The Nintendo Switch is a bona fide hit. By the end of 2017 — the system’s first 10 months on store shelves — Nintendo had sold nearly 15 million units of the Switch, eclipsing the entire lifetime sales of the Wii U. During that same period, Switch sales in the U.S. alone topped 4.8 million systems, breaking Nintendo’s own record with the Wii.
The Switch’s $299 price tag only covers the basics — a docking station, two Joy-Cons, a Joy-Con Grip, an HDMI cable and an AC power adapter. Not to mention the frankly pitiful internal storage. A quick Amazon search for Switch accessories shows the extent to which the portable/console hybrid is primed for peripherals of all kinds. Some are necessities, some would be nice to have, and some are just silly.
[Note: All prices listed in this guide are suggested retail prices, which may not be current. Check retailer listings for the most up-to-date information.]
The Switch’s internal flash memory holds just 32 GB of data, with only about 25.9 GB of usable storage. To put that in perspective, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild requires 13.4 GB of space on its own, and that’s not including the expansions. Unless you only buy physical copies of games, which quickly gets cumbersome, data management is going to be an issue.
A microSD slot behind the Switch’s kickstand can handle storage of up to 2 TB, but microSD cards don’t yet have the capacity to hold two terabytes of data. The largest memory card you can find right now is SanDisk’s 1TB microSD card, with an MSRP of over $400 (though they’re getting cheaper by the day.) The average Switch user can probably get by with a much more reasonably priced 200 GB version.
Nintendo Switch controllers
One of the best features of the Switch is the system’s versatility. The launch titles alone range from the whimsical multiplayer game Snipperclips — Cut it out, Together! to the sweeping open-world RPG The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That means the ways in which you play these games will be very different.
The Joy-Cons that come with the Switch are innovative in a lot of ways. Their motion controls are impressive, and the ability to turn them sideways to be used in some two-player games is pretty cool (if not super comfortable). The Joy-Con Comfort Grip included in the system converts the Joy-Cons into a gamepad but it’s still not especially ergonomic.
Nintendo makes a more traditional gamepad, the Switch Pro Controller, which is definitely recommended if you’re playing more in-depth games. It’s one of the most comfortable controllers I’ve ever used, and has an extremely long battery life.
Plenty of third-party controllers are compatible with the Switch as well. 8Bitdo makes popular retro-inspired wireless controllers that can be paired to the Switch via Bluetooth. The Horipad, an officially licensed wired gamepad from Hori, includes a detachable D-pad adapter that comes in handy for fighting games. Die hard Smash Bros. fans may also want to pick up PowerA’s wireless GameCube-style controller for that authentic Smash gameplay.
Another option is to use a USB adapter to sync existing wireless controllers, including PS4 DualShock 4 controllers, to your Switch. We’re big fan’s of 8Bitdo’s version; Nexilux’s Game Genie is also a popular choice.
Comfort and performance
For those who’d prefer to keep playing with the Joy-Cons, there are a few accessories out there that can make gameplay more comfortable.
Like with its Wii Remotes, Nintendo released a steering wheel peripheral for playing Mario Kart (or any other racing game). A Joy-Con fits into a slot in the center of the wheel, and you can use the motion controls by tilting it like, well, a steering wheel. It’s totally unnecessary but still kind of fun, especially when playing in a group.
For a little more comfort when holding single Joy-Cons horizontally during multiplayer games, AmazonBasics makes small controller-shaped shells. It’s still a very small controller, but it’s a bit easier to hold. The kit includes a thumbstick cover, which can also be bought separately.
Charging your Switch
Playing the Switch undocked is useful when traveling and when someone else wants to use the TV. It also means that you’ll eventually have to stop playing to recharge the battery, unless you pick up a portable charger. Anker makes the only Nintendo-certified battery packs that’ll charge while you play. The more powerful model, the Anker PowerCore 20100, will power the Switch for up to 15 extra hours.
To play undocked in tabletop mode but still plugged in, AmazonBasics makes a playstand that holds up the Switch at an angle with an opening underneath for the charger. You’ll have to charge the controllers eventually, but you’ll definitely get a few more hours of gameplay out of it.
Even if you’re playing docked, those wireless controllers will need to be recharged from time to time as well. A Joy-Con Charging Grip can extend your gaming time even longer by juicing up the Joy-Cons while you’re playing.
For those rocking a Pro Controller, you can give it a home with a charging dock of its own from PowerA. Not only does it look better than having loose cords hanging around, but it does double duty by charging the Joy-Cons at the same time.
Finally, if you spend a lot of time in your car, PowerA even makes a Switch car charger. It’s especially useful if you’re trying to keep kids (or adults) occupied on long road trips.
Nintendo Switch wireless headsets
The Switch doesn’t currently allow wireless headphones to connect directly to the console, but a few manufacturers have come up with solutions to make it work.
In September of 2019, SteelSeries launched the Arctis 1 Wireless, “the first truly wireless Nintendo Switch headset” with a 2.4 GHz receiver that plugs into either the Switch dock or the console itself. It’s ideal for mobile gaming, especially since the included microphone is detachable.
Bionik also makes a neat little dongle to connect wireless headphones to the Switch. It works similarly to SteelSeries’ receiver for the Arctis 1 Wireless, though it uses Bluetooth which can tend to lag a bit. (This is what I use to connect my wireless headphones to my Switch, and I haven’t noticed any lag so far.)
If you want to use the Switch’s weird chat setup, though, your best bet is with the SteelSeries Arctis 3. Only a few Switch games have native chat available — the rest use Nintendo’s mobile app. The Arctis 3 allows for simultaneous audio through its 3.5 mm headphone jack and via Bluetooth, meaning you can listen to game audio and chat via the mobile app (or, more likely, Discord) at the same time.
Nintendo Switch cases and protection
I’ve seen people do it, but the idea of just throwing a $300 console in a bag makes me cringe. A Switch case should be a necessity, especially if you’re going to be taking advantage of the system’s portability. Nintendo has a wide range of officially licensed cases, so you shouldn’t need to look too hard for something to keep your Switch safe.
The Hybrid Cover from PowerA looks like a folding tablet case, with a magnetic strip that keeps the cover secure. A tempered glass screen protector is included as well. If you’re just looking to keep your Switch from getting banged up while you’re on the go, this’ll get the job done.
The most popular Switch case is probably the Game Traveler Deluxe line from RDS Industries, which comes in two sizes. The Travel Case holds the Switch with Joy-Cons attached, and includes two plastic game card holders that can fit up to four games, with an insert for microSD cards. A padded divider holds your Switch in place and protects the screen, with a pocket for extras like headphones and USB chargers. The Joy-Con wrist straps will fit in there too, but just barely.
The System Travel Case will indeed hold the whole dang system — Switch, dock, chargers, and either the Joy-Con Grip or a Pro Controller. Along with the same game card holders included in the Travel Case, the System Travel Case includes a mesh pouch for cords and other loose items.
It’s probably worth picking up a few extra tempered glass screen protectors as well. A two-pack goes for $8.99 on Amazon.
Nintendo Switch Online
Like its contemporaries Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo requires a subscription service to play online multiplayer games (with some exceptions.) Nintendo Switch Online also offers free NES and SNES games, as well as a cloud save ability. Nintendo Switch Online costs $3.99 per month or $19.99 for the year, though we definitely recommend teaming up with some friends and splitting the $34.99 family plan.
If you’ve got spotty Wi-Fi, it’s also worth picking up an ethernet adapter for your Switch so that you can play online without your internet crapping out in the middle of a Smash match.
Styling your Switch
Of course, this is Nintendo and branding is everything. Practically all of the licensed accessories have design options that feature your favorite Nintendo characters and properties. Whether you’re into Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you can probably find a case, controller or skin to show off your obsession — in varying degrees of conspicuousness. I bought this embossed Zelda version of the Game Traveler Deluxe Travel Case because it was the only case available at my hometown’s Target, and it’s actually pretty subtle.