Defining Moments
Image: Nintendo / Nintendo Life / Kate Gray

The Nintendo Switch has been around for almost five and a half years, and in that time, it's made headlines over and over again in ways that other consoles haven't — for better or worse. And you know what? It's pretty refreshing to be able to talk so much about one piece of hardware. We were there for the Wii U years. We were there.

So, we decided to see if we could pick out some of the moments that have shaped and defined the Nintendo Switch's reign, for good or bad, from the first time we played Zelda outside of the home to the dreaded Joy-Con drift...

The very first Switch trailer

Ollie: One of the most defining moments of the Switch for me was watching the debut trailer for the first time. I remember it so well because I was working at GAME at the time and the store was exceptionally quiet when it debuted. My colleagues and I gathered to watch it on the TV and we were all completely blown away.

Although everyone knew that Nintendo's new console would be some sort of hybrid, watching the concept in practice was incredible. Needless to say, seeing the console for the first time - along with confirmation of games like Skyrim and a brand new 3D Mario title - convinced me to buy it day one.

Seeing the Switch OLED screen for the first time

Part Time UFOLED
Image: Nintendo Life

Ollie: Seeing the Switch OLED Model in person for the first time was kind of a revelatory moment for me. As someone who plays primarily in handheld mode, I was interested right from the start, but I couldn't quite justify the price at the time. It was only when I managed to get my hands on my brother's Switch OLED that I knew I needed to own one ASAP.

There's undoubtedly a voice in the back of everyone's mind that says something along the lines of "nah, it can't look that much better than the standard model, right?", but when you see the OLED screen for the first time and realise how much of a difference it makes to games like Breath of the Wild and Luigi's Mansion 3, you simply can't go back - it's over. Better fork out 300 quid.

Wait, this can play Skyrim?!

Switch Screenshot Screenshot 2022 07 11 12 50 06
Image: Kate Gray

Kate: Two key pieces of information: One, I hadn't played Skyrim before I owned a Switch. Two, I owned a Wii U. I loved my Wii U, but I wouldn't have bought one if I hadn't been working for Official Nintendo Magazine; my 3DS was a much better console for my needs. So I didn't play a lot of the heavier stuff on the Wii U, preferring instead to occasionally boot up Wind Waker or Paper Mario.

When the Switch was announced, I was feeling a little pessimistic, after the Wii U had flopped and ONM had been closed down due to flagging sales. Perhaps Nintendo had lost its grip on the console market, I thought. The Switch looks flimsy. It's basically a tablet with tiny, crappy controllers. It won't be able to run anything good.

Admittedly, the first time I realised the capabilities of the Switch was playing Breath of the Wild... but we can't make this whole list about Zelda, can we? It was Skyrim that really made me realise what the Switch was, and what it could be. Sure, Zelda looked fantastic, but Nintendo was able to build it in-house based on their own hardware, so that's cheating. Bethesda, on the other hand, had to take a sprawling open-world RPG that wasn't custom-made for the Switch, and port it over before anyone really knew how to port games to the Switch.

And it worked, flawlessly. In fact, Skyrim in 2017 is a better Switch port than a lot of more recent AAA games, which tend to fall back on the Cloud Edition option to avoid having to tangle with the Switch's unique graphical and processing requirements. So, although Skyrim didn't sell me on the Switch (again, that was Zelda), it cemented my love of the Switch, and my belief in what it could do.

Super Mario Odyssey reveal

Switch Super Mario Odyssey
Image: Nintendo Life

Ollie: Seeing Super Mario Odyssey in the reveal trailer for the Switch was arguably a defining moment in itself, but playing it was a whole other ball game. Although Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U was a great game in its own charming way, Odyssey was a return to what everyone really wanted: fully 3D worlds. I couldn't quite believe what I was playing, it all worked together so perfectly; the controls, the visuals, the gimmicks, it was just wonderful.

Super Mario Odyssey stands as not only one of the greatest Mario games of all time, but one of the greatest games, period. The fact that it released during the Switch's first year on the market alongside the likes of Splatoon 2 and Breath of the Wild makes it even more impressive. Nintendo was firing on all cylinders here!

Playing Zelda on the bus

Or in a tent, or on a train, or... — Image: Nintendo

Gavin: I used the excuse of having 8-hour return bus journeys every weekend in March 2017 to justify getting a Switch on launch day and the joy of taking a brand new Zelda game with me as I travelled sticks with me today as one of the console's defining moments.

I'd played Zelda portable before, of course — Spirit Tracks on the train, Ocarina 3D on a plane — but having something as special and open as Breath of the Wild available in the palm of your hand felt like magic. It wasn't compromised or lessened to make it work, it just worked. And when you got home and slid the console in the dock, it just worked again. Ultimately, when I think of Switch, my brain jumped to those incredible first hours on a warm ALSA bus with other passengers craning their necks to get a glimpse.

The Animal Crossing-meets-pandemic lockdown serendipity

Image: Kate Gray

Kate: You could wait a lifetime for another incredible event like this, where everything aligned so perfectly that it seemed like a well-planned publicity stunt. But unless Nintendo was somehow pulling the strings of a global pandemic, which, to be clear, they weren't, the release of the new Animal Crossing game during the first week of a massive lockdown was just beautiful serendipity.

It wouldn't have worked with any other game. Imagine millions of people getting really into DOOM during a lockdown, instead of tending to their carefully-manicured islands and escaping into a tropical paradise while the world burns around us — it just isn't the same! Animal Crossing: New Horizons was such a perfect game for the first few weeks of something scary and isolating that it's actually become something of a time capsule for many of us, bringing back memories of that dark time in our lives...

The 'death' of Mario

Nintendo 64 Super Mario
Image: Nintendo Life

Gavin: The September 2020 announcement of the many and various Mario-related releases as part of the Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary celebrations was soured somewhat as details of their limited-time nature became apparent, and it's odd how this still sticks in my mind as a significant (non-)event in the history of the Switch.

On 31st March 2021, Super Mario 3D All-Stars was removed from sale on the Switch eShop, with no more physical copies being manufactured. On the same day, Super Mario Bros. 35 was also booted off the Switch eShop, the Super Mario Game & Watch system was retired, and the original Super Mario Maker on Wii U had its online services shuttered. Ouch!

Obviously, this was a ploy by Nintendo to fire up the FOMO (and bolster the bank balance just before the financial year ended). In the case of the Game & Watch and physical copies of 3D All-Stars, they would be easily available for quite a while after that date (and are likely still sitting on some store shelves even now), but the idea of limiting the availability of such popular products didn't sit well with many fans, and scalpers obviously took advantage of the situation.

The whole thing felt needless. Shutting down Mario Maker's online service is disappointing but expected, to an extent. But Super Mario Bros. 35? That's just gone, and for no good reason. In isolation, none of the above events are particularly surprising, but the confluence of all of them coming on the same day felt like a needless downer at a time when Mario fans should have been having a blast.

The dreaded drift

Kate: Bit of a negative one, but getting Joy-Con drift for the first time was the moment that the Switch began to lose a little bit of its lustre. It was such a colossal tech story, too — not many games stories get covered by the BBC, or have over 6,650,000 Google results. Our own video on how to fix the problem has over 2 million views!

Even now, it's the most persistent problem with the Switch, and I think a lot of people felt a little cheated by this incredible piece of technology having this issue that made it unplayable. I'm currently on my fourth pair of Joy-Con. Bah.

Being able to actually finish JRPGs... in bed

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Image: Gemma Smith

Zion: I’ve been incredibly guilty over the years of making some healthy progress in many RPGs and then for one reason or another I end up putting them down and never return. I’m looking at you Persona 3, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, Tales of Vesperia and Symphonia. *tears and apologies* Games like these can be massive commitments with the amount of level grinding they require and the deep (sometimes never ending) storytelling that’s told.

So when the Switch came around it sort of changed things for me. I didn’t need to have access to a TV, a couch and a free schedule to see these games through! I could take them anywhere with me I wanted and could dive in for ten minutes or a few hours. The game could always be there, allowing me to strike when the time was right. Plus, if my couch wasn’t already hanging out without someone else for the night, I could still grab a snack and cozy up with it well past my bedtime under the warm glow of a big ol’ TV screen. So for me, this realization was special and it’s a feature I hope we never have to live without again, as far as Nintendo goes that is…

Switch when?

Kate: The trend of asking "Switch when?" under game announcements, both AAA and indie, has become an expected part of the industry these days. It's frustrating to have the Switch be the last console release for many games — we frequently see delays because the Switch's hardware is just so different, and requires a lot of optimisation work — so it's understandable that people just don't want to feel like an afterthought.

But it's also hell on the devs, who presumably can't actually talk about why the Switch version is delayed in great detail, lest they incur the wrath of Nintendo, who don't offer a ton of support to indies in the first place anyway; or the wrath of Sony and Microsoft, with whom they may have secured an exclusivity deal. But the fans, for some reason, assume that the developer hasn't even considered releasing on the Switch, and they're doing them a favour by gently reminding them of one of the world's best-selling consoles of all time. So, no one's happy.

But frustrations aside, it's pretty telling how often "Switch when?" appears under game announcements, to the point where it's basically a meme in itself (I like to say it to my developer friends to wind them up, because I am terrible). It's just a shame that the fans saying it are often being entitled and impatient.

What do you think has been the single most important event in the Switch's lifetime so far?

We like to think our picks are representative of the rollercoaster of emotions we've had over the past few years with our Switches, but we're keen to hear your thoughts and suggestions, so make sure to vote in the poll above and tell us your defining moments in the comments!