On March 3, 2022, the Nintendo Switch turned five years old. The versatile handheld hybrid has delighted gamers for the past half-decade, with fantastic exclusive games and unparalleled convenience. It’s also frustrated them, with underpowered hardware and cumbersome online features. In a way, the Switch captures everything we love and hate about the Big N. It’s a system that plays by its own rules, usually for the better, but sometimes for the worse.
The Tom’s Guide staff has had five years to learn the ins and outs of the Switch. Some of us have had it since the beginning; others picked it up much more recently. We polled our writers to discover whether the Switch is still their go-to console, or whether it’s been gathering dust. Read on to find what we think of the Nintendo Switch, five years later.
Henry T. Casey, senior editor
Favorite games: Ring Fit Adventure, Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Switch owner since: December 2017
What I love: To start things off with a positive, I love that the Switch's modular controllers and motion controls made Ring Fit Adventure possible. The true MVP of life during a pandemic, Ring Fit Adventure kept me working out without going anywhere near a gym. However, I need a sequel posthaste, because the title's New Game+ mode is boring, to say the least.
What I hate: The Switch feels stagnant to me. While the console received multiple updates (the Switch Lite and the Switch OLED), neither of those show up on my radar, as I'm the rare Switch-owner who mostly uses it in docked mode. (For those who did pick up the Switch OLED, it's worth checking out the best Switch OLED games.)
If Nintendo could finally deliver a 4K Switch, or fix the long-neglected Joy-Con drift problem, I'd probably think about the Switch more. Nintendo's most popular games, its Marios and Zeldas and Metroids, may not strictly need 4K when they have stellar gameplay mechanics. But the Switch still feels very 2017 to me, and not in a good way.
Marshall Honorof, senior editor
Favorite games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, Metroid Dread
Switch owner since: June 2017
What I love: Five years later, the Nintendo Switch is still positively unparalleled in terms of convenience. I will never get tired of playing a game on the big screen, hitting pause, taking the console out of the dock, and picking up right where I left off, seconds later. While cloud gaming has made great strides in the past few years, neither Xbox nor PC can offer an on-the-go experience that’s as seamless as Nintendo’s; PlayStation hasn’t even tried.
The Switch has also come to host quite a few Zelda games, and that’s a selling point on its own. Between standalone releases and the Nintendo Switch Online service, you can play eight mainline Zelda games, including Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword, and two substantial Hyrule Warriors spinoffs. Nintendo’s other first-party releases continue to excel, too, particularly the atmospheric and difficult Metroid Dread.
What I hate: The Switch wasn’t the most powerful console when it debuted, and the intervening five years have not done it any favors. Switch games often suffer from subpar graphics and long load times, especially when you compare them against recent PS5 and Xbox Series X releases. The Nintendo Switch OLED wasn’t much of an upgrade; we really needed a 4K option, but that’s probably still a year or two out.
There’s also the Switch’s biggest ongoing problem: Between major Nintendo releases, there’s just not that much to play. The Switch is a haven for indie titles — just take a look at our list of the best Nintendo Switch games — but it’s difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Beyond that, we have a lot of re-releases and ports, and only a handful of non-Nintendo exclusives. When we do get newer games, they’re often cloud versions, which mitigates the Switch’s biggest “play anywhere” benefit.
Beyond that, the hardware is still shoddy, the interface is still bare-bones, the video streaming support is still limited and the Nintendo Switch Online service is still arcane. We still can’t buy old Nintendo games à la carte, and it’s pretty expensive to access the N64 library. The Switch could be so much better, but Nintendo seems content to rest on its laurels.
Rory Mellon, deals editor
Favorite Games: The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, Cuphead, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Switch owner since: March 2017
What I love: While I spent countless hours with the Game Boy Color and Nintendo DS as a youth, the Switch is the first Nintendo home console I’ve ever owned. I remember bursting with excitement the first time I booted it up and started playing Breath of the Wild. Those early days with the system are memories that I still hold fondly.
The Switch’s enviable library of exclusives is probably its biggest draw, but my favorite aspect of the system is definitely it’s portability. Prior to last year, I was in a long-distance relationship, which meant lengthy travel on a near-weekly basis. During this time, the Switch became a truly invaluable companion, as there’s only so long you can stare out of a train window before boredom creeps in.
While the pandemic put a halt to most of my travel plans over the last year-and-a-half, I’ve recently fallen back in love with my Switch after being reminded over the winter break what a powerful selling point its portability is.
What I hate: As mentioned above, the Switch is my first flagship Nintendo system. That means there are literal decades of classic Nintendo games I’ve never had access to. I’d love to play the likes of Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and fill in some of those sizable gaps in my gaming repertoire.
Is that possible on the Nintendo Switch? Technically yes, but only via Nintendo's truly terrible online subscription service. I’d love the option to just buy these classic games à la carte, but Nintendo seems to have no desire to sell them to me.
Like most of my colleagues on this list, I also think the Nintendo Switch hardware is really starting to show its age now. The increasing prevalence of cloud versions of games is a real testament to this issue. The Switch thrives because I can take it anywhere. Games that are only playable with a strong internet connection rob the Switch of its biggest benefit.
Joy-Con drift is another problem that I cannot believe we’re still talking about five years later. I’ve thankfully experienced it only once, but I have friends who have had to replace half-a-dozen controllers due to the recurring issue.
Jordan Palmer, phones editor
Favorite games: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Metroid Dread, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights, Hollow Knight, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Switch owner since: July 2018
What I love: I love the classic Nintendo multiplayer experience on the Switch. Playing Mario Kart and other titles among the best Switch multiplayer games with friends across the country is a blast, which is mostly how I use my Switch nowadays. Some of the exclusives are also top-notch, such as Breath of the Wild and Metroid Dread. Before the Steam Deck came around, the Switch was the only handheld console I could dream of. I can play games in my living room while my wife watches TV.
What I hate: I really don’t like how underpowered the Switch feels. Some indie games do fine, but the Switch flounders on anything that requires a modicum of additional horsepower. (Don’t even get me started on the significant eShop lag.) Five years on, and the console hasn’t seen a refresh, which is a disservice to all Switch owners. Playing on a 4K TV requires a third-party accessory just for a decent experience. (Many of the best Nintendo Switch accessories enhance the system beyond what Nintendo designed.) The Switch is just a bad console in that regard, not to mention its shoddy software and online service.
The Joy-Cons are abysmal, with drift being a common problem. I've also run into the same issues with the Switch that I have with other Nintendo consoles: The products are obviously designed for smaller hands. I had to get a third-party ergonomic grip just to play comfortably for more than a few minutes.
My Switch is criminally underused, and it’s because I can’t stand how sluggish it feels. Even when I bought the system in 2018, it felt underpowered for the time. And now that the console is five years old, it feels incredibly dated. Battery life is also a major bummer, since I have the original V1 launch edition.
The Switch needs a much better user experience, both in terms of hardware and software, but I don't hold out much hope for Nintendo implementing one.
Tony Polanco, computing writer
Favorite games: Super Mario Odyssey, Metroid Dread
Switch owner since: March 2017
What I love: There isn’t a lot that I love about the Nintendo Switch (as you’ll see below), but I absolutely adore the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. Nintendo released some of the worst controllers in history in the period between the SNES and the Switch, so I was delighted that the latest console had a controller that was actually good. Sorry, but the N64, GameCube, Wii and Wii U controllers were abysmal. The Joy-Con controllers are awful too, but the Pro Controller is an absolute dream. You can find other good controller options in our list of the best Switch controllers.
The Pro Controller has the basic shape of other modern controllers, with two analog sticks, a D-pad, four face buttons, four shoulder buttons and solid grips. It also has incredible battery life. I have to charge my PlayStation and Xbox controllers on a daily basis, but I can go a couple of weeks before I have to charge the Pro Controller. It’s just a fantastic peripheral overall.
What I hate: I dislike almost everything else about the Switch. This is mostly due to me not being a fan of Nintendo. I don’t particularly care for most of the family-friendly first-party offerings. People love Animal Crossing and Pokémon, which is great, but those aren’t games I want to play. Super Mario Odyssey gets a pass since it provides astounding platforming (and because you can’t hate Mario!). But other than that game and Metroid Dread, Nintendo’s titles don’t do it for me.
Then, we have the subpar software and hardware. Nintendo stopped competing with the likes of Sony and Microsoft when it released the Wii. It has maintained this pattern for almost two decades. This has always been a point of contention for me. It’s hard to get excited for the Switch when I have a PS5 and a powerful PC. To some players, graphics don’t matter, but they do to me. I had to buy an mClassic to make the Switch look halfway presentable on my 4K TV. The system was lacking at launch and continues to age at a rapid pace. I don’t see the point of a Switch when the Steam Deck exists.
There are other things I don’t like about Switch, such as the aforementioned Joy-Con controllers. I’m also not a fan of Nintendo’s laughable online infrastructure, or the weird way its fans evangelize the company on social media. Suffice it to say, the Switch will likely be the last Nintendo console I buy. The company is clearly not for me.
Denise Primbet, news writer
Favorite Games: Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee!, Stardew Valley, Metroid Dread
Switch owner since: December 2020
What I love: The Nintendo Switch is the best console to have when you’re in the mood for some casual gaming. Its ability to change seamlessly from docked to handheld mode is perfect for those cozy Sunday afternoons when you just can’t decide between curling up on the living room couch, or staying in bed all day.
What I hate: The Nintendo Switch is great at running its own titles, but let’s face it: Nobody buys it to play third-party games. And that’s because most Switch ports are handled badly.
Having previously enjoyed titles such as Little Nightmares and Dead by Daylight on my gaming PC, I was eager to pick both games up on the Switch. However, I found myself uninstalling them within a matter of minutes due to low frame rates and clunky controls.
With the exception of Stardew Valley, every interaction I’ve had with a non-Nintendo game on the Switch has ended in resounding disappointment. It’s hard to decide whether the blame is on the developers’ side for neglecting their Switch ports, or on Nintendo, for making its console seemingly inhospitable to third-party titles.
Tom Pritchard, automotive editor
Favorite games: Stardew Valley, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Switch owner since: October 2017
What I Love: It may seem clichéd, but my favorite thing about the Switch is that it manages to offer a console-tier experience in a portable handheld form. As a kid, I spent countless hours playing the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance, mainly because there was only one TV, and I had to share limited PlayStation time with my brother.
The Game Boy was all mine, and I could play it whenever and wherever I liked. The Switch may not be able to play next-gen titles, such as Halo Infinite or Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, but the ability to play anywhere trumps all of that. Online or offline, at home or away, there’s no limit on where the Switch can go — and that’s something no other device can offer.
What I hate: Playing in handheld mode has its disadvantages, especially given the early Switch model’s poor battery life. No matter what I do with my Switch and where I take it, battery life is always going to be a concern. I understand why, to an extent, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
My other major gripe with the Switch has more to do with Nintendo’s stubborn unwillingness to keep with the times. The Switch system software feels dated, and from the outside, it feels as though Nintendo has no desire to change it.
The Switch feels arcane, whether it’s forcing people to use a 14-character code to add friends, hosting poor online services, or adding support for something as simple as Bluetooth headphones only five months ago. Don’t even get me started on the hoops you need to jump through to copy screenshots off of your console.