If you haven’t yet picked up the Nintendo Switch, there’s never been a better time. With Black Friday sales looming (and the arrival of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate imminent), it’s pretty much become the holiday must-have for gamer families.
Still, buying a new console often requires research. It takes time and effort to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, so, to help simplify that task, here’s a rundown of some highlights from the myriad of hardware, software, and accessory options available, including competing prices from multiple retailers.
Obviously, your first pick-up should be the Switch itself.
The standard Nintendo Switch—in both the Gray Joy-Con and Neon Red/Blue Joy-Con variants—is now available pretty much anywhere. Retailing for around $300, it’s your least expensive option.
Of course, there are also a number of new system bundles available that include special pack-in games and accessories.
Even a week after launch, the Pokémon: Let’s Go Edition Switch bundles are already hard to come by—no doubt due to the inclusion of special Eevee- and Pikachu-colored Joy-Cons with matching graphics on the Dock and console itself, not to mention your choice of Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Eevee! Still, if you can find one, it’ll definitely please even your most particular Pokémon Master.
Available via: Target ($399.99 – check stores)
This GameStop exclusive Diablo III: Eternal Collection Edition Switch also comes with custom Dock and console graphics. The Joy-Cons are plain ol’ gray, but you do get the full game and a special Diablo III case.
Available via: GameStop ($359.99 – now w/ $50 GameStop gift card)
While it’s hard to come by (at least at MSRP) online, you can still find the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Edition Switch at some brick-and-mortar stores. Even though the game itself isn’t out until next month, you can go ahead and enjoy those fancy character graphics on the Dock and its Smash-themed Joy-Cons now—and a download code is included for the SSBU.
While things like the Switch console, Joy-Cons and straps, Joy-Con Grip, Dock, and the necessary connector cables (AC and HDMI) are included, there are still a couple of other things you’ll want to pick up to complete your initial purchase.
Not matter which Switch console you choose, you’re only going to get 32GB of internal storage. This means a fresh microSD card should be your next investment. The Switch supports from 32GB to 2TB of additional storage, but my recommendation is a 128GB card if you plan on downloading a lot of titles or a 64GB if you just want a little extra space to play around with. The Samsung EVO Select line strikes a nice balance between storage size and affordability.
Nintendo Switch Online
Some would argue about my inclusion of the new Switch Online service as a necessity, but for my family, it’s been invaluable. Not only does it give you access to online multiplayer features, a growing library of NES games, and bonus Splatoon 2 gear, it is also ridiculously cheap! The base price of $19.99 a year is a sweet deal on its own, but an annual family membership is available for only $34.99 that covers up to 8 Nintendo Account holders.
Available via: Nintendo Switch Online
Two Joy-Cons can easily satisfy the needs of one to two players, but if you want to include more—or don’t want to limit yourself to single-Joy-Con multiplayer—there are a lot of options.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is sort of the gold standard here, and while the special edition models are great for collectors, even the vanilla original is a solid investment.
Personally, though, I’ve grown fond of PowerA’s Enhanced Wireless solution for regular gameplay, and their GameCube Style controllers (available in wireless and USB-wired options) seem perfectly built for Smash Bros.
A pair of Joy-Cons typically retails for $80, with Amazon routinely selling them for a discounted $68-$70.
Your best bet, though, is the $100 Super Mario Party bundle. That’ll score you an amazingly addictive party game and a pair of Neon Green/Yellow Joy-Cons at a nicely discounted price.
Storage, Protection, and Charging
Now that your hardware setup is secure, let’s look at ways to protect your investment and take your gaming on the road.
There’s a Nintendo Switch case at practically every price point, with the robust AmazonBasics Vault Case and Nintendo’s first-party solutions both available via Amazon for around $16.
If you’re in the market for a more luxurious solution, though, GeekDad favorite WaterField has an amazing array of specialty cases, albeit with a noticeably higher price tag.
Available via Amazon: AmazonBasics Vault Case ($16.99), Nintendo Switch Carrying Case – Super Mario Odyssey Edition ($15.99)
Screen protection for the Switch comes in three varieties: basic plastic, tempered glass, and fold-over.
Plastic options are inexpensive—in fact, a number of cases come bundled with ’em—but tend to prevent against scratches but not shatter damage. Tempered glass, by contrast, helps protect against both scratches and drops but does add a few additional millimeters to system thickness.
Then there are the fold-over varieties. These are usually leather-like folio cases that can cover the vulnerable Switch touchscreen when not in use and double as their own system stand.
Available via Amazon: Spigen Tempered Glass Nintendo Switch Screen Protector ($8.99 2-pack), PowerA Hybrid Cover ($13.46)
Because the Switch charges via USB-C, any quality USB-A to USB-C cable and auto adapter should work. However, if you’d be more comfortable with a dedicated car charger, I’ve had good luck with Nyko’s 6-foot Travel Charger EX. It’s reliable, well-made, and is great for those on-the-road situations when charging through the Switch Dock simply isn’t feasible.
Available via Amazon: Nyko Travel Charger EX ($17.08)
Standard Wall Charger
Again, the fact that the Switch is USB-C is very helpful in this regard, and, in a pinch, I’ve been known to let me phone charger pull double duty. But, again, if you want a dedicated solution, you have multiple options, with Nintendo’s own first-party charger at the top of the list.
Available via Amazon: Amazon Basics Dual Voltage AC Charger for Nintendo Switch ($21.24), Nintendo Switch AC Charger ($28.50)
In true Nintendo fashion, the Switch is an ideal system for the gamer family. Local multiplayer fun abounds, but here are a handful of highlights.
I’ve already expounded upon the family fun to be had with the Labo line. You and yours can make, play, and discover with a blend of dedicated software, detailed instructions, and cardboard… oh, so much cardboard! There are three different kits available, and each offers unparalleled experiential play. The Robot Kit is an advanced, massive, multi-part build; the Variety Kit offers a number of projects of various size and complexity; the new Vehicle Kit splits the difference, and that’s the one my kids enjoyed most.
Pokémon: Let’s Go
My family’s latest obsession is this modern retelling of Pokémon Yellow. Choose from either Eevee or Pikachu in this enchanting title that can both connect to Pokémon GO and to the brand new Poké Ball Plus accessory. More importantly, though, a new two-player mode makes it easy to share the experience of becoming a Pokémon Master even with your youngest gamers. Enjoyable, accessible, and nigh perfect in its approach to green players, Let’s Go is nothing if not hard to resist.
Super Mario Odyssey
Still one of the best games on the system, Odyssey, like Pokémon: Let’s Go, also includes a two-player “helper” mode wherein you can take on the role of Cappy and aid your tiny plumber as he or she saves the day. Loaded with in-game collectibles, clever nods to the franchise’s storied past, and an adventure that takes literal worlds to contain, it may be the finest Mario title to date.
I got a review code for the Overcooked! sequel earlier this year, and, honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. What I discovered was a madcap multiplayer cooking sim that easily became one of our go-to games of the summer. Chop, cook, and serve proper meals to finicky customers, all while trying to keep orders straight and avoid obstacles… and each other. I’d love to tell you that Overcooked! 2 was always played perfectly in my house with nary a harsh word spoken between us, but that would be a horrible, horrible lie. It will overwhelm, frustrate, and confound, but you’ll keep coming back; it’s just that good!
If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in going it alone, the Nintendo Switch has you covered there as well.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Is it weird that there’s a launch title on this list? Probably, but BotW is still amazing. Its distinctly new-school take on Zelda‘s expansive world and focus on exploration and creative problem-solving still reign supreme. A challenging, lengthy adventure that’s well worth the price of admission, Breath of the Wild combines everything you love about the series-proper with shades of Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed. Also there is cooking.
Another masterful single-player RPG, Octopath Traveler is, on a number of levels, the polar opposite of Breath of the Wild. It’s an old-school party-based affair that still somehow manages to be fresh, accessible, and oddly deep. Recruit the game’s eight player characters in any order and experience each continuing story in a game world that’s both unusual and nostalgically familiar.
Proving that a game can be both a cult classic and a rousing commercial success, Undertale‘s recent arrival on the Switch should serve to open up this weirdly wonderful creation of Toby Fox to an even wider audience. The worlds of man and monster collide, threatening to reignite an old war, and you—nothing more than a lone, lost child—hold the key to the future. Will you kill indiscriminately or turn the other cheek? Make friends or dominate enemies? It’s totally your call.
Grim, grisly, and punishing, Darkest Dungeon is sure to please fans of party-based RPGs and roguelikes, but it may scare off the frail and weakminded. Lovecraftian horrors lurk beneath your bequeathed estate, and you’ll no doubt grind many hardy adventurers to dust—or, at the very least, drive them to the brink of insanity—before its secrets are revealed. The learning curve is steep, but the payoff is rewarding enough to warrant all that hard work.
Fire Emblem Warriors
If your two favorite genres are hack and slash, Fire Emblem Warriors is the game for you. Tying the unmistakable action elements of Dynasty Warriors and the deep mythology of Fire Emblem sounds a little weird on paper, but in actuality? Well, yeah, it’s still a little weird. It’s also unbelievably fun and deceptively deep. Mow down enemies, challenge bosses, and recruit your favorite heroes in this larger-than-life, wholly over-the-top battlefield brawler.
While the following titles offer fun single-player gaming and even some local multiplayer options, where they really shine is in the online arena.
A longtime favorite in my house, Splatoon 2 fine-tunes the gameplay of the original and adds more levels, gear, modes, and mayhem. Playing solo is a great way to hone your skills, but it’s the online multiplayer that truly makes Splatoon 2 worth the price of admission. Turf Mode is its bread and butter, but Ranked and League Battles will surely challenge even the most diehard of shooter fanboys. Regular Splatfest events add an element of purpose and community, and the latest Octo Expansion takes the world of Splatoon into exciting new tentacled territory.
The newly updated Minecraft now supports online play between the Switch, mobile users, PC gamers, and even other consoles, meaning there’s still more multiplayer fun to be had on your favorite console/handheld hybrid! Sure, you can still build mammoth creations on your own, but this new cross-platform play is great for families that have been building (and sharing their time and creations) via other devices for years.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe succeeds on all fronts, but it’s the robust online support that gives it a competitive edge—and, I’ll wager, will serve to rouse your own competitive spirit. This is the part where I remind everyone that MK8D is the one game GeekMom Kelly didn’t totally school me in during our very first Nintendo Switch press junket. And, yes, I’m still holding onto that fragile victory. Because such is the power of Mario Kart.
While the Switch catalog has really picked up steam since last year, there are a couple of notable additions that will be arriving in the near future.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Smash Bros. has a rabid fanbase and a 20-year history of boundary-busting fighting games. Ultimate promises a bigger roster, more stages, and a brand new Spirit mechanic, but, sadly, still no playable Waluigi.
Nintendo Switch Online NES Controllers
Another perk of the Nintendo Switch Online service is access to special offers. The first of these is a pair of NES Controllers that charge by attaching to the Switch just like Joy-Cons—perfect for revisiting Metroid and Super Mario Bros. 3. You can pre-purchase them now for$59.99, and they should be available mid-December.
Available soon via: Nintendo Switch Online
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
New Super Mario Bros. U was a Wii U standout, and now it’s being re-released for the wider Switch audience and given the “Deluxe” treatment just like Mario Kart 8. Look for it Friday, January 11, 2019.
Steals and Deals (Updated)
I’ll actually be updating this list throughout Black Friday weekend. Right now some sale highlights include:
First and foremost, Nintendo is already hyping the (in all honesty, pretty hype-worthy) Black Friday Nintendo Switch Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Bundle. You get a Switch with Neon Red/Blue Joy-Cons and MK8D for $299—so, yeah, you’re getting an amazing game thrown in for free. These bundles will be available at multiple retailers, but Walmart already has a countdown page.
Nintendo eShop Cyber Deals are here! Now through November 28, save up to 50% on games like Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, NBA 2K19, and more. And if you’d rather put a digital redemption code in a Christmas stocking than download the games immediately, Amazon is price-matching many of these deals.