Ever since the Nintendo Switch jettisoned onto store shelves last March, the same question has come up time and time again for recent game releases: is it coming to the Switch? Admittedly, I was part of the choir singing this tune when I picked up my Switch last year. I wanted to play every game in handheld mode if only for the sheer novelty of it, even if I was sitting a few feet away from my television. In fact, I left the Switch dock in the box for the first three months that I owned the console. The first time I even bothered to use it was when Super Mario Odyssey was released last October.
Even though the novelty of the Switch’s handheld mode has faded over time, the Switch’s core premise has proved to be evergreen. There is something to be said of the convenience of playing a few matches of Rocket League during a lull in a blowout baseball game, starting up a new save file in Death Road to Canada while hanging out on Discord, or even just playing a highly-polished game like Splatoon 2 outside of my house.
After initial worries that the console was going to be a gimmick, the Switch has proved that it’s only as much of a gimmick as the cordless phone or a toaster oven–it continues the innovative tradition that Nintendo was known for, before it was blindsided by its own hubris and marketing missteps with its last home console, the Wii U. The Switch continues to be the logical successor to the Wii U; it elongates Nintendo’s tradition of strong first-party titles, while offering a tangible change to the way that we play games.
But that doesn’t mean I want to play everything on the Switch. In fact, there are tons of games that I don’t want to play on the Switch. Thinking back on the onslaught of glitzy, bleeding-edge AAA games that were announced at this year’s E3, I can’t help but feel that I wouldn’t want most of those games on the Switch. What’s the point of playing a game like Anthem, an online-centric testament to sheer hardware power, on a console that doesn’t have the horsepower or the online infrastructure to accommodate it? What good would Ghosts of Tsushima be if the idyllic fields of Japan were made up of flat, compressed textures?
Anyone that remembers the early lifespan of the Nintendo DS or the Nintendo Wii remembers the onslaught of half-hearted, undeserving ports that haunted those platforms. The Nintendo DS port of King Kong, an adaptation of the Peter Jackson film, was particularly painful. Aiming the gun with the stylus was like pulling teeth, and the visuals were a flat, pixilated mess at all times. While I’m sure the versions of King Kong on other platforms probably weren’t Game-of-the-Year material either, they almost certainly were more enjoyable than the DS version. Something similar could be said for the Wii’s Call of Duty ports. Not owning any other consoles at that point, I was so excited at the prospect of finally playing one of those titles; as you can probably guess, it wasn’t very fun.
All of this being said, the Switch’s library has ultimately broadened my gaming palette. For every game that I wouldn’t want to play on the Switch, there are seemingly two more that I would only want to play on the Switch. I experienced over forty hours of Stardew Valley from the comfort of my armchair before bed. Making butter, watering crops, courting townsfolk—it all became part of a soothing, pre-sleep ritual I established for myself. I wouldn’t want to experience that game any other way. I can’t imagine, for a second, coming home from a long day at work and booting up Stardew Valley on my 42-inch television. I can’t imagine trying to clear the mines outside of town or give gifts to my neighbors while my friends asked me to play Battlefield 1. While it may seem silly, playing games on different pieces of hardware feels different.
That in itself is probably the most interesting thing about the Nintendo Switch and the entertainment landscape it inhabits–it forces players to evaluate how they interact with video game hardware. Before the rise of home consoles, gaming only existed in a specific time, in a specific place. Going to the arcade with a pocket full of change was a radically different experience than coming home from school and booting up an Atari 2600. The days when video games were too inaccessible to be in every person’s home are all in recent memory; however, the overall dominance of home gaming makes every other experience seem like a gimmick in comparison.
The Nintendo Switch, through its radical duality, make us take stock of our preconceived notions of what it really means to play a game. It makes us question our mediums of entertainment in a more direct way, and look at the cultural ramifications of how we got here.
All in all, the Switch’s diversity should be celebrated instead of condemned. While the PS Vita is getting old, the Nintendo Switch has given independent developers a stomping ground to continue the aged traditions of offbeat passion projects. While I wouldn’t want to use it to play games like Marvel’s Spider-Man or Red Dead Redemption 2, my Switch backlog is only getting stronger and more expansive as time passes by.