Nintendo Switch Buying Guide For 2020: Consoles, Games, And More

So you're looking to buy a Nintendo Switch, either for yourself or as a gift--here's what you should know.

Although much of the video game hype this year is around a pair of next-generation consoles, being able to play any kind of video game on a Nintendo Switch is still more than enough for us right now. The Switch thrives because of its versatility in both genre and content (we're finally getting a slew of M-rated titles on a Nintendo device, though families can set parental controls to filter that stuff for their kids). You can play for long stretches on your TV with the Joy-Con or Switch Pro Controller, or you can enjoy your favorite Nintendo Switch game on the go in handheld mode, and you even get motion controls that improve on the fidelity of the Wii Remote's. Multiplayer games, single-player games--they all play beautifully on Nintendo's hybrid device, even if some titles don't run as well as they do on other consoles. We're more than willing to give up graphical fidelity (and occasionally the lack of a robust online multiplayer experience) for the sake of convenience.

The Switch's Game Boy-like ability to play modern, traditionally console games on a handheld is probably the most appealing thing about it. The second-most appealing? The wide variety of Nintendo Switch accessories. From outstanding controllers and nifty cases to charging stands and more, the Switch has a slew of gadgets that enhance any Nintendo Switch game and, at times, change the game entirely.

The major downside, of course, is the fact that the Nintendo Switch is still hard to find in stock due to COVID-19-related production issues and higher demand in general due to the pandemic and the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Right now, the Switch is either unavailable or being sold way above MSRP by third-party sellers on sites like Amazon and Walmart. Occasionally, you'll find it bundled with other games or accessories for the exact value of everything included--GameStop has been offering these bundles quite often--and every so often, we'll spot the Switch in stock for $300 online, only to watch it sell out within minutes. We're currently tracking where to buy a Switch and updating our story with links whenever we spot the console in stock, but in general, your best bet right now is to buy the Nintendo Switch Lite instead. It's been much easier to find lately, although certain colors (like the new Coral shade) have still sold out.

If you have been lucky enough to buy a Nintendo Switch recently, you might be wondering what games and accessories you need to pick up to enhance your experience. In this Nintendo switch buying guide, we cover the best games and accessories and explain the system's different versions and models in case you're unfamiliar. Whether you're looking for a better Switch controller, a grip case to make handheld play more comfortable, or just want the best place to find a cheap SD card, we've got recommendations. Plus, be sure to check out this month's best Nintendo Switch deals in case anything is on sale.

Nintendo Switch console options

Nintendo Switch with better battery life | $300

The new Nintendo Switch model has a longer battery life.
The new Nintendo Switch model has a longer battery life.

If you're looking to buy a Nintendo Switch, here's what you should know: the base Nintendo Switch model was replaced last year with a new version that features an improved battery for longer portable gaming sessions. The original Switch has a battery life of about 2.5 to 6 hours after charging fully, while the new model features an increase to 4.5 to 9 hours. Of course, battery life depends on what game you're playing.

SpecificationsSwitch (Original)Switch (New)
Screen Size6.2 inches6.2 inches
Resolution720p undocked720p undocked
Dimensions (H x W x D)4" x 9.4" x 0.55"4" x 9.4" x 0.55"
Weight0.88 lbs / 399 g0.88 lbs / 399 g
Battery Life Range2.5 - 6.5 hours4.5 - 9 hours

Make sure you're getting the new, improved model by looking at the packaging. The new Switch model has a bright red background with a TV on the right side (shown above), while the old model has a white background with a TV on the left side. The serial numbers are also slightly different: The new Switch model's serial numbers start with "XKW," and the old model's start with "XAW." Read our FAQ guide to the new Switch model for more information.

Some important things to note: the Nintendo Switch can be played handheld, but you can also slide it into the included Switch dock and output to a TV. The Joy-Cons can also be removed from the sides of the Switch's screen and used in multiplayer situations. These are unique features that the new Switch Lite lacks, so please take that into consideration when making your decision.

The regular Switch console has been chronically sold out as of late, but it tends to pop up for a few moments every once in a while. Make sure to check out our Nintendo Switch availability guide to stay up-to-date on whether the console is in stock.

Nintendo Switch Lite | $200

The Nintendo Switch Lite is available in four different colors.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is available in four different colors.

If you're only interested in playing the Switch in handheld mode, then the Nintendo Switch Lite is for you--plus, it's much easier to find the Switch Lite in stock these days. Smaller, lighter, and easier to hold, this Switch console excels on the go--as do many of the platform's games. It comes in four different colors--Turquoise, Yellow, Grey, and (most recently) Coral.

SpecificationsSwitch Lite
Screen Size5.5 inches
Dimensions (H x W x D)3.6" x 8.2" x 0.55"
Weight0.61 lbs / 277 g
Battery Life Range3-7 hours

While the more portable Switch Lite is appealing, there are some downsides you need to consider before purchasing this Nintendo console. The first is the lack of TV output--you won't be able to slide this into a dock and play on a TV. Although the Switch Lite replaces the left-hand directional buttons with a proper D-pad (making it better for a fighting game like Pokken Tournament DX or puzzle game like Tetris 99), it also lacks removable Joy-Cons and motion controls, a built-in stand, and other features like the IR sensor and HD rumble. That means if you play a Nintendo Switch game that doesn't support handheld mode--like Super Mario Party and 1-2-Switch--then you'll need to buy more controllers and use an extra accessory to stand it up. But those are rare exceptions, and for the most part, the Lite can play any Nintendo Switch game.

The positives, however, include the addition of a proper D-pad, which is great for games like Super Mario Maker 2 and many more. The smaller form factor also makes for a more comfortable handheld experience, so if that's how you prefer to play, the Switch Lite may be a better fit for you. And of course, the smaller price tag is a huge plus as well, making it tempting to get a Switch Lite even if you're a regular Switch owner.

You can learn much more about Nintendo's new handheld in our overview of all the Switch Lite's pros and cons.

The best Nintendo Switch games

The Nintendo Switch has received some fantastic games since its release.
The Nintendo Switch has received some fantastic games since its release.

There are tons of fantastic Switch games, from first-year big hitters like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Super Mario Odyssey to newer favorites like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Pokemon Sword and Shield. Along with single-player games, we have some multiplayer games, too, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. Now that we're three years in, there's an army of Switch games waiting to be played. There are also a number of suped-up Wii U ports that are incredible games in their own right. Also, make sure to check out the official Nintendo Eshop for tons of digital games and deals.

See our full list of the best Nintendo Switch games to play for more ideas on which games to grab next and check out just a few of our picks below.

The best Nintendo Switch accessories

The Nintendo Switch has no shortage of useful accessories.
The Nintendo Switch has no shortage of useful accessories.

The Nintendo Switch is one of the most versatile consoles on the market, with a slew of accessories that can change up and improve your experience. From wireless headset and battery pack to microSD card or Amiibo, there's no shortage of Switch accessories out there. Depending on how you use your Switch--for example, whether you leave it docked or take it on the go--you'll need different accessories to suit your needs. We especially recommend picking up a Pro Controller or two for those Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sessions as well as an extra USB-C to USB-A cable since the Switch and many of its accessories run on USB-C. Nintendo Switch Online is another must if you're hoping to play online--the service also gets you access to Nintendo's library of NES and SNES classics.

Check out our updated list of the best Nintendo Switch accessories for 2020, as we have a big list of recommendations for carrying cases, controllers, and more.

The best Nintendo Switch controllers

The Nintendo Switch is compatible with a variety of different controllers.
The Nintendo Switch is compatible with a variety of different controllers.

The Nintendo Switch comes with a grip that, when paired with your detachable Joy-Cons, can be used as a controller when not playing in handheld mode. This controller works just fine, but there are much better devices out there--especially if you have bigger hands. The most obvious option is Nintendo's own Pro Controller, which is a fantastic pad with improved analog sticks, ergonomics, and a D-pad. However, it does come with a hefty price tag, and there are a variety of awesome alternatives to choose from, especially if you're looking to stock up for local multiplayer games.

There are controllers that work for every kind of experience you can have with Switch games, including retro games, new releases, action-packed romps, easy-going adventures, and everything in between. Controllers that emulate the classic consoles you remember (like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis), an adapter that lets you play with PS4 and Xbox One pads, and those that let you customize your inputs are among some of the best ones we've tested.

See our full breakdown of the best Nintendo Switch controllers we've used, from the first-party Pro Controller to more affordable alternative and retro-inspired gamepads.

The best Nintendo Switch grips

A Nintendo Switch grip case can completely transform your handheld experience.
A Nintendo Switch grip case can completely transform your handheld experience.

The long, flat Switch might make your hands cramp if you play for long periods of time. But thankfully, there's a solution to that. Grip cases add a little something to grab onto, turning your Switch into something that more closely resembles a controller with a screen than a Nintendo-designed handheld. There's no shortage of Switch grip cases available online, and not all of them are winners. Luckily, there are a couple of grips that we highly recommend if you find handheld play uncomfortable.

Read more about the best Nintendo Switch grip cases we own and recommend for more info.

The best Nintendo Switch carrying cases

Having a case for safely transporting your Nintendo Switch is crucial.
Having a case for safely transporting your Nintendo Switch is crucial.

One of the first accessories you'll probably want to buy after getting a Nintendo Switch is a carrying case to safely transport the console, which has a large screen that's vulnerable to cracks. Some Switch grips, like the Satisfye and Skull & Co grips mentioned above, actually have bundle options that include a case that'll fit the console and the grip. However, there are plenty of other carrying case options that are more compact and come in a variety of designs. And since the launch of the Nintendo Switch Lite, there are quite a few carrying cases made for that model as well.

See our complete guide to the best Nintendo Switch carrying cases, from hard-shell cases and grips to messenger bags and more protective accessories for traveling with your Switch.

The best Nintendo Switch screen protectors

A Nintendo Switch screen protector will keep your screen looking brand-new for years.
A Nintendo Switch screen protector will keep your screen looking brand-new for years.

Of course, if you care at all about protecting your Nintendo Switch, getting a screen protector is the most basic thing you can do to protect your Switch screen. As a console that's often moved in and out of the dock and transported outside of the house, the Nintendo Switch is vulnerable to scratches, and a screen protector will help you keep that valuable screen looking brand-new.

For more suggestions on the best Nintendo Switch screen protector options, see our complete guide on the subject, including what you should know about tempered glass versus plastic screen protectors.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

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