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2021 Nintendo Switch MEGA buyer’s guide

The Nintendo Switch is almost 5 years old, which is an insanely weird sentence to type out, but it’s true. Since its launch, there’s been three new models launched, hundreds of accessories from dozens of different companies, and 5000-odd games released on the platform. We wrote a hardware and accessories guide back in 2017 when the system launched — but let’s face it, it’s woefully outdated and incredibly inadequate at this point.

So we’ve put together a new one! As you’ll see in the table of contents below, we’ve included an explainer on which Switch model is right for you, all the must-have accessories (with links to buy them!), tips on buying games both physically and digitally, and all the details about Nintendo Switch Online and its upcoming Expansion Pack. We think we’ve been pretty comprehensive here, but this is by no means definitive, and if you think we’ve missed something important, let us know in the comments and we’ll take a look at adding it!

Gigantic thanks to members of the Vooks Discord, our followers on Twitter, and our ANZ games media colleagues for your suggestions — this article would’ve been possible without you, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good.


Which Switch?

After almost five years on the market, there are now three separate models of Switch available to buy, each with their own feature sets, and each with their own pros and cons. Trying to figure out which one is right for you or a loved one can be a little bit tricky sometimes, so we’ve broken down what we think the benefits and drawbacks are for each model.

Classic

The Nintendo Switch, in all its vanilla glory. This is the basic model, and it can do just about anything that any other Switch can do, including play all of its games. Buying a classic Nintendo Switch means you get a console body, two detachable Joy-Con, a dock so you can play your games on a TV, and a Joy-Con grip, to turn those two Joy-Cons into one controller you can hold. The classic Switch has a 6.2 inch LCD touchscreen, which is more than enough for most people while playing in handheld, and 32GB of storage, which is not a great deal but probably enough if you’re playing mostly physical games. You’ll also be able to get 4.5-9 hours of playtime in a single charge, depending on the game, with Breath of the Wild clocking in at around 5.5 hours.

What you won’t get, however, is a dock with a built-in ethernet port, at least not in the box. You can buy an ethernet adapter separately (check out the accessories section below for more details), or buy a separate enhanced dock that includes an ethernet port. If consistently low latency in twitch-reflex games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is important to you, you’ll probably want to splash the extra cash.

ProsCons
+ Plays everything
+ Good battery life
+ Comes with everything you need to get started
– No built-in ethernet port
– Internal storage a bit low

Price: The classic Nintendo Switch has an RRP of $469, but you’d be wasting money by paying that much nowadays — it’s regularly on sale for much less, with previous Black Friday deals seeing it drop as low as $319 at one point. Getting that kind of sale is probably not very likely now, but with a little bit of patience and shopping around, you can expect to pay around $400 for one.

Lite

Ah the Lite, the only Switch in the lineup that can’t, er, Switch. The Switch Lite is a smaller, handheld-only device that’s still somehow capable of playing the vast majority of the Switch library… but not all of them. Some LABO sets, as well as a very few select docked-only games just won’t really work with the Lite. A few more, such as Super Mario Party and Ring Fit Adventure, require extra Joy-Con, because the Lite does not have the detachable controllers of its bigger brother. It comes equipped with a 5.5 inch LCD touchscreen, a touch smaller than the classic console, which mostly gets the job done — though be warned, some games with smaller text can be a right nightmare to play on the Lite.

Image: Nintendo

The biggest drawback of the Lite is that it’s handheld only, meaning that even if it could fit in the dock (it can’t), it cannot display games on a TV. The tradeoff gets you a slightly sturdier, more portable, and much cheaper console, that’s easier to fit into a bag or even some big pockets, even with its case on. And the battery life isn’t half bad either, coming in at 3-7 hours, with Breath of the Wild benchmarking at around 4 hours. Like its bigger brother, the Lite comes with 32GB of internal storage. It’s probably a good pick for kids, or for public transport commuters that don’t have a great deal of interest in playing on the big screen, but not so much for single-Switch families that want to play games together, or anyone who has a serious interest in online games — there’s no ethernet adapter here.

ProsCons
+ More compact
+ Decent battery life
+ Good value for money
– Can’t play some games without buying Joy-Con
– Can’t be docked for TV play
– Internal storage a bit low

Price: The Switch Lite has an RRP of $319, and for the most part it tends to sell at about that price. It somewhat regularly goes on sale for $249-299, and we’ve seen it get as low as $219 in extremely rare circumstances, but $319 is still a good price if you can’t find it cheaper.

OLED

Officially titled the Nintendo Switch (OLED Model), in what I can only assume is a joke by Nintendo’s marketing division, the OLED Switch is the company’s shiniest new toy. As the name suggests, it comes with an OLED display, measuring in at 7 inches, which might not seem like much of an increase but almost eliminates bezel on the front of the console. OLED is a display technology where each pixel is individually lit, allowing for more vibrant colours and deeper blacks — trust us, it’s gonna look gorgeous.

That’s not where the upgrades stop, either. The OLED Switch has a vastly improved kickstand that can actually support the console’s weight, “enhanced” speakers (whatever that means), and a pack-in dock that has ethernet built right into it. It also packs 64GB of internal storage, double what other models in the line have, which still isn’t a huge amount, but will almost certainly be enough for most people for quite some time. Besides all that, its just as powerful as its siblings in the line, meaning there won’t be any exclusive games, and when it’s docked you won’t really be getting any benefits over the classic model, though the handheld battery life is identical to the classic model. Is that worth paying the extra premium? Well, it’s hard to say, but we’d wager the vast majority of people would be more than happy with the classic model (and its price), at least until the OLED model has had some time to drop a bit in the market.

ProsCons
+ Better screen, speakers, kickstand, and included dock
+ Good battery life
+ Decent internal storage size
– Expensive
– Doesn’t do anything the classic model can’t

Price: The OLED model retails for a whopping $539, $70 above the classic console’s RRP but $140 over its regular sale price, which can make it a tough pill to swallow. We expect we could see it drop as low as $500 in sales over the holiday period, but it’s still far and away the most expensive of the lot, and it hasn’t had enough time on the market for anyone to be competitive yet.


Accessories

The Must-Haves

Screen Protector: All models of the Switch have a plastic screen, which means all Switch screens are susceptible to scratching. No matter how careful you think you are, there’s always a chance you’ll get a scratch on your screen, it’s just a fact of life. We recommend getting a good tempered glass screen protector, and probably get some sort of multipack since they can be a little tricky to apply. Here’s what we’ve had good experiences with:

Micro SD Card: 32 or 64GB of internal storage is probably fine if you only ever want to play physical games… but there’s some incredible eShop-only games that you’d be silly to miss out on. Having said that, there are some retail games that require sizeable downloads to even start, and some that are straight up just a redemption code in a box (we don’t like these, but it’s A Thing), so sooner or later, you’re probably going to want an SD card anyway. All models of Nintendo Switch support Micro SDXC cards up to 2TB in size, so how much space you get and how much you want to spend is up to you. Our pro tip: Don’t buy Nintendo-branded cards, they’re inflated in price and you can get the same thing for much cheaper. Buy Sandisk cards if you’re buying from a known Aussie retailer (but not online auction sites, fakes happen), or Samsung cards if you’re buying from Bezos’ lair Amazon.

Controllers

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller: The cream of the crop when it comes to wireless controllers, complete with HD Rumble, wake-from-sleep capability, amiibo support, and a whopping 40 hours of battery life. It’s also one of the most comfortable controllers many of us have ever laid our hands upon, so make of that what you will. A word of warning: be very careful about buying a Pro Controller from Amazon. There’s a surprising amount of bootlegs controllers right now, so make sure it’s shipped and sold by Amazon if you’re going down that route.

8Bitdo Pro 2: 8Bitdo came out as one of the very early supporters of the Switch in terms of accessories, though their early efforts had some slight quality issues from time to time. Fast forward to today, and they’re consistently pumping out excellent controllers that can just about go toe-to-toe with Nintendo’s own offerings. The Pro 2 is one such controller, with a great profile, a better d-pad than the Pro Controller, extra back paddles, and bucketloads of customisation. It’s a fantastic choice for a second controller, even if it’s missing amiibo support and HD Rumble (though regular rumble is available).

Hori Split Pad Pro: Wireless controllers are great for when you’re playing on the TV, but what about if you want to play in bed? Or, as some have suggested, on the toilet? Sometimes those Joy-Con are a bit too small and uncomfortable for longer play sessions. Thankfully, Hori has stepped up to the plate with the Split Pad Pro. It’s basically a Pro Controller split in half to slide into the Joy-Con rails. There’s no internal battery or wireless capability, no rumble, no wake support, and no amiibo support… but it does give you full-sized analogue sticks, assignable turbo buttons, and customisable back panels. It’s excellent for people like me with big meaty claws, and they seem to go on sale at EB Games reasonably often too.

Cases

To be honest, there’s a lot of Switch cases out there, both for carrying the console itself and for carrying its game cartridges, and most of them are pretty good. It’s hard to have a bad Switch case, really, and your personal tastes will probably make a huge impact in which case you end up with. In any case (ha), here’s a very non-definitive list of cases we’ve either personally used and enjoyed, or had suggested to us by readers in our Discord.

Miscellaneous

Stands: There’s a couple of stands, for both the classic/OLED Switch and the Lite, that make it a little easier to play and charge while undocked. These aren’t strictly necessary by any means, but in some circumstances, for some people, they’ll likely be incredibly useful.

Power Banks: You’re on the plane to Madrid, it’s a 22 hour flight, but oh no! The Switch only lasts 8 hours, what’re you going to do?! Well, you’re gonna pull out your power bank, which holds more than enough juice to keep you going (and then some). If you’re going to get a power bank, it should be USB-C, and you may as well get something good enough to charge up any and all of your devices. We love the Cygnett ChargeUp Pro, as its beefy 45W fast charging can top up even the thirstiest of laptops, but the price is a bit on the high end, so try to get it on a sale if you can. Otherwise, here’s a list of power banks that will absolutely get the job done — other products are good too, just make sure it can do more than 15W and you’ll probably be set.

  • Cygnett ChargeUp Pro 45W — 20,000mAh
  • Anker PowerCore PD Redux 18W — 10,000mAh

Grips: There’s a host of accessories out there to help you hold onto your Switch, or to play it a little differently. Take, for example, the Flip Grip, a relatively inexpensive accessory that allows you to attach Joy-Con to the side of your Switch… while it’s vertical! Incredibly useful for arcade or pinball games. There’s also the fan-favourite Satisfye Zengrip for both the classic and the Lite, which adds some chunky handles to the console when in handheld to help with longer play sessions, and the Skull and Co Grip Case does a very similar thing with very similar results.

  • Flip Grip
    • Fangamer.com ($12 USD before shipping) — Currently out of stock, but restock reportedly planned.
  • Satisfye Zengrip Pro
    • Amazon.com.au ($46.48) — Classic Switch only, the Lite variant is very overpriced right now.
  • Skull and Co. GripCase

Screen cleaning cloths: The Switch has a touchscreen (to the shock of a surprisingly large amount of people), and touching that screen is gonna get it grimy. That’s just how it is, really, there’s no avoiding it if you use the touchscreen at all. To avoid scratching up the screen when you wipe it down, we suggest something like a microfibre cloth or something specifically made for screens like this — but really, just about anything will do.

Headphones: Just about any good headphones will work well with the Switch, and wired headphones or headsets with microphones will allow voice chat for the (very) few games that support it. But wait, there’s more! As of Switch system firmware 13.0.0, all Switch consoles now support Bluetooth audio! It uses the SBC audio codec, which is the default audio codec for Bluetooth audio, so just about every Bluetooth headphones, speakers, or soundbars will work just fine with it. There are some caveats, however: you can’t use Bluetooth audio while playing over a local wireless connection with another Switch, you’ll only be able to use two other wireless controllers while Bluetooth audio is running, and there will be a little bit of latency, which might not be great for some genres of games (like rhythm games, for example). Headsets with microphones also won’t support voice chat, just down to the way Bluetooth audio works.

  • Wired headphones — Seriously, any wired headphones or earphones or speakers that you think are good for you are going to work just fine on the Switch. We absolutely can’t list everything, and anything we do list will likely be highly personal and probably outdated by the time we hit publish.
  • Bluetooth headphones — As above, just about any Bluetooth headphones, earphones, and speakers will work, but we do have some suggestions for this: we recently wrote an article with exactly that, which you can see by clicking here.

The Games

Physical

For the most part, and for new games especially, buying physical games is almost always cheaper — though there’s some ways to get good savings on digital games that we’ll go over in a bit. For most big games, we throw together an Aussie bargain roundup, listing each retailer’s price, preorder bonuses, and anything else of note like deluxe editions, amiibo, etc. Physical games also have the benefit of not taking up space on your console (or at least, not taking up as much space), letting you save on SD cards as well, if that’s your kind of thing — though as mentioned above, some retail games still need big downloads, and others are just redemption codes in boxes.

You can also get 1% of the value of a physical game back in Gold Coins, which you can then spend on the Nintendo Switch eShop, provided the game released a year ago or less. Of course, not every game is physical, and not every game gets competitive pricing, plus they do take up space, so your mileage may vary a lot on whether the physical lifestyle is one for you.

In any case, here’s some tips for buying physical games:

  1. Amazon usually has the best prices for preorders, since they’ll match the lowest on the market and automatically lower the price of your preorder to the lowest price they have between your order and launch. Lately, Amazon’s delivery time has been slipping a bit, so you probably shouldn’t expect to get your games on launch day. Just something to keep in mind.
  2. Think twice before you preorder (or buy) from Harvey Norman. Look, we don’t want to make big call-outs here, but this one is absolutely necessary — every time Harvey Norman has a competitive price on something, like a new console or a hot game, we get inundated with reports from people whose order has been cancelled, or delayed weeks or months, or just in an eternal state of limbo. The most egregious example was when big Harv took on too many preorders for the Animal Crossing limited edition console, then told people it was first come first serve to pick up, leading to dozens of orders getting cancelled; the console would then be sold out for months after. Only because of the success of Animal Crossing was the console given another run – people could have missed out completely. They often set good prices, but their ability to follow through has yet to be proven (and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon).
  3. Shop around! Grabbing the best bargain is always good, and you should buy from the places offering the lowest prices (rather than price matching) if that’s an option available to you. Most stores often have sales to clear out older stock too, so they can be a good resource for picking up physical games you missed at launch. Even smaller stores have been known to get competitive too, with local darlings Critical Hit, DX Collectables, and The Gamesmen often having pretty great prices on a lot of Nintendo games in particular.

Digital

Buying digital comes with its own pros and cons, with the major pro being its convenience. You don’t have to get up and change cartridges when you want to swap to a different game, plus you can download games you’ve preordered early so you can play it as soon as it releases. There’s also close to 5000 games on the eShop, some great and some not so great, but most of which don’t have physical releases — with many very unlikely to get one anytime soon. The downside is that it’s usually a bit (sometimes a lot) more expensive to buy digital, especially with big games, with no competition in pricing. Sales do pop up fairly often, but the frequency with which a given game can go on sale is limited, and certain games (looking at you, Nintendo) only very rarely see a price drop, if ever. You’ll also need a beefy Micro SD card if you’re going all-in on the digital future, which can come at quite the cost. One last upside is that you’ll get 5% of the purchase price of digital games back in Gold Coins, 5x the amount you get for physical games, and that offer doesn’t expire on digital games.

Having said that, here’s our tips for buying digitally:

  1. eShop gift cards are your very best friend. Every now and then, usually around Toy Sales in June, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and Christmas/Boxing day but sometimes during other times of year too, Nintendo eShop gift cards go on sale at various retailers. These discounts are usually somewhere in the realm of 10-15% off, but we’ve seen them go up to 20%, albeit very rarely. It might not seem like much, but it can really add up over time, especially if you splash out on a bunch of cards each time they go on sale. The savings are even more amplified if you use them on…
  2. …Nintendo Switch Online Game Vouchers! If you’re a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber, you have access to these vouchers, provided you live anywhere except North America. Here’s the rub: you pay $134.95 for two tickets. You can then use those tickets on any full-price game published or distributed by Nintendo, including games for preorder. Say, for example, you wanted to get both Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. If you bought them normally on the eShop, you’d be paying $80 a pop, coming out to $160 in total. Use the vouchers, however, and you’re saving $25 between the two of them, and if you purchased those vouchers with a series of 15%-off gift cards, you’re saving even more. With those two things combined, depending on the games you redeem, you could save up to a whopping $65 of your purchases. As we said, it adds up over time.
  3. Keep an eye on eShop sales. There’s a new batch of games going on sale every Friday morning on the eShop, and we put out an article every single Friday with the full list of games, how much they cost, how much you’re saving, and with links to buy them in your browser. We also include all the new releases since the last eShop update! If it sounds like we’re talking ourselves up a bit, it’s because we are — we’re hella proud of our Download Update articles, and we’re super happy to be able to help people catch the sale of their dreams.

Nintendo Switch Online

If you plan on playing just about any Switch game online, you’ll need a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online. Those familiar with other consoles will liken this to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold, and that’s not far off the mark… though Nintendo’s offerings are a little slimmer than the other two. You get online play, access to SNES and NES games, the ability to buy eShop vouchers, cloud saves for most (but not all) games… and that’s about it. There’s a few small offerings here and there, a shirt for Splatoon 2, a carpet for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but if you’re in it for the perks, you’re probably expecting too much. Thankfully, the price isn’t actually all that bad, coming in at $5.95 a month or $29.95 a year, which saves you more than 50% if you’re buying annually. There’s also a Family Membership, which 8 accounts can be added to, for $54.95 a year — there’s no monthly option here — which, if shared by 8 people, works out to a little under $7 a year per person. We’d advise against setting up a Family Group with total strangers, but if you’ve got some close friends, a partner, maybe your mum or dad, who also have Switch consoles, it could be a good way to spread the cost around.

Image: Nintendo

Note that free-to-start games like Rocket League, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Pokémon Unite don’t require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play online, so if you’re getting a Switch solely for one of those games (hey, we won’t judge), then you probably don’t need to cough up the extra cash. We’ve even put together a (admittedly slightly outdated) guide for free-to-start games that won’t break the bank, so click here to check that out.

Expansion Pack

Nintendo recently announced a paid expansion to the Nintendo Switch Online service, appropriately titled Expansion Pack. The Expansion Pack comes with a few more retro goodies, allowing you to play a select group of Nintendo 64 and SEGA Mega Drive games, with more titles slated to be added in the future. As of the time of publishing, we don’t know how much extra this Expansion Pack is going to cost, so it’s really a bit of a toss up as to whether it’ll be worth it or not. We’ll be sure to update this section when more details are released later in October.


All prices are non-sale prices and correct at the time of publishing, but are subject to change at any time — we take no responsibility for outdated price listings, but we’ll do our best to keep them up to date as best we can. Some links in this guide are affiliate links and any products purchased via them will support the website. These links will never influence our decisions on what stores and prices to list. If you have a store and want your price listed please contact us. 

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About The Author
Oliver Brandt
Deputy Editor, sometimes-reviewer, and Oxford comma advocate. If something's published on Vooks, there's a good chance I looked over it first. I spend way too much on games and use way too many em dashes.

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