There’s no doubt the Nintendo Switch has been a runaway success since its release in 2017. With its awesome library of games and unique modular design, the console has proved to be a hit with gamers. While you can spend hours exploring Hyrule in Breath of the Wild or racing for first in Mario Kart, the Switch is also home to a number of apps that expand the console’s capabilities beyond gaming. Here we present the best Nintendo Switch apps that are not games.
- 1. Best Retro Game Emulator: Nintendo Switch Online
- 2. Best for Pokémon Fans: Pokémon TV
- 3. Best for Beginner Coders: Game Builder Garage
- 4. Best for Kids: Coloring Book
- 5. Best for Creating Your Own RPGs: RPG Maker MV
- 6. Best for Artists: Colors Live
- 7. Best for Anime Fans: Funimation
- 8. Best for Using YouTube on Switch: YouTube
- 9. Best for Musicians: KORG Gadget
- 10. InkyPen
- 11. Fuze4
- 12. Best for Homebrew Apps: Homebrew Menu
1. Best Retro Game Emulator: Nintendo Switch Online
Price: $20/year for basic, $50/year for Expansion
While you may not think of the Nintendo Switch Online membership as an app, it includes a host of benefits, with arguably the most important being a game emulator for retro games. Get access to a growing selection of NES, SNES, and Game Boy games included.
With the Expansion version, you also get Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy Advance games. Of course, you also get the ability to play online, unlimited cloud game backups, and more extras (like voice chat with friends while playing) with the companion Nintendo Switch Online app for iOS and Android.
Nintendo offers both individual and family plans (up to eight people per account). There’s a seven-day free trial before you commit.
2. Best for Pokémon Fans: Pokémon TV
Pokémon TV is a treasure trove of Pokémon-related content – from episodes of the classic TV show (right back to the really old stuff), to special events and unique content, like exclusive videos that you can only find on the app.
There are few people who own a Switch who aren’t also fans of the inimitable Pokémon, which have been brightening up our lives by calling out their own names since 1997. This makes this app one of the best Nintendo Switch apps for Pokémon fans.
There’s a whole section of the app dedicated to young children, who you can brainwash with catchy Pokémon-themed singalongs and nursery rhymes, and even a digital Pokémon trading card game.
3. Best for Beginner Coders: Game Builder Garage
So Nintendo Labo didn’t really work out for Nintendo, but now the great publisher is focusing its efforts on taking the best parts of that – the game building – and expanding it into a full-fledged game-maker tool called Game Builder Garage.
The app keeps things pretty simple, talking you through the basics of creating your game, while letting you see it in action. It’s not quite as robust as something like Super Mario Maker, and while you can share your creations with specific players, there’s no hub (yet), where you can browse other peoples’ creations.
It’s an interesting start, though, and a neat introduction into the world of game-making.
4. Best for Kids: Coloring Book
Price: Free, DLC starts at $5 per item
A good “artsy” Nintendo Switch app is Coloring Book. It focuses on the younger end of the spectrum, offering a ton of drawings to color, featuring scenes like dinosaurs, space and, yes, construction sites.
You can dabble in 12 drawings for free, while subsequent ones can be purchased as DLC, so there’s plenty you can do without paying to see whether you or your child are into it.
If you don’t want to stay within the constraints of preexisting drawings, unleash your creativity on the Whiteboard, a blank canvas to draw and paint whatever you like.
5. Best for Creating Your Own RPGs: RPG Maker MV
Many great games have come out of the accessible RPG game development tool, RPG Maker MV, such as Skyborn, Omori, and the horror hit Corpse Party, to name a few. It’s so simple to understand that the Nintendo Switch port of RPG Maker MV will soon lead to you being creative.
The MV version of RPG Maker has plenty of great features, including a much-improved map editor with great layering, an in-depth event system to stir up drama in your games, and a whole host of built-in resources (as well as the option to add your own graphics, music and effects, of course).
If you want to check out what others have created and shared, download the free RPG Maker MV Player. You get even more great games and inspiration.
6. Best for Artists: Colors Live
Price: Starts at $70
The Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a ton of options when it comes to mid-complexity drawing and painting apps, which seems like a bit of an oversight given the console’s excellent touchscreen capabilities and reasonably big handheld screen. Enter Colors Live, an app that you need to buy from the developer’s own site.
It’s complete with a precise pressure-sensitive pen with customizable functions, like strokes and thickness. Colors Live is pretty much a free-form painting app, but to spice things up, it gamifies your creative journey with a mode that challenges you to paint a little every day with its own progression system.
Both a digital and physical box version are available. The developer also offers replacement nibs, more pens, and other accessories for purchase.
7. Best for Anime Fans: Funimation
Price: $9.99/month or $99/year
If you love watching the latest anime, Funimation is one of the best Nintendo Switch apps. Enjoy both subbed and dubbed content, completely ad-free. Plus, one subscription lets you watch Funimation on your mobile devices too.
Catch all your favorites, such as Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, and One Piece. The best part is you can try the service for two weeks for free to make sure it has everything you want.
Funimation was originally supposed to move most content to Crunchyroll in 2022, but so far, that hasn’t happened. However, you may want to compare Funimation and Crunchyroll (also available for Switch) to see which you prefer.
8. Best for Using YouTube on Switch: YouTube
Speaking of streaming services, YouTube is also available for the Switch. Navigating YouTube using the Switch’s left joystick or D-pad can feel a bit clunky at first, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Additionally, users can sign in to their Google account via the YouTube app to see personalized content, such as channels they subscribe to and recommended videos.
One of the more interesting features of the YouTube app on the Switch is 360° videos. Users are able to pan around the video using the joysticks. Unsurprisingly, this works really well and feels natural.
In addition, users can pair a mobile phone to use as a remote control. This is particularly handy when the Switch console is docked. Finally, content restrictions can be implemented using the Switch’s built-in Parental Controls app.
9. Best for Musicians: KORG Gadget
Want to start making your own music? With the KORG Gadget app, you can start composing tunes on your Nintendo Switch in no time. KORG Gadget is a surprisingly feature-rich digital audio workstation (DAW), complete with 16 different synthesizers. KORG Gadget was previously released on Mac and iOS, where it garnered a reputation for being a seriously powerful music production tool.
The Switch version of Gadget doesn’t quite live up to its cousins but is still a fun way to create original compositions. In addition, Korg Gadget gamifies music creation by including a cooperative mode. This allows up to four players to manipulate different parts of a song simultaneously.
Furthermore, the Switch’s Joy-cons can be used to augment your arrangements. For example, tilting the Joy-con can change the pitch or alter a wavelength. This makes KORG Gadget incredibly easy to use, even if you’ve never had experience with a DAW before.
If you’re looking for something simpler to play around with, try Piano. It’s just a basic piano keyboard, which is perfect for playing a few tunes or even learning to play.
If you read comics, you’ll definitely want to check out InkyPen. The app is a digital comic book reader and store bundled into an attractive and easy-to-navigate UI. The Inkypen platform gives users access to thousands of comics from both Western and Eastern publishers.
This includes titles from heavy hitters, like IDW, Dark Horse and Valiant. In addition, InkyPen boasts a ton of manga, courtesy of Kodansha, the second largest publisher of manga in the world. Unfortunately, there is a noticeably large hole in InkyPen’s massive library – Marvel and DC. If you want to check out manga online, try these sites.
As a reader, the Switch can either be held horizontally or vertically. InkyPen also gives users the ability to read their comics as whole pages, which users can then zoom in on, or as a series of scrolling panels. Additionally, InkyPen works when the Switch is docked, allowing users to read their comics on the big screen.
If you loved the ability to create your own Mario courses with Super Mario Maker, you’ll definitely want to check out Fuze4. It’s one of the best Nintendo Switch apps for creating original 2D and 3D games. Fuze4 achieves this by teaching users how to code. It should be noted that it’s not for the faint of heart. There is a fairly steep learning curve here.
It can teach newbies the basics of coding, but serious coders who know what they are doing will get the most mileage here. Yet, the tutorial section of Fuze4 does a good job of breaking things down into more manageable chunks.
Fuze4 does include a few “games” that are little more than demos. The main purpose of these is to enable you to flex your coding skills by adding or editing the game’s code. As a result, Fuze4 is a genuine teaching tool for those with more than a passing interest in seeing how games and applications are built.
12. Best for Homebrew Apps: Homebrew Menu
If you love Homebrew games, install Homebrew Menu on Nintendo Switch to access the full Homebrew app store. Once loaded, you’ll have access to numerous apps and games created by fellow Switch players.
There are no guarantees that all the apps work well. You should also take caution if any apps ask for personal information, as this isn’t an official Nintendo app store. But you’ll find a variety of games, emulators, tools, themes, and more.
It’s a great way to get apps that you won’t find elsewhere. Plus, unlike some homebrew sites, it’s not piracy. It’s real apps created by Switch players who wanted to develop something new.
Finding Nintendo Switch Apps
While the Nintendo Switch may not boast the same number of apps as its competitors, there are still some that you owe it to yourself to check out. If your Switch is running out of space to install new apps, learn how you can move your games to the SD card to free up storage space. To play the catalog of Nintendo classics, see how to get started with the excellent Dolphin emulator. You can also emulate Nintendo Switch games on Windows.
Image credit: Unsplash. Screenshots by Crystal Crowder.
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