HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Prices and availability subject to change.
Buying a video game system used to be easy: Just pick up the console in a store and you can play everything for that system. Nowadays, video game consoles are more like phones, with X’s, S’s, and Pro systems littering the market.
Case in point: Nintendo recently released an updated model of its wildly popular Nintendo Switch system called the Switch Lite. This less-expensive iteration changes a lot about how the Switch works, so we consulted gaming experts and read the reviews to find out what’s changed between the Switch and Switch Lite. Use this guide to find out which console is right for the gamer on your gift list.
To start, what are the major differences between Switch and Switch Lite?
Nintendo has put together a comparison page that shows all of the differences between the Switch and the Switch Lite, but here are the major changes you should know about:
One of the big selling points for the original Nintendo Switch model is its innovative ability to, well, switch between a handheld system (like the old GameBoy) and connect to the television (like the Nintendo 64). That’s because the original Switch models come with a special dock to allow TV play.
The Lite, however, forgoes this innovation and only acts as a handheld system. This means you can’t connect the Switch Lite to the TV, but you can still play Switch games on the Switch Lite. That is, most of them.
View The Nintendo Switch In 3D
So, do all Switch games work on the Switch Lite?
In a short answer, no. But most do.
“I’d say about 90 percent work,” said Mitchell Vucci, an assistant manager at Gamestop. “You can’t play games that require you to use a Joy-Con only. Games like Super Mario Party or 1-2-Switch are games that you can’t play [on the Lite].”
According to Nintendo, the Switch Lite plays all Switch games that work in handheld mode, but there is an option to wirelessly connect compatible controllers to the Switch Lite for games that require separate Joy-Con controllers. (Just don’t forget a charging base for them). Still, these games make up just a fraction of those in the Switch game library.
“Look for the “handheld mode” icon for Switch Lite-compatible games.”
Confused about which games work on which Switch? You can easily identify their compatibility by labels on the game’s packaging. Look for the “handheld mode” icon for Switch Lite-compatible games.
But can you dock the Switch Lite?
Nope. Here’s why.
The Switch Lite was designed to be played in handheld mode only, and there are no workarounds to connect it to the TV. Even taking apart (and ruining!) an original Switch dock in an attempt to hack together a solution won’t make the Switch Lite TV compatible.
Basically, if you ever think you’ll want the ability to play on a TV, you’re better of snagging an original Switch rather than the Switch Lite.
Who would prefer the Switch Lite?
As a mobile-only device, the Switch Lite serves a different audience than the Switch. Some buyers who were initially put off by the $300 price tag of the original Switch have taken a second look knowing that there’s now a more affordable option they can play on the go.
“The Switch Lite is being bought by those who play it primarily mobile,” said Vucci. “Surprisingly it’s mostly young adults that I’ve sold them to. It appeals to them more, the people who aren’t at home all the time. They’re on the road, they’re on the bus or train or whatever. They have that little bit of extra time between class or work.”
The Switch Lite is also an appealing console for younger children. The original Switch comes with a variety of different parts and pieces all necessary to make the console work, and all easily broken or lost during that heated gamer moment.
The Joy-Cons on the Switch Lite “are actually built into the system so you don’t have to worry about them taking them out, breaking them,” said Ash Hess, a GameStop store leader in Baltimore. “Everything’s all included together so it’s much easier to handle and easier to take care of.”
Hess also noted that she’s sold a number of Switch Lites to serve as secondary systems. The cheaper price tag means it’s a more affordable way to be able to play Fortnite with your child or trade Pokemon back and forth with a partner.
The bottom line:
As an original Switch owner, I prefer the ability to play on both the TV and in handheld mode. When I just need that extra 5 minutes to finish off a boss battle when my girlfriend is ready to start a movie, I can just pop it out of the dock, finish my fight and still enjoy the opening credits of the movie. Overall, the original Switch is probably the best option for those who want to be able to play on the TV or have complete access to the Switch’s library of games.
I’ve also spoken to friends who are excited to pick up the new Pokemon-themed Switch Lite for less than the cost of an original Switch. The Switch Lite is probably preferred by gamers on the go, younger children prone to losing or damaging smaller pieces, and people looking for a second console.
No matter what model you end up gifting, you can’t really go wrong. The Switch has earned its reputation as a must-have system and enjoys a robust library of great games.
And, because a new gaming console is only as good as the games you have to play on it, we’ve rounded up some of the best titles you can combine with a Switch gift. Take a look: