So you finally got a new Nintendo Switch. Congratulations! Nintendo’s mega-popular console is a gateway to some of the best titles out there right now, whether you’re looking to get lost in Pokémon Scarlet on a plane ride or have a raucous Super Smash Bros. party with friends in the living room.
But while the Switch is a pretty user-friendly device, there are a few things you should know about in order to get the absolute most out of your new system. So whether you’re rocking the shiny new Switch OLED, the standard Switch or the ultra-portable Switch Lite, here are some tips and tricks — as well as some handy accessory recommendations — to keep in mind.
1. Add some friends
Once your Switch is set up, you’re going to want to add some friends so that you can keep tabs on what your buddies are playing — and boggle at just how many hours they’ve put into Animal Crossing.
There are a few ways to do this, but you’ll want to start by selecting your profile icon from the top left of the home screen and then selecting Add Friend. From there, you can search by friend code (more on that in a sec), search for local users that are in the same room or search for users you’ve played with recently. And if you’re looking to give out your own friend code, you can find it right at the top of the Profile menu.
2. Change your theme
The Nintendo Switch doesn’t offer much in the way of personalization, but you can at least switch between light and dark modes for the main menu. To do this, simply go to System Settings > Themes and pick between Basic White and Basic Black. We’ve been team Basic Black for life ever since we made the switch, but to each their own.
3. Pair your Bluetooth headphones
Want to play some handheld Mario Kart on the couch without disturbing your loved ones? After years and years of waiting, you can finally pair your Bluetooth headphones with your Nintendo Switch. To do this, put your headphones or earbuds in pairing mode, go to System Settings, select Bluetooth audio and choose Pair Device. From there, simply pick your headphones from the list and you should be good to go.
4. Get a microSD card to expand your storage
Unless you’re dead-set on buying all of your games physically, we’d recommend that almost every Nintendo Switch owner pick up a microSD card to expand the system’s internal storage. Your system’s storage (32GB for the Switch and Switch Lite, 64GB for the Switch OLED) will fill up fast with games, saves and screenshots, so we suggest going with at least a 128GB card (like this popular SanDisk model that goes for as low as $16) so that you can keep your entire game library with you at all times.
5. Download some free games
You’ve already dropped a few hundred bucks on that new Switch, and we don’t blame you if you don’t feel like shelling out even more for new games. Fortunately, there are some great Switch titles on the eShop that are completely free to download.
To find the free stuff, open the Nintendo eShop from the main menu, select Search/Browse and select Price Range. From there, scroll all the way down for free titles, which include some excellent games like Fortnite, Pokemon Unite, Rocket League and Apex Legends.
6. Consider Nintendo Switch Online
At this point, we’d say that a Nintendo Switch Online membership is all but essential for Switch owners. The standard Switch Online membership costs $20 for a year, and is necessary for playing games online as well as being able to back your saves up to the cloud — two things you’ll likely want to do. The service also gets you access to a sizable library of NES and SNES classics that include The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario World.
Those serious about retro gaming will want to consider the Switch Online + Expansion Pack plan. For $50 a year, this premium option has all of the benefits of Switch Online plus a collection of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, as well as access to special in-game content such as the Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion and the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Pack.
7. Organize your game library with groups
If you have a big Switch library, digging through all of your games and apps to find something specific can be a bit cumbersome. Fortunately, Nintendo recently made it easier to organize your game collection with Groups, a feature that lets you easily sort software into different folders. To access Groups, simply go to the home screen, scroll all the way to the right, select All Software and press the L button. This will pull up the Groups menu, which will allow you to organize your library however you see fit. Perhaps you want to sort your games by genre, or make a dedicated folder for streaming apps once it’s time to binge YouTube and Hulu. It’s all up to you!
8. Take screenshots and videos
As you’ll play your Switch, you’ll undoubtedly run into some gorgeous vistas while exploring Hyrule or pull off a sick play in a heated Fortnite game. To capture these moments, simply press the capture button on your left Joy-Con (or the left side of your controller) to take a screenshot, or hold it down for a few seconds to take a 30-second video. From there, you can go to the Album menu on the home screen to edit and post your captures to a variety of social media sites.
9. Download your cloud saves — and turn on automatic backup
If you just upgraded to a new Switch model and have Switch Online, knowing how to download your cloud saves is key. To do this, highlight the game you want to download a save for from the main menu, press the + button and scroll down to Save Data Cloud. If there’s a newer save available from the cloud than the one on your system, you’ll have the option to download it here.
You can expedite this process a bit by turning on automatic save data backups. If you want to do that, go to System Settings > Data Management > Save Data Cloud and then select Settings. From there you have the option to both back up and download cloud saves automatically, making it much easier to have your most up-to-date save regardless of which Switch you’re playing on.
10. Pick up a carrying case
We don’t blame you for never wanting to leave the house these days, but if you plan on doing so with your Switch, a carrying case is a must. There are a ton of options for the various Switch models available, but this $24 Orzly model is one of the most popular and cheapest cases out there for the standard Switch and Switch OLED. If you have a Switch Lite, you might want to consider a protective shell like this well-liked $15 JeTech option.
11. Use your Switch for binge-watching
The Nintendo Switch isn’t quite an entertainment powerhouse, but if it’s the only device you have handy 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 on the Nintendo eShop for free, giving you a few options for watching videos and powering through entire seasons of shows when you need a break from gaming.