Nintendo Switch tips and tricks

8 Nintendo Switch tips and tricks to get the most out of your hybrid console

If you’re like 20 million other Nintendo fans, chances are you have a Nintendo Switch by now.  We want you to get your experience with the Switch started off right by giving you a few Nintendo Switch tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of your plucky little hybrid console, including which accessories you should get and clever uses for Joy-Con controllers.

Expand your storage space

There are many great things about the Switch. Its internal storage capacity.

The Switch comes with 32GB of built-in storage, which is simply not enough. Some games already require more space than that, including Dragon Quest Heroes. So if you’re planning on playing just about anything other than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey, you’ll probably want to grab a hefty-sized microSD card. It sucks, we know, but they aren’t too expensive.

A 64GB microSD card costs just $20 or so, and depending on the speed, you might already have a compatible card. Unlike the PlayStation Vita, the cards used for the Switch aren’t proprietary. Even if you buy physical games, mandatory content updates on many of them actually contain the rest of the game files, so there isn’t any getting around purchasing one.

Get a case and a screen protector

The Nintendo Switch can be a portable system, but this isn’t like your old DS or Game Boy Advance SP — you need to get a case for it so it isn’t damaged while you’re out and about. Depending on your needs, there are a number of different cases to choose from, including slim ones designed to go in a backpack and larger, sturdier cases that can also hold a variety of accessories. Choose the one that best suits your style, but don’t feel weird if you need to buy a second case later on.

One other must-have protection accessory is a screen protector. There are extra-sturdy glass protectors available as well as plastic ones, which will mostly just prevent scratches, but a flaw in the design of the console’s dock can lead to it scuffing the screen when the system is inserted or removed. If you have a protector on the screen, that will be scratched instead of the screen itself, and you can easily replace it instead of sending your system in for a repair.

Buy a Pro Controller

It’s technically optional, but we consider Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller a must-have accessory. It’s a lot gentler on the joints than the default Joy-Cons, making it perfect for marathon sessions of Breath of the Wild. It also still has the motion control features found in the Joy-Cons, and the more traditional directional pad and larger face buttons give you the home console experience that the smaller controllers just can’t offer. A few carrying cases also contain slots to hold your Pro Controller, so you can take it with you.

Turn off Wi-Fi to save battery

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While Nintendo’s latest hardware isn’t as powerful as its cousins from Microsoft and Sony, it still packs quite a bit of performance into a very small frame. Sometimes, though, background processes and the like can tax the hybrid’s scant computing resources and cause framerate slowdowns. Some users have found that disabling Wi-Fi auto-connect helps quite a bit, particularly when you’re in handheld mode.

The Switch likes to search for new access points when it can, and unless you tell it otherwise, even if it has a great network connection, it can still periodically scan the airwaves and muck with your gaming session. To shut this off, simply head into the main system settings and select “Airplane Mode.” This will not work if you’re docked, but then again, if you are, you’re not worried about battery life.

Get an external battery

Try as you might to extend the life of your Switch’s battery, it’s eventually going to die, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop playing it when you’re on the go. With an external battery pack you can charge the Switch without needing to plug it into a wall charger or the dock. Look for packs that output around 10.5 watts of power, and check out our list of recommended packs to make your life a little easier.

Another option is the S-Charge Nintendo Switch case, which includes a massive 10,000mAh battery as well as an improved kickstand so you can play local multiplayer with friends for hours, all without worrying about your Switch dying. As an added bonus, the S-Charge can charge your phone through its USB ports.

Change the system’s sound effects

If you’re a fan of quirky Easter eggs, this is for you. When you’re getting ready to play a game from sleep, the console will ask you to mash some button three times. Most players will tap one of the obvious ones, like the “A” button, which we’ve all been trained practically from birth to recognize as video game for “OK.” But if you click the joystick or mash a shoulder button instead, you’ll get some funny sound effects. Fans of the GameCube will recall a similar technique that changed the console’s startup sound to anything from clown horns to bizarre squeaks.

Make multiple profiles for more save slots

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The Switch has a ton of exceptional games — Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Splatoon 2, etc. — but many only allow one save file. That can pose a big problem for players who like to keep multiple files. It can also be painfully easy for new players to inadvertently wipe your data — lookin’ at you Breath of the Wild. 

It isn’t ideal, but you can get around this by making multiple user accounts — either for yourself or for others. This is pretty simple, but by default, the Switch doesn’t tell you how or suggest it as a means to protect your save files. When starting any game from the home screen, you’ll see your default Mii pop up. Select the “+” and then enter in all the details of your new profile. Given how easy it is to set up personalized accounts on just about every console and media service already, that shouldn’t be too much trouble.

Access region-exclusive games on the eShop

Making new accounts has an added bonus — you can use your console across regions. For the unfamiliar, manufacturers of audiovisual hardware have been locking down devices to prevent people from watching foreign movies or television for decades. Initially, the purpose was to ensure that different equipment worked properly, an extension and partial byproduct of having different plug types in Europe than the U.S. or Japan. Now, though, it’s often used to prevent people from buying content that hasn’t been released in their region.

The Switch’s hardware has the ability to run games from all over the world , however. All you need is an account set to that region. To do that, you need to head to accounts.nintendo.com, then select your account’s country of residence and flip it to whatever you need. At time of writing, you can freely change your home nation. You’ll want to make sure your bank or credit/debit card supports international transactions (not all do).  

With that done, you should be able to access all the Switch’s digital titles across the globe.

Plug in a keyboard — or any other USB accessory you might need

The Switch has surprising interoperability with all kinds of devices. You can, for instance, connect a USB keyboard or press the console into service as a backup battery for certain laptops. Most (but not all) USB wizardry will require the console to be docked.

We found that, while docked, many USB keyboards work straightaway — allowing you to type far faster. The Switch now natively supports USB headphones, and you can use them either docked or undocked.

We also found that simply plugging some USB-C devices into the console’s charging port made the power flow reverse and charge another device instead. We charged a current-generation MacBook with a Switch, as well as a Samsung Chromebook Plus. Obviously, this is a bit slapdash and not especially helpful, but it’s pretty cool.

Use Joy-Cons as Bluetooth devices

Nintendo Switch review
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

The primary controllers for the switch are a pair of motion-sensitive, advanced gadgets called Joy-Cons. But, there’s a lot more you can do with them besides using them for busting up boulders in Stardew Valley or smacking Pokemon senseless in Pokkén Tournament DX.

For starters, the controllers can be easily paired with other Bluetooth devices, like your computer. On a standard PC you need only open up your computer’s settings, select “Bluetooth and other devices,” select “Add Bluetooth or other device,” then hit the small black sync buttons on the controllers to pair with your PC. That’s it.

Find your lost Joy-Cons

If you’ve lost your Joy-Cons, fear not! You can find them easily. On your console, select “Controllers” from the root menu, then “Find controllers.” After you pick which paired device you want to track down, they’ll start buzzing and buzzing until you find them. It’s essentially like having a roommate call your phone. Only it’s your Switch calling your controllers.

Archive, don’t delete your games

Our final tip definitely falls into the “weird Nintendo stuff” category. Many gamers think of Nintendo as an old friend, but one that’s always been just a little bit self-sabotaging. Whether it’s the borked online play or artificial scarcity, sometimes it seems Nintendo isn’t on its own side.

In this case, downloading digital games you’ve purchased and deleted is less intuitive on the Switch than it is on other consoles. There is no easily accessible “purchased” games” or “extended collection” in your Switch’s home library. Instead, if you’re running low on memory and have to free up some storage space, we recommend “archiving” your software, rather than deleting it. Archiving deletes the game data from your Switch, but leaves the game in your library.

You can do this by selecting “Options” for any bit of software on the home screen. From there, select “Manage Software” and then “Archive Software.” This leaves the icon for the game on your home screen and retains your game saves, but deletes the game itself. When you’re ready to play again, you need only select the title and then download the game. Simple.

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