It has been out for over a month now, but the conversation around the Nintendo Switch is still dominated almost entirely by a single game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Link’s latest adventure was the showcase example of how great a massive game could be on a hybrid console / portable platform — after Breath of the Wild, I wanted to play every other big new game on Nintendo’s tablet. But as great a match as Zelda and Switch are, there’s more to Nintendo’s newest piece of hardware than just big games. Like Nintendo’s handhelds that came before it, Switch is also ideal for much tinier experiences.
I realized this while getting caught up in the upcoming Puyo Puyo Tetris, which hits Nintendo’s console next week. The Switch title blends the iconic blocks of Tetris with the blobs of Japanese puzzler Puyo Puyo, and like the best puzzle games, it works both in short bursts and extended sessions. A typical round lasts a few minutes, as you match colors and shapes to clear lines, making it pleasant way to pass a commute. But once you get into the story mode — or become obsessed with chasing a high score — it’s easy to lose hours on the couch.
The Switch accommodates for the player’s schedule. I can take the tablet with me when I travel to squeeze in some short puzzles, or I can lay down on the couch and dig in for a while on the TV. When you don’t have to worry about where you’ll play a game, it makes the question of when much easier to answer. And this is as much true of Zelda as it is of a comparatively lighter puzzle game like Puyo Puyo Tetris.
And it’s not just Puyo Puyo Tetris. When I’m not playing Zelda on Switch, I’m cycling through a tiny library smaller games like Snake Pass, World of Goo, and Graceful Explosion Machine. This is what makes Switch, like the Vita before it, potentially an ideal machine for indie games. Titles like the engrossing farming sim Stardew Valley or the puzzley adventure Tumbleseed are a lot more appealing when I know I can play them wherever I go — that I’m not locked to my television or computer monitor.
This concept of portability allowing for someone to play a broader mix of games isn’t new. On Nintendo 3DS, for instance, I’m typically playing one big game, while I have a few smaller ones to chip away at simultaneously. Right now I’m digging into the lengthy role-playing game Dragon Quest VIII, but also regularly play some quick puzzles in Bye-Bye BoxBoy or Picross 3D: Round 2. The same is true of both my phone and tablet — when a device is always with you, it needs a variety of games for different situations. The difference with Switch is the sheer range of experiences it can accommodate. The smaller games are arcade titles from two decades ago or colorful new takes on Tetris. The bigger games, meanwhile, are massive open worlds like Zelda.
The combination of power and portability is a potent one. Switch offers the benefits of a handheld device, but with an even greater variety of games because it’s also a home console. The device itself is flexible, and so too is its slowly growing library of games. This year will see a handful of large-scale titles, from Mario to Skyrim to Disgaea, buoyed by an impressively large lineup of smaller indie titles. (Plus, hopefully, the launch of a virtual console retro game service.) And Switch is hardware that feels uniquely positioned to support all of these kinds of experiences — even tiny ones about blobs and blocks.