Nintendo’s un-switchable Switch console, the Nintendo Switch Lite, aims to capture the same portable gaming market formerly occupied by the Nintendo 3DS (though Nintendo President Doug Bowser said the Switch Lite won’t replace the dual-screen handheld). Given the Switch Lite’s handheld-only nature, its added portability comes with some limitations, ditching the versatility of the regular Switch model. This includes a certain amount of games that don’t work on the Switch Lite under normal circumstances. In this Nintendo Switch Lite incompatible games guide, we’ll cover the games you can’t play with your Switch Lite out of the box as well which additional accessories you’ll need in order to play them.
Nintendo Switch Lite | Why don’t certain games work on Switch Lite?
Internally, the regular Nintendo Switch model and the Switch Lite are essentially the same. Games that work on the Switch Lite won’t run any worse or better than they would on the regular Switch. The major differences between the two models come from other hardware changes. The Switch Lite sports a smaller form factor and better battery life than the original Switch model (3 to 7 hours compared to the original Switch’s 2.5 to 6.5 hours), though the HAC-001(-01) new Nintendo Switch model has even better battery life—4.5 to 9 hours.
What makes games unplayable on the Switch Lite is the fact that it doesn’t include detachable Joy-Cons or a TV dock, meaning it can’t “switch” from handheld to TV mode like the regular model. This means games that rely on the use of motion controls or other Joy-Con features exclusively, such as HD Rumble or the IR motion camera, can’t be played normally on the Switch Lite. The Nintendo Switch Lite does have gyroscope motion controls, however, so actions such as aiming Link’s bow in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will still be motion control-compatible.
The good news is that all the incompatible Switch Lite games can still be played on the portable console if you own an extra set of Joy-Cons. If you purchase Joy-Cons separately, you’ll be able to connect them to the console and play as you would in the Switch’s tabletop mode. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple: Since the Switch Lite has nowhere to attach Joy-Cons for charging, you’ll also have to purchase a charging device for them, such as a charging tower or Nintendo’s Joy-Con Charging Grip. The Switch Lite also does not come with a kickstand like the normal Switch, so if you’re playing in tabletop mode, you’ll have to either play with the Switch Lite flat on the table or prop it up somehow. On top of that, it could end up being quite the struggle to play a motion-controlled game—especially a multiplayer one—standing several feet away from a 5.5-inch screen. As of now, there’s no way to connect the Switch Lite to a TV (such as with some kind of HDMI adapter device), so Joy-Con play with the Switch Lite is restricted exclusively to this potentially awkward tabletop mode.
Nintendo Switch Lite | How to tell if a game is compatible
While the games listed in the next section are the only known games as of writing that don’t work with the Switch Lite, more motion control-heavy games are bound to be released in the future. If you own a Switch Lite and want to avoid accidentally picking up a game it doesn’t natively support, turn your attention to the “Play Mode” section on the back of every Switch game box. You’ll see three icons indicating TV mode, tabletop mode, and handheld mode. Games that don’t support handheld play, and therefore don’t support the Switch Lite without extra controllers, will have the handheld icon grayed out, as seen in the top-left corner of the image below.
Nintendo Switch Lite | List of incompatible games
Unsurprisingly, every game that’s incompatible with the Nintendo Switch Lite relies heavily on the Joy-Cons in one way or another. These first few games are not compatible because they are largely motion control-based, or otherwise require the use of Joy-Cons for play:
- Fitness Boxing
- Just Dance 2017
- Just Dance 2018
- Just Dance 2019
- Just Dance 2020
- Ring Fit Adventure
- Super Mario Party
Again, connecting an extra set of Joy-Cons to the Switch Lite makes playing these games possible (if only a bit awkwardly). This includes Ring Fit Adventure, which requires players to connect a Joy-Con to the new Ring-Con peripheral in order to play. These next few games, however, feature some peripherals that are not compatible with the Switch Lite at all due to their unique interfacing requirements.
- Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 01: Variety Kit
- Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit
- Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 03: Vehicle Kit
- Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit (both full set and Starter Set + Blaster)
These Nintendo Labo Kits pose a particular problem for the Switch Lite that can’t be solved with additional Joy-Cons. Many of these kits (the VR Kit, the Variety Kit’s piano, etc.) require inserting the Switch’s detachable screen itself into a cardboard peripheral. Since the Switch Lite is smaller than the normal Switch, it simply won’t fit properly into several of the Toy-Cons as intended. This also means a few optional VR modes in first-party Nintendo games, like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Super Mario Odyssey, won’t be playable.
The Nintendo Switch Lite releases on Sept. 20. If you’re reading this before then, check out our Nintendo Switch Lite preorder guide to learn about all the available colors and limited editions of the system.