Nintendo Switch Lite review: Everyone’s a gamer

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8.0 Fave

Nintendo's gone back to its DS-roots and created a brilliant portable gaming console that has an impressive arsenal of games. The Switch Lite brings (almost) everything we love about the big-bro Switch, but this time in a more compact, solid package.

Here you lose removable Joy-Cons and television-docking, but that doesn't take away from the Lite's fun-aspect.

  • Battery Life 8
  • Switch-ability 5
  • Game options 9
  • Fun aspect 10
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0

Ninty’s gone and made its brilliant handheld even more portable, and cheaper, with the Nintendo Switch Lite. It also comes in the best bubblegum-inspired colours.

We’ve spent a decent amount of time with the Lite, and can say that this is our favourite handheld console ever. It’s got a steady supply of excellent first and third-party games that are equally playable at home as it is in transit. 

While it shares its bigger, comparably heftier brother’s namesake, the Switch Lite can’t actually switch. The Joy-Cons are not removable and it cannot dock for wide-screen gaming. Are they still called Joy-Cons? Instead, the Lite is solid, has brilliant controls and made for one person. Where the standard Switch is ideal for multiplayer gaming, the Lite is made for the loner gamer. 

Which actually makes the Lite the true successor to the 3DS — one of our favourite portable consoles historically. 

But that doesn’t mean that the Lite sacrifices power in favour of size. You can play nearly all of the same games on the new machine — and many of them are arguably better suited to it. Especially if you opt for some old-school platformers that require a proper D-pad. Up for some Rayman Legends, anyone?

On the Lite side of life

On the DL — We love the Switch’s Joy-Cons. There aren’t many sounds that make us feel utter joy like that satisfying ‘click’. But those moving parts also make the original Switch feel unnervingly breakable at times. We thought that the kickstand was gonna bite the dust the first time we used it. 

But we had none of these worries with the Switch Lite. It’s wrapped in a single piece of grippy matte plastic all the way around. It feels much sturdier if slightly less premium to the big-bro Switch. 

You’ve also got the choice of three colours — grey, turquoise and yellow. The latter two, both painted in vibrant shades, are extremely fin to look at. But we’re very keen on the grey review unit Nintendo sent us. It’s ideal for anyone who doesn’t want that pop of colour in their life. And there are bound to be new colours and special edition tie-ins further down the line if none of the launch models peaks your fancy.

The button layout mirrors the first Switch in all but one very important way. Because the left-hand portion of the console no longer has to double up as a detachable controller, Nintendo was able to introduce a proper D-pad, which makes all the difference, particularly in side-scrolling platformers such as the majestic Celeste, where the slightest bit of imprecision can really punish you. It’s not the best D-pad out there, but it’s much better than four face buttons.

It’s got USB-C charging and a spot for a MicroSD card. You’ll deffos need one, especially if you’ve got the 32GB variation. Get one now. On top you’ve got the triggers, the on/off sleep button, a volume rocker, a still-far-too-fiddly game card slot and a headphone jack. The lack of Bluetooth headphones support is as head-in-hands annoying as it was the first time around. Bear in mind, that you’ve lost the first Switch’s HD Rumble feature too. 

Little wins

The Switch Lite’s 5.5in display might be smaller than the original’s (that sizes in at 6.2in), but it retains the same 720p resolution. Which means that the Lite has a slightly better pixel density, and everything looks hella good. 

It’s especially noticeable when playing The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening side-by-side. In fact, it’s no coincidence that the GBA remake was released on the same day as the Lite; the two are made for each other.

Here you do lose auto-brightness, though. So you’ll spend some time fiddling the brightness settings when you set up to get it just right. You’ll need to do this according to each environment though, so it’s mildly annoying, but nothing to put you off buying the Lite tho. 

Its got two proper analogue sticks, which work better than you’d expect. We rarely ever used the touch-display, and rather opted for the analogues — they feel quite natural if you’re used to console gaming. 

Ninty’s bad spot

On to the important question: If you’ve got a Switch, is it worth investing in a Lite? No. If you don’t own a Switch yet and don’t mind not being able to dock it, the Lite is a great entry-level console. 

If you’re a console-collector, just know that you may run into a few snags owning two Switches (a standard and a Lite). You have the option of transferring your entire account to the Lite, but that totally wipes the first console clean… The alternative is adding the same Nintendo account to the Switch Lite and redownloading all your digital game purchases. 

You also can’t swap MicroSD cards between consoles without formatting them first. So we’ll recommend opting for physical game cartridges, as you can switch those among consoles. 

Our recommendation? The Switch Lite isn’t an upgrade — it’s a redesign of an existing console to make it more accessible to people who can not afford a standard Switch. So if you already have a Switch, don’t make the switch. 

All ze games

That aside, the Switch does one thing very well: games. It’s launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been up there with some of the greats since its release. Since then, Nintendo has maintained a consistent flow of great software.

Standouts this year include Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Maker 2, Platinum’s Astral Chain and the aforementioned Link’s Awakening remake, with Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Pokémon Sword and Shield still to come before Christmas.

But Nintendo’s own stuff is always top-tier. The Switch has succeeded where the Wii U so spectacularly failed by garnering a lot more third-party support, be that new titles like Wolfenstein: Youngblood and next year’s Doom Eternal, or ports of generation-defining classics like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Witcher 3, the sprawling RPG which will, thanks to a ludicrous feat of technical wizardry, be playable in its entirety on the teeny Switch Lite when it launches next week.

It should be noted, though, that a few existing Switch games such as Super Mario Party, Labo and 1-2-Switch aren’t playable at all on the Switch Lite. You need the removable Joy-Cons and HD-Rumble for these games to work so… We’ll have to see whether Nintendo keeps making games that can only run on the Switch. 

And that’s without mentioning the countless indie games that have found their natural home on Nintendo’s console. Even Fortnite and Paladins are available on the portable console, with cross-platform play available for both online games. 

Nintendo Switch Lite Verdict

Here’s the down-low: The Switch Lite is an absolute joy to play on. It’s one sturdy portable console that feels good in-hand and can play an insane range of games. But there’s a catch. 

If you already own a standard Switch, it\ll be a totally unnecessary luxury to own. It’s a mission to own two Switches on one account, and the standard console has a larger capacity for Switch games. 

But if you’re just getting into portable gaming again, and want something on the go — away from your desktop or fixed console. The Switch is a great, affordable option. Battery life is rated at 3-7 hours, depending on your gaming habits. So it’ll easily last the length of your commute or a long session of load shedding. 

The Nintendo Switch Lite is exactly what the gaming world needs right now — something that makes ‘pro’ gaming more accessible. And more affordable. You can get the Lite from Nintendo SA now for R4,000.

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Deputy Editor at Stuff. Nevermind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.

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