After four years on the North American market, Nintendo announced in 2016 that it would soon release the follow-up to its Wii U home video game console. As the months went by, more details were revealed, ultimately culminating with the reveal of its design and name: the Nintendo Switch.
This new system advertises itself as a hybrid console, meaning that the hardware comes with two methods of play, at home or on-the-go. The main unit itself is a large LCD touch screen tablet with a slot for game cartridges on top. The console will come with a dock that transfers the game image from the tablet to a television when it is connected.
The primary controllers, known as Joy-Cons, are made up of two detachable halves that either attach to a tablet in portable mode or on a grip in dock mode to provide the feel of a gamepad controller. Like Nintendo’s previous two consoles, a separate Pro controller will be released, giving gamers the feel of a traditional Xbox 360- or PlayStation 3-styled controller.
The games for the console are now released on cartridges that appear very similar to the ones used on Nintendo’s DS and 3DS handheld systems. As a result, backward compatibility with the disc-based Wii and Wii U has been rendered impossible, though it has been confirmed that Amiibo figures will still be supported.
After months of anticipation among gamers and the gaming media, the Nintendo Switch was finally launched in the United States on March 3 with mixed reviews. While pre-order sales were strong in Europe and North America, several hardware and software issues—like the poor battery life of the tablet in portable mode, a bare-bones user interface at launch and a lackluster selection of titles available on day one of the console’s release—hurt the Switch.
The system was released with 10 games in North America, three of which are available exclusively on the Nintendo eShop. Aside from the latest installments of long-running franchises like Just Dance and Skylanders and a re-release of indie game Shovel Knight, each title tries to make use of the various features of the system, namely the Joy-Cons. One such game is 1-2-Switch, a party game that focuses on mini-games that require two players to each use a Joy-Con and play using audio cues while looking at each other. Another Switch exclusive at launch is Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!, a puzzle game that makes use of a snipping mechanic to allow players to cooperate and solve shape- and physics-
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was also one of the first games released on the Switch. Previously announced as a Wii U exclusive back in 2013, this is the first installment since Twilight Princess to be released on two concurrent Nintendo home consoles.
Unlike previous games in the main series, there is greater emphasis on open-world exploration. Very similar to the original Legend of Zelda, there are little instructions given to the player when the game starts and the player can explore the world at whatever pace suits him or her.
In addition to the launch library, several new games are being introduced throughout 2017 to satisfy early adopters. One game that will be coming soon is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an updated version of the Wii U kart racer that finally adds the battle mode that was omitted from the original game, as well as new characters and weapons in addition to all previously released downloadable content. Another unique game that was announced is Arms, a fighting game that features characters using a variety of extendable arms to defeat opponents in a 3-D ring.
Nintendo’s most famous mascot is returning to the spotlight in Super Mario Odyssey. After years of experimenting with anti-gravity gameplay and mixing together 3-D controls with 2-D level design, the series is finally returning to the open-world exploration gameplay that defined the Italian plumber’s first two 3-D outings in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. Mario’s trademark cap will also come to life and serve as his primary attack, as well as his sidekick throughout the adventure.