Even as someone who’d call themselves a lifelong PC gamer, the Nintendo Switch Lite might end up being the best gaming console I’ve ever bought.
Historically, I’ve mostly kept my gaming on the PC but - for those moments when having a desktop setup isn’t viable - I’ve often gravitated towards handheld play. I owned a Game Boy Color. I owned a Game Boy SP. I owned a Nintendo DS and DS Lite. I even owned a Playstation Vita.
Speaking from that perspective, it’s been fascinating to watch the expectations and capabilities of what handheld gaming can look like evolve over time. We’ve gone from 2D sprites to isometric action games and visual novels to full-blown 3D experiences with the depth and length of traditional console games. The form-factor of stuff like the Nintendo Switch might let you fit gaming into the palm of your hand but the experiences these platforms offer are so much bigger than they used to be.
The Switch feels like the culmination of that long-term trend in a very real way. No, you probably won’t be able to see games that push the technical boundaries of 3D graphics forward on Nintendo’s platform but, if we treat CD Projekt Red’s port of The Witcher 3 as a ceiling, there’s still plenty that’s up for grabs.
So anyway, after buying an original Nintendo Switch and sharing it with my partner for the better part of two years, I finally caved and picked up a Switch Lite. Here are the three big reasons why I don’t regret it.
Doing What My PC Can’t
One thing I want out of PC gaming is experiences that makes the most of what a mouse and keyboard control scheme can offer. Games that just don’t feel as fun to play on a controller or squashed onto the screen of a phone or tablet. Stuff like Overwatch, League of Legends or World of Warcraft.
More than that though, when I sit down at my computer to play games, my brain is wired to expect games with a certain kind of mental load. And especially now that I’m sitting down at my desk most of the day for work, I want my PC gaming to be as cinematic and immersive as possible. I want to be playing games that make me feel like all the time and money I’ve invested in building my desktop gaming setup has been worth it. Single-player experiences like Control, Resident Evil 3 or DOOM: Eternal or Total War: Three Kingdoms fit this mold nicely.
Most indie games don’t.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I adore titles like Slay the Spire, Ashen, Hades and A Short Hike. However, oftentimes these aren’t the kind of games I necessarily want to play sitting at a desk. I’d much prefer to enjoy them in bed, on the lounge or as - in a post-COVID world - during my morning commute.
The Nintendo Switch has proved enormously friendly to these kinds of games. So much so that the demand to “put it on the Switch” has become a literal meme. Personally though, I’m at the point where, when an indie game comes out, I will almost certainly save my time and money and wait for the Switch version.
Even if it costs more, it’s the way I want to experience those kinds of games. It’s what I did with Indivisible, it’s what I did with Void Bastards and it’s almost certainly what I’ll probably do with Super Meat Boy Forever.
The Switch can’t beat my gaming PC when it comes to performance but it brings an invaluable amount of flexibility when it comes to where, when and how I play games.
What’s Old Is New Again
Remasters and remakes are nothing new but the specific era of ports that the Nintendo Switch is attracting has delighted me again and again. In the same way that generations latch onto the music of their youth, I’m drawn to the games of my teenage years in a very real way.
When games like Resident Evil, Burnout Paradise, Bioshock and Diablo 3 get re-released on this system, I’m immediately keen to replay them like revisiting a favorite film or re-reading a favorite book. Honestly, if every AAA title from the last generation of consoles got ported to the Switch, I don’t know if I would ever play anything new ever again.
Being able to replay those games with the flexibility of the Switch gives them new life in a way that reinstalling them on my PC or booting up a dusty old Playstation 3 doesn’t. As great as it is for making indie games feel like bigger experiences, the Switch also makes bigger AAA-style games feel small enough to tackle in bite-sized sessions.
Finally, at the risk of breaking the magic, there’s a purity of play to the Switch.
There are no achievements. I’m not usually playing games on my Switch for review or research. The hardware in my hands isn’t sharing hard drive space with the software and apps I use for work. Those are certainly specific details but they help distinguish the experience of playing games on the Switch from playing games elsewhere in in a meaningful way.
Where my phone, tablet, laptop and PC serve many purposes, the Switch serves just one.
Now, I’m not saying that the Switch and Switch Lite are perfect. I wouldn’t say no to more base storage, proper Bluetooth compatibility, thinner bezels and a better processor. However, for the $280 I spent to acquire a Switch Lite last year, it feels like I’ve already gotten more than my money’s worth.
At this stage, Nintendo’s latest might just end up being the best games console I’ve ever bought. There are always more games to play but, if I can, I want to play them on the Nintendo Switch.