So you finally got a new Nintendo Switch. Congratulations! Nintendo’s wildly popular console is the gateway to some of the best games out there, whether you want to get lost in Pokémon Scarlet on a plane or play a rowdy Super Smash Bros. Gather with friends in the living room.
But while the Switch is a very easy-to-use device, there are a few things you should know in order to get the most out of your new system. So whether you’re using the shiny new Switch OLED, the standard Switch, or the ultraportable Switch Lite, keep the following tips and tricks in mind, along with some handy accessory recommendations.
Once your Switch is set up, you’ll want to add some friends so you can keep an eye on what your friends are playing–and be amazed at how much time they put into Animal Crossing.
There are a few ways to do this, but you start by selecting your profile icon from the top left corner of the home screen, then select Add friend. From there, you can search by friend code (more on that later), search for local users who are in the same room, or search for users you’ve played with recently. If you’d like to provide your own friend code, you can find it at the top of the “Profile” menu.
The Nintendo Switch doesn’t offer much in the way of personalization, but you can at least toggle between light and dark modes in the main menu. To do this, simply go to System Settings > Theme and choose between Basic White and Basic Black. We’ve been a Basic Black team since we made the switch, but everyone is their own.
Want to play some handheld Mario Kart on the couch without disturbing your loved ones? After years of waiting, you can finally pair Bluetooth headphones to your Nintendo Switch. To do this, put your headphones or earbuds in pairing mode, go to System Settings, select Bluetooth Audio, then select Pair Devices. From there, just select your headset from the list and you’re good to go.
4. Get a microSD card to expand your storage
Unless you insist on buying all your games, we recommend that almost all Nintendo Switch owners buy a microSD card to expand the system’s internal storage. Your system storage (32GB for Switch and Switch Lite; 64GB for Switch OLED) can fill up quickly with games, saves, and screenshots, so we recommend at least a 128GB card (such as this popular SanDisk model, $16 less), so you can keep your entire game library with you at all times.
You’ve already spent hundreds of dollars on this new Switch, and we don’t blame you if you don’t want to shell out more for new games. Luckily, there are some great Switch games on the eShop that are completely free to download.
To find free items, open the Nintendo eShop from the main menu, select Search/Browse, then select Price Range. From there, scroll all the way down for free games, which include some great titles like Fortnite, Pokemon Unite, Rocket League, and Apex Legends.
At this point, we’d say that a Nintendo Switch Online membership is pretty much essential for Switch owners. A standard Switch Online membership costs $20 per year and is required to play online and to be able to back up your saves to the cloud — two things you might want to do. The service also gives you access to an extensive library of NES and SNES classics, including The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario World.
Those who are serious about retro gaming will want to consider the Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan. For $50 per year, this premium option gets you all the benefits of Switch Online, plus a selection of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, as well as access to special in-game content like Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Happy Home Paradise DLC , Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion Pack and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Pack.
If you have a large Switch library, it can be a bit of a hassle to dig through all your games and apps to find something specific. Fortunately, Nintendo recently made it easier for you to organize your game collection using Groups, a feature that lets you easily categorize software into different folders. To access Groups, just go to the Home screen, scroll all the way to the right, select All Software, and press the L button. This will bring up the Groups menu where you can organize your library however you like. Maybe you want to categorize games by genre, or create a dedicated folder for streaming apps when you binge on YouTube and Hulu. It’s all up to you!
8. Screenshots and video recordings
If you play Switch, you’ll no doubt come across some beautiful vistas while exploring Hyrule, or get sick of playing an intense game of Fortnite. To capture those moments, just press the capture button on the left Joy-Con (or the left side of the controller) to take a screenshot, or hold it down for a few seconds to capture a 30-second video. From there, you can go to the photo album menu on the home screen to edit and post your captures to various social media sites.
9. Download your cloud saves — and turn on automatic backups
If you’ve just upgraded to a new Switch model and have Switch Online, knowing how to download your cloud saves is key. To do this, from the main menu, highlight the game you want to download a save for, press the + button and scroll down to Save Data Cloud. If the archive available in the cloud is newer than the archive on your system, you can choose to download it here.
You can speed up the process by turning on autosave data backup. If you want to do this, go to System Settings > Data Management > Save Data Cloud and select Settings. From there you can choose to automatically back up and download cloud saves, making it easier to get the latest saves no matter which Switch you’re playing on.
We don’t blame you for not wanting to go outside these days, but if you plan on taking your Switch with you, a carrying case is a must. There are plenty of options for various Switch models, but this $24 Orzly model is one of the most popular and cheapest cases for the standard Switch and Switch OLED. If you have a Switch Lite, you might want to consider a protective case, like this popular $15 JETech option.
The Nintendo Switch isn’t exactly an entertainment powerhouse, but if it’s the only device you have on hand at the time, it can double as a decent streaming tablet with access to a few apps. YouTube, Hulu, Twitch, Crunchyroll, and Funimation are all available for free on the Nintendo eShop, giving you some options for watching videos and watching full seasons when you need a break from gaming.