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Best Nintendo Consoles

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
How we tested

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 5 Models Considered
  • 4 Models Tested
  • 52 Hours Researched
  • 6 Experts Interviewed
  • 329 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best Nintendo consoles

    Last Updated August 2018

    Ever since the 1980s, Nintendo has been transforming and reinventing the home video game industry with their innovative interfaces and imaginative characters. Whether they’re creating wacky controllers, debuting cross-franchise titles, or bringing classic games to modern consoles, Nintendo is the biggest name in family gaming.

    While their rival consoles churn out iterations of the same first-person shooters and other genre games over and over, Nintendo constantly reinvents their platform by giving gamers completely new ways to interact with the characters and worlds they’ve always loved.

    Best of all, Nintendo makes consoles for all occasions — whether you’re looking for a world-class gaming experience on the couch, a multiplayer handheld session with friends, or a trip down memory lane, they’ve designed one for you.

    Use our guide to discover which console is right for you — or if you’re a serious fan, you may just want to buy all of them.

    Nintendo’s “Classic Edition” consoles are so popular, they often sell out, creating a market for third-party sellers.

    Plenty of choices

    The Nintendo family of gaming devices includes a flagship console, a family of handheld gaming systems, and their classic console replicas. Each system provides gamers with a completely unique experience.

    The Nintendo Switch gaming console delivers multiple innovations in video games. Its controller can be used to play games when the Switch is attached to a TV, but it also doubles as a standalone tablet, so the exact same games can be played anywhere. This is a big step up from the Wii U’s tablet, which required proximity to the console; with the Switch, the console can transform into a battery-powered, touchscreen tablet that’s 100% portable. In addition to all this, the Switch also allows gamers to shop Nintendo’s online store to buy, download, and play legacy titles.

    Nintendo’s more traditional handheld gaming devices are under the “DS” (short for “dual screen”) family of products, a sub-brand that’s existed since 2004. The DS devices (for example, the Nintendo 2DS, 2DS-XL, 3DS, or 3DS-XL) all feature two screens and support the same games, but they each offer different form factors. Dual-screen gaming offers a unique experience: while the main action typically happens on the upper screen, the lower screen can provide key game information, interaction points, or even hints.

    Nintendo has also been mining their past and bringing a bit of nostalgia to gamers. In 2016, they did something no one ever expected: they released miniature versions of two of their most popular consoles, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The NES and SNES Classic Editions look like tiny versions of the originals, but include modernized electronics, like HDMI ports, and include more than 20 games pre-installed on each.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The Nintendo Switch fully supports Amiibo games and figurines, including those originally designed for the Wii U.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Mario made his first appearance in the arcade game Donkey Kong in 1981, known only as “Jumpman.”

    Sometimes it’s OK to be a control freak

    Nintendo’s consoles and devices have all had one thing in common since the 1980s — they each featured innovative controls that forced gamers to interact with games in new and exciting ways. As you consider how you want to play your Nintendo games, think about the unique controllers for each. Choose wisely, because your controller will be a part of every game you play!

    • The Nintendo Switch comes with “Joy-Cons,” a unique set of nunchuck-like pieces that connect together, or to the Switch console directly, when it’s being used as a mobile gaming device.

    • Traditional, d-pad-and-buttons gaming controllers are available for the Nintendo Switch, but must be purchased separately (and they’re typically expensive).

    • Nintendo’s DS line of gaming devices place one of their screens between the left-side and right-side controls. Some games require interaction with a provided stylus.

    It’s all about the exclusive games

    In addition to Nintendo’s near-constant innovation, the company is also well known for the exclusive titles and unique characters that gamers have been enjoying for decades. Characters like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Zelda, Link, and even the entire Donkey Kong family have seen new adventures on every Nintendo console.

    Nintendo’s most popular gaming franchises include the following.

    • Super Mario Bros.: The Super Mario Bros. games began as side-scrolling platformers, but have evolved into grand-scale adventures that span multiple perspectives, including 2D, 3D, and even first-person. Each title is unique, but they all focus on Mario’s adventures — stomping turtles and eating mushrooms to defeat the evil King Koopa.

    • Zelda: The Legend of Zelda games showcase our hero Link in his journey to save the land of Hyrule from the evil warlock, Ganon. Recent iterations in the franchise have seen the game transform into a massive, mission-driven, role-playing adventure that challenges players for hundreds of hours.

    • Super Smash Bros.: The Super Smash Brothers series of games brings together characters from across the Nintendo catalog for a series of high-intensity duels. With characters like Pikachu, Mega Man, Mario, Luigi, Link, Princess Zelda, and even Pac-Man, the Super Smash Brothers games are great for parties and tournaments, or just the occasional “Who would win?” battle.

    • Mario Kart: This is the franchise that became the gold standard of video game racing. Featuring the entire cast of the Mario series (including even side characters like Toad and Wario), the Mario Kart series has gamers competing to be the fastest in a variety of crazy locations, on tracks that are weird, challenging, and incredibly fun!

    Nintendo vs. the other guys

    It’s also important to understand the market for which Nintendo is building games and gaming devices: kids, families, and retro gamers. Nintendo targets all of their products at these audiences, carving a niche out for themselves in the gaming world, and also foregoing features and apps that many consider standard on non-Nintendo consoles.

    If you’re thinking about buying a Nintendo console, consider the things you’ll find on other consoles that you won’t find on a Nintendo:

    • Streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video rarely appear on Nintendo consoles or devices. In contrast, both the Xbox and PlayStation product families support every major TV, movie, and music streaming service.

    • TV, movie, and music rental/purchasing services are also notably absent from Nintendo’s product line. Similarly, Nintendo’s products no longer have disc players, and therefore can’t play CDs, DVDs, or Blu-rays.

    • While Nintendo occasionally features violence-heavy gaming franchises like Resident Evil, for the most part, first-person shooter games such as the Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto franchises are not available for Nintendo devices.

    EXPERT TIP

    The Nintendo Switch fully supports the Amiibo ecosystem of games and figurines. These games and figurines include those originally designed for the Wii U.


    Tips

    Before purchasing your next Nintendo Console, consider these tips:

    • Many classic NES and SNES games have cheat codes that can be entered using the controller. If you get stuck in a game, search online to see if there are any cheats, shortcuts, or tactics to help you progress.

    • You can record clips from your Nintendo Switch games by holding down the square black button on the left Joy-Con. Clips you record can be shared with your friends on social media.

    • The Nintendo Switch doesn’t come with a carrying case. If you plan on taking yours out and about, make sure you buy a case or some type of protective enclosure to avoid scratching the screen or damaging the electronics.

    • Take good care of your Nintendo gear! Much like Apple products, Nintendo hardware holds its value well over time, so it’s worth it to keep everything in good condition for optimal resale value.

    • The Nintendo 3DS can play older, original Nintendo DS games.

    • The new controllers for the Nintendo Switch are called “Joy-Cons.”

    • Nintendo does not yet make a gaming system that supports 4K resolution.

    • Nintendo Switch games come on cartridges called “GameCards,” rather than discs. The Switch is the first console since the Nintendo 64 to deliver games on cartridges.

    In addition to their own titles, Nintendo also supports developer-created “indie” games. Some of their most unique and popular titles have come from smaller, independent studios.

    FAQ

    Q. Where can I buy additional games for my NES Classic Edition and SNES Classic Edition?

    A. The NES Classic Edition comes with 30 games pre-installed, and the SNES Classic Edition comes with 21 games installed. Neither console is designed to have any additional games added.

    Q. Can I play my Wii or Wii U games on a Nintendo Switch?

    A. Nintendo Switch games come on cartridges, so the Switch cannot play any of the Wii or Wii U games that came on disc. (The Nintendo Wii U can play older, legacy Wii games, but not vice versa.)

    Q. What kind of controllers can I use on the NES Classic Edition and the SNES Classic Edition?

    A. Nintendo’s Classic consoles come with controllers (the NES Classic Edition comes with one, while the SNES Classic Edition comes with two), but other gaming controllers may be used, so long as they are compatible with Nintendo’s proprietary port. Before buying an additional controller, verify that it will specifically work with your classic console.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jaime
      Jaime
      Writer
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director