch. While I’d never played it on the PC, I decided to check it out on my Switch. The slow-paced, casual nature of the game meant I could pick it up and play for a few minutes here and there. I’ve spent more time on Stardew Valley sitting in bed or on the couch than I have with the console connected to the TV.

The Switch is a delightful personal handheld.

It’s impressive how little is lost by taking your games on the go. The 720p screen on the Switch seems like it shouldn’t hold up when I’ve got a 4K TV in my living room, but it’s surprisingly good-looking. Colors pop well and the detail that’s lost is minimal. I might not see every blade of grass in Breath of the Wild, but I hardly care as I play from my hotel room or on a long car trip.

Put simply, the Switch is a delightful personal handheld. The screen looks great on its own, it’s light enough to use for long periods of time without wearing out your wrists, and some games just lend themselves more to playing on the go. Having the option to sit on the couch and play games for hours, or to take your game out somewhere never gets old.

Will All the Cool Kids Come to My Rooftop Switch Party?

The first Switch ads made a preposterous claim. You and your friends, it said boldly, will all play your Switches together everywhere. In the living room, on airplanes, on roof tops, on the basketball court, at the gym, everywhere. Well, in my experience, that’s turned out to be at least 80% correct.

In the time since I bought my Switch, I’ve played Breath of the Wild at a bar (admittedly, a bar that’s super into gaming), Mario Kart 8 at a party, Lego Worlds on an airplane, and Stardew Valley on my couch. I expected to play games on my own with a portable console, but I was surprised by how easy it was to get other people to play with me.

Mario Kart in particular is the perfect use case for the Switch. You see, Mario Kart is a party game. When you show up with Mario Kart, it becomes the party. It’s quick, it’s competitive, it doesn’t require a ton of setup or experience, and players can swap in or out whenever they’ve had enough of getting hit with shells. The dock is even simple enough that it’s possible to take it with you to a party you’re not hosting if you want to play on a TV. Just plug in a power cable, HDMI cable, and you’re done. You may not want to ask to bring your Switch to a bridal shower, but for a Friday night get together, it’s pretty easy.

The one major downside to sharing the Switch is the controllers. A Joy-Con in each hand is comfortable enough, but they’re designed so that you can use each half of a Joy-Con as a full controller if necessary. Unless you have small hands, this is pretty uncomfortable. Several members of our staff tried to play a Mario Kart tournament together and most of the grown adults in the room couldn’t handle more than a few races before our hands started to cramp up. It was an effective way to enforce taking turns, but it did sour the experience.

Is the Switch Worth It?

It’s rare that a product lives up to its advertising, but the Switch does its best to pull off the feat. While there are some annoyances we could pick at—we’re still waiting to hear about the Virtual Console, and the controllers are a little small for example—it’s still made a place for itself. I find myself wishing that more games were on the Switch so I can play them anywhere, not just in my living room.

If you like Nintendo games and spend a lot of time away from home wishing you could play, you’ll love the Switch.

It manages to be an excellent portable console while still feeling right at home in the living room. It can’t rival the Xbox or PS4 in terms of pixel-pumping AAA graphics, and it lacks many of the third-party titles that those consoles offer, but the games it does have never have to leave your side.

Eric Ravenscraft Eric Ravenscraft
Eric Ravenscraft has nearly a decade of writing experience in the technology industry. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, PCMag, The Daily Beast, Geek and Sundry, and The Inventory. Read Full Bio »