The Nintendo Switch’s Legacy

The Nintendo Switch is now 6 years old. With the recent February Nintendo Direct completed, fans and journalists have ramped up in their speculation about the hybrid console’s future. Some think that the Switch’s successor may be announced at the end of the year and that 2024 may see the arrival of Nintendo’s next console. That’s possible, but the new console might also be another year off. You never know with Nintendo. Regardless, it feels like the general Switch audience is starting to feel itchy for new hardware, particularly more powerful hardware.

It’s certainly fun to talk about the future of Nintendo, since at this point there are so many possibilities the company could take. But for this console’s birthday, I’d rather pause and look back on what the Nintendo Switch is going to leave behind. Every Nintendo console has its own identity and legacy. The game library, the hardware features, and the company’s policies all create a general feeling of what players will think about when looking back on the Switch. While everyone’s take will probably be slightly different, I think there are five main parts to the Nintendo Switch’s legacy that will be common across the gaming community.

The Nintendo Switch’s announcement trailer was a revelation.

1. “The Goldilocks Console”

Ever since the DS and the Wii, Nintendo has tried to carve a niche in the video game market where they use creative hardware features to attract new customers, especially those unfamiliar with games. This strategy also has the potential to attract core gamers if Nintendo presents a new compelling way to play traditional video games. The DS is defined by its touch controls, as is the Wii with its motion controls. Some gamers loved the new controls, while others strongly disliked them. When Nintendo released the 3DS and the Wii U, we saw Nintendo try to win back the core gamers by balancing gimmicks with the more “standard” console controls. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work quite as well as they intended, especially with the Wii U and its confusing marketing.

The Nintendo Switch has officially become the “Goldilocks Console,” where it’s not too hard-core, and not too casual; it’s just right. The company has finally found a gimmick that’s appealing for everyone. I remember the Switch’s first reveal trailer in October of 2016. I saw the man pick the Switch up from the dock and the screen seamlessly transitioned from TV to handheld. It looked like magic. I’m usually not interested in a console’s hardware. The console is just the box that plays the games, and it takes me a few years to warm up to Nintendo’s gimmicks (I’m still not fond of the DS’s touch screen, to be honest), but the Switch’s hybrid feature got me wanting to buy it as soon as I saw it. And it seems like the general gaming industry has responded similarly. Nintendo solved an issue for many gamers (myself included) where now people can play wherever they want, TV or handheld. They created a niche that’s “just right.”

A Class Photo of the Switch’s 1st Party All-Star lineup.

2. “Something for Everyone”

Speaking of appealing to all types of players, the Nintendo Switch has, in my opinion, one of the most diverse game libraries in Nintendo history. The company made a wise decision in consolidating their Handheld and Home development studios and they’ve made a strong set of connections with outside developers as well. You have something from every genre: Platformer, Action, Puzzle, Strategy, RPG, Open World, FPS, Fighting, Online Shooter, Life Sim, and Racing. You have long-standing series and brand-new IP. Many traditional franchises went in ambitions new directions as well, such as Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and of course, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Obviously not every series got a new Switch game, and their library is padded out with Wii U ports and Wii / GameCube remasters, but even the Switch exclusives all together form a sizeable line-up. Luigi’s Mansion 3, Astral Chain, Metroid Dread, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and last but not least Splatoon 3. That’s not a shabby list of games. And of course, we’re getting The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Pikmin 4 later this year as well.

I’m particularly happy that Nintendo is taking some risks and giving more obscure series the chance to shine. Because it takes so much more time and resources to create games than it did in the ’90s, Nintendo can’t afford to keep up every series that they started in the past and create new IP at the same time. Nintendo have partnered with outside studios to help with this workload for decades, but some of these partners have especially found their stride over the past decade like Platinum Games, MercurySteam, and Next Level Games (the latter of which Nintendo even bought last year). My only hope is that Nintendo keeps scouting for more talented studios to resurrect or reimagine other classic series like F-Zero, Mario & Luigi, and maybe even StarTropics.

My Nintendo Switch collection is by far my largest collection, and it’s for a good reason.

The amount of games sold on the Switch is unfathomable. This is an even more successful time period than the Wii era.

3. “The Switch Effect”

Speaking of giving obscure games a chance, the Nintendo Switch has created an uncanny effect on essentially every game series. No matter what it is, the Switch’s version has a habit of becoming the best-selling entry in each of their respective series. Whether it’s Super Mario Odyssey or Pikmin 3 Deluxe, every series has grown in the fertile soil that is the Nintendo Switch. And course, some series have grown less like timid flowers and more like radiation-infused weeds. Splatoon and Animal Crossing in particular went from becoming well-liked among the Nintendo community to becoming widespread cultural phenomenon. It seems like the entire Japanese archipelago engages in Turf War now, and in 2020 the United States became one massive Animal Crossing community. Growth like this is the kind that makes me excited, because it hopefully encourages Nintendo to take more risks with game series that they have thought was unimportant. Influencers have really made their mark on the gaming community, and that word-of-mouth is powerful. If Nintendo made a new Chibi Robo, I guarantee you die-hard fans like Scott the Woz would 1) scream into the mic until his lungs burst and then 2) create a special episode to talk about the game, guaranteeing the game gets exposed to millions of people. Obviously the Switch being popular in general helps these games sell, but also the online community being as big as it is (and growing every day) is just as important a factor, if not more so.

The Joy-Cons are cool controllers, they really are. It’s such a shame that the analog sticks are so poorly-made.

4. Drifting Issues

Of course, not everything is great in Nintendo Switch Land. The console has unfortunately seen a number of problems. Some of these are simply bad business decisions, and others are mistakes that haven’t been corrected. The biggest offender is none other than Joy Con drift. The anger surrounding the problem reached a feverishly high degree of heat from 2019 to 2021, and while Nintendo of America’s policy is to still hand out band-aids and not actually fix the root of the issue, the bonfire of ire has started to fade. I think this is a bad decision, not only as a fan, but also as someone who has to consider the cost analysis. Nintendo’s reputation hinges on quality, and it’s worth the cost to maintain that reputation to keep your long-term customers. You don’t want to get a sports injury when your career is beginning to take off. I think there will be a good number of customers that may hold off on buying the Nintendo Switch’s successor until reviewers can verify that drift doesn’t happen after 6 to 12 months of use.

Nintendo has also made a rather unsavory habit of releasing several games in an incomplete state. And while Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (as well as Scarlet and Violet) are rather obvious examples, the games I’m talking about seem to perform fine but have paltry content when they launch. And instead Nintendo decides to complete the game’s content after the fact. For example, I was excited to buy Mario Strikers Battle League thanks to all of the praise that people have given to past Mario Strikers games. However, when reviews came out, I saw how little there was to do in the game, so I decided to wait. I did the same thing with Arms; I waited until it looked finished and then decided it was worth it. Battle League has yet to reach that point for me. It’s one thing to extend a completed game’s life, but it’s another to “finish” a game later.

Finally, Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) is the final piece of the Nintendo Switch problematic trifecta. It may be the part that ends up becoming more widely liked, though. Personally, I don’t like subscriptions. Like, at all. When my partner and I want to watch movies, we end up using DVDs and when we watch TV Shows, we pick a streaming services and binge all that we want to see in one month. I don’t see the NSO as a $20 service; I see it as a $100 service because I’ve paid for it for 5 years now. I haven’t bought the Expansion Pack because it’s not only a massive price hike, it’s a recurring price hike. For most of its life, the general gaming community feels mixed about the service, generally leaning towards the unfavorable side. However, with the announcement of Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games coming to the service, it seems like peoples’ minds are starting to change about it. Maybe in a few years, once the Switch’s successor is out, people will think of NSO as a good deal, but I think most people will remember the Switch’s time with the service as controversial.

People may remember other issues as well, including Nintendo’s pricing model (no price drops like the “Nintendo Selects” of past consoles), and FOMO-inducing limited-time releases such as Super Mario 3D All-Stars, but I think the biggest blemishes on the console’s history will be 1) Joy Con Drift, 2) releasing unfinished games, and 3) NSO.

Just a few of the 3rd Party Games I thought I’d never see on the console.

5. The Life of the 3rd Party

Ever since Sony swooped in with the original PlayStation in 1995, Nintendo has been working tirelessly to get 3rd Party support for their consoles. They had better luck with their handhelds than with their home consoles, and so it makes sense that the Nintendo Switch enjoys some of the best 3rd Party support I’ve ever seen on a Nintendo system. Several prominent game publishers ported games that I never thought I’d see on a Nintendo console. Skyrim, Portal, No Man’s Sky… all happily ported over. Every year of the Switch’s life some new game gets ported that people thought the Switch could never handle. In 2017 we got Doom (2016), followed by Dark Souls and Diablo III in 2018, and then Dragon Quest XI and The Witcher III in 2019. Fast-forward to today, the list of “miracle ports” actually getting pretty long. Granted, not every port is made well, and the performance on even the good ports is always weaker than other platforms, but I still think that these games are technical marvels. I have very few issues with them. I can’t imagine how much work it took for the developers to optimize their games for the Switch. Consider my hat tipped.

The Switch is an RPG behemoth.

If I had to say what genre suits the Nintendo Switch the best, I’d have to say Role-Playing Games (RPGs). And it seems to me that 3rd Party publishers had the same idea. The Nintendo Switch is an RPG monster. Naturally Nintendo has offered several of its own RPG masterpieces like Fire Emblem and Xenoblade, but Square Enix and Atlus have ended up becoming some of the platform’s most prolific publishers. Whether it’s old classics or new games, you can find most any JRPG on the Nintendo Switch. Final Fantasy, Persona, Ni No Kuni, NieR, Dragon Quest, Ys, Monster Hunter, Octopath Traveler, Shin Megami Tensei, Tales of, Bravely Default, all have a presence on the Switch. Any subgenre you can think of — Strategy RPG, Action RPG, Turn-Based RPG — they could each be given their own dedicated Top 10 or Top 15 lists.

A handful of the hundreds of Indie darlings on the Switch.

Finally, the Nintendo Switch has become a botanical garden for indie developers. Since many indie games aren’t resource intensive, they can be much less of a hassle to port the game to Switch. That doesn’t always guarantee a well-running game, but it does make the hurdle shorter. Some of these developers create games that are just as good, if not better, than the AAA developers. I couldn’t imagine my Switch library without indie darlings like Hades, Hollow Knight, and Spiritfarer, and I think a large portion of the Switch’s player base would think the same. With the eShop being such a vital a part of the Switch’s ecosystem, I hope that digital games can carry over to the next console. I’d like my indie games to come with me rather than remain stuck on the Switch, though if the successor isn’t a hybrid console, I might prefer them to stay on my Switch.


The itch for a new Nintendo system has begun, and it’s only going to continue to grow across the gaming community’s metaphorical back. Rumors, leaks, predictions, nothing with satisfy the itch until the new console is out. Like the 3DS before it, people are going to start clamoring for the Switch’s successor and, if all goes well for it, promptly ignore the Switch, until 5 years into that console’s life span people will begin to nostalgically write their own homages to the Switch.

Consider this post a Nintendo Switch Retrospective that’s 10 years ahead of its time. The system will always mean something slightly different to every individual person, and we may still have a few surprises left before the console is truly finished, but I think that these 5 elements will find a way to be a part of most of those retrospectives.

Like my other Nintendo systems, I’ll happily hold on to my Switch and play through my backlog. I’ll lazily stroll alongside the system as it continues to age and enter its senior years. And I’ll lovingly care for it as it enters the Video Game Console Nursing Home as well. I was there when it was born, and I’ll be there when it dies.

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