“Is the Nintendo Switch worth it?” is a question that many have wondered since the system was made available last year. Throughout this piece, I’m going to highlight the issues I’ve encountered with my own Switch. However, admitting my dissatisfaction doesn’t come easily, and it requires some background. If you’re looking for a concise list of reasons why the Switch isn’t worth it, please scroll down to the “tl;dr” section at the end!
I’ve always been passionate about video games. My first console was a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), which I received for my fifth Christmas. Before then, I would gleefully sneak into my elder brother’s room to play his Sega Megadrive or ZX Spectrum. Whenever I could visit my richer cousins, who owned a PlayStation, I’d wait as long as necessary for a short turn on Destruction Derby.
I quickly grew loyal to Nintendo. Long drives to and from holidays became prisons without the embrace of a Game Boy. My SNES still works to this day, despite it having dropped innumerable times to the floor (and occasionally down the stairs). The N64 seemed like a conduit to infinitely detailed open-worlds, though the GameCube improved on its formula in every way. A new bar was set for innovation when the Wii hit the shelves. Eventually, aside from its technical achievements, it also built up a game library as strong as any other.
So where did it all go wrong? For me, chinks started to appear in Nintendo’s armour with the release of the Wii U. It’s as if they didn’t think “Wii” was ridiculous enough. Retrospectively, it was little more than an overwrought expansion on its predecessor. At least, under that light, it featured backwards compatibility — the ability to play games from previous consoles*. The truth is that the Wii U needed it. Besides a couple of standout titles (mostly sequels), it was a system that barely justified its own existence.
I was willing to put the missteps of the Wii U to one side. Perhaps, I once thought, the pressures of following up the Wii were too much. With the announcement of the Switch, my childhood fascination returned. Positive reviews rolled in, usually claiming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to be an essential masterpiece. Having completed every game in the Mario series, I was particularly enticed by Super Mario Odyssey. So, in a nostalgic nod to my five-year-old self, I soon asked my entire family to get me a Switch for 2017’s Christmas.
Though the question, “Is the Nintendo Switch worth it?” never occurred to me, an initial worry took hold when selecting games to play on Christmas Day. Super Mario Odyssey was a must, owing to my lifelong obsession, but I also wanted a multiplayer stalwart. I reasoned that something like Mario Kart would be a great way to shoehorn my new present into our annual Boxing Day gathering. Every Nintendo console, except the NES, has its own version of Mario Kart. Even the Wii U had Mario Kart 8 — probably the best title in the franchise. Why, then, does the Switch only offer a “Deluxe” re-release?
Sure, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe incorporates sixteen DLC tracks, a new “Battle Mode” and some other specifics, but the overall message is loud and clear: “Fuck you, pay us twice and learn to like it”. What if you’d already bought the DLC tracks on the Wii U? With base games costing fifty quid (and god knows how many dollars) each, you’d have to pay well over £100 for the privilege of playing an essentially identical experience on two different consoles. As one final slap in the face, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might as well be called Mario Kart 8 Ruined — its double-item politics remove much of the game’s tension, and its AI racers are hardly capable of challenging a child.
Having such concerns before I’d even touched a Switch surprised me. Sadly, getting my hands around one did nothing for my disappointment. When just setting it up for use, I shrugged off how annoyingly cumbersome it is to plug a HDMI cable into its dock. Now, after repeatedly transporting my Switch to and from other homes, it’s become too frustrating to ignore. Like its in-built stand, which can only be popped out with a machete**, it’s a design flaw that pales in comparison to bigger crimes.
Nintendo’s eShop has always been lacking in design and usability, especially when compared to Steam or the PlayStation Store. I didn’t expect, or care about, anything better, but I did expect it to work. For hours, a variety of error messages kept me from buying any new games. When I finally reached their list, its limitations shocked me. A wealth of acclaimed indie releases fill its every corner, each of them ports that worked better in their original environments. Titles like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pepper an overstuffed list of obscure darlings, but they’re simply not enough.
With Doom, L.A. Noire and more finding their way onto the Switch, it is possible to have a fully-fledged, adult gameplay experience, but déjà vu follows your every move. We’ve played these games before. We’ve explored them fully, and our PlayStations and Xboxes rewarded us with trophies or achievements. To add insult to injury, the Switch’s memory capacity can only hold approximately four games if you don’t want to pay for, and mess around with, an SD card.
It was foolish of me not to research this ahead of purchase, but I was furious to discover that the Switch has less features than my alarm clock. It’s true that we’ve been spoiled to demand the inclusion of browsers, TV streaming apps and media players. Nintendo have never liked to play your music, or DVDs, but they’ve always done rather well in other areas. For all of the Wii U’s shortcomings, it could almost function as a rudimentary laptop. The Switch jettisons practically everything. Unless you use Hulu***, you’re fucked.
I could understand the stubborn focus on gaming if Nintendo provided the actual games to match. Super Mario Odyssey is among the console’s most lauded titles, and it’s so average that it’s painful. In twenty-three years of Mario super-fandom, I’ve never been anything less than amazed by the series. Collecting Super Mario Odyssey‘s arbitrary moons was a draining slog, and I can’t recommend it. I dare anyone who has played it to look me in the eye and tell me it was as fun, inventive or challenging as they’d hoped.
Bad, uninspired and lazy game design, Nintendo.
Come on lads, you’re better than this. pic.twitter.com/cRuH0X1qSO
— Lee Tyrrell (@GreenT128) January 24, 2018
I recorded the video included in the embedded tweet above with the Switch’s capture button. This function is about as useful as a third nipple. Capable of saving very short videos, or screenshots, and posting them to social media, I’ve had to go out of my way to utilise it. It won’t allow you to crop your images, or trim the lengths of your videos. The only way you can do either of those things is to post to Twitter, save to your computer from Twitter, frantically delete the tweet, apply the edits yourself and re-post. The capture button is an obligatory afterthought, tacked on lazily because the PS4 beat them to the punch.
Otherwise, the design of the Switch’s controllers is anything but lazy, and would remain a positive if it weren’t for one important problem: my left analogue stick has acquired a mind of its own. Calibrating it makes no difference, so Mario walks off in listless directions and my Rocket League car swerves left at the least appropriate moments. My SNES controller would likely still work after a nuclear holocaust. Analogue stick technology may be more intricate, but I still have old PlayStation pads that have survived Pepsi spills, intense Bishi Bashi Special sessions and being used as weapons.
Whatever condition your controllers are in, they’re going to suffer severe input lag when playing the Switch docked. Input lag is a noticeable delay between a button press and its in-game action. I wasn’t even aware that input lag existed until I tried to play my Switch while laid on my sofa — a coffee cup between my controller and the console was enough to confuse the signal.
The fragility of the Switch’s controllers is an example of how delicate the unit is as a whole. Its screen, while genuinely impressive, is incredibly susceptible to scratches. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy a ludicrous “dock sock” to help prevent any harm. It seems, again, that Nintendo would rather that you spend money on peripheral items than solve the problem themselves.
What about those cool ads and trailers, where everyone plays a Switch during a break from basketball practice? Click below for some abject bullshit from Nintendo’s marketing overlords:
There are several reasons why the above scenario is a fallacy. Most relevant to this article is the size of the screen. All potential buyers should know that the screen, while absolutely adequate for a lone player, lends itself shamefully to multiplayer games. Two players have to cuddle up, shoulder to shoulder and no more than twenty inches from the action, for a view that approaches acceptable. Once you’re in position and ready to go, prepare to hear the insufferable whines of your friend as they try to adapt to the tiniest controllers ever produced.
In my experience, it’s been difficult to even get that far. Maybe it’s my associates, but nobody seems glad to see a Switch pulled out. At best, I’ve encountered a five-minute grace period of intrigue before the novelty wore thin. In fairness, that’s not exactly Nintendo’s fault.
I don’t doubt Nintendo’s sincerity in their concept. On paper, the Switch is compelling and exciting. Where it drops the ball is in its rushed execution. It brings me great pain to say, but the console feels unfinished. I’ll never again be keen to leap into their future products, which defies a lifetime of blind adoration. They’re not helping matters with crap ideas like Labo either.
I could extol the virtues of every other Nintendo console for a frighteningly long time. I’ve owned them all at some point, and shovelled huge chunks of my life into each of them. When it comes to the Switch, I find it hard to list any qualities that aren’t undermined somehow. Therefore, I’m putting an end to my devotion to Nintendo for good. It hurts, and it feels like the end of an era, but I’m sure their gargantuan sales will see them through.
Is the Nintendo Switch worth it? Not in my opinion. I know that many out there agree, and I hope my words articulate our shared criticisms. To those who haven’t tried a Switch yet, I can’t dictate your perspective. All I ask is that you trust my thoughts as the tragic disillusion of a genuine fan.
- Controllers break easily.
- Severe input lag when played in docked mode.
- Terrible game library.
- Woefully lacking apps, browsers and other features.
- Overrun with overpriced remakes and ports.
- No backwards compatibility.
- Laughable memory capacity for downloaded games.
- Delicate in the extreme.
- Saving gameplay videos is so limited that it’s utterly pointless.
- Glitchy eShop that stopped me from buying a game on Christmas Day for five hours.
- Inadvisable to transport (one of its main intended functions) without paying for a “dock sock”.
- Frustratingly difficult to insert a HDMI cable into its dock.
- You have to shove a machete into the bottom of the console in order to use its in-built stand.
- Nobody actually wants to the play on a Nintendo Switch in the middle of basketball practice.
- Super Mario Odyssey.
*I understand the reasons why the Switch isn’t backwards compatible (discs and handhelds don’t tend to gel well). The issue is merely a pet peeve of mine. The PlayStation 3 is capable of playing PlayStation games, with certain models being able to load PlayStation 2 games too. This should have set a precedent instead of being the exception that proves the rule.
**There’s a knack to it of course, but you’ll have to put a few scratches into the back of your Switch before you stumble onto it.
***You probably don’t.