(Pocket-lint) - The Nintendo Switch has been a massive success since its launch in spring 2017 and still regularly sells out across multiple retailers, even after the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
But if you have your own Switch, what else can you do with it than play games? And what tips and tricks can you learn to make the experience better? Read on.
Nintendo Switch parental controls
If you're a parent and you've bought a child a Nintendo Switch or expect it to be played by all the family, there are some great ways to set age restrictions and communication options for younger kids. Nintendo provides parental controls on the console itself and through a separate application for iOS and Android.
Here's how to set them up:
- Head to the System Settings option on the main screen, either in handheld or docked mode.
- Scroll down the left-hand bar to the Parental Controls option and click (or tap if you are using the touchscreen).
- Click on Parental Controls Settings, the highlighted box on the right-hand side of the screen.
- This will open a page that offers two options: you can either set simple parental controls by restricting the gameplay by age, so only games of a certain rating can be played, or you can set more complex parental controls through a dedicated smartphone app for iPhone or Android.
- If you choose to restrict gameplay on the console itself, you can set the age limits of different features, such as the games and whether the user can post screengrabs taken on the Switch on social networks. Communication with other players can also be restricted.
- It is possible to link your Nintendo Account with a child’s Nintendo Switch profile, so they can purchase games from the online Nintendo eShop. If you have that option installed, you can also restrict those. The instructions are on the Switch in that case.
- Restriction levels available to choose are Teen, Child, Young Child or you can customise the options yourself.
- You can also set options through the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app for iPhone and Android. Download it from your relevant app store on your smartphone and follow the instructions on-screen.
- You will need to link it to your Nintendo Account and the Switch through a code that is sent. It is very simple to follow.
- Once linked, you can not only use the app to set the content restrictions as per the options on the console itself, you can also use it to set the amount of playtime a child can have. The console will not let them play past the period determined.
- This can also be set per profile as you can set-up different profiles on the Nintendo Switch itself. This is done when the console is first used. Alternatively, you can add new "Users" in the System Settings under the "User" tab.
Change your profile avatar
When you first start up your Nintendo Switch you are asked to set up a profile, choose an icon, and even set-up a Nintendo store account.
If you want to change your avatar later on though, all you have to do is head to your profile page by tapping on your icon in the top-left of the screen, heading down to "User Settings" and to "Edit Icon". There you will find plenty of Nintendo characters to choose from, or you can select or create a Mii.
Buy and play games from Japan, the US or any other country
The Nintendo Switch is not region-locked, so you can technically buy games anywhere in the world and play them on your console regardless of origin.
However, if you buy a digital redemption code from another country you will need to jump through a few hoops to get it to work.
First, you must set up a profile based in the country the game is from. Only profiles from a certain country can enter the specific online eShop to redeem that country's code. Luckily, it is free and doesn't impact your main profile.
Head to System settings and then down to User. Tap on Add New User and it will ask you to set an icon and nickname for the new profile. Once done you will need to register a new user online, via a smartphone, tablet or PC. You will be guided through the process, with the console and the online website giving you instructions.
Make sure you have a spare email address to hand, as it requires verification. Also, ensure you choose the profile's country correctly - ie. the country the game is from.
Once created, you can log into the eShop on your Switch using the new profile and you'll see the currency has been changed. You can redeem your code from the menu option on the sidebar.
The beauty is, once a game is downloaded it can be played by any of the profiles on the Switch, so you can use your original username. The one thing you must remember is that if you delete the made-up profile, you will lose access to the downloaded game assigned to it.
Invite friends for online play
You will need to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online to play the vast majority of online multiplayer games. It costs £3.79 per month (or £6.99 for three months, £17.99 for a year).
Some are free to play online and do not require membership - such as Fortnite - but most aren't.
You will also need to add trusted friends to play against them directly online.
This is done by adding those you have previously played with on other Nintendo consoles or through a "Friend code" - a 16-digit unique code that a friend can give you. Likewise, you can give a friend your code in return.
It can be found on your profile page on your console - annoyingly, you can't find this online on your phone or computer. To add a Friend code, you must go to the "Add Friend" option in the profile settings and tap "Search with Friend Code".
Buy a microSD card
There is a microSD card slot underneath the rear kickstand on the console and we thoroughly advise you to buy a card to pop into it, or you will soon run out of storage space.
Games on Nintendo Switch, even if you have bought cartridge versions, can take up several gigabytes. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, for example, takes up more than 14GB and considering that the Switch only has 32GB of internal storage, with little over 25GB of that useable, that one game will fill up more than half the drive.
The digital version of L.A. Noire requires 29GB on its own, so you will need a microSD card just to download and play it.
Thankfully, the Switch can accept many types of microSD card, and they needn't break the bank.
It supports microSD, microSDHC and microSDXC standards up to UHS-I classification. The faster the card the better the performance, but we use the above Samsung Evo 128GB card and it does the trick beautifully without costing too much. Other storage sizes are available too.
Conserve battery life
The beauty of the Nintendo Switch is that, as well as play it on a big screen at home, you can also play with it on your travels. You will find the battery life a little constrictive in that case, however, with the average lifespan of a single charge being between two and three hours of play.
There are ways to eke out the battery a bit more though, by adjusting the brightness of the screen on the settings page. The console has an automatic brightness setting which is on by default, but you can choose to turn it off and slide the brightness down to conserve battery life.
You can also choose to disable controller vibration in the system settings - under "Controllers and Sensors" - which will also help conserve battery life.
If you plan a lengthy train or plane ride, you are best to make sure you also have a portable battery pack to hand, in order to charge your console on the move. Thankfully, you can get one on the cheap these days and, considering the Switch has a 4,310mAh battery inside, many of them will charge your console two times or more before needing to be charged again themselves.
Protect that screen
The nature of the Switch's portability means it's slightly at risk - you'll be taking it in and out of its dock constantly, and carrying it around all over the place. Our first big recommendation is to pick up a screen protector, which doesn't need to be expensive at all.
We've used these protectors from amFilm, and they're easy to apply and reliable. We've been saved from multiple crackings and scratchings by them, which is really all you can ask for.
A case is also a good idea if you're going to take advantage of the Switch's adaptability. We like this slimline offering from Tomtoc, which will keep the essentials safe while you travel around. Other, larger cases are available to pack in more accessories and controllers.
Buy physical copies of bigger games
There's nothing like buying a game, downloading it, and being able to play anytime you like without having to dig out the cartridge but there are a few benefits to buying the physical copies rather than using the Nintendo eShop.
The first is price. Games on the Nintendo eShop can often be much more expensive than on Amazon, for example.
Second, depending on your broadband speed at home, games can take a while to download and install. Even some physical copies require part of the game to download anyway - plus updates and day one patches - but a couple of gigs will take less time than 20GB or more.
Lastly, as we explain above, digital downloads can require a lot of storage space and if you don't have a beefy microSD card you will fill the capacity quickly.
Consider a Pro Controller
While the included Joy-Cons work well as a separate controller with the Grip, we advise you to treat yourself to a Pro Controller if you plan to play games on a big screen when docked.
Naturally, motion games don't really require one, but games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Skyrim play better with the official controller.
Pick up a second dock
Another purchase you might want to consider if you plan to play your Switch in more than one room is a second dock. Yes, the Switch itself comes with a screen and is portable, but should you want to play it on different televisions in, say, the living room and a bedroom, an additional dock is a better solution than moving the included one around all the time.
You can buy the official Nintendo version for around £100, but there are other, third-party versions also available for less - sometimes more than half the price. Just make sure you opt for one with a "chip" or "motherboard" listed in the description, otherwise it will charge your console but not output video to a TV.
Another option, to make sure that even when you're out and about TV play is within your grasp, is to buy a portable docking option. These let you plug into a TV in a pinch, without needing a dock to sit in, and are a great way to get hooked up without needing a bulky dock on you. They're also nice and affordable.
Find some more accessories you want
The Switch has been out long enough that there are absolutely myriad accessories out there for the console, official and otherwise. If you want Bluetooth audio, or steering wheel grips, or cases that boost its battery, you can find all of those and more out there.
Handily, we've got a list of some of the best Switch accessories on the market, so be sure to check that out if you're looking for some inspiration.