Most Switch owners love their devices. It’s an amazing tool for playing games in a number of interesting ways, and the best games for the Switch are truly beloved. But, many Switch owners are familiar with a particular message that brings dread, and sometimes rage: Not enough storage space.
If you know the message, then you’ve probably asked the same question as the rest of us. How many games can a Switch actually hold? The answer isn’t as simple as quoting a single number, so let’s look at the Switch’s capacity, how big the games are, and how you can manage data to maximize your access to games.
How Many Games Can the Switch Hold?
Clearly, the size of the game matters more than anything else, but here’s the bottom line. If you are interested in the newest AAA titles, then odds are that you can only store one or two games on a standard Switch, and with the larger hard drive you might be able to store up to five games.
That said, a lot of games come with physical media. That is, when you order the game, you get a microSD card with that game installed on it (and the card is locked so that you can’t accidentally erase the game, but you also can’t store other games on it). In this way, the Switch is like any traditional console, and you can have as many SD cards as you want.
Or, you can invest in expanded storage. A 256GB card could hold 10 or more large games, and a 1TB card could hold around 40 large games. It all comes down to how you want to manage your games and your storage.
How Much Data Can a Switch Hold?
A Nintendo Switch doesn’t hold a set number of games. Instead, it has a preconfigured storage capacity, and games utilize that storage. The number of games the switch can hold depends on the size of the games and the storage capacity.
In order to answer the original question, we first need to take a look at the Switch’s storage capacity (game sizes will be discussed in a bit).
A standard Switch has a 32GB hard drive. While you might assume that means the Switch can hold 32GB worth of games, that’s not quite right. About 10 percent of the storage capacity is reserved to run critical systems on the device. As a result, a 32GB Switch can hold just short of 30GB in total game data.
But, there’s a second component. There are several versions of the Switch available for purchase, and among those options is an expanded hard drive. The expanded Switch has a 64GB hard drive, which can hold about 58GB of game data.
What About Expansions?
That only covers the internal hard drive for the Switch. You can also expand the device’s storage capacity using microSDXC cards. For those unfamiliar, this is the modern format used for microSD cards, and the Switch is capable of reading cards up to 2TB in size (although you will have a hard time finding cards larger than 1TB).
This expansion slot makes for a relatively accessible storage upgrade path. Cards that hold 256GB are currently available for a price range of $15 to $30. For the 1TB cards, you’re likely to pay more than $100.
Furthermore, you can utilize multiple SD cards with your Switch. It only has one microSD slot, meaning it can only read one card at a time, but you can swap out cards to hold even more games if the need arises. Employing this option, there is no limit to the number of games you can store.
How Much Storage Does a Game Use?
Still, we’re trying to answer a reasonable question here, so it’s important to talk about game data.
Each game is different; it uses the amount of data storage that it needs to work. Overall, Switch games range from a few megabytes to more than 40GB in total storage. It’s a huge range, and it’s why there isn’t a simple answer to the question.
The best way to gauge how many games fit on a Switch is to break games into three categories: average, small, and large.
Average Game Sizes
Let’s start with average games. If you’re looking to purchase a new Switch exclusive, odds are that its data requirements will fall into the average range, and that range is between 4GB and 8GB.
Using these numbers, a standard switch can hold between 8 and 4 games, and the expanded hard drive can hold double that number: 8 to 16 games.
A 256GB microSD card could hold roughly 30 to 16 games, if they all fit into the average category.
Small Game Sizes
The thing is, the Switch has a large library of games that are considerably smaller than average. The online store features many classic and retro games, and as they are much simpler in design, they don’t take up nearly as much space.
On average, the retro games utilize about 100MB of space. For those who don’t remember the conversions, 1GB is 1,000 MB, and 1TB is 1,000 GB.
Putting this in perspective, a standard Switch hard drive can hold around 300 retro games. If you installed a 1TB expansion card, then the Switch could hold an additional 10,000 games.
But, that’s still not the whole story. Even among retro games, some are very small. The smallest among them are around 10MB, which means a standard switch could hold around 3,000 of them, and a 1TB card could hold around 100,000 games.
On the other end of the spectrum are large games. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is arguably the most famous game available for the Switch, and it consumes 13.4GB of space. That means a standard Switch could only hold two games at this size.
But, Breath of the Wild isn’t actually in the large game category. Large games for the Switch are frequently between 15GB and 20GB, and at the high end, they can eclipse 40GB. The very largest games don’t even fit on a standard Switch hard drive.
As for the 15GB games, you can only store one on the device (unless you have the larger hard drive).