The Nintendo Switch is a convenient little console that adds a lot more flexibility to your gaming than some of its competitors, but it’s different enough that it can be a little overwhelming when you first buy a Nintendo Switch. That can be true even if you’re familiar with other consoles and or even other Nintendo systems. To make the most of your new Switch, there are a few Nintendo Switch tips and tricks you are going to want to do immediately after taking it out of the packaging, and some may not be ones you’d think about right off the bat.
These are the first things to do when you get a Nintendo Switch, along with some tips and tricks.
Put on a screen protector
Some of the other Nintendo Switch tips and tricks in here don’t have to be in exact order, but this one must be first. Seriously, make this the very first thing you do when you get a Nintendo Switch. Not only is it important to keep the console’s screen protected–more on that in a second–but you will never, ever be able to get every little bit of dust off the system once it has been used for even a few minutes, and it will get stuck under the protector if you wait to put it on later. Get whichever type of screen protector you prefer, but if you are planning on taking it with you, invest in a tempered glass protector over a plastic one. It will serve it much better in case of a drop.
There are a couple of reasons why the Switch needs a protector so badly. The first is that the dock itself has the chance of scratching up your screen when you take the system in and out. That would be very hard to do if the Switch had glass on top of its screen as most phones and tablets do, but it has a softer plastic layer that is very easy to scratch. Pop that protector on there and never worry again.
Set up the console and create a Nintendo account
Your console should have a little bit of power when you take it out of the box for the first time, but even if it has a hefty charge, connect it to the included charger before doing the next steps.
From there, attach the Joy-Con controllers, and with the system turned on (the power button is on the top), follow the instructions to set up your date and time, connect to your local internet, make an icon and user for your profile, and sign in to your Nintendo Account.
If you don’t have a Nintendo account yet, you’ll have to go to a web browser in order to make one. Just set your username, email, password, and a few other details, then verify the information from the email address you chose. You’ll then be able to link your account to the user profile you just made on the Switch itself.
Set up parental controls
Nintendo makes it relatively easy to keep control over what the kids in your household can access on the Switch, and you can control most of it via a free mobile app on both iOS and Android. You’ll link it with the Nintendo Account you just created so you can set notices and guidelines that will be sent to the Switch itself. Of course, with your own PIN, you can disable this and play as much as you want.
Using the app, you can either set an alarm or turn the Switch off outright after playtime reaches a certain point, and a section labeled “restriction level” to choose which games your kids can access and what they can share online. You can even restrict their ability to communicate with others on the Switch–though Nintendo’s almost nonexistent voice chat usage largely does that for you–and you will even get reports about their most-played games to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
The Nintendo Switch uses the friend code system we’ve previously seen on systems like the Wii U and 3DS, though there are actually a few different ways you can add friends on the system.
To add someone via their friend code, click the profile picture in the top-left of your screen and you’ll see “add friend.” From there, select “search with friend code” and type in the one your friend game you without the “SW” at the beginning. From there, you should see their profile pop up and you can send them a request. They’ll just need to accept it, and you’ll be added to each other’s list.
You can also search for nearby Switch users if you are both using your own console and connected online, as well as users you’ve played with in games already. Certain linked applications, including mobile games, come with their own friend lists, and you can add your friends on those applications to your Switch list without needing their friend codes.
Get some accessories
You don’t need to buy anything beyond what the Switch ships with, but there are quite a few Nintendo Switch accessories that’ll make your experience better in various ways. One of the biggest issues you’ll encounter is that the Switch doesn’t come with much internal storage space. The current models have 32GB, which can’t even hold certain AAA games like LA Noire or more than a few indie games, while the Switch OLED model releasing later this year will double it to 64GB, which still isn’t exactly a ton. Luckily, Nintendo opted for microSDXC to expand storage, and the cards aren’t that expensive. A whopping 512GB card from a reputable brand like SanDisk is less than $90 on Amazon, and that is more than enough space.
We also heavily recommend getting a Pro Controller to use instead of the included Joy-Con controllers and grip, as the Pro Controller has much bigger buttons, better sticks, and a more comfortable form factor. You can still keep the Joy-Con controllers attached to the Switch, however, in case you do need to charge the Pro Controller and want to use the Joy-Con grip to keep playing.
Your carrying case for the Nintendo Switch doesn’t need to be made of adamantium, but getting a nice hard-shell case that can hold the system, a charger, a controller, and a few other accessories is a great purchase when you’re getting the console itself. You’ll have all your gear organized and protected whenever you travel, and it will only take a few seconds to get gaming again. A nice vertical stand from a brand like Hori is also a great idea for tabletop mode to replace the flimsy built-in kickstand.
If you plan on traveling with the system or want to play extensively in handheld mode, you may also want a second charger. This will let you permanently keep the original one in the dock, as it’s not always that convenient to move it from your entertainment center.
Buy Nintendo Switch Online
Unlike previous Nintendo systems, you must pay a subscription fee to access more online games on Nintendo Switch. The service, Nintendo Switch Online, is super inexpensive, however, and you should buy a year of it when you are first getting started. It’s also how you can access a growing library of classic NES and SNES games with added features, including suspend and rewind functionality.
To sign up directly on your Switch, go to the Nintendo eShop and look for the Nintendo Switch Online hub on the left part of the screen. Select this and the membership options section to look at the available plans. We suggest going with a yearly membership to save money, bringing your monthly cost to less than $2. If you have other friends or family members with their own Nintendo Switch, the $35 annual family membership is the best deal, as you can split the cost between up to eight Nintendo accounts.
Switch Online annual pricing
Set up the dock
This doesn’t apply to the Nintendo Switch Lite, of course, but if you have the standard system, set up the dock before you spend much time playing. Not only will your console charge in the dock once it’s set up, but it’s also where you can keep it when not in use. All you have to do is connect the USB-C cable on your charger to the internal port behind the dock’s door, plug the other end into a power outlet, and insert the included HDMI cord into both the dock and your TV.
Just make sure you put the dock somewhere that still provides easy access to the USB ports. You’ll be using it to charge the Pro Controller, albeit infrequently, if you don’t purchase a separate controller charger.
Buy some games
And once you have all that done, you’re going to want to get some games! Check out our ultimate guide to the best Nintendo Switch games to help make that experience a little easier. We’ve also got suggestions for the best multiplayer Switch games and the best Switch games for kids if you need family-friendly options. If you already have game codes, you can enter them by visiting the eShop and selecting “enter code” on the left part of the screen.