Unlike the original Switch and Switch OLED, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a dedicated handheld gaming system that doesn't have removable Joy-Cons, motion controls, or a kickstand — it also can't dock to a TV. The lack of these features make it so the Switch Lite has issues playing some of the best Nintendo Switch games that rely on motion controls and Joy-Con waving.
Now, if you pair a Pro Controller or Joy-Cons to the Switch Lite, you can still play most of these games. However, since there is no kickstand on the smaller Switch, you'll need a great stand to prop up your gaming system for tabletop mode.
Here are all of the games that either don't support handheld mode or are less convenient to play in handheld mode. Alternatively, we also have a list of the best games to play on Nintendo Switch Lite. We can also help you learn how to pair Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller to the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Switch games that don't support handheld mode
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Some of these games will work with a Pro Controller as well, which is a traditional controller that must be bought separately from any Nintendo consoles. Here are all Switch games that don't support handheld mode.
Super Mario Party
The fun mini-games offered in the silly multiplayer that is Super Mario Party use technology that you won't find in the Switch Lite. For instance, some of these mini-games rely on HD rumble, while others require you to swing around a detached Joy-Con. As we previously mentioned, the Switch Lite doesn't have HD rumble and the Joy-Cons don't detach. You can still play this game on the smaller Switch, but you'll need a set of Joy-Cons to do so. Having a great stand also makes it easier for every player to see what's happening on screen.
If you have a Switch Lite, we recommend you get Mario Party Superstars, another Switch game in the series that does allow for handheld mode.
To effectively play this two-player party game, you'll need detached Joy-Cons for either person playing. Many of 1-2-Switch's mini-games also rely on HD rumble to succeed, so you'll need a controller that supports that technology. Once again, the Switch Lite doesn't have a kickstand, so you'll want to purchase a stand that props your system up for both players to see. Pair an extra set of Joy-Cons to your Switch Lite and you'll be good to go.
Nintendo Labo/Labo VR
Labo games work by placing detachable Joy-Cons into cardboard Toy-Con accessories and moving them around. Since the Switch Lite's Joy-Cons aren't removable, this isn't doable. This is the same across the board, whether you're referring to original Labo or Labo VR. The latter also requires you to strap the screen to a headset. Considering that the Labo headset is designed for the larger Switch, the Switch Lite won't fit securely and will likely fall out if you attempt to use it this way. It's not worth the risk of damaging the device, so we don't suggest playing Labo VR with the Switch Lite.
There are several different cardboard Labo kits to choose from like a steering wheel, fishing pole, camera, and VR headset. Using these accessories with their included games makes the playing experience more immersive.
Buy from: Amazon
Just Dance (any version)
Ubisoft's Just Dance games are all about holding Joy-Cons in hand and moving around to different positions. As such, it's completely unusable on the Switch Lite unless you pair an extra set of Joy-Cons to your system. At this point, you'll also need to purchase a stand, since the Nintendo Switch Lite can't be propped up on its own. A new Just Dance edition comes out every year featuring the latest hits, so you can grab whichever ones have your favorite songs.
Fitness Boxing / Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise
Once again, these games require you to hold Joy-Cons in hand — this time to mimic boxing motions. These games can really make you work up a sweat. If you plan on playing these games on the Switch Lite, you'll need to pair Joy-Cons to the system so you can make those jabs with Joy-Con-enclosed fists. You'll also want a stand of some sort to prop the screen up for easier viewing.
There are two versions to choose from, the original Fitness Boxing or Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise. The latter of which offers more trainers to choose from.
Ring Fit Adventure
Ring Fit Adventure relies on you having external Joy-Cons strapped to the Ring-Con and Leg Strap accessories. Whenever you make a pose or move your body a certain way, the motion controls react in-game. For this reason, this game is not playable on the Switch Lite unless you purchase extra Joy-Cons. Due to the movement-focused nature of this game, it really would be easier to play on a TV anyways.
Surgeon Simulator CPR
This hilariously irreverent game has you conducting surgeries while waving detached Joy-Cons about. You can play on your own or pass a controller to a friend and work together to try and get a high score or be as destructive as possible. Since this game requires that you use detached Joy-Cons and motion controls, the Switch Lite on its own won't be able to play this game. You'll need to purchase additional external controllers if you want to play on the smaller Switch.
Surgeon Simulator CPR
See how accurate your movements with the Joy-Cons can be while attempting to perform surgery. This game features co-op so you and a friend can attempt procedures together for hilarious fun.
Buy from: Nintendo
Games that aren't as convenient in handheld mode
Some games still support handheld mode but have elements that either won't work or won't be as easy to use on the handheld Switch Lite. Remember: HD rumble, detachable Joy-Cons, and IR camera motions aren't available on the mini Switch, which will cause complications for some games.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
While playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I had to detach my Joy-Cons from my console to effectively complete many of the motion-controlled puzzles found in various shrines (like the one featured above). Otherwise, I found myself holding the Switch upside down or at such an awkward angle that I couldn't see what was happening on screen. The same goes for Sheikah Slate skills.
Moving the screen around might make it hard for you to see exactly where you're throwing a bomb or lifting a metal object. Switch Lite players might want to consider purchasing a stand and an extra pair of Joy-Cons just for that reason. It's one of the best Nintendo Switch games out there and definitely one you shouldn't miss out on.
Super Mario Odyssey
A vital part of Super Mario Odyssey is collecting Power Moons. The thing is, many of them are hidden. The game alerts you to nearby secret goodies by vibrating your controller, but the Switch Lite doesn't have HD rumble. Additionally, when playing this game on the original Switch, a second player can take control of Cappy, Mario's hat friend. When in handheld mode, this ability is taken away. The only way to bring it back would be to pair wireless controllers to your Switch Lite.
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!
When played on the original Switch, these reimagined Pokémon games allow you to throw Poké Balls using motion controls and even let you have a second player play along with you. However, these options aren't available in handheld mode since it requires the swinging motion of the Joy-Con in one instance and separate Joy-Cons in the other. You'll still be able to play Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! in handheld mode. However, to take advantage of the features previously mentioned, you'll need to pair an extra set of Joy-Cons with your system.
Luigi's Mansion 3
Luigi's Mansion 3 takes advantage of motion controls to help you aim your Poltergust vacuum at various specters and obstacles. Since the Switch Lite doesn't feature motion controls, you won't be able to use this feature. Fortunately, you can still use the right joystick to aim the vacuum up or down. So, while it doesn't completely make it impossible to play on Switch Lite, it can be less convenient depending on how you like to play.
The World Ends with You: Final Remix
Square Enix's classic game works differently in handheld mode than it does in docked mode. When in your hands, you must use touchscreen controls to play since it doesn't recognize Joy-Cons. This means that if you're playing this game on the Switch Lite, your only option will be to touch the screen, which may not be appealing to many people. Fix that by pairing a wireless controller to your Switch Lite.
So there you have it, every Nintendo Switch game that's harder to play on the Nintendo Switch Lite. Some games just downright won't play on the Switch Lite without external controllers, while only certain game features will be affected in others. At any rate, you must look into the mechanics of a game before you buy it to make sure that you have all of the necessary equipment you need to play it on your smaller Switch.
Other Switch games that rely on motion controls or allow you to enable them
- Gal Metal
- Game Builder Garage
- Go Vacation
- Human Resource Machine
- Immortal Redneck
- LA Noire
- Leisure Suit Larry
- Little Inferno
- Mario Golf: Super Rush
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Mario Tennis Aces
- New Pokémon Snap
- Rayman Legends Definitive Edition
- Resident Evil: Revelations 1 & Revelations 2
- Sausage Sports Club
- Senran Kagura Reflexions
- Super Bomberman R
- Splatoon 2
- Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum'n'Fun
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- World of Goo
Not a rapidly growing list
The number of games that don't work at all or as well on the Nintendo Switch Lite is, fortunately, not a list that frequently grows, with the vast majority of Nintendo Switch games being designed to take advantage of every mode, including handheld. If you do run into issues with a game, remember that you can easily solve it by picking up a new pair of Joy-Cons or a Nintendo Switch Pro controller.
The original Joy-Cons
These controllers sync to your Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch Lite, allowing you to play a variety of games. They feature HD rumble, motion controls, NFC functionality, and IR motion cameras. They come in a variety of colors so you can get the look you like most.
A more traditional controller
This controller feels great in your hands and is perfect for heart-pumping multiplayer games or complex action RPGs. The right set of buttons associated with the Joy-Cons are swapped out for a D-pad for better control during gaming. It works with amiibo, provides HD rumble, and operates with motion controls.
A stand for all Switch systems
Whether you have the standard Switch or the smaller Switch Lite, this stand will be a great asset while playing games. It folds away for easy storage and can be propped up at three different angles.
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.
- Samuel TolbertContributor