Updated with Nintendo Switch Sports.
Switch Lite, the portable-only version of Nintendo's console, offers a cheaper way of jumping on the Switch train with a focus on handheld play which makes it a true replacement for Nintendo 3DS. However, it's important to remember that unlike the standard Nintendo Switch of the OLED Model, Switch Lite does not support Docked Mode and will not output to your TV in any way — essentially the Switch Lite doesn't 'switch' like the standard model. Then again, the standard model doesn't come in a spectrum of funky colours!
Nintendo Switch Lite's controls are also integrated into the body of the console meaning there are a small handful of games that will no longer function without purchasing extra Joy-Con controllers and connecting them wirelessly to Switch Lite. Below you'll find the games that don't function in Handheld Mode and will either require extra controllers or the standard Switch console to work properly (there's only one set of games where the latter applies).
Which games don't work with Nintendo Switch Lite?
Well, technically, every piece of Switch software released up until now (and, presumably, in the future) will boot up on the handheld-only version of the console. It has all the technical gubbins inside to run any cartridge you put in the slot.
However, incompatibility arises due to the control inputs certain games require — namely motion-controlled games which require you to slide off the Joy-Con.
As you can see in the graphic above, Nintendo states on its website that Tabletop Mode isn't supported with Switch Lite. However, this isn't technically true. If you've got the required controllers, you can absolutely wirelessly connect Joy-Con or Pro Controllers just like the normal Switch — Switch Lite only lacks the kickstand of the standard model.
Its smaller screen might make things a bit hard to see, but if you've got the extra controllers there's nothing stopping you from propping up the console somewhere (or using one of the available third-party accessories) and enjoying some local multiplayer on its small screen. More Table-prop than Tabletop mode, but it gets the job done.
The exception to this is Nintnendo Switch Sports, which doesn’t permit local multiplayer to be played on Switch Lite. Instead, it directs you to connect switch to TV mode, which Switch Lite is incapable of.
For all other games, local multiplayer is possible. However, seeing as you can't attach Joy-Con to Switch Lite, you will definitely need a way to charge them separately, such as a Joy-Con Charging Grip.
List of Switch games that don't support Handheld Mode
We'll update this as new titles are released which don't support Handheld mode:
- Just Dance (all of them)
- Super Mario Party
- Fitness Boxing
- Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise
- Ring Fit Adventure
- Nintendo Switch Sports
- Nintendo Labo (all sets)*
Remember, it is still possible to play these games on your Lite (except Labo — see below), you'll just need a pair of Joy-Con, something to prop up your Switch Lite and exceptional vision to see what you're doing on that 5.5 inch screen. Only the latter entry on the list above presents truly insurmountable problems (scroll down for more details).
Games that are 'better' with detached controllers
There are some outliers that are playable on Switch Lite, but might have certain game modes which aren't available without Joy-Con.
The hand gesture counting activities in Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch, for example, require the IR camera found in the bottom of every right-hand Joy-Con, so while the majority of the game is designed for handheld play, you won't be able to play 100% of the software's offerings on Switch Lite.
Other games support Handheld Mode as an alternative to motion controls, but that may not be the optimal way to play; ARMS, for example, is built around having a Joy-Con in each hand even though it supports Handheld Mode (although some players get on with the non-motion controls just fine).
Super Mario Odyssey also has a couple of (non-essential) moves which can't be activated without motion controls. These still work on Switch Lite, but you'll need to shake your entire console to activate them — and be mindful of who's close by on public transport.
And, of course, if you want to play the local multiplayer component of almost any game, you'll need more controllers — be they Joy-Con or Pro Controllers.
How do I know if a Switch game doesn't support Handheld Mode?
You mean other than checking out this handy guide? You'll want to keep a look out for the little handheld icon on the box (or on the eShop game page if you buy your games digitally).
Look on the back of the box and you'll find a series of icons indicating compatibility like the ones below for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (left) and Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit (right):
As you can see, Breath of the Wild is good to go in Handheld Mode, but you'll run into problems with Nintendo Labo kits.
Does the Switch Lite support gyro controls?
Yes! The Switch Lite contains a gyroscope and accelerometer just like the standard Switch console does (you might have thought they're only found in the Joy-Con, but that's incorrect — many of the Labo toys couldn't work without the console's own motion sensing abilities).
Does the Switch Lite have HD rumble?
Unfortunately, Switch Lite does not have in-built rumble of any variety. The HD rumble in your Joy-Con controllers will work just fine with it, but the Switch Lite console itself does not have rumble.
*Can I use Switch Lite with Nintendo Labo/Labo VR?
Hmm, well here's the problem. The software will boot up and you should be able to construct your Toy-Con with no problems using Switch Lite, and a pair of Joy-Con should enable you to operate some of them without a hitch. However, anything which involves the direct interaction between cardboard and the base console won't work with Switch Lite.
The Labo VR Goggles, for example, won't house Switch Lite because of the smaller form factor. Likewise, Switch Lite will not fit inside the Toy-Con House, either. If you're incredibly creative, there might be homemade workarounds, but if you're buying a Switch and you want to play with the Nintendo Labo sets, we strongly recommend you get the standard Switch for which it was designed.
Got any questions about the Nintendo Switch Lite? Let us know in the comments and we'll do our best to answer.