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Key Takeaways

  • Telescopic controllers offer a more comfortable, Switch-like phone experience.
  • Phones provide superior displays, more power, and (since you already own one) a more affordable gaming experience.
  • Cloud and remote gaming can turn your phone into a powerful gaming PC, with visuals far outpacing what the Switch can deliver.

You might want a Nintendo Switch, but do you need one? If you have a relatively modern phone, you already have a more powerful handheld in your pocket. All you need is a telescopic game controller to get a Switch-like experience on your phone, and in many ways, you’ll be better off for it.

Phone Controllers Are More Comfortable Than Joy-Cons

The Nintendo Switch is a portable handheld, but that portability comes with some sacrifices. Joysticks aren’t as large as they could be. Shoulder triggers are a bit shallow. The grips aren’t as comfortable to hold for hours at a time. That’s why many Switch owners get a separate controller for longer play sessions when they’re at home, or purchase bulky third-party Joy-Cons.

There’s a style of gamepad out there known as a telescopic game controller, which stretches to cradle your phone in the middle, much like the Switch unit fits between two Joy-Cons. Many (if not most) telescopic controllers are more comfortable than the Switch’s built-in controls, because there’s no assumption that this controller will always be attached to your phone. It can be a little bit thicker since it will spend most of its time in a desk or in a bag.

Some controllers like the Razer Kishi Ultimate feel like you’re holding an extra wide Xbox or PlayStation controller (though you can opt for the cheaper Razer Kishi v2 if you want something more akin to holding a Switch). The GameSir G8 is a less expensive option with many of the same strengths. There’s even a PlayStation version of the well-received Backbone controller, if you’re more comfortable with Sony’s controls than Nintendo’s or Microsoft’s.

Enjoy Your Phone’s Far Superior Screen

Razer Kishi Ultra with Galaxy Z Fold 5 playing Dead Cells.
Bertel King / How-To Geek

The Nintendo Switch’s 6.2 inch 1280 by 720 LCD wasn’t impressive at the time the console launched and is even less so now. The console’s hardware has been static except for a newer OLED model that did not bump up the resolution. Meanwhile, phones have steadily improved year after year. If you have the base Samsung Galaxy S24, you have a 6.2-inch 2340 by 1080 OLED panel. For most of us, our phone is the best-looking, most pixel-dense screen in our home.

Try downloading a game for the Switch and for your phone and take note of the difference. It doesn’t have to be a demanding title. Try Dead Cells. On your phone, the visuals are crisper. If you have a high-end phone with an OLED display, you’ll likely also have smoother animations due to higher refresh rates. Blacks will be blacker, and colors will look more vibrant overall.

Phones Pack More Horsepower

The screen isn’t the only area where your phone is the more capable device. The Switch has a modified NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor, a chip that launched in 2017. Enter that chip into a benchmarking tool and compare it to a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. It’s night and day.

The Switch has 4GB of RAM. Mid-range phones have 8GB. Many high-end phones now come with 12GB (some even 16). The Switch maxes out at 64GB of eMMC internal memory, which determines how many games you can store and also impacts load times. Phones now use faster UFS storage with much faster transfer speeds, and even budget phones tend to come with 256GB of space.

In short, phones are faster than they were in 2017. The Switch isn’t.

Mobile Ports Cost Less, and Subscriptions Are Even Cheaper

Nintendo Switch games still go for over $50, even if they’re over five years old. Mario Kart and the Legend of Zelda are the kind of games that rarely go on sale or have a price cut. Yet even third-party indie games cost more on Nintendo’s system. You can unlock the full version of Coromon for around $5 on a mobile phone versus getting the same game for $20 from the Nintendo eShop.

Subscription services like Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass make it possible to play games for even less. You get access to thousands of games for a few bucks a month. Sure, most of these titles lack the depth of many Switch games, especially Nintendo’s first-party efforts, but it’s still a far more affordable way to enjoy mobile gaming. You can also add a Netflix subscription to snag even more games.

Let’s return to Dead Cells for a moment. The Android version costs $8.99 in the Play Store, and you can get it free as part of a Netflix subscription. On a Switch, the same game starts at $25, before you add any expansions.

Cloud and Local Streaming Lets You Play Games a Switch Can’t Handle

Razer Kishi Ultra with Galaxy Z Fold 5 streaming Tell Me Why via NVIDIA GeForce Now.
Bertel King / How-To Geek

So what about those big budget games? This is the biggest advantage the Switch has over mobile phones. Its library is filled with a better selection of deep, immersive titles. That is where cloud and remote gaming come in to fill the void.

Cloud gaming comes with caveats. You need both a fast internet connection and fast Wi-Fi. This puts it out of reach for many, and it also isn’t ideal when away from home (5G isn’t always fast or stable enough). But if you have the right setup at home, cloud gaming feels native. This is the way I game these days, and the vast majority of the time, I don’t give any thought to the fact that I’m streaming.

On NVIDIA GeForceNOW, I have access to much of my Steam library, turning my phone into a PC gaming machine. Xbox Game Pass grants you the ability to play many of the same titles you would on an Xbox Series X. Frankly, you can sign up for nearly any of the best cloud streaming services to play games on your phone.

With cloud gaming, you’re effectively trading your Switch for both a PC and an Xbox, with additional mobile games to boot. Just like the Switch, you can also connect your phone to a large monitor or TV, so you aren’t restricted to the smaller screen.

And just in case you already own a PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or a gaming PC running Steam you can use companion mobile apps to play remotely over your home network with even less latency.

Don’t Forget Emulation

A phone running sonic game in an emulator with some cartridges around with Yoshi figure on the right and a gameboy behind.
Lucas Gouveia / How-To Geek | Christos Film / Shutterstock

Nintendo isn’t keen on your attempting to emulate Switch games, as the company showed by getting the popular Yuzu emulator shut down. Still, it tends to turn more of a blind eye to emulating older software. It’s not easy to turn your phone into a Switch, but you can easily run your favorite Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games.

Emulation has long been a strength of Android, but now that Apple allows emulators into the App Store, you can embrace emulation regardless of which phone you have. Concerned about the legality of emulating old games? Here’s what the lawyers say.

Your Console Improves With Every Phone Upgrade

Person holding the GameSir G8 Galileo to game on an Android phone.
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek

People who have stuck with the Switch since day one have been using the console for over half a decade before getting word of a follow-up. That’s a long time to wait for new hardware.

Your phone isn’t quite so stuck in stasis. Even if you don’t replace your phone every year or even every other year, you’ve likely replaced it at least once since the Switch debuted. If you’re a mobile gamer, every time you upgrade your phone, your gaming experience gets a boost. Old games often feel fresh again.

You get the novelty of playing a game on an OLED with a 120Hz refresh rate, a phone with curved edges, or the interior screen of a book-style foldable. As Nintendo knows better than anyone, people like revisiting old games with new hardware.

Even More Portable Than a Switch

A Switch is lightweight and portable, but your phone is inherently even more so. It’s always with you, and dedicated game controllers don’t add much space. You can toss them in a bag with less concern because a controller getting banged around isn’t nearly as high-stakes as something scratching up your Switch.

Or you can keep multiple controllers in separate places, since many of them aren’t all that expensive. If you primarily play games in the same spots, you can keep one by the sofa and another in your car. That way, all you need to have on you is your phone. Get a couple of controller clips and you’re good to go.

It’s said that the best camera is the one you have on you. The same is true of game consoles. Get yourself a telescopic controller and let your best game console be your phone.