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The Wii U put Nintendo in a rough spot; it followed up Nintendo's best-selling home console by being their worst-selling one, and became the company’s biggest flop since the Virtual Boy. There were many reasons for this, but one of the more commonly cited ones was that its GamePad tablet controller failed to capture people's attention like the motion controls did for the Wii. However, most Wii U owners agreed that the GamePad had one good feature going for it: Off-TV Play. While games with second-screen featuresnote  didn't catch on, most games for the system did not require a television to be played, as they could be played on the GamePad screen. While this gave players the ability to enjoy their Wii U games even when a TV was unavailable, it lacked the versatility and flexibility of a true portable system since the GamePad was ultimately still tethered to the console.

Meanwhile, despite an initially slow and painful start, the 3DS had managed to maintain Nintendo's hold on the portable gaming market and keep them afloat. While not selling as well as the DS, it still defeated the PlayStation Vita in a Curb-Stomp Battle and proved that dedicated devices still had their place despite mobile phone games gaining dominance in the 2010s.

With their home console dying and their portable console... not necessarily thriving, but still doing far more than just surviving, Nintendo had a lot to think about going forward, especially since they had a third thing on their mind: bridging the gap between Eastern and Western players. In Japan, playing on-the-go is more popular, with dedicated handhelds and smartphone games dominating the region, while in the West, audiences would rather stay home and play on their home consoles and PCs. Naturally, this meant developers had no easy way to leverage both markets either; porting down games to handhelds was damn near impossible unless you deliberately targeted that lower-end hardware in mind, while porting up games to consoles would require reworking gameplay for form factors that lack a touch screen. And while you could make a game for both, the expense in doing so could be prohibitively expensive thanks to HD development rapidly increasing production costs; trying to keep up a steady stream of games for two disparate pieces of hardware was one of the reasons Sony struggled with the Vita, and even Nintendo was starting to feel the pain despite the 3DS outputting at a lower resolution than Sony's offering.

So, to summarize, Nintendo had:

  1. The Wii U as a poor-selling home console whose agreed-upon best aspect was when it didn't require a television to be used.
  2. The 3DS as a decent-selling portable system that retained Nintendo's crown as the uncontested ruler of handheld gaming.
  3. And a continued desire to cater to those wanted to play on-the-go and those who play at home, but keep costs down in a post-HD world.

Enter the Nintendo Switch.

The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo's seventh home gaming console which was released worldwide on March 3, 2017. The console was first announced in March 2015 by Satoru Iwata, just months before his death, as a means to quell rumors that Nintendo was exiting the console business after the failure of the Wii U and recently announced plans to start making smartphone games. It was given the codename "NX" and with the promise that it would be a "brand-new concept". After over a year of silence, rumors and speculation, on October 20, 2016, the console was officially revealed as a hybrid between a set-top console and a portable handheld, consisting of a tablet-like touchscreen monitor, a dock and two detachable controllers. Put the touchscreen monitor into the dock for TV play; remove it to switch it from a home console into a portable console. Nintendo initially claimed that the Switch would act as a "third pillar" to the Wii U and 3DS, only to then announce the Wii U's discontinuation not too long afterward.note 

The original 2017 Nintendo Switch comes with four components: the Switch itself, essentially a 6.2-inch touchscreen tablet; a TV dock which connects to an external display using HDMI and has several USB ports; and two "Joy-Con" controllers. All of these can be mixed-and-matched to the player's needs, resulting in a large variety of configurations.

  • The Switch has three modes of operation. It can be played in TV Mode if it is hooked up to its charging dock, with the Joy-Cons in your hands (either individually or while connected to a Grip to transform them into a standard controller). It can be played in Handheld Mode with the Joy-Cons attached to the sides of the tablet, functioning as a standard handheld console. And it can be played in Tabletop Mode by making use of an integrated kickstand: the tablet becomes its own portable monitor in these situations, and the Joy-Cons are detached. The Switch changes seamlessly between all three modes; you don't have to suspend play to pick the Switch up out of the dock, put it back in again, or attach and detach the controllers (fat-fingering a button during these procedures notwithstanding).
  • Joy-Cons use Bluetooth connectivity for all interaction, meaning there are no rules about where they need to be in relation to the Switch. You can play TV Mode with them attached to the tablet while it is in the dock (though this might make it difficult to see the TV screen); and the only real difference between Handheld mode and Tabletop mode is whether the Joy-Cons are attached to the tablet.
  • There is also a traditional "Pro Controller," very similar to the Xbox and DualShock controllers in design, which can be used in Tabletop and TV modes.
  • The Switch supports up to eight individual Joy-Cons and/or Pro Controllers. Joy-Cons each have a control stick, four face buttons and two shoulder buttons — the same buttons found on the old SNES controller. Though normally used vertically in pairs, any Joy-Con can be turned horizontally and used individuallynote , allowing some games to support up to eight players at a time.
  • Lastly, if you don't have a flat surface for Tabletop mode or a TV to plug the dock into, the Switch can form a local network with up to seven other Switches.

Like the DS and 3DS, the Switch stores physical copies of games on Game Cards, a proprietary type of ROM cartridge based on the SD Card (flash memory) format; continuing a tradition for handhelds, but breaking the three-generation streak of Nintendo's home consoles storing games on optical discs. As a result, the Switch is technically the first cartridge-based home console since the Nintendo 64 twenty-one years prior. It is also the first Nintendo home console system to be region-free, something Nintendo themselves noted during the Switch's launch presentation.

The Switch has another first in the form of introducing Nintendo's first paid online infrastructure. After online play being free for the first year-and-a-half of the console's life, Nintendo Switch Online was introduced in September 2018. For only US$20 a year (or US$35 for up to eight users via family membership), you can gain access to online play, cloud saves, exclusive games and avatars, and a downloadable library of NES and SNES titles playable via emulation. A higher paid tier known as the "Expansion Pack" was released in October 2021 where, for $50 a year ($80 for a family plan), users get additional access to Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, as well as the paid DLC of select games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for no extra charge. Finally, subscribing to NSO also gives access to exclusive items on Nintendo's online store, mainly wireless Bluetooth controllers for the individual retro systems granted by the service. In February 2023, Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles were made available to all subscribers while Game Boy Advance titles were made exclusive to the "Expansion Pack" tier.

Despite its low entry fee, NSO has been heavily criticized for its inconsistent utilization of cloud saves (some games with heavy multiplayer components like the Pokémon series lack the feature to prevent cheating), poor implementation of basic features such as voice chat (a separate phone app is required and it only works with friends), the drip-feed nature of the retro libraries (the various apps can sometimes go months on end without any new games being added, while also missing obvious first-party titles), and the infamously poor peer-to-peer netcode of games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that make users question what they're truly paying for. The Expansion Pack tier has its own share of controversy thanks to its steep price point, which puts it in the same cost ballpark as Sony and Microsoft's online services without comparable consumer value. Not helping is that the N64 app has seen several issues concerning emulation — most of which had been solved by unofficial, open-source N64 emulators years prior — with some titles initially running worse than they did on the Wii's Virtual Console, and a few even having quirks that can crash the app altogether. Speaking of quirks, a commonly criticized one of the hardware is "Joy-Con drift", where the Joy-Con control sticks start outputting inappropriate movement due to dust and debris entering its internals; the only real workaround is to either buy new Joy-Cons or send them in for free repair.note 

Regardless of these struggles, the Switch became an overnight success, selling 2.74 million units by the end of its first month (making it the best launch for any Nintendo system to-date). The console would outsell the Wii U's entire lifetime in less than a year, followed by the GameCube and Nintendo 64 the following year, the SNES in its third year, and the NES in its fourth. Nintendo themselves predicted before the system's launch that the Switch could sell as much as the Wii by the end of its life cycle, and the Switch did just that in its fifth year. As of December 2023, the Switch has sold 139 million units, making it the third highest selling console of all time behind the Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2. This overwhelming success carried over to their software, with nearly every Nintendo franchise that made an appearance on the system undergoing a giant Newbie Boom as they broke franchise records; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in particular would not only surpass the sales of past entries to become the best-selling games of their respective franchises by ridiculous margins, but also become among the Top 20 best-selling games of all-time, while games like Metroid Dread, Splatoon 2 and 3, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and 3, and Pikmin 4 all became the best-selling entries in their respective franchises.

One year after release Nintendo, would try to increase that success by innovating the system even further with Nintendo Labo, a series of DIY development kits for the Switch that consists of gaming software and cardboard cutouts that can be assembled into accessories called Toy-Cons. Releasing on April 20, 2018, the first sets were released: the "Variety Kit" and the "Robot Kit". The "Vehicle Kit" would be released in September and Labo "VR Kit" the following April.

On September 20, 2019, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch Lite, an entry-level, budget alternative to the original (costing $200USD vs. $300USD). The Lite foregoes the core feature of its older sibling, its hybrid nature, to serve purely as a handheld console. In addition to lacking TV-out, the controls are integrated with the system, so any games within the Switch library that require individual Joy-Con use, such as 1-2-Switch or Nintendo Switch Sports, require external Joy-Cons to be connected to the system; HD Rumble and the IR Camera are also removed, and the split D-pad is swapped out for a standard one, so those missing features also require external controllers. Alongside the Switch Lite, Nintendo also quietly released a revised version of the original Switch that incorporates a more power-efficient chipset, thus increasing battery life and reducing heat output, in addition to improved build quality to address physical Joy-Con issues present in some builds of the previous batches of the Switch.

On October 8, 2021, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch (OLED model), positioned as a $350USD premium option in the Nintendo Switch family. As the name suggests, this version of the system boasts a larger 7-inch OLED screen, a bigger kickstand, a magnesium alloy case, 64GB of built-in memory, and improved onboard speakers for better sound quality in handheld/tabletop mode. A revised dock released alongside the OLED model that has a dedicated wired LAN port in place of the USB 3.0 port of the previous revision; the original dock could only utilize a wired network connection via an USB-to-Ethernet adapter. The new dock can be used with previous models of the standard Switch; likewise, the Switch OLED model can also use the previous models' docks.

Oddly enough, while the Switch would inspire similar products, it didn't come in the form of their competitors in the console space, who have since settled into their own comfortable niches. Instead, the Switch would cause a boom in the PC gaming market of all places, with the growth of the handheld gaming PCs that are intended to create the same "home gaming to-go" experience. Steam is the most notable competitor, with their Steam Deck supporting the platform's impressive lineup of games, but other PC hardware companies — such as Lenovo with their Legion or ASUS with the ROG Ally — aren't too far behind.


Technical-specs

Processors

  • Powered by a NVIDIA Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip, chip number ODNX02-A2.
    • CPU: Octa-core, 4x ARM Cortex A57 + 4x ARM Cortex A53 using a proprietary core migration system devised by Nvidia, all cores run at 1.02GHz regardless of mode. The Switch has a 64 bit CPU with a 128 bit GPU bus. The system is capable of running both 32- and 64-bit software, with many ports from older systems such as the Wii U opting to run in 32-bit mode. Also, the system will only report 4 cores as each A57 core is “shadowed” by an A53 core and the scheduler on the SOC will decide which core to use based on workload.
    • GPU: Second-generation NVIDIA Maxwell with some ISA/CG backported from Pascal note , 256 CUDA cores, runs at 768MHz in console mode or 307.2MHz in handheld and tabletop modes. Can reclock its speed on the fly as the device switches between console and handheld/tabletop modes. Games can also force the GPU run at 768MHz.

Memory

  • 4GB of RAM provided by two 2GB Samsung LPDDR4 modules, uses HSA to share video and system memory. Low compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, but more than adequate when compared to a contemporary mainstream Android tablet or TV box. RAM operates at 1.6GHz in console mode and 1.33GHz in handheld/tabletop mode. The memory management unit has the capability of reclocking the RAM's speed on-the-fly as the device switches between console and handheld/tabletop mode. Games can also force the MMU run at 1.6GHz.
  • Internal storage is 32GB for Switch models with LCD screens (the 2017 and 2019 models, as well as the Switch Lite) and 64GB for the 2021 OLED model. Interestingly, this is mounted on a removable breakout board. The Switch also accepts MicroSDXC cards for storage expansion — which considering the aforementioned amount of storage, is quite necessary for anyone looking to go digital — with the maximum compatible card size said to be 2TB, and unlike the 3DS, do not need to be reformatted from exFAT to FAT32 to be usable, though they do require a small update.note  The card reader is UHS-I compliant, theoretically offering a maximum read speed of up to 95-104MB/s and a maximum write speed of up to 60-65MB/s.
  • Like the Nintendo DS and 3DS, it uses proprietary flash memory cartridges called "Game Cards". Unlike previous cards, these have dimensions very similar to those of a standard SD Card, and save files do not write onto the card, but into internal storage instead. The minimum storage capacity of these cartridges is 1GB and maximum is 32 GB. Multiple software applications (as in, separate titles in Switch menus) can be loaded onto a single card.note  However, due to manufacturing costs, very few publishers utilize the high end cards, and sizable games like Mortal Kombat 11 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus often come incomplete in lower capacity cards, forcing the player the download the rest of the data via online updates. Due to the cartridge's size presenting a possible choking hazard, Nintendo has each one sprayed with denatonium benzoate, the most bitter chemical compound known to exist, in order to make sure a child spits it out right away if they attempt to swallow it. Naturally, it became a brief trend among grown adults to lick the cartridges out of sheer curiosity.

Graphics

  • The console have a 1280x720 capacitive 10-point multi-touch screen, with size differing between models. The original V1 model and V2 revision have 6.2-inch LCD screens, the Lite has a 5.5-inch screen, and the OLED has a 7-inch screen.
  • When docked and connected to an external display, the system can output resolutions up to 1920x1080 or 1080p at 60hz. Some games render internally at lower resolutions and then upscale the video to 1080p when docked to keep frame rates high, while others use dynamic resolution scaling and adjust their render resolutions in real-time to keep frame rates smooth.

Connectivity

  • Dual-band 802.11-AC WiFi with 2T2R MIMO matrix for better reception.
  • Ethernet port (HEG-007 model dock only).
  • Bluetooth 4.1 for communication with the Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. The Switch originally had no native compatibility with Bluetooth headsets, with the feature being added in the Version 13.0.0 system update. Prior to this, USB and auxiliary Bluetooth adapters were the only option for wireless audio.
  • One USB Type C port. Can be charged while docked or while outside of the dock using any USB Type C compatible charger.note  Despite the official dock outputting HDMI for video, the USB Type C port uses USB 3.0 + 3-lane Display Port mode to interface the dock, a very common mode also supported by most laptop docks and some monitors that supports Type C ports. The Switch will behave as if it is connected to the official Dock when connected to a laptop dock with external display attached.
  • The dock contains 3 USB Type A ports: 2 2.0 ports on the outside of the dock and a 3.0 port on the inside (HAC-007 model dock only)note  with the USB-C AC in and HDMI output. These can be used to charge wireless controllers and connect wired controllers, as well as to use other accessories like USB Ethernet adapters.
  • When the Switch is docked, most standard and cordless USB devices are supported, such as keyboards and audio devices. USB mice are supported in handful of games, namely Fortnite and Game Builder Garage. Many of these accessories can also be used in portable mode as well if they support USB-C or by using a USB C-to-A adapter or hub.

Other

  • All variants of the console utilize active cooling systems not unlike those found on a standard laptop.
  • For the first time ever on a Nintendo home system, and for the first time on a Nintendo handheld system since the original Nintendo DS, games are region-free.
  • Powered by a 4310mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The 2017 V1 model and the Lite that can last from 2 to 6.5 hours on single charge, depending on the demands of a given game. The 2019 V2 model and 2021 OLED model sport a more power-efficient chipset, increasing battery life up to 4.5 to 9 hours. The OLED model's battery may also last slightly longer with certain games due to how OLED technology works with black lighting. The battery is not designed to be user-replaceable, though it can easily be accessed by removing the back cover.
  • The Joy-Con controllers have accelerometers and gyroscopes for motion control and HD Rumblenote  for more precise tactile feedback. The Joy-Con R has an NFC reader on the control stick for amiibo functionality, as well as an IR camera for tracking movement & distance, and recognizing shapes. Each has its own batteries which can be charged while attached to the console. Interestingly, the Joy-Cons use a standard Bluetooth HID profile and work with PCs (both Windows and Linux), Macs, and Android devices out of the box.
  • When the Switch is not docked, a kickstand in the back (which doubles as the cover for the SD card slot) can be opened to prop up the unit, and played with the Joy-Cons detached. This is referred to by Nintendo as "Tabletop mode". The V1 and V2 models have small kickstands, while the OLED model has a larger one that extends across the entire back of the system for better stability.
  • The Switch features a hard fork of the 3DS operating system, known internally as Horizon, with many components rewritten. The kernel is derived from the 3DS kernel, though some code from the FreeBSD kernelnote  was used according to the system software's licensing information. Nintendo also used some high-level libraries from Android such as the Stagefright multimedia framework, NFC library and cURL downloader library. Nonetheless, due to the kernel, the proprietary NVN API and the proprietary binary executable format, it is not capable of running Android apps, although due to the use of high-level Android libraries, porting is as simple as making some minor adjustments and recompiling the source code to target the Switch (which is probably Nintendo’s intention, to woo developers.)note  The console also makes use of the ARM TrustZone instead of a security coprocessor.
  • Unlike the Virtual Console of previous Nintendo systems, emulators for classic titles are made for entire systems — which take the form of the various Nintendo Switch Online apps — rather than each game being packaged with their own individualized emulator.
  • Parental Control settings.
  • The Switch retains the Miis introduced all the way back on the Wii and introduces new customization features. However they seem to be heavily Demoted to Extra - rather than being available forefront in the main menu, their tab is tucked in the back in the Settings menu, and there's no connectivity with Miis from the Wii U or the 3DS. The only way to transfer an old Mii is by having one stored on an amiibo figure.

Games:

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Arcade Archives

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Nintendo Switch Online

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    NES Games 
NOTE: Games with an asterisk (*) also have a "Special" version which start you near the end of the game, usually with the best equipment. A double asterisk (**) denotes games that have two separate "Special" versions.

    SNES Games 
NOTE: Games with an asterisk (*) also have a "Special" version which start you near the end of the game, usually with the best equipment.

    Game Boy/Game Boy Color Games 

Expansion Pack

    Nintendo 64 Games 

    Sega Genesis Games 

    Game Boy Advance Games 

Alternative Title(s): Switch

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