What a year it's been for the Nintendo Switch. It feels like just yesterday when we were anticipating Nintendo's hybrid console with bated breath, anxious over whether it would be anything more than a portable Zelda machine.
Fast forward to March 2018, and the Switch is officially the hottest console in the world. It's already sold close to 17 million units, amassed a game library of 400-plus titles (including all-time hits Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild), and finally delivered on the long-elusive promise of a home console that you can also enjoy on the go.
In honor of the Switch's anniversary, we're looking back at our past year of playing, covering and traveling with Nintendo's new console. But before we dig through some memories, here's a quick glance at how much the Switch has changed since early 2017:
|March 3, 2017 (launch day)||March 3, 2018|
|Number of Games||13||480 (according to U.S. eShop)|
|Notable Exclusives||The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild||The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Arms|
|Online Service||No||Partial (full launch in fall 2018)|
The big takeaway? The Switch got a ton more games from indies, big third-parties and Nintendo itself, and most of them are great. However, the Switch's feature set is still lacking in some key areas, particularly streaming apps, retro games and online functionality.
But how has the Switch held up for each of us personally? Here are our joys and cons after a year with the system.
Mike Andronico, Senior Editor
Switch owner since: April 2017
Favorite games: Super Mario Odyssey, Bayonetta 2, Splatoon 2, Thumper
What I love: I raved about the Switch's portability in my midyear review, and I still won't shut up about that feature. I can't think of many times in the past year that I didn't have my Switch with me, whether I was exploring Hyrule on a plane, tapping my way through Thumper on a bus or chopping up demons in Bayonetta 2 on my couch while watching TV.
But all those long commutes and holiday vacations spent playing Switch wouldn't be as memorable if the games weren't so damn good. I continue to be impressed by just how fleshed out the Switch library has grown, in terms of both big AAA games like Doom and Skyrim as well as indies such as Stardew Valley and Shovel Knight.
Super Mario Odyssey is already one of my favorite games of all time, and Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are my new multiplayer mainstays. And while the system does have quite a few ports, I'm happy to sink another few dozen hours into Bayonetta now that I can do so wherever I want.
Despite boasting a massive, high-quality game library, the Switch still feels woefully incomplete in every other area.
What I hate: Despite boasting a massive, high-quality game library, the Switch still feels woefully incomplete in every other area. Sure, I have my PS4 and Xbox One for watching Twitch and Netflix, but I'd like to be able to instantly jump to those apps in between Splatoon sessions.
I also wish I could enjoy basic online features such as sending my friends a message or inviting them to a game, and I'm not optimistic that the upcoming $20-per-year Nintendo Switch Online service will address those issues. And can we finally get some retro games on this thing? I really don't want to track down an SNES Classic.
Henry T. Casey, Staff Writer
Switch owner since: Christmas 2017
Favorite games: Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What I love: The Switch shows me that Nintendo has really mastered industrial design and user experience, with buttons that feel great to click and Joy-Cons that move in and out of their sockets so cleanly. The animations that happen when you dock the JoyCons back into the Switch remind me of the early days of the iPhone, when the swipe-to-unlock action looked and felt so novel and joyful.
And then there's detached mode, in which Nintendo remembers the best part of the Wii experience: letting your arms move naturally. Most console controllers leave you sitting with arms scrunched in like a Tyrannosaurus Rex's, but separating the Joy-Cons frees you from that rigid experience.
The Switch shows me that Nintendo has really mastered industrial design and user experience.
What I hate: It's not the Switch — it's me. I just don't have enough opportunities to take advantage of its portability, as my commute is (blessedly) short. I can set it up on a table to play Breath of the Wild on nights when WWE's programming gets especially boring. Aside from that, though, I rarely play the game away from the big screen.
Oh, and that kickstand. Is the Switch's incredibly difficult-to-open kickstand a punishment from Nintendo, directed at me, for biting my nails? While so much of the Switch makes for delightful interactions, opening this hinge makes me curse Reggie Fils-Aimé under my breath, as I hunt for a thin-but-stiff device to use as a fulcrum to pry the kickstand open.
Andrew E. Freedman, Senior Writer
Switch owner since: October 2017
Favorite games: Stardew Valley, Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Thumper
What I love: I'll be honest: I've probably spent less than 5 percent of my time with the Switch in its dock, minus using it for charging. The Switch has served primarily as a portable system for me, and even when at home, I've found myself curling up on the couch with the system rather than playing it on a TV. It's the Game Boy I always wanted as a kid. There's nothing like playing real, 3D Mario games for 20 minutes before getting off the subway.
Nintendo has gone all in, with a top-shelf library from many of the company's major franchises already here, including Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I know I have more to look forward to from Metroid Prime 4 and a new Pokémon game. And while I wait, it's the best dedicated Stardew Valley machine I could have asked for.
For the few times that I have docked my Switch, the ability to move from one mode to the next is still magical, and the industrial design still feels clever months into ownership.
It's the Game Boy I always wanted as a kid.
What I hate: Despite my adoration for the Switch, I can't get over how half-baked its selection of services is. If I have to live without Twitch streaming, fine, I can live with that. But where's Netflix? Whenever I want to catch an episode of Black Mirror, I have to change my HDMI input over to the PlayStation 4 or Apple TV.
Additionally, I've had to spend way too much on accessories since I bought this. Even if you don't get a case, the 32GB of onboard storage necessitates a microSD card (I opted for 128GB), and I'm so worried about the plastic screen that a glass screen protector felt like a must-have. The Switch is not a cheap system when you toss in all of that plus a Pro Controller.
I'm also worried about the upcoming online service. Splatoon 2 proved that the smartphone app for voice chat is a clunky work-around, and if Nintendo's prior online services for the 3DS and Wii U are any indication, this won't be a smooth launch. Let's hope I'm wrong.
Jorge Jimenez, Staff Writer/Lab Tester
Switch owner since: September 2017
Favorite games: Stardew Valley, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What I love: As a commuter, I've found the Switch to be a godsend as a portable system. I've docked the thing only a handful times since I got it, because I'm treating it as a superfancy Game Boy that plays HD games. Being able to play a couple of shrines in The Legend of Zelda while stuck in Lincoln Tunnel traffic or on a flight is one of the better gaming experiences you could have.
The Switch has overtaken the Vita in many ways as the high-quality portable solution with a library of indie and third-party titles that feel right at home on Nintendo's console. In some ways, games like Darkest Dungeon feel even better on the go than I ever imagined.
What I hate: The lack of apps for streaming video (the system currently has only Hulu) and a backward attempt at implementing voice chat for multiplayer games like Splatoon 2 highlight some areas that still need improvement. Nintendo has a track record of lacking a strategy when for the simple things we take for granted as gamers, like online services or being able to easily chat and play with friends.
Marshall Honorof, Editor
Switch owner since: June 2017
Favorite games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
What I love: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is probably the most unforgettable game I've played in the last eight years or so. Sure, it's available on the Wii U as well, but being able to take it with me everywhere I went was a real boon. (That I didn't have to go out and buy the lackluster Wii U was an additional perk.) It's not often that a single game makes such a compelling case for buying an entire system, but Breath of the Wild by itself made the Switch completely worthwhile for me.
Otherwise, the Switch is good for all the usual reasons. I like playing console games on the go, on a large screen and in HD quality. Spontaneous multiplayer is a ton of fun in games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (and Arms is delightfully weird, if you have four Joy-Cons handy). Switching between handheld and docked mode is just as seamless as Nintendo makes it sound. There's something elegant about the device's simplicity, especially compared to the feature-heavy, sometimes-confusing PS4 and Xbox One.
It's not often that a single game makes such a compelling case for buying an entire system, but Breath of the Wild by itself made the Switch completely worthwhile for me.
What I hate: I've been on this particular hobby horse ever since the Switch launched, but the console's accessories are too darn expensive. If Sony or Microsoft attempted to charge $70 for a standard controller, the industry would be seething, but for some reason, Nintendo gets a free pass. From extra docks to carrying cases — basic things that you might need to transport your portable system — it often feels like Nintendo is out to nickel and dime its customers. And because, as usual, third-party Nintendo accessories tend to be not-so-great, said customers don't have much of a choice but to pony up another $100 or so before even leaving the store.
While the Switch's library of rich, narrative-driven single-player adventures is also growing, they're mostly ports of older games we've already played (Skyrim, Bayonetta 2, Doom and so forth). After Breath of the Wild, I was ready to sink my teeth into another, similarly meaty adventure, and I didn't have as many choices as I'd hoped. Even when new games come out concurrently on the Switch, they're often the weakest version in terms of performance and graphics. Maybe that's a fair trade-off for portability, but I'd rather have another ambitious exclusive title.
Adam Ismail, Staff Writer
Switch owner since: March 2017
Favorite games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Fast Racing Neo
What I love: There's a reason everyone who has a Switch wants every game to come out for the system. As a Switch owner, I feel there's nothing more freeing than knowing I can take Breath of the Wild's magical open world with me anywhere I go, and I love always having the opportunity to dip into PuyoPuyo Tetris for "just a match" before coming up for air an hour later. I'll drool at my favorite games in HDR and 4K as much as the next guy, but nothing compares to the freedom the Switch offers. The trade-offs are worth it a thousand times over.
The Switch is a handheld powerhouse that could act as a gateway to the best gaming experiences of all time. And yet Nintendo has no interest in doing right by retro fans.
What I hate: As Tom's Guide's resident sports-gaming fan, I've always had a tough time embracing Nintendo's platforms. Inevitably, I'm now hitting that same wall with the Switch — except this time it's even more frustrating, because the company has great hardware for the first time in almost two decades. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a ton of fun, but I need to get my realistic racing kicks somewhere, and, well, Gear.Club Unlimited is a phone game masquerading as a Driveclub clone.
Then there's Nintendo's perpetual habit of snubbing the Virtual Console. The Switch is a handheld powerhouse that could act as a gateway to the best gaming experiences of all time, at home or on the go. And yet Nintendo has no interest in doing right by retro fans or, evidently, in making even more money.
Credit: Mike Prospero/Tom's Guide