Nintendo Switch vs PS4 vs Xbox One – Which Console Is Best?

Bob Mackey
Games Xbox
Games Xbox Nintendo

With its release date set for March 3, the Nintendo Switch is right around the corner. And this new console marks a first for Nintendo, as it amounts to a console/handheld hybrid you can play off the TV, or take with you to do some gaming on the go. That said, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One having recently passed their third birthdays, Nintendo has a bit of catching up to do if they want to compete with these more established gaming systems. If you’ve been wondering how the Switch stacks up to the competition, check out our full analysis below.

The Hardware

Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch vs PS4 vs Xbox One

In terms of sheer graphical power, what we’ve seen of the Switch so far hasn’t risen above the standard set by the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. If anything, the Switch games shown off before release look to be visually on par with what’s found on contemporary gaming consoles. Getting down to more technical details, the Switch touchscreen displays images at a resolution of 720p, while playing Switch games on your TV can display images up to 1080p (depending on your TV and the game in question, of course).

The PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One both max out at 1080p, but the enhanced versions of these consoles—the PlayStation Pro and Xbox One S—can play certain games in 4k. Of course, the biggest selling point of the Switch hardware stands in its ability to play software on both the TV and the touch screen, making every game into something you can enjoy away from your entertainment center.

The touch screen has a pretty wide range of battery life, depending on the game—Nintendo estimates 2.5 to 6.5 hours per full charge—meaning your Switch time away from an outlet will have its limits. The Switch also ships with a meager 32 gigabytes of internal storage, though you can expand this storage by purchasing a larger microSDHC or microSDXC card. Not as easy as plugging a 3TB hard drive into an Xbox One.

The Software

Super Mario Odyssey

Without question, simply existing for the past three years has given the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One the advantage in this category. And when it comes to exclusives, the PlayStation 4 stands over any competitor. To name just a few worthwhile games, the PS4 has exclusive rights to Uncharted 4, The Last Guardian, and Bloodborne, as well as a back catalog of PlayStation and PlayStation 2 classics. The Xbox One may not feature as many notable exclusives, but it allows users to play any purchased first-party games for the system on their Windows 10 gaming PC for free. If you’re already a PC gamer, this feature could definitely make the Xbox One worth it. Not to mention Xbox One’s expanding backwards compatibility, while Switch has no ability to play 3DSor Wii U games.

The Nintendo Switch doesn’t have much chance of beating those libraries, but it also doesn’t help that the system has a fairly weak launch lineup. The Switch’s biggest launch game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will also see a simultaneous release on the Nintendo Wii U, and many of the more promising titles, like Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2, won’t come into being until weeks (or more) later. Even so, if you want to play console versions of your favorite Nintendo brands—Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and more—the Switch will be your only option. For many, the promise of high-quality, Nintendo-developed games down the road stands as enough of a reason to invest in a Nintendo Switch, outweighing any deficiency in third party titles.

Other Functionality

Nintendo Switch Stream Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Link

Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 each have their own paid online service plans, each with their own benefits. Subscribing not only lets you play certain games online, you also receive access to free games every month. The PlayStation service, PlayStation Plus, offers up two Vita games, two PlayStation 3 games, and two PlayStation 4 games every month, while the Xbox One’s Games with Gold program provides access to one free Xbox One game every two weeks. If you’d like to continually access your PlayStation Plus games, though, you have to make sure your subscription doesn’t lapse.

Nintendo plans on having their online service launch for the Switch in March, though they haven’t set a price yet. This service will let Switch users play certain games online, as well as give them access to one NES or Super NES game a month, with the option to buy said game before the trial period is over. And it should be noted that the Switch is less of a media device than the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. While you’d assume you could use the more popular streaming apps out of the box, the Switch doesn’t play DVDs or Blu-Rays. If you already have a device that can, though, this downside shouldn’t matter much.

The Future

Even though they’re getting on in years, the futures of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are incredibly bright. Instead of planning on releasing successor consoles in the near future, both Sony and Microsoft have chosen to create enhanced versions of both sets of hardware in the hopes of future-proofing the platform. And even though Sony has been outselling Microsoft pretty regularly, both consoles have such a healthy install base, it’d be incredibly unlikely for either company to consider pulling support anytime soon.

When it comes to the Nintendo Switch, things aren’t as clear. On the bright side, Nintendo is clearly correcting the mistakes they made with their previous console, the Wii U, which, in retrospect, amounts to a half-baked Switch. And there’s always the chance Nintendo could gradually convert their strong 3DS user base into Switch users, giving the console a big enough audience to achieve success. Conversely, there’s always the reasonable fear that Nintendo can no longer carve out a niche in the console space, and will fail to attract the casual audience who’s since moved on to mobile games.

If anything, Nintendo’s games will make or break the Switch. Since, for the past 20 years, Nintendo consoles have been first and foremost a means of playing Nintendo-developed games, the Switch can soar if it features amazing games that can’t be found anywhere else — and launching with Zelda is definitely a great start. As with the Wii U, even if the Switch doesn’t take off, you’ll still have a dozen great games you can’t play on any other console. Obviously, that’s a worst-case scenario, but if you’re a fan of Nintendo games, the situation could be much, much worse.

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Bob Mackey
Bob Mackey is Games Editor at Fandom. Since joining the games press in 2007, he's written for sites like 1UP, Joystiq, The A.V. Club, Gamasutra, USgamer, and many others. He also hosts the weekly podcasts Retronauts and Talking Simpsons. Follow him on Twitter @bobservo.
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