Nintendo Switch vs Wii U: Which Should You Buy?

The recently released Nintendo Switch proves that Nintendo knew it was on to something with the Wii U. Launched in 2012, that console introduced a second screen to living room gameplay because the high sales of the Nintendo 3DS hinted that was what people wanted. The Wii U went on to be a massive flop. There wasn’t a casual Wii U owner alive that didn’t find the idea of a tablet baked into their console puzzling. Five years later, the Nintendo Switch has arrived to fulfill the promise Nintendo Wii U owners dreamt about way back then.

The Nintendo Wii U was a direct successor to the Wii. The Nintendo Switch attempts to break new ground. It’s not a living room console with a gamepad that has a display. It’s a full mobile video game console. Batteries and a display inside let you take it anywhere that you want. That’s a stark contrast from the Wii U.

The recently released Nintendo Switch.

The recently released Nintendo Switch.

Read: 12 Amazing Nintendo Switch Features You’ll Love

Here’s how the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s newest console, compares to the once forward thinking Nintendo Wii U.

Nintendo Switch vs Wii U: Hardware

It may have gone on to not sell well, but what the Wii U offered at its launch made sense. All of the major entertainment companies had invested resources in extending their experiences beyond the television. Research data showed that those enjoying video games and movies kept their smartphone or tablet nearby.

Wii U

The Nintendo Wii U.

Nintendo wanted to capitalize on this by creating a second screen that gamers could interact with. Like on the Nintendo 3DS, this second display offered up information, inventory management and more. All of this was fine, but Wii U included a beaming feature that allowed gamers to continue enjoying some of their titles on the GamePad while someone else used the television. That gave off the impression that the Wii U wasn’t dependent on its other half, which it was.

The Nintendo Switch isn’t dependent on a separate piece of hardware at all. Everything that gamers need is built directly into it. There’s a 6.2-inch touchscreen display that uses the better multi-touch technology from smartphones instead of the resistive technology from the Wii U.

Nintendo Switch with its Joy-Con Grip and dock..

Read: 7 Nintendo Switch Tips & Tricks

A dock with three USB ports. A HDMI port is what allows the Nintendo Switch to communicate with a television set. There’s no software switch for going into Handheld Mode, you lift the console out of its dock and the change happens automatically. Two wireless controllers on the side, called Joy-Cons, are your main ways to play games. They can be removed and used by themselves for head to head multiplayer. You add them to a Controller Grip when your television is docked.

Read: Nintendo Switch Buying Guide: Bundles, Games & Accessories

With the Nintendo Switch, you have everything that you need to get started playing a game. That is, except the game itself. All the Wii U bundles still being sold have a free game with them. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t.

Nintendo Switch vs Wii U: Games

The Wii U wasn’t as powerful as the Xbox 360 and PS3. The Nintendo Switch isn’t as powerful as the Xbox One and PS4. The objective remains the same. Nintendo hopes to keep gaming fun and imaginative.

The Wii U GamePad.

Each of the Joy-Con controllers has motion sensors inside. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild uses this for aiming at a long distance. Splatoon 2 and Arms will use this the same way the Wii did. Moving the Joy-Cons will have a direct impact on in-game characters. 1-2 Switch is a set of mini-games that take advantage of Nintendo Switch’s motion capabilities now.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild demonstrates the depth and scope Nintendo Switch games can have. It’s an expansive open-world game that can be played anywhere you are for up to 3 hours. Less detailed games allow you to extend the Nintendo Switch’s battery life to roughly six hours.

Read: 15 Exciting Nintendo Switch Games for 2017

Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are planned for the Nintendo Switch in 2017. Nintendo has also managed to pick up a few games from independent studios. NBA 2K18 is headed to the console. So is The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim, a huge seller on other systems. Nintendo hopes that new internals and easier development will mean more games from big name studios launch on the console than came to the Wii U. Besides online multiplayer, Switch supports local multiplayer between consoles and split-screen cooperative play on a single console. With the latter scenario, each player gets a Joy-Con Controller.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Wii U has been around longer. Thus, there are more games available for it. It enjoys other advantages too. This newer device is missing Virtual Console, a feature that allows Wii U owners to purchase and download games made for the N64, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Super NES and NES. Nintendo hasn’t said when Virtual Console might arrive on the Nintendo Switch.

It has yet to fully detail and flesh out its plans for the Nintendo Switch Online Gaming Service either. Gamers can play a limited number of titles online with other people, but not many. The service will offer voice chat, multiplayer matchmaking and more to Switch owners. Whereas multiplayer on the Wii U is permanently free, Switch users have to pay for it beginning this fall.

The Wii U can be used as a set-top box to stream video service Netflix and its competitors. The Switch doesn’t have any apps available, though the company says that Netflix for Nintendo Switch is on its way.

Nintendo Switch vs Wii U: Price

nintendo-switch-neon

The Nintendo Switch with Neon Joy-Cons

The Wii U is old enough that Nintendo has stopped making it. Refurbished units are available from the Nintendo Store for as little as $200. GameStop sells bundles for $249.99. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Switch’s highest profile release thus far, is also available on the Wii U.

Compare these costs to the Nintendo Switch, which starts at $299 and doesn’t include any games at all. There are some cost savings for sure. But buying the older console maroons you to Nintendo’s past hits. Unless you’re looking for a cheaper way to experience Breath of the Wild and classics through the Virtual Console, the Nintendo Switch is the better investment.

14 Best Nintendo Switch Games Coming in 2017

Sonic Forces

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Sonic Forces

Featuring three protagonists from very different eras of Sonic, Sonic Forces will offer platforming and an all-new story when it arrives on video game consoles – including the Nintendo Switch – sometime soon.

Sega has only confirmed that the game will launch worldwide sometime in Q4 2017. As such, an exact release date remains a complete mystery. Other details, like how it’ll support Amiibo, and the different play modes of the Nintendo Switch, are unclear too. Sonic Forces is one of two recently revealed Sonic games coming to Nintendo Switch. The other is Sonic Mania.

We don't yet know who that third protagonist will be.

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