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Forget PS5 and Xbox Series X — why you should buy Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the Nintendo Switch is not brand-new anymore, buying one could be a smarter decision than trying to buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X right now. Getting a hold of the next-gen PlayStation or Xbox is admittedly hard to do. But even if you have the opportunity, you may want to reconsider.

Spending your money on the follow-up to your current console of choice seems like a no-brainer. But what do you actually want from a new console? I'd argue some of the best things about using a new console aren't actually present in the new PlayStation or Xbox. 

Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Nintendo Switch: What I love 

For example, take the game library. The majority of games you can play on the PS5 and Series X are the same ones you can currently play on the PS4 and Xbox One. Furthermore, the handful of platform exclusives may not be that inspiring to you. Meanwhile, over on the Switch, there are more than three years of releases to explore.

The variety of games available is a credit to Nintendo. Naturally, your thoughts may gravitate toward Mario, Animal Crossing, Super Smash Bros, Legend of Zelda and the like. These high-quality franchises are good reasons to buy a Nintendo console. However, you'll also find a surprising number of big third-party games on the Switch. Highlights include Doom and The Witcher 3, as well as one of the best indie game libraries outside of the PC. All of the next-gen exclusives on PS5 and Xbox Series X are firmly big-budget affairs, and many of them are either remakes or sequels. I wouldn't blame you if these lineups have left you cold.

While it's nice to chase higher frame rates and prettier graphics, these don't guarantee you're going to have fun with a game.

In terms of hardware the Switch has some key advantages, too. By all means, compare TFLOPs and maximum resolution output, and laugh at the meager GPU inside the Switch. But while it's nice to chase higher frame rates and prettier graphics, these don't guarantee you're going to have fun with a game. And if graphics are your priority, then you're probably better off looking at a gaming PC rather than a console.

Then, there's the fact that the Switch's less powerful hardware allows it to be portable: easily its standout feature. I wouldn't have ever thought about this before I bought my own Switch, but having access to a fully equipped console anywhere is a luxury that can't be overstated. Even if you're in lockdown right now to prevent the spread of you-know-what, having the freedom to play games somewhere aside from my desk helps keep the mental divide between work and home life from crumbling.

You get the versatile Joy-Cons to try out, too. These controllers have built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes, while still working similarly to a traditional gamepad. You can still play games as normal, but also try out less traditional motion control experiences. You won't need extra peripherals, either, such as a costly VR headset. I feel that the Joy-Cons are comfier to use than a normal gamepad, since you can use both halves separated, with your arms relaxed at your sides. Perhaps this isn't a common way to play, but it's certainly how I like to use them. 

Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Nintendo Switch: What I don't love 

Let's be honest about where the Switch is irredeemably weak, though. Multiplayer and online functionality are, to put it bluntly, a mess. Some games require Nintendo's Switch Online subscription service for online multiplayer, but others let you play over the Internet for free. To activate voice chat, you need to use an app on your smartphone — a device that already does enough without having to be a gaming peripheral as well. This doesn't bother me, since I’m a solitary gamer most of the time. But going for a Switch probably is a bad idea if you're a dedicated player of Call of Duty, Fortnite or the like.

In Nintendo's defense, the Switch is probably the best console for local multiplayer, considering that the Joy-Cons can be used as two separate gamepads. Up to eight Switches with four players apiece can also work together in the same space. Want a second controller for your Xbox or PS5? That'll be another $70. And good luck gathering enough displays and consoles in one space for a 32-person local PS5/Series X multiplayer session without hiring a community hall.

The Switch's internal storage is both smaller and slower than what you get with the Sony and Microsoft consoles. You get 825GB of SSD space on the PS5, and a 1TB SSD on the Xbox. The Switch has just 32GB of memory. However, Switch games take up less space as a rule thanks to the lower graphical fidelity. And if you run out of space, at least you can expand the Switch's memory easily with any microSD card. Compare and contrast to the expensive proprietary SSD drives you'll need to add more room to the Xbox or PS5.

I think even the most dedicated PlayStation or Xbox fan has a few good reasons to make the switch to a Switch, even once the next major wave of PS5 and Series X stock arrives. Granted, your decision depends on why you enjoy playing games. If you're into graphical fidelity, robust multiplayer or are a dedicated fan of an exclusive franchise, you may not want a Switch. But if different kinds of games — and access to them outside of your living room — appeal to you more, maybe you should consider Nintendo's hybrid console instead of Microsoft and Sony's newest machines.