Best Nintendo Switch Features You Didn’t Know Existed
The Nintendo Switch isn't the most powerful console on the block, but it's filled with hidden features even long-time owners have probably never used.
The Nintendo Switch isn’t the most powerful console on the block, but it’s loaded with features that set it apart from the competition. While you will probably use most of these over the course of normal Switch ownership, some are so situational or obscure that you might never realize they exist unless someone tells you.
Since the Nintendo Switch is a hybrid home/handheld console, it is filled with features that you can’t find on any other modern gaming platform. For instance, most game controllers these days include rechargeable batteries, but recharging your Switch Joy-Cons is as easy as sliding them into the console. This is one of the most well-known features, though, since everyone has to recharge their Joy-Cons eventually. Because the Switch is packed with so many little features, though, many get overlooked and underused. Here are some of the better ones.
Find Lost Controllers
Many personal belongings have a nasty habit of going missing. Keys, socks, remotes of every size and function, and even game controllers. Usually, you can find these hiding under sofa cushions, but just in case they are not there, the Switch has an extra function that helps you find your wayward device.
If you can’t locate a missing controller, your best option is to use the Switch’s “Find Controllers” function. To use this, open up the Controllers tab on the main menu and select “Find Controllers,” which should be on the right side of the menu. There, the console will give you a list of all the controllers paired with your switch. Simply select the one you want to find (you can do this by tapping the screen if you’re looking for a Joy-Con) and if it’s off, the console will turn it on. Then hold down the A, L, or R buttons on the screen while the missing controller is selected, and it will start vibrating. Follow the noise, and you should find your controller.
While this function is extremely useful, it isn’t foolproof. Soft surfaces don’t conduct vibrations very well, so if the controller is under a pillow somewhere, you might not hear it unless you strain your ears. But if the controller doesn’t turn on, it is either out of range or out of juice. If it’s out of range, simply moving to another room might make it activate. If it’s out of juice, you’re on your own.
The Magic of Extra Profiles
These days, every game console links a player to their games via profiles. This way, multiple gamers can use the same console without mixing up their libraries or play the same game without any risk of accidentally deleting someone else’s progress. But if only one person uses a console, they can still make more than one profile to cheat the system.
One benefit of creating multiple profiles is creating additional save slots. Normally this isn’t a problem since many games come standard with more than one save, but not so with Switch games. Titles such as Animal Crossing and Pokémon only give players a single save slot. Anyone who wants more is out of luck…unless they create a new profile.
Just go to “System Settings” in the main menu, select “Users,” and then pick “Add User.” Follow the instructions to create a new profile, and when you’re done, just log in. There you go, one more save slot for your games.
The benefits of additional profiles extend past simply obtaining more save slots, though. If you have the urge to play a game that hasn’t been officially released in your country (yet), nothing’s stopping you from buying the cartridge online and inserting it; the Nintendo Switch isn’t region locked. However, if you can’t obtain a cart, you can always buy the game digitally, but not with your original Nintendo account. That is locked to your country. You will need to make a new account and profile bound to the country where the game is available.
Simply go to accounts.nintendo.com and sign up for a new account. Fill out all the requisite information, including your email address (DON’T use the same one for your main account), and, when asked for your country of residence, instead of putting your real one, select the country of choice. For instance, if the game you want is only available in Japan, pick that country. After you’ve submitted your information, enter the registration code sent in the mail and link your new account to your Switch (select “Add User” in the User tab of System Settings and enter your account credentials). Once that’s done, you can browse another country’s eShop offerings and buy them. Whether or not the digital store will accept your credit card, however, is a different matter.
Plug and Play With USB
When undocked, the Nintendo Switch lets users plug wired headphones into the console via an aux cable. As of September 2021, Nintendo finally patched in the ability to pair Bluetooth headphones to the Switch. But if all you have are USB headphones, the console still lets you use those under certain conditions.
If you own a wired controller (such as a PowerA), you know that using them is as easy as connecting the USB cable to one of the Switch’s USB ports. Using a USB headset with a Switch is just as easy. Plug the headset’s USB cable (or dongle) into the dock’s USB port, and you’re done. The headset is ready to use. But that’s not all the Switch’s USB port is good for.
If for any reason you are playing a Switch game that lets you input names and other words via a virtual keyboard and you don’t want to go through the hassle of using a controller or touchpad, you can always use a physical keyboard instead While the Switch is docked, just plug the USB cable or dongle of any wired or wireless USB keyboard into the dock, and you have a keyboard for your Switch for all your typing needs. Unfortunately, this same trick doesn’t work with mice.
Connect Controllers to Other Platforms
When it comes to controller options for PC gaming, we’re really spoiled with options. PC gamers can use a mouse and keyboard, Xbox controllers, third-party controllers, and even more specialized accessories such as joysticks and racing wheels. Well, you can also add the Nintendo Switch controllers to the list. Yes, both the Switch Pro Controller and Joycons can connect to computers
If you’re using a Switch Pro Controller, you can link it to your computer in one of two ways. The first method is the easiest: Just connect it via USB, and the computer takes care of the rest. You can also pair the controller via Bluetooth by pressing the little button at the top of the controller, visiting your computer’s Bluetooth settings, and adding it under “Add a Bluetooth Device.” Since the Joy-Cons don’t have a USB connector, you have to use the Bluetooth method instead.
Due to the magic of Bluetooth, computers aren’t the only non-Nintendo platforms you can use with Switch controllers. Android phones are also perfectly usable with Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers, and they can connect with the same methods. A smartphone’s screen might not be as grand as a Nintendo Switch’s screen, but if you want to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the go without using touchscreen controls, this is one of your best bets.
Built-In Button Mapping
These days, controllers follow a slightly more universal design. The analog sticks might be in different places, but everything else is roughly the same. Switching between an Xbox and a PlayStation is relatively seamless since even though their buttons have different names, they still have the same functions based on their positions. The Nintendo Switch is the only exception to this rule, but only if you don’t alter its basic button functions.
As of Version 10.0.0 (which was released in April of 2020), Switch consoles gained the ability to remap buttons. As the term suggests, that feature allows any button on any controller to function as a different button instead. Say you want a character to jump with the B button, but a game has them jump with the A button instead. Just swap them around with the Switch’s button remapping.
To use this feature, select System Settings, scroll down to “Controllers and Sensors” and then pick “Change Button Mapping.” Select the controller you want to remap, highlight the button you want to change, and then choose the button you want it to function as. You can make any button function as virtually any other button so long as you have one functional A and B button.
Charge the Switch With a Battery Pack (or Use It As One)
What do the Nintendo Switch and cell phones have in common? They both run out of power pretty quickly, and you might not find a wall socket before they die. Thankfully, there is more than one way to charge them.
Like with many handheld electronics, you can plug a battery pack into the Switch via its USB-C port to charge it. Of course, you have to make sure the battery in question is compatible with the Switch, but as long as you buy the right one, you can keep your Switch powered on the go. Interestingly, if you have a phone that needs charging, but you don’t have a portable battery, you can also use your Switch as a replacement in a pinch. Just link a Switch to a phone with the appropriate cable, and you’re good to go.
A word of warning: Don’t try to charge a Nintendo Switch with a phone charger or vice versa. The charging cables aren’t half as compatible as the systems are themselves.
Prevent Theft With Passcodes
Thieves can strike any time, anywhere. Say you are at an airport, open your backpack to play some Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and suddenly, your Switch is missing. Where could it have gone? You only looked away for a second. Well, even if someone stole your Nintendo Switch, you can lock it down so they don’t get to use it.
Like most modern electronics, the Nintendo Switch includes parental settings. The Nintendo Switch Parental Control app lets parental gamers monitor how much time their children spend on the Switch, limit gaming sessions, and prevent them from playing age-inappropriate titles. The app can even lock children out of the Switch entirely, or, in this case, lock thieves out of the Switch.
In order to prevent would-be burglars from using their ill-gotten Switch, simply download the Parental Control app from your appropriate smart device store and link it to your console. To do this, visit the Parental Controls menu from the Switch’s System Settings (the cog button on the main menu), select “Use Your Smart Device,” pick “Yes” when the Switch asks you if you have the app, and then enter the registration code on your copy of the app. Once registration is complete, in the phone app set “Restricted Software” to the lowest age the app allows (i.e., 3+ under “Custom Settings”). Once that’s done, your Switch is officially protected. You, and, by extension, thieves can’t play any games (or do anything else) on the Switch unless you select the orange button at the top of the Switch screen and enter the correct passcode. But since the code is on your phone app, only you know it.
While this feature will keep your console safe from prying hands, be sure to turn it off after you are done traveling. Otherwise, you will have to enter the pin every time you want to play a game, which can get annoying.
Switch Up Dock Orientation
This isn’t so much an obscure part of the Nintendo Switch’s programming as it is a neat trick that takes advantage of its design, but hey, a feature is a feature.
If you are short of space for your Switch and can’t place it in a location that lets you slide the console down into its dock, you can turn the dock on its back. This lets you insert the Switch console so the screen lays horizontally, or at least at an angle. The dock doesn’t lock the Switch into place and using gravity to keep it inserted, so you might need to elevate one side a bit so the port that connects the Switch to the dock is lower than the top of the Switch, but otherwise, this method is a valid way to store your Switch. And, it’s officially endorsed by Masahiro Sakurai.