The Switch is, in a word, wonderful. It's not the most powerful gaming console available today -- that's the Xbox One X -- nor does it support 4K, the most apps or the widest variety of games. Still, the Switch is everything Nintendo promised it would be, and then some: It's a hybrid console, capable of playing titles up to 1080p on a television or up to 720p on its portable, 6.2-inch display.
The Switch exclusively features some of the best games of the year (and it was a good year for games, indeed), including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. And then there are all the indie offerings -- this is a new space for Nintendo, but so far, developers have largely been happy with the company's approach to publishing. The Switch has signed on games like Shovel Knight, TumbleSeed, Stardew Valley, Rime, TowerFall, Travis Strikes Again, Floor Kids, Golf Story, Super Meat Boy Forever and Kentucky Route Zero.
The Switch comes with two tiny Joy-Con controllers, which function just fine as full gamepads, complete with Nintendo's new HD Rumble technology. However, there's no getting around the fact that these are super-small controllers, not ideal for large hands or extended play sessions. The Switch ships with a Joy-Con Grip in the box, allowing players to create their own full-size Frankenstein gamepad, though it's worth noting the controllers don't charge when hooked up to the connector. Here's where Nintendo's real hustle comes in: selling accessories. A full-size Switch Pro Controller costs $70, while the Charge Grip accessory, which allows the Joy-Cons to refuel while connected, costs $30. And then there are all of those adorable Amiibo figurines, which sell for about $15 a pop: The Switch has a built-in NFC reader just for them. The console itself costs $300.
It wouldn't be a Nintendo system if there weren't some strange form of digital-rights management built into it, and the Switch doesn't disappoint on this front. The Switch is technically adequate for the current console generation -- Zelda is beautiful on the built-in display, even at 720p -- and Nintendo finally figured out that people like to watch Hulu through their gaming consoles, but there's one glaring omission in the system's feature set: no backup option for save files. The Switch has a slot for a microSD card, though it doesn't allow players to save game data to external storage and the company itself doesn't offer any online backup services, as the PS4 and Xbox One ecosystems do. This means if your save data is accidentally deleted or your console is stolen, lost or damaged, all the hours you spent soaring around Hyrule simply disappear.
The Switch doesn't support VR or 4K, though the hardware itself remains an achievement. Nintendo attempted to make hybrid gaming happen with the Wii U, and its efforts failed spectacularly. The Switch, meanwhile, is truly comfortable as both a portable system and an at-home console. It's the only current-generation console that makes sense to take out of the house. It's perfect for plane, train, bus or car rides, bringing the living room gaming experience on the road in a real way.
What the Switch does well
- Portable and living room gaming
- Local multiplayer experiences
- Strong lineup of exclusive games
- Indie games
What it's bad at
- Gamepads are expensive
- No backup save data
- Few media apps for now
- No 4K
- No VR
So, which console is for you?
There is no "best" console, at least not on a large scale. Each system excels and fails in its own special ways. The only determining factor is what you, as an individual, want to get out of a gaming system. Do you want the most games and players in an easy-to-use package? That's the PS4 Slim -- but go Pro if you want to show off your 4K TV. However, if your main goal is to run your 4K TV, UHD Blu-ray collection and homemade gaming PC through their paces, an Xbox One X might be worth the extra cash. For world travelers, daily commuters and party fiends, the Switch makes a ton of sense. Plus, it has a surprisingly rich library of high-quality games, everything from AAA to indie.
With three solid console lines, a flourishing PC scene, booming esports market and more titles than ever before, it's a good time to be a video game fan -- regardless of which system you choose.