Nintendo Switch: What it is, where to buy it, and what games to get

Nintendo has sold over 52 million units so far.
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By Daniel Boan

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Back in 2006, the Nintendo Wii became one of the most sought-after game consoles for families looking to spend some time together in the comfort of their own living rooms. Now in 2020, it looks like Nintendo's latest system is generating a similar buzz.

The Nintendo Switch launched in March 2017 and quickly became another success for the video game giant, selling over 52 million units as of December 2019. But the system has taken on an even bigger life in 2020 as families spend more time indoors in an effort to practice social distancing. The popularity of the system is making it almost impossible to find as the demand is far outweighing the supply.

Whether you're looking to add one of these to your home setup or simply want to know what all the fuss is all about, here's everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch.

What is the Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch combines two things the company has become known for over the last three decades: innovative home consoles and portable gaming.

Nintendo Switch

The "switch" in the system's name refers to the fact that you can switch between using it on your TV or as a handheld device.

If this seems confusing, let's first take a look at the Switch in handheld mode:

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As you can see, it consists of a tablet-like touchscreen device in the middle with two controllers attached at the side (called Joy-Cons). This setup essentially allows you to carry around your Switch like a super-futuristic Game Boy.

Once you're ready to play your games on the big screen, you simply slide the controllers off and insert the Switch into the system's included dock, which looks like this:

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You can connect the two controllers together and play your games on the TV, which is best for family-friendly gaming. The main device also includes a kickstand on the back, which allows you to play the Switch in "tabletop mode" with the Joy-Cons separated from the Switch.

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What is the Nintendo Switch Lite?

The Nintendo Switch Lite launched in September 2019 for $100 less than the original model. It can play the same games as the original Switch, but this one is designed for portable handheld gaming only, meaning you can't connect the Lite to your TV.

If you're buying a Switch for a child or don't anticipate the whole family will want to play, the Nintendo Switch Lite might be the option for you. It currently comes in four shades: gray, coral, turquoise and yellow.

Nintendo Switch Lite

Its overall form factor and size are slightly smaller than the original Switch, making it optimal for carrying around the house or toting in a backpack. Unlike the original Switch, the controllers on the Lite are built-in to the unit and can't be detached. Many reviewers have pointed out that the lack of removable controllers actually makes the Switch Lite feel slightly sturdier and therefore a better option for accident-prone kids.

Which games should I buy for my Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch has built up an impressive library of games so far. Like most modern systems, games are available as both physical cartridges and downloadable digital copies that you can play immediately.

From classics like Mario to new hits like "Splatoon," here are some popular and bestselling games you should pick up when buying a Switch or Switch Lite.

1. "Animal Crossing: New Horizons"

You've probably seen this game all over social media lately, and that's because it's a nice dose of relaxing escapism. The "Animal Crossing" series is all about building up your own town and strengthening the community, and "New Horizons" changes up the formula by having you start on a deserted island. Players can even visit each other's islands with the use of the Nintendo Switch Online service.

2. "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe"

This eighth entry in the "Mario Kart" franchise is currently the bestselling Nintendo Switch title. The racing game is easy to pick up and play but tough to master. Kids will get a kick out of the roster of familiar Mario characters, while older gamers will love mastering the different power-ups and tougher courses.

3. "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate"

If you're looking for some old-fashioned fighting fun, "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is for you. The game allows you to pit your favorite Nintendo characters against each other, so you can finally watch Mario and Luigi duke it out for the top spot.

4. "Super Mario Odyssey"

You really can't go wrong with a Mario game, and "Super Mario Odyssey" puts a modern twist on the classic formula. You'll guide Mario through various expansive worlds as he attempts to — yet again — save Princess Peach.

5. "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild"

The "Zelda" series has been a staple ever since the original Nintendo entertainment system, and the latest entry is getting rave reviews for its stellar graphics and updated gameplay. It's family-friendly enough for younger gamers but action-packed enough for those who remember the original.

6. "Pokémon Sword"

Pokémon gets a modern update in this sprawling adventure filled with classic and new creatures to catch.

7. "Lego Harry Potter Collection"

This game combines two previously released "Harry Potter" games in one remastered package. You'll play through Lego versions of all seven books and visit iconic locations like Hogwarts and the Chamber of Secrets.

8. "Splatoon 2"

The wildly popular "Splatoon 2" is basically the ultimate game of paintball. It's a great pick if you're looking for a multiplayer option the whole family can play.

9. "New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe"

Whether you're a fan of the classic Mario games or looking to introduce the character to a new generation, "New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe" features the same gameplay you know and love with updated graphics.

10. "Luigi's Mansion 3"

Mario typically gets all the love, but this game gives Luigi his time to shine. "Luigi's Mansion 3" sees one-half of the Mario Bros. duo exploring a haunted hotel and ridding each floor of ghosts. It may have a spooky setting, but its cartoonish graphics still makes it a great pick for the whole family.

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