Is the Nintendo Switch the best gaming console of all time?

Known for its brilliant design and exclusive titles, it was the make-or-break product that became a bestseller

BANGKOK, THAILAND - 2018/04/27:  In this photo illustration, a turned on Nintendo Switch with 2 Joy-Con in front of it. The Kyoto based video game company Nintendo ended its comeback year with revenue worth $9 Billion after a glorious 2017 notably with the launch of the hybrid console the Nintendo Switch, mini retro vintage game consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo as well as its mobile phone video games. Also Nintendo will welcome its new president Shuntaro Furukawa in the month of June 2018. (Photo Illustration by Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

Rumours are circulating on social media that Nintendo’s next console could come as soon as next year. If true, we are now entering the final year of the Nintendo Switch’s lifecycle as the company’s primary console.

Since its global release in 2017, the Switch has sold more than 125 million units to become the third-bestselling console of all time. However, is it the best console of all time?

Huge improvement

When Nintendo announced the Switch in 2016, expectations were high. It was widely seen as a make-or-break product for the company, following the disastrous release of the Wii U – widely seen as a failed follow-up to the Wii.

While the Wii had proved immensely successful, with sales topping 100 million, the Wii U shifted a fraction of that – a mere 13 million units.

The challenge for Nintendo was immense. Although the Wii U was marketed as a home console that could be carried as a portable console, the consensus was that it didn't do either particularly well.

For the Switch, some reverse thinking was required. Nintendo decided to make sure it worked primarily as a good portable console, with the home element being a bonus.

It was a risky move.

The console for everyone

The Nintendo Switch was designed with a simple yet ingenious set of components: a screen, two "Joy-Con" controllers – which attach to either side of the screen – and a docking unit that charges the console and allows it to be played on a TV.

The simplicity of these parts made the Switch accessible to everyone from seasoned gamers to casual ones looking for something to play on weekends.

The two Joy-Cons could also be separated to allow for two-person gameplay, with each using their own as a controller. This multiplayer factor was a huge part of the Wii's success and the Switch doubled down with games like Super Mario Party and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe allowing multiple players to compete against each other. Some games could have up to eight players connecting and playing in the same room.

From the start, the Switch's flexibility proved popular, selling 13 million units in its first year to immediately eclipse the Wii U’s disappointment.

A strong and unique library

Although consoles by Nintendo's competitors offer a much broader array of titles, there are more than enough Switch exclusives to set it apart.

Nintendo is notoriously stringent about licensing its original games, meaning they can only be played on its consoles. Players who want to try out popular games like Zelda and Animal Crossing – a hit with global players at home during the pandemic – have no choice but to purchase the Switch.

And while Nintendo can be proud of its large line-up of marquee names, its library also offers many indie games such as Shovel Knight, Stardew Valley and Hades, that while playable elsewhere, feel at home on a cosy console like the Switch.

The best?

Like many lifelong PlayStation gamers, my own experience with Nintendo consoles was traditionally limited to its strong selection of portables. From the original Game Boy and Game Boy Colour, through to the 3DS, to many, the success of the Switch is in its ability to offer more than the sum of its parts.

On the face of it, the console can seem flimsy and outdated. Its controllers are small and easily break compared to the PlayStation and Xbox. Those consoles also offer a higher definition gaming experience, while the Switch is still dabbling in 1080p.

Most of all, the Switch’s strength is in its accessibility and ease of play. Those aged nine or 59 can pick it up easily and play without a 20-minute lecture on what button does what – which translates to intuitive gameplay.

Although fans of various consoles will argue endlessly over their favourites, there's no denying the Switch is among the most versatile, and has the broadest appeal.

Updated: August 18, 2023, 3:02 AM