The Nintendo Switch is a great console—part living room system, part portable device, and all Nintendo. While the Switch isn’t as packed with extra features and apps as other modern consoles are, there are still many things it doesn’t tell you. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your new Switch.

Get Nintendo Switch Online

Playing Mario Kart for SNES on a Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo Switch Online is Nintendo’s paid subscription service. It costs just $19.99 per year for an individual or $34.99 for a family, which is a bargain compared to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold and Sony’s PlayStation Plus.

This service includes access to online multiplayer for games like Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. You also get cloud saves so you’ll never lose your save games, even if your Switch console breaks and you have to replace it.

Nintendo’s subscription also gives you access to a library of 60 NES and Super NES games—everything from Super Mario World and Star Fox 2 for SNES to the original Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda for NES. You can play them all you want for as long as you have an active subscription. There’s no additional fee, and Nintendo regularly adds new games.

Open the Nintendo eShop on your Switch to sign up for a 7-day free trial.

Understand Nintendo’s Many User Accounts

RELATED: Nintendo Account vs. User ID vs. Network ID: All of Nintendo's Confusing Accounts, Explained

Nintendo has a few different online account types, so this can be a tad confusing. The Nintendo Switch now uses a “Nintendo Account”, which is different from the old “Nintendo Network ID” used on the Nintendo Wii and 3DS. That Nintendo account has a “Nintendo Account User ID”, which is a unique name that identifies the account online. However, you can link your old Nintendo Network ID to your new Nintendo Account.

Decide Whether to Buy Physical or Digital Games

RELATED: Should You Buy Physical or Digital Switch Games?

The Nintendo Switch offers both digital games you can download and physical games on cartridges. Digital games are convenient—you can buy them from home, download them instantly, and play immediately. You can play them without swapping cartridges and you’ll always have them with you, making your Nintendo Switch more portable.

But there are some big downsides to digital games. You can’t share digital games with your friends or family—unless you loan them your console—and you can’t resell them afterwards. Physical games tend to go on sale more often, too, and for lower prices.

It’s up to you which you prefer, and you can mix and match physical or digital games—but be sure to consider which you’d prefer before you start spending your hard earned money on games.

Get the Best Accessories

RELATED: The Nintendo Switch Accessories You'll Actually Need

There are quite a few accessories you might want for your Switch. In particular, you’ll want a spacious micro SD card if you plan on buying any games digitally. The Nintendo Switch only comes with 32GB of internal storage space. The digital version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will use nearly half that on its own, and some games are even bigger than 32GB! So you’ll need an SD card to hold them.

This only applies if you’ll be buying those games digitally. If you buy physical games, you can insert a physical game cartridge and play it without any installation—just like in the old days.

A Pro Controller is also helpful for games where you don’t want to use the Joy-Cons, and a carrying case is essential if your Switch will be leaving your home.

Play Multiplayer Games

RELATED: The Best Switch Games to Play with Friends and Family

Like Nintendo’s previous consoles (and unlike the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), the Nintendo Switch has a strong focus on local multiplayer. There are a lot of great multiplayer games for the Nintendo Switch, so you can actually play games with your family and friends in the same room.

The Joy-Cons on the Nintendo switch can be used together as a pair, or they can be separated and used as two tiny little controllers. This allows you to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and other great multiplayer games without buying more controllers—although you can buy more controllers too, if you like. You may need to change your controller configuration to have your Switch treat those Joy-Cons as separate controllers, though.

Some games have more advanced multiplayer modes, too. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers “wireless play”, allowing multiple Nintendo Switches in the same room to play together. It also offers online multiplayer.

Enable HDMI-CEC on Your TV For Input-Switching Magic

RELATED: How to Enable HDMI-CEC on Your TV, and Why You Should

The Nintendo Switch can automatically switch your TV to the Switch’s input when you turn it on, or even automatically switch your TV to the Switch’s input when you place your Switch in the dock. Or, if your TV is off, turning on your Switch or placing it in the dock will automatically turn your TV on. This makes the experience of using the console much more seamless.

However, this requires you enable HDMI-CEC on your TV. If your Switch is already automatically switching inputs, HDMI-CEC is already enabled. If it’s not, you’ll need to enable it. This feature disabled by default on many TVs, for some reason.

You’ll find this feature in your TV’s setup menu, but it’s probably called something other than HDMI-CEC.

Or, if you don’t like this feature at all, you can disable the input switching on your Switch.

Change the Region to Play Games From Other Countries

RELATED: How to Change the Region On Your Nintendo Switch (and Play Games from Other Countries)

The Nintendo Switch is no longer region-locked, as previous Nintendo consoles were. If you have a Nintendo Switch purchased in the USA, you can buy physical game cartridges from Japan or Europe and play them normally.

However, there are still some regional differences. Different regions have their own eShop online stores. For example, some games have only been released in Japan, and may never come to the USA. You can switch your console’s region and access the eShop for that country, allowing you to buy and play those foreign games that would have otherwise been inaccessible.

Set Parental Controls

RELATED: How to Set Up Parental Controls on the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch offers parental controls, allowing you to set time limits for your children, monitor their activity remotely, and even disable access to the console entirely. It can of course restrict games by age rating, too.

To use all these features, you’ll need to install Nintendo’s Parental Controls app on your iPhone or Android phone and connect it to your Switch console. You can then manage everything from your phone.

Free Up Space

RELATED: How to Free Up Space On Your Nintendo Switch's Internal Storage

Once you’ve installed a few games, that 32GB of space can fill up fast. Even if you don’t play digital games, physical games you play will download their patch data and DLC to your Switch’s storage.

If you don’t have a micro SD card, you’ll probably need to free up space on your Switch at some point. (But seriously, you should probably get a micro SD card!)

Keep It Shiny and New

RELATED: How to Clean Your Nintendo Switch

Your Nintendo Switch is shiny and new, but it will likely get dirty over time if you share it with other people or just use the touch screen. You can clean your Nintendo Switch’s screen with just a microfiber cloth, and a simple cotton swab can get any gunk out of hard to reach areas. Avoid harsh cleaning products or you could damage the screen.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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