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Best Nintendo Consoles

Updated January 2024
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Nintendo Switch – OLED Model
Nintendo
Switch – OLED Model
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Sharp OLED Screen
Bottom Line

If you regularly play in handheld mode on the go, the Nintendo Switch OLED Model’s large and vibrant display is well worth the investment.

Pros

Colorful and high-contrast 7-inch OLED display. Features 64GB of internal storage. Integrated kickstand. LAN port. Crisp stereo sound. Handheld, TV, and tabletop modes. Includes 2 Joy-Con controllers.

Cons

No performance boosts over the original Nintendo Switch.

Best Bang for the Buck
Nintendo Switch Lite
Nintendo
Switch Lite
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Portable Convenience
Bottom Line

Thrifty gamers will appreciate the portability and long battery life of the stylish handheld Nintendo Switch Lite console.

Pros

Affordable. Lightweight. Integrated controls. Plays the entire Nintendo Switch game library in handheld mode. Play online and wirelessly with other Nintendo Switch consoles. Available in multiple designer colors.

Cons

Only playable in handheld mode.

Nintendo Switch
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Switch
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Best for Kids
Bottom Line

Massive library of retro hits, exclusive kid-friendly games, and the ability to swap between console and handheld modes make it great for the whole family.

Pros

Includes blue left and red right Joy-Con controllers, Joy-Con Grip, AC adapter, and console dock. Easily converts from TV to portable mode. Many unique exclusives.

Cons

Buying more motion-sensing Joy-Con controllers for additional players can get expensive quickly.

Nintendo NES Classic Edition
Nintendo
NES Classic Edition
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30 Games in One
Bottom Line

Retro gamers will love this trip down memory lane. Not all games have aged well, but it's still worth it for the nostalgia.

Pros

Modern updates like HDMI make setup a snap. Iconic styling brings a blast from the past to any living room. The abundant included games make it a remarkable value.

Cons

The controllers' only upgrade is compatibility with the Wii and Wii U consoles.

Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros.
Nintendo
Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros.
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Affordable Fun
Bottom Line

A contemporary take on the original Nintendo Game & Watch handheld console from the '80s.

Pros

Play through the entire original Super Mario Bros. 1 & 2 games plus the lost levels and some added extras. Digital clock features some cute bonus animations. Reasonably priced.

Cons

Some players find the screen a little small.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About 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.About BestReviews 
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

32
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88
Consumers
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Buying guide for best Nintendo consoles

Nintendo is the oldest video game company in existence, founded in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi. It started with the manufacturing of playing cards in Japan but gained international success with its Donkey Kong game in 1981 and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1984.

Several decades and a few consoles later, the company released its most technologically advanced Nintendo Switch in 2017. A spiritual successor to the Wii and Wii U, the Switch is available in three variants, with the standard Switch and Switch OLED being the company’s primary focus. While those two consoles can play all Nintendo Switch games, the smaller Switch Lite is only compatible with handheld-supported games.  

However, the Switch isn’t meant to be seen as a replacement for the discontinued Wii and Wii U, as those Nintendo consoles were aimed at a more casual gaming market. While it is still possible to buy restored Wii consoles, online functionality ceased in 2019, and games are no longer available. The Switch, though, is the best Nintendo console available. Our top choice is the Nintendo Switch OLED, which offers a 7-inch display with vivid colors and an adjustable stand for tabletop mode. 

Our list: The best Nintendo consoles

Nintendo Switch OLED Model 

This version of the Switch features a 7-inch OLED display that produces brighter colors and crisper visuals than the standard console. It has 64 gigabytes of internal storage, comes with red and blue Joy-Cons, and has built-in speakers. If you prefer to play the Switch in tabletop mode, the included wide adjustable stand lets you position the Switch for the perfect viewing angle while the wrist straps on the controllers ensure you don’t lose your grip. It’s available in a Splatoon edition and white.  

Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy‑Con

The original Switch has a 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage (depending on the model), and 4GB of RAM, and it comes bundled with the Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy‑Con controllers. It also includes the stand, which lets you play in tabletop, TV or handheld mode. The internal battery lasts up to nine hours, depending on the mode, and has two built-in speakers. 

Nintendo Switch Lite

As the name implies, the Lite is a smaller version of the Switch and measures only 3.6 inches by 8.2 inches. It’s a true handheld console in every form, as it doesn’t have the Joy-Con controllers; you direct the onscreen action through several buttons on the console’s body. It also has a smaller display, coming in at 5.5 inches, and the rechargeable battery lasts around five hours. Among other differences, the Lite can’t be docked in TV mode and has no tabletop stand. 

Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition

If you want to play classic video games like it’s 1984, this bundle will allow you to relive the golden years of video games. It’s a miniature version of the classic NES that retains all the nostalgia in a smaller, sleeker body. It comes with one authentic NES controller, 30 video games pre-installed and a standard HDMI cable. 

Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros.

Another throwback to the ‘80s, this one is for true Mario and Luigi fans. Inspired by the original Nintendo Game & Watch console, this limited-edition version features the games Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. It also has an original Game & Watch game called Ball with Mario as the main character. With this purchase, you get a digital clock and some fun animations (35 in total) of Mario and his buddies to delight you.   

Nintendo Switch OLED The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Limited Edition

This limited edition bundle includes the Switch OLED and the highly popular The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom video game. It comes with a limited edition Hylian dock, green and gold Joy-Cons with Tears of the Kingdom decals, and a Mytrix Blue Wireless Pro Controller.   

Nintendo Wii Console

The Wii was one of Nintendo’s bestselling consoles, aimed at the casual and party gaming market. This bundle comes with all the cables you’ll need and one Wiimote controller, and it includes the Wii Sports game. While you can still find secondhand games or sealed copies of older titles, developers are no longer making Wii and Wii U titles.

Nintendo 3DS XL

The 3DS is a previous-generation handheld gaming console that flips open with two displays. The bottom display is used for selecting in-game options and accessing your inventory, while the top display has a stereoscopic 3D effect. It has a depth slider that lets you adjust the 3D intensity and two built-in speakers for on-the-go audio. It is only compatible with 3DS gaming cartridges, and the battery lasts several hours.

What to know before buying a Nintendo console

Instead of competing against Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation in the home console wars, Nintendo moved away from the Wii’s design and developed a handheld console that could be docked for playing video games on a larger display, such as a monitor or TV. With the included tabletop stand, the console easily rests on a flat surface, making it easy to play when you don’t want to hold it in your hands.

However, with three different versions of the Switch, it can be challenging to figure out which one is best for you. To make the best choice, there are several factors to consider. These include the type of games you want to play, mobility and budget. 

Plenty of choices 

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

The Nintendo Switch delivers multiple innovations in video games. Its controller can be used to play games when the Switch is attached to a TV, but it doubles as a standalone tablet, so the 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 this, the Switch allows gamers to shop Nintendo’s online store to buy, download and play legacy titles.

Nintendo’s traditional handheld gaming devices are under the “DS” (short for “dual screen”) family of products, a sub-brand that has existed since 2004. DS devices (for example, the Nintendo 2DS, 2DS-XL, 3DS and 3DS-XL) feature two screens and support the same games, but they each have 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 and even hints.

Nintendo has been mining its 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 they include modernized electronics, like HDMI ports, and more than 20 pre-installed games on each.

Controllers 

Nintendo’s consoles and devices have shared 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, as 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 used as a mobile gaming device.
  • Traditional D-pad-and-buttons gaming controllers are available for the Nintendo Switch, but they must be purchased separately, and they’re typically expensive.
  • Nintendo’s DS line of gaming devices has one screen between the left-side and right-side controls. Some games require interaction with a provided stylus.

Exclusive games

In addition to Nintendo’s near-constant innovation, the company is known for 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:

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.

The Legend of Zelda games showcase our hero Link on 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.

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 as well as the occasional “Who would win?” battle.

Mario Kart is the franchise that became the gold standard of video game racing. Featuring the entire cast of the Mario series (including 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.

Benefits of choosing a Nintendo console

It’s important to understand the market for which Nintendo builds its games and gaming devices: kids, families and retro gamers. Nintendo targets all of its products at these audiences, carving a niche for itself in the gaming world and 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’d find on other consoles that you wouldn’t find on a Nintendo:

  • Streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and 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 notably absent from Nintendo’s product line. Similarly, Nintendo’s products no longer have disc players and therefore can’t play CDs, DVDs and 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 and Grand Theft Auto franchises are not available for Nintendo devices.

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.
  • 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.

FAQ

Q. How much should I expect to pay for a Nintendo console? 

A. It depends on the model and the generation. For example, a standard Switch with an LCD display retails for about $300, while the OLED version costs about $440. Special and Limited Editions that bundle together the console and a game typically retail for $460 to $600. The Switch Lite costs around $250.  

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. Neither console is designed to accommodate additional games.

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 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 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 as long as they are compatible with Nintendo’s proprietary port. Before buying an additional controller, verify that it will work with your classic console.

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