GeekDad: Which Switch Is Which? A Holiday Guide to the Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch family

Not counting things like special edition bundles and colorways, there are currently three different Nintendo Switch consoles available in the wild here in North America. And that’s great, right? We do, after all, love choices! Unfortunately, this can muddy the waters for holiday shoppers not already familiar with the video game marketplace—non-geek-dads, -moms, and -grandparents, for example.

To (hopefully) ease a bit of this tension, I present the following breakdown covering the system names, release dates, prices, features, and other information to help make sure the Switch you buy is the Switch they want.

Nintendo Switch
The original. image: NOA

Nintendo Switch

MSRP: $299.99
Original Release Date: March 3, 2017 for the HAC-001 model, mid-August 2019 for the HAC-001(-01) revision
Features: Three modes of play (TV, tabletop, and handheld), detachable Joy-Con controllers (include HD Rumble and IR Motion Camera), Nintendo Switch dock and HDMI cable, 6.2-inch LCD touch screen, 32GB of internal storage, 4.5-9 hours battery life
Ideal for Families: The OG Switch is a family favorite for a reason. It’s great for shared play while docked on the den television or even on the go using tabletop mode with detached Joy-Cons. Add to that the portability of handheld play, and it’s your easy all-in-one gaming solution. This is both the oldest and the easiest to recommend model, offering a nice blend of features and a median price. 

Nintendo Switch Lite
The perfect traveling companion. image: NOA

Nintendo Switch Lite

MSRP: $199.99
Original Release Date: September 20, 2019
Features: Handheld play mode only, 5.5-inch LCD touch screen, 32GB of internal storage, 3-7 hours battery life
Ideal for Frequent Travelers and Younger Gamers: While not the flashiest member of the Nintendo Switch family, the Switch Lite’s smaller form factor and more attractive price point ($199.99) make it a great match for families with multiple younger gamers who require their own devices and even for adult players who are travel regularly. Just remember that this comes with a few caveats—specifically the lack of a dock for TV play and the exclusion of the removable Joy-Con controllers that come with the larger Switch models. If you’re less concerned with things like motion gaming and just want a solid portable system, the Switch Lite is the one for you.

Nintendo Switch OLED Model
The luxury upgrade. image: NOA

Nintendo Switch OLED Model

MSRP: $349.99
Original Release Date: October 8, 2021
Features: Three modes of play (TV, tabletop, and handheld), detachable Joy-Con controllers (include HD Rumble and IR Motion Camera), Nintendo Switch dock (with built-in wired LAN port) and HDMI cable, 7.0-inch OLED touch screen, 64GB of internal storage, 4.5-9 hours battery life
Ideal for Those Looking for the Very Best Nintendo Switch Experience: At around $350, this newest Switch model is also the priciest. Think of it as the Switch’s luxury upgrade, with the wired dock making for more stable and responsive online play while at home and that big, beautiful 7-inch OLED screen providing astounding visual fidelity for handheld and tabletop play. This is my current daily-play system, and, if you don’t mind the premium price, it certainly has all the bells and whistles. 

Black Friday Deals

The vanilla Nintendo Switch retails for $299.99, but this year’s Black Friday bundle tosses some pretty sweet pack-ins into that base $300 price. Alongside the original Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Red Joy-Cons, you’ll also receive a free download of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and a three-month Nintendo Switch Online Individual Membership. That’s about $70 worth of freebies, which is nothing to sneeze at. Best of all, this bundle is already available at select retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.

Switch Black Friday bundle
I’m dreaming of a Blue Shell Christmas. image: NOA

At present, details regarding potential holiday deals on the Nintendo Switch Lite and the brand new Switch OLED Model are scarce at best, with both regularly going out of stock at online retailers even at full price. Thankfully, you can find some pretty sweet software deals, no matter which Switch model you plan to pick up. Most notable is a bevy of first-party titles already coming in at a tidy $20 discount. For $39.99 each, you can pick up The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Maker 2, Paper Mario: The Origami King, Kirby Star Allies, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Astral Chain, and Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition.

Truly it was the most Astral of Chains. image: NOA/PlatinumGames Inc.

Plus, if you’d like to open up a little real-world gaming action on Christmas morning, the mixed-reality racing Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Mario and Luigi Sets and stellar Switch exercise title Ring Fit Adventures are both heavily discounted just in time for the holidays. Nicely priced at $59.99 and $54.99 respectively, either would make a spectacular gift for the new Switch owner in your house.

Mario Kart Live deal
It’s like the classic toy train, but with vehicular combat. image: NOA

Review and promotional materials provided by Nintendo of America. This post contains affiliate links. Fire Emblem: Three Houses for $40 is a straight-up must-buy!

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