The year began with plenty of apprehension about Nintendo's latest experimental gaming device, but 2017 has ended with the Switch being the hottest thing in games today. Well done, Nintendo.
And well done to you too, assuming you just unwrapped one. The Switch might not be the most powerful console today, but its portability has made it a must-have, along with brilliant new games from Nintendo and a staggering influx of third-party support.
Now what, then? Well, it's time to set up your sweet new device, snag some games, and maybe procure a few handy accessories to ensure that you're making the most of the Switch. Read on and we'll help you sort all of that out.
1) Get up and running
The Nintendo Switch has a couple more parts and pieces than your average Xbox or PlayStation, but it's actually incredibly easy to put together and start using. Nintendo's been doing this for decades now, so it's no surprise that the Switch is user-friendly through and through.
Plug the included power adapter into a wall outlet and then connect the USB-C port to the bottom of the Switch itself, right below the screen. You'll then attach the Joy-Con controllers to the right and left sides of the screen, and they'll slide in with a satisfying click.
Hold the power button on top and you can begin the setup process, which includes choosing your language and region, setting up Wi-Fi and entering or creating a Nintendo account, and downloading any system updates that might be available. It's a relatively painless process, and since Nintendo hasn't launched its fully-featured online service yet, you won't have to pay to use its network components for now.
And then there's the other end of the Switch experience: the TV dock. It's a simple plastic cradle that connects to both your TV and a wall outlet, and lets you fling Switch games onto the big screen and/or charge the unit while docked.
This part is easy too. Once you have a solid charge on the Switch itself, detach the power adapter from before and plug it in next to your TV, putting the USB-C end into the back of the dock. Run the HDMI cable from the dock to your TV and then you're all set. When you pop the Switch into the dock, it'll display on your TV screen.
Since the portable screen stays in the dock while you're playing on the TV, you'll need to remove the Joy-Con controllers to use them on their own. The Switch comes with little strap attachments that bulk up the tiny controllers and make the shoulder buttons much easier to use. Alternately, you can attach them to the included controller cable to make it feel more like a traditional gamepad, or buy the separate Pro Controller, which feels much like an Xbox One gamepad.
2) Grab some games
The Nintendo Switch is sort of useless if you don't have any great games to play on it. Luckily, the system's first year has brought us some tremendous experiences, including Nintendo's biggest and best games in ages.
Need something to play? Here are three of our absolute favourites, along with three cheaper eShop games that you can download and play in a hurry. And if you need more picks, scope out our list of the 20 top Switch games to date.
Biggest and best
Super Mario Odyssey (£42)
Mario's proper Switch debut is absolutely bonkers, and it's also completely brilliant. Super Mario Odyssey brings in a wild new twist with Cappy, an alien creature who inhabits Mario's hat – and lets him toss the hat onto enemies and objects to control them. There's still plenty of run-and-jump platforming here, but with new tweaks, huge worlds, and endless charm on top.
Breath of the Wild will surely go down as one of the all-time great launch games, helping to catapult the Switch into millions of homes and keep players busy for ages. On top of that, it majorly overhauls the tried-and-true Zelda formula, providing a massive open world full of surprises, shrine dungeons to complete, and new gear and experiences to discover.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (£42)
Unlike the games above, this one's a port – but that doesn't diminish Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's fun. This expanded reissue of the Wii U favourite packs in extra courses and characters that were previously paid DLC, brings in a much better version of the Battle mode, and even offers accessibility features that made it friendlier to young kids and newcomers. It's a delight.
Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (£20)
The world's most popular creation game is now on Switch, and it's a perfect fit too. You'll be able to build enormous structures and worlds block by block, Lego-style, as well as collaborate with friends, play online, and attempt to survive the nights amidst pixel monsters. Minecraft runs beautifully on the Switch, plus this version is packed with extra Mario skins and content.
Sonic Mania (£16)
Sonic… on a Nintendo console? Actually, yes: it's been happening for a while now, but Sonic Mania is an entirely new game built on Sega's classic template. Sonic was never better than in the early '90s and Sonic Mania looks and plays just like the 16-bit originals, plus it's also one of the best sub-£20 games you'll find on the Switch.
Rocket League (£15)
Rocket League didn't begin life on the Switch, but its unique brand of car-football perfectly aligns with Nintendo's oft-silly premises. You'll drive a rocket-boosted car up the walls and around the pitch as you slap around an enormous ball, taking part in three-on-three online battles to prove your supremacy. It runs better in docked mode on the TV, but it's super fun either way.
3) Get some extra gear
The Switch comes with everything you need to get up and running (except games, of course), but a few choice accessories can really accentuate and extend the fun. Here are four worth considering.
The Switch comes with 32GB of internal storage, although it's actually less once you format the console – plus there are already some games too large to even fit within that chunk. So yes, you will absolutely want a memory card. Go larger if you want, but 128GB hits the sweet spot of price and ample storage, providing plenty of space to hold games and data without having to splurge too much.
If you're used to playing games on other current consoles, then the Switch's dinky Joy-Cons just won't satisfy for TV play, even within the included gamepad shell. Instead, grab Nintendo's great Pro Controller. It's essentially an Xbox One controller in feel, and even if the £60 price point is a leap, your hands will thank you during epic Legend of Zelda sessions. Trust us.
PDP Premium Travel Case (£13)
Unless you plan on keeping the Switch at home at all times, you're gonna need a case. We like PowerA's large Everywhere Messenger bag, which holds the dock and cords, but something simpler probably works best for everyday play. Try PDP's case: it's slim, solidly stylish, and safely holds the system and 14 game cards. They also offer great Mario and Zelda variants for a couple quid more.
The Switch has a tiny kickstand on it, but it's flimsy – plus you can't charge the system while it's standing upright. Luckily, HORI has a neat solution: its fold-up Compact PlayStand, which holds the Switch up at one of three selectable angles while providing access to the USB-C port at the bottom. It's great for on-the-go throwdowns, especially if you plan on playing for a while.