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Which Nintendo console is best?

Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Kirby are just a few of the beloved character franchises that Nintendo has been bringing into our homes for years. A creative company that constantly pushes the boundaries of the gaming industry, Nintendo has put out a multitude of consoles over the years that provide us with a bountiful variety of gaming experiences. With so many Nintendo consoles on the market, it can be tricky to find the best one for you and your family. 

Read along for a compilation of the things to know about Nintendo consoles and some top console recommendations for all your gaming needs. 

What to know before you buy a Nintendo console


Innovative systems: From the very first color TV game to NES, Game Boy, Wii, DS, GameCube and now the Switch, Nintendo has been consistently transforming itself and putting out new system models since the late 1970s. Most gaming console companies improve upon specific features like graphics quality and speed with each new iteration of their consoles, but Nintendo releases new ways of console gaming with nearly every model they put out. 

Exclusive games: “Mario Kart” matches being ruined by bananas and blue shells and pitting Donkey Kong and Link against each other for the title in “Super Smash Bros.” are exciting experiences exclusive to Nintendo gaming. The “Super Mario Bros.” series, a classic side-scrolling platformer, has expanded for a variety of adventure styles. “The Legend of Zelda” games follow Link saving the land of Hyrule from Ganon in a conglomerate adventure with hours of gameplay. These characters and games are exclusive to Nintendo, making them a standout console company.

Community focus: While other console companies tend to prioritize open world role-playing games and first-person shooters, Nintendo consoles place more emphasis on family and community-oriented gaming. The Wii, for example, was groundbreaking in its time as a way for families to enjoy playing games together in a more active way. With the introduction of the Nintendo Switch, we see for the first time the opportunity for eight-player games to be part of the normal cycle of gaming. These features demonstrate Nintendo’s emphasis on group rather than solo gaming. 

Handheld vs. classic Nintendo consoles

Prior to the introduction of the Switch, handheld vs. traditional consoles was the most straightforward distinction for categorizing Nintendo consoles. 

Handheld Nintendo consoles

Game & Watch was the first handheld Nintendo console and was replaced by the Game Boy, which was the first handheld console with an interchangeable cartridge system. The Game Boy gradually improved to the Game Boy Advance, and then the Nintendo DS and 3DS. Overall, Nintendo’s handheld consoles are designed to provide on-the-go fun wherever your journey takes you. 

Classic Nintendo consoles

Classic or traditional consoles are ones designed to be hooked up to a television. The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was the first, followed by the Super version, or SNES. Nintendo 64 came out in 1996 and was the first home console to have four controller ports. Then came the GameCube as the first Nintendo console to use disc games. The Wii and subsequent Wii U consoles revolutionized Nintendo gaming with wireless controllers and mobility-oriented games for active family fun. 

Nintendo Switch

Truly the best of both worlds, the Nintendo Switch was a mind-blowing concept when it was released in 2017. It features a portable console with a screen that can be docked to display on a television. The modular controllers, called Joy-Cons, can attach to the console for portable use or can be used separately to accommodate group play. The whole system also packs up easily, making it a great console to bring to parties or friends’ houses. For many Nintendo fans, it’s hard to imagine a gaming innovation that can top the Switch. 

How much you can expect to spend on a Nintendo console

Generally, the price depends on how new your Nintendo console is. On average, you can spend $100-$300 for a Nintendo console, but you’ll find handheld consoles like the GameBoy and 3DS for less than $80. As the newest system, the Switch is the most expensive at around $300, while Switch Lite and Wii systems are sold for $100-$200. 

Nintendo console FAQ

Can I play Wii games on the Nintendo Switch?

A. The simple answer is no. The Switch uses cartridges, so it cannot play any disc games. The Wii U, however, is backwards-compatible with both Wii and Gamecube games. 

My Joy-Cons are drifting. What can I do?

A. Joy-Cons, the controllers for the Switch, have a problem with drift over time, which means that your controller will think you’re pressing a button or going in a direction without you actually initiating that command. There are some DIY fixes out there, but Nintendo has acknowledged the issue and will repair drifting Joy-Cons for free. 

What’s the best Nintendo console to buy?

Top Nintendo console

Nintendo Switch with Blue and Red Joy-Con

Nintendo Switch with Blue and Red Joy-Con

What you need to know: The most innovative console from Nintendo, the Switch can do it all. Whether you want one console for your home or you’re a hardcore gamer, the Switch is the ultimate go-to Nintendo console. 

What you’ll love: The system doubles as a handheld console and a traditional console so you can hook it up to your TV or take it with you anywhere. It has a massive collection of games that can be downloaded or bought in cartridge form. 

What you should consider: Controllers are pricey. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Nintendo console for the money

Nintendo Switch Lite

Nintendo Switch Lite

What you need to know: All the quality, portability and games that you get with the regular Switch, but at a budget-friendly price. Ideal for solo gamers. 

What you’ll love: Affordable and lightweight with integrated controls, the Switch Lite plays all regular Switch games and can be played online with others. Available in a variety of unique colors.

What you should consider: Can’t be played on a TV, so if you’re wanting the group play and at-home play of a traditional console, the regular Switch is better. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Nintendo NES Classic Edition

Nintendo NES Classic Edition

What you need to know: A reboot of Nintendo’s original system, retro gamers will love this trip down memory lane. Not all games have aged well, but it’s great for nostalgia. 

What you’ll love: 30 games in one. Modern updates like HDMI make this blast from the past easier to set up, and the variety of included games is well worth the value.

What you should consider: Not a lot of upgrades for the price.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Collette Bliss writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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