Why the Steam Deck made me less excited for the Nintendo Switch 2

Rosalie Newcombe
Image of a Steam Deck OLED sitting on top of The Legend of Zelda: Teaars of the Kingdom edition Switch OLED.

Nintendo will need the Switch 2 to fire on all cylinders to take my attention away from the Steam Deck and solidify itself as the best gaming handheld.

The Nintendo Switch is well into its seventh year, yet even before it reached this mega milestone, the console began showing its age. 

When Pokemon Scarlet and Violet were released on the Switch in November 2022, signs we needed a Switch 2 became clear. A mainline installment of the Pokemon franchise ran so poorly that some of its problems persist today. A lot of the issues could be put down to the Pokemon developer’s three-year development cycle. However, the decision to go open-world brought lag, frame rate drops, and multiple crashes on the Switch.

Even the Switch OLED, released in 2021, couldn’t save Pokemon from Scarlet and Violet from their middling experiences on the Nintendo handheld. Yet, its refreshing new upgrades were well warranted. I bought The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Edition OLED Switch last year, and its 7-inch OLED display puts the 6.2-inch LCD screen of the original Switch to shame. The often vibrant and colorful world of many iconic Nintendo franchises never looked better.

Since switching to the upgraded OLED handheld, I’ve barely touched the Switch at all. All because of one other high-powered gaming behemoth — the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck won’t let me play Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (well, not officially, anyway) or let me add to my already worrying hours spent playing the SNES Nintendo Switch Online libraries. However, the Valve handheld has still banished my Switch OLED to my bedside drawer.

The Steam Deck does what Nintendon’t

The Steam Deck uses an AMD RDNA 2 APU, with 16GB of LPDD5 memory, which is much more modern than the Switch’s aged Nvidia solution with 4GB of RAM. With power on its side, graphically intense games like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 look incredible on the Steam Deck. Nothing beats being able to romance the likes of Astarion or Judy Álvarez on the go, especially as these games are nowhere to be seen on the Nintendo Switch.

Just last week, I rebought games that exist on both platforms, purely because of how much better performance is on the Steam deck. Disney’s Dreamlight Valley runs fine on the Switch, yet it doesn’t always look its best. With a game intent on letting you take selfies with iconic Disney characters, the screenshots on the Switch often come out looking horrendous. As a result, I rebought the base game, and its expansion pack, for over $62, purely to make use of the Steam Deck’s capabilities.

Screenshot from Disney's Dreamlight Valley on the Steam Deck.

The Steam Deck’s game library isn’t exclusive to Steam either. On the Nintendo Switch, you will always be limited to playing physical Switch games, or titles available on the Nintendo eShop and NSO game libraries. With the Steam Deck, possibilities are endless. You can run Nvidia GeForce Now, Xbox Game Pass, Epic Game Store, GOG, and even your Amazon Prime Gaming games on the handheld. Finally, all these PC games I’ve been accumulating over the years can finally be played.

If you’re left stuck wanting to play a game on the Steam Deck that its Steam page insists is “unsupported”, chances are you can find it elsewhere and it’ll run just fine. If there’s a game, like Baldur’s Gate 3, that isn’t on the Switch, there’s not much else you can do. The Switch’s 4 GB of RAM just isn’t enough to let you explore the Forgotten Realms, even if Larian Studios wanted to port it.

With the Steam Deck being such a multi-faceted machine, my adoration for the Switch OLED dwindled, as did my excitement for the handheld upcoming successor, the Nintendo Switch 2. Leaks and rumors speculate that the Switch 2 will have its own custom Nvidia chip, allowing the handheld to make sure of upscaling tech like DLSS 2. Already that’s a noticeable one-up from the current Switch models, it’s rumored that it’ll just about rival the Steam Deck in terms of power.

That’s good news, as far as someone who, for months in and months out, uses the Steam Deck every day. But, if I already own a console that can rival the Switch 2 in power and will likely do things the upcoming console can’t, there’s little left to get excited about. That is, other than the Switch 2’s expected game library.

For the past few console generations, Nintendo fans like myself, don’t look forward to the new hardware for pixel-pushing power. Instead, it’s all about the brand new adventures we can expect to go on, playing new titles from IPs like Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon. These are all IPs we can’t officially experience on any other hardware (if you don’t count your smartphone or tablets), including the Steam Deck.

A screenshot of Super Mario Odyssey

Pokemon Legends Z-A is rumored to be a launch title for the Switch 2. As a Pokemon fan since day one, that alone would be worth buying a new handheld. Nothing has been confirmed but Metroid Prime 4 is currently in development and would be a shoo-in for the Switch 2. Personally, any new Mario game is enough to drive me into pre-ordering the upcoming console. My hopes are set on seeing a sequel to Super Mario Odyssey, though nothing has been announced.

As a Nintendo fan, l will be picking up the Nintendo Switch 2 the moment that I can. The second I could walk, I had an NES controller in my hand with the pictures to prove it. That pure, unbridled love for Nintendo’s hardware hasn’t faltered and will likely stick with me for the rest of my life. But, come 2025, Nintendo will have to have to show me some fairly impressive hardware and software to draw my attention away from the all-mighty Steam Deck.