A little over eight months ago, Nintendo released the Switch, a video game system that was unlike anything that had come before it.
It was a novel cross between a traditional games system, a handheld one, and the Nintendo Wii, with its motion-tracking controllers. It’s fun to play, well-built, and extremely portable. But when I reviewed it, I couldn’t recommend it. There just wasn’t enough to do with the system to warrant paying $300 at the time. But things have changed. Over the last few months, Nintendo and its partners have released a string of games and updates that make the Switch truly one of the best, and most addictive, new pieces of technology I’ve used in a long time.
Here’s a quick rundown on what’s happened since the launch, and what makes the Switch a must-buy this holiday season:
Live TV on the Switch. Nintendo announced earlier this month that Hulu subscribers can now stream live TV and on-demand shows to their Switches. One of my initial concerns with the Switch was that people might be less inclined to purchase a second mobile device (after their phones) if it can’t offer more than one reason to pick it up. Now you can go from watching The Mindy Project to playing Mario in seconds.
Tons of popular third-party games. There really wasn’t much to play on the Switch when it launched, barring a few indie games, Bomberman, Zelda, and some very bizarre Nintendo games, including Snipperclips and 1-2-Switch. There’s now a bevy of games available, including popular franchises like FIFA 18, NBKA 2K18, Skyrim, Minecraft, Rocket League, and Doom, as well as Lego, Street Fighter, and Batman games. There’s also a version of Rockstar Games’ latest reboot, LA Noire.
Great new Nintendo titles. The Switch launched with a truly spectacular new Zelda game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But one amazing game isn’t enough of a reason to buy a new console, regardless of how good it is. Since its launch, Nintendo has released a few other games that live up to the standard Nintendo games of old, that are fun, whimsical, and addictive. It released Super Mario Kart 8, the latest in the Mario Kart franchise, which is as good as any in the series; Splatoon 2, a wacky paint-based third-person shooter; Arms, a boxing game where you use the Switch’s controllers to try to out-fox your long-armed opponents; and a wonderful new Mario game.
Super Mario Odyssey is the reason to buy a Switch. This might be the most enjoyable video game I’ve played since Super Mario 64 was released 21 years ago. It’s beautiful, complex, and impossible to put down. There’s so much to explore and uncover across so many worlds. I beat the game over the Thanksgiving break, but I’ve played for hours since then, trying to unlock the game’s final secrets. Combined with the new Zelda and Mario Kart games, along with all the third-party games available, the Switch has become as indispensable as I’d hoped.
Playing the same games everywhere. Over the last week, I played Super Mario on the train, on the couch, hooked up to my TV, and on a tabletop with the controllers detached. There’s something really special about being able to take a game with you wherever you’re going. You don’t have to stop playing because you need to leave for work, or because you have a flight to catch. I left the Switch’s dock at home when traveling, as it can charge from the same USB-C cable I use to charge my MacBook.
Playing all sorts of ways is unique. Recently, I’ve felt like I’m in a Switch commercial, as I’ve played with the console in just about every way possible. I’ve detached the controllers and played quick games of Mario Kart with friends. I’ve played on my TV, I’ve played in handheld mode, and I’ve played with it docked and flailed around with the controllers like I was playing on a Wii. There’s no other console on the market that has this level of flexibility, and it’s part of what makes the Switch unique.
There’s more to come. Nintendo is working on more original games, including new Pokémon, Yoshi, Kirby, and Metroid titles, that should debut in 2018. There are also rumors that Nintendo will create a sort of arcade for the Switch that will let users download and play popular old Nintendo games, like Super Smash Bros. Melee, or Animal Crossing.
The Switch has rapidly transformed from a promising piece of technology to one of the most exciting consoles ever. Unless Nintendo takes its foot off the gas and decides its future lies elsewhere, it’s difficult to see the Switch becoming anything other than one of Nintendo’s biggest successes of all time.