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11 Nintendo Switch games you should play docked instead of in handheld mode

One of the biggest draws to the Nintendo Switch was the ability to play stationary console quality games on the go. The Switch lets us take some of our favorite games that normally were homebound anywhere we want. However, some games lose quality or aren’t as enjoyable without a controller when in portable mode. Because the Switch is made for portability, it can be tough to tell which games are more fun to play when the Switch is docked.

After playing many games, we have put together a list of games that we find to be more enjoyable on the Switch when it is docked. Here are the Nintendo Switch games you should play docked whenever you can.

Further reading

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey is a whimsical and creative platformer that plays relatively well in both docked mode and undocked mode the majority of the time, but there are a few moments when you’ll find docked mode to be preferable. Mario has access to a spin-attack using his cap that makes use of a spinning motion with the Joy-Con controllers. You can use the analog stick in the handheld mode to do this move, but it’s fast with the motion controls, and doing this with a handheld Switch requires you to spin the entire console.

Read our full Super Mario Odyssey review.

Doom

Id Software’s Doom reboot is a brilliant shooter, mixing fast-paced arcade-like control with gloriously gory kills. It runs surprisingly well on the Nintendo Switch, but you’ll run into a few problems when playing it undocked. The Joy-Con’s analog sticks aren’t as big as those on other game controllers, so you’ll find it harder to aim your weapon than if you were using a Pro Controller. The text displayed on the Switch’s screen is also comically tiny, so it will benefit from being played on a larger display.

Read our full Doom review.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is one of the few Nintendo Switch games that suffers noticeable downgrades when playing undocked. Resolution will be at 720 pixels when playing on your television, but take the system out of its dock and resolutions can drop to as low as 368p in certain areas. The image is noticeably blurrier, with jagged edges on objects. Given the amount of information and statistics displayed on the screen at any one time in the game, you’re going to want to have a clear image at all times.

Fire Emblem Warriors

You aren’t going to get a bad experience playing Fire Emblem Warriors with the Switch undocked. It runs at 30 frames per second and looks great, but an added frame-rate boost will lead to a more pleasant experience. When the system is docked, you can choose between “quality mode,” which locks the frame rate at 30 fps with 1080p resolution, and “performance mode,” which bumps the frame rate up to 60 fps and drops the resolution to 720p. Either way, you’ll be looking at a better version of the game when the system is docked.

Lego City Undercover

Originally released as a Wii U exclusive, the Switch version of Lego City Undercover does not run particularly well when played undocked on the Switch. At launch, players complained of frame rate problems and slowdown. Some reports said the problems made the game just short of unplayable. Things have improved thanks to some software updates, but if you’ve got the choice, you’ll want to experience Chase McCain’s adventure on the big (or bigger) screen.

Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!

If you and your gaming partner have impeccable vision, you might not have issues playing Snipperclips undocked, but since the game requires two players to work together to complete puzzles on one screen, you’re going to be crowded on a small system. In docked mode, you’ll have a better view of the action and you’ll still be able to use the simple horizontal Joy-Con controls the game suggests.

Minecraft

The Nintendo Switch allows you to play a great version of Minecraft no matter where you are, but there are a few noticeable advantages to playing it with the system docked. A post-launch patch added support for native 1080p resolution, making the game look noticeably crisper on television sets, and it can keep this resolution along with a high frame rate when playing in split-screen mode. With the ability to connect to Xbox One and PC players, as well, you’ll want access to your Wi-Fi network, which you won’t be able to do if you take the console with you somewhere.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Yes, being able to take Skyrim with you on the go is a dream come true, but there are a few concessions you’ll have to put up with that aren’t found when the Nintendo Switch is docked. The undocked version runs at 720p but can drop to below that and then jump up again, resulting in flickering. It’s a small quirk, but it could ruin your immersion. Additionally, the optional Joy-Con motion controls will be much easier to use when playing on a larger display. Adjusting your constantly ballooning inventory will also be easier.

Read our full Elder Scrolls V review.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

breath of the wild switch

Although the game is completely playable in handheld mode, you’re missing out if you don’t play this one on a bigger screen. Featuring some of the best graphics on the Switch, Breath of the Wild is an absolute feast for the eyes. The massive open world is a sight to behold when running at a higher resolution, and thanks to a post-release patch from Nintendo, docked mode now runs much better than it did at launch. Fans of the series deserve to see Hyrule in all its high-definition glory.

Read our full Breath of the Wild review.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Playing Fire Emblem on the go seems natural — after all, most recent installments have been for either the 3DS or Game Boy Advance, making it one of the most popular handheld franchises of all time. However, moving the action to your television not only helps show off the detailed character models, but allows you a better view of the battlefield. Each turn matters in Three Houses, and having easy access to check out the entire map makes for a better playing experience.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice swamp

Sure, it looks better on every other system, but Hellblade is still a graphical powerhouse on the Switch. Running it in either docked or handheld mode, players can expect to see the use of dynamic resolution adjustments — meaning graphically intense scenes will automatically revert to lower resolutions — but when in handheld mode, the game can dip as low as 400p. Performance is almost identical between the two modes, but with a resolution floor of 567p while docked, you’ll notice a clear difference in quality.

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