The Nintendo Switch is in a class of its own when it comes to gaming. The handheld gaming console is small enough to fit in a bag, but powerful enough to run classic and action-packed games like the Mario Bros. franchise and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
First released in 2017 as a standalone console for gaming at home and on the go, the Nintendo Switch now has a universe of its own with gear and accessories tailored to its unique design.
Below, we break down everything you need to make the most of your Nintendo Switch gaming experience. We also share the best accessories and games for beginners and experienced gamers alike.
SKIP AHEAD Everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch | What is the Nintendo Switch? | Which Nintendo Switch model should you buy? | The best Nintendo Switch accessories | The best Nintendo Switch games
Everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch
To put together this guide, we spoke to three gaming experts for their insight, and game and gear recommendations. I’m also a longtime player of the Nintendo Switch myself, having been drawn in by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when it was first released in 2017. I’ve since expanded my gaming to roguelikes (games where you repeatedly attempt the same playthrough while gaining experience and skills each time), social simulations and puzzles.
What is the Nintendo Switch?
The Nintendo Switch is a gaming console that you play two ways: on its own in handheld mode or you can dock it and hook it up to a TV. The Switch runs on Nintendo’s proprietary operating system, which manages the memory, security and networking (among other features). It’s WiFi-enabled so you can connect to Nintendo’s eShop, through which you can buy and download digital games, but you don’t need WiFi to play games.
Which Nintendo Switch model should you buy?
There are three versions of the Nintendo Switch. The best one to buy depends on where you plan to use it and what kind of features you prefer.
The original Nintendo Switch offers three types of gaming: handheld, tabletop (thanks to a kickstand) and on the TV (via the included HDMI cord). It has a 6.2-inch screen and comes with removable joy-cons (controllers). You can also play local co-op, meaning you can link your system to other friends’ Switches and game together.
This is effectively the same as the Nintendo Switch, but with a larger, 7-inch OLED screen and enhanced audio in handheld and tabletop mode. If you tend to play in TV mode, then it might not be worth the upgrade — since you won’t enjoy those benefits while playing on a TV.
This is more compact and lightweight, and is intended for handheld mode only. Unlike the other models, you can’t play local co-ops (although it still has a wireless option) and there are no removable joy-cons or separate grips. It comes in five colors: yellow, blue, gray, turquoise and coral.
The best accessories for the Nintendo Switch
Below, we curated top-rated games and accessories you can buy for your Nintendo Switch. Every item on this list is either directly recommended from one of our experts or is a game or accessory that we’ve played ourselves.
A thin, yet sturdy screen cover can protect the screen from scratches and dings. (Note that different Nintendo Switch models require different screen-protector sizes.) “Much like a screen protector for a phone, [this is] a good idea to reduce damage to the screen if dropped,” says Justin Masson, a co-host on the podcast Nintendo Dads who’s been playing various Nintendo consoles for 35 years (and the Switch since its debut). It comes with wet wipes, a cleaning cloth and a squeeze card for easy installation.
In my experience, this Nintendo Switch case is just the right size. It’s big enough to house the Nintendo Switch charger and dock (along with the actual Switch) and has enough space to pack all of my cartridges, but still fits into a backpack. I took it on a 10-hour flight, and like that the hard shell keeps everything safe. It has a built-in stand, a padded screen protector and cases for both game cartridges and microSD cards.
When I want to take my Switch for a short trip — where I know I do not need all the bells and whistles — I reach for this smaller Nintendo Switch case, which has a slim profile and lightweight feel. (It’s also licensed by Nintendo specifically for the Switch.) It’s big enough to protect the screen while still fitting into my purse, and comes with a game card case and a case for a microSD card.
Jon Downey, host of the podcast SpawnCast, which covers Xbox, Nintendo, Playstation and PC gaming, who’s been gaming for 30 years and has played the Nintendo Switch since it was first released in 2017, says that memory cards are a must-have. “While you can play most games from the cartridges you get when you buy a game at the store, some titles are only available digitally and can fill up your internal storage fast,” he says. Masson also considers this particular memory card essential; it offers an additional 256 gigabytes of storage.
Masson likes this headset for its great microphone, and says it’s comfortable on the head and ears. Plus, it’s easy to connect: “The wireless dongle can be connected to both the Nintendo Switch dock and plugged into the bottom of the Nintendo Switch handheld for a wireless experience,” he says. It also has 24 hours of battery life on a full charge, according to the brand.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is a worthwhile upgrade if you’re gaming frequently. “Joy-cons are great controllers to use, but if you are looking for a larger, more traditional controller, this is the perfect solution,” says Masson. “It includes motion controls, HD rumble and amiibo functionality.” (Rumble refers to the vibrations that line up with the game and amiibos are action figures that connect to games.)
Dr. Vela likes to have extra joy-cons on hand, since some party games allow for many players. That way, you’re not stuck passing around a single joy-con to everyone. “Plus, joy-cons come in a variety of colors and skins, so you can find ones that fit your personality,” he says.
“The Switch can cause some hand cramping in handheld mode for people with medium to large hands,” says Downey, who likes this brand in particular. “A grip can work to add better ergonomics to the system.” This one is compatible with the Switch and Switch OLED, and is easy to use (just slide the console into it), according to the brand. It has silicone tabs and bumpers that hold it in place, and is designed to maintain airflow to keep the console cool, according to the brand.
The best games to play on the Nintendo Switch
With more than 50 million units sold as of 2023 (it was released in 2017), Mario Kart 8 is the bestselling game in the Mario Bros. franchise. And for good reason: Masson likes the different racetracks (which include tracks from previous games), as well as the option to play in battle mode, versus simply racing through a course.
The game that sold me on the Nintendo Switch, Breath of the Wild is an open-world masterpiece. (Masson calls it “boundary-breaking.”) The kingdom of Hyrule offers vast fields, forests, deserts and even a volcano filled with enemies and charming NPCs (non-playable characters) alike. In it, you can fight your way through four major bosses to get to the final Ganon, or become a virtual errand-runner for everyone you encounter and enjoy the playthrough for as long as possible. (I also love its sequel The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which dropped this year, but it’s worth playing this one first.)
My husband and I started playing this roguelike — a game genre that requires starting from the beginning every time you die, unlocking new abilities and skills with each attempt — over the holidays a few years ago. My brother-in-law joined in, followed by the rest of my family, who couldn’t get enough of the poignant storyline and fun mechanics. You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, and battle your way to escape the various levels of the Underworld, which get increasingly harder. Once you “beat” the game, it reveals all sorts of new challenges.
This is on my own wish list; I don’t typically play Mario Bros. games, but reviewers say that this is weird — in a good way. Masson, for his part, likes that the typical, side-scrolling gameplay “is turned on its head with the addition of Wonder Flowers,” which are a power-up item in the game. You’ll see pipes springing to life and can float through outer space or turn into a giant Spike-Ball, he says.
Masson is also a fan of this virtual board game, which has multiple boards that support four players with 100+ mini games included. You have to race to collect the most stars, while sabotaging your opponents, and Masson appreciates that you can “party at your own pace by suspending a game and picking up right where you left off.”
Masson calls this a “cozy game,” where you create a life on a deserted island. “You can hunt down insects at the crack of dawn, decorate your paradise throughout the day or enjoy sunset on the beach while fishing in the ocean,” he says. “The time of day and season match real life, so each day on your island is a chance to check in and find new surprises year-round.” You can also play co-op and visit your friends’ islands.
This puzzle-based game is all about logic; for each puzzle, you get a statement with certain conditions that you have to make true. I love that you can play as a group without having to pass around the joy-cons; people can simply offer up potential solutions. The puzzles get increasingly harder as you progress, and the art and music are adorable — which in my experience is helpful to offset the inevitable frustration when you get stuck.
This 3D take on Mario “is one of the better-looking games on the platform,” says Downey, who also says that the controls are extremely responsive. Mario gets new moves, like capture and cap throw, to aid his efforts to rescue Princess Peach, along with hidden collectibles and new kingdoms. “Even after finishing the game completely, I’ll still jump into the game here and there just to run around as Mario in the different worlds,” he says.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Justin Masson is a gaming expert and co-host of the podcast and YouTube channel Nintendo Dads, which has reviews, commentary and insight about Nintendo games. He’s been gaming for 35 years, starting with Nintendo’s NES, and has been playing the Nintendo Switch since it was first released in 2017.
- Jakin Vela, Ph.D., is a sociologist, gaming industry expert and the executive director of the International Game Developers Association.
- Jon Downey is content creator who covers Nintendo game reviews and hosts the SpawnCast podcast, which covers Xbox, Nintendo, Playstation and PC gaming. He’s been gaming for 30 years and has played the Nintendo Switch since it was first released.
Why trust Select?
Deanna Pai is a freelance beauty writer and editor who has been covering beauty and health for more than a decade, but considers gaming a personal passion; she still has her GameBoy Color circa 1998. For this article, Pai spoke to three gaming experts and drew from her own experience to put together a comprehensive guide to the best Nintendo Switch games and accessories.