You can’t play these games on the Switch Lite
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a neat little piece of hardware. It condenses the power of the Switch down to a smaller form factor at the expense of detachable JoyCons and dock compatibility. That means that you can play any Switch game with a handheld mode on the Switch Lite.
“Isn’t that all of them?” you might be asking? Actually, no. Some games don’t have a handheld mode at all while others have their options severely limited in handheld mode. It’s not as if these games are obscure either. Many of them are big name first party releases.
You can connect external JoyCons or Pro Controllers to the Switch Lite, however, the Switch Lite doesn’t have a stand and cannot interface with a dock, so you will have to somehow prop up your system and crowd around a small screen to effectively get around these built in limitations.
So before you pick up a Switch Lite, check this list to be sure you aren’t looking to play a game that is off limits.
Nearly or completely unplayable
Super Mario Party
Super Mario Party’s mini-games primarily use motion control and HD rumble, two things that the Switch Lite does not have. You could pair a pair of JoyCons to the Lite externally, but then you’d have to deal with the small screen from a distance.
Here is another party game that explicitly uses motion controls and HD rumble in most of its games. In fact, any game that primarily uses motion controls is pretty much off limits for Switch Lite users.
What did I just say about motion controls? All Just Dance games, and in fact all dancing games in particular, use motion controls to track the player. No detachable JoyCons means no dancing for you.
Here is another category of games that doesn’t really work with the Switch Lite: fitness games. Once again these require you to detach JoyCons in order to track your motion. You can always pair an external
Surgeon Simulator CPR
This port of the hilarious PC indie game requires you to use motion controls in the most fumbly way possible. No detached JoyCons means no motion controls means no ripping out a patient’s intestines and making them wear it as a scarf.
The Nintendo Labo is one of the biggest draws of the Switch for families. Being able to create neat cardboard crafts that double as unique controllers is something you can only do with the Switch. Unfortunately, the Switch Lite isn’t compatible with any of them. It’s not even compatible with the Labo VR headset, which actually uses JoyCons docked in handheld mode.
Ring Fit Adventure
This game hasn’t released yet but surely you remember the bizarre trailer featuring people passing around a strange plastic ring with a JoyCon in it. This is Nintendo’s next big dive into fitness and it very clearly will require detached JoyCons to play properly.
Games with reduced functionality
Super Mario Odyssey
While Mario’s latest adventure is fully beatable on the Lite, it’s worth noting that there are a few options that have been taken away. Mario has an entire set of moves tied to motion controls that he effectively cannot use in handheld mode (at least not without shaking the screen around). It also makes it difficult to let another player control Cappy, while still retaining full control of Mario.
Pokémon Let’s Go
This Pokémon game for beginners both let you play with a second trainer and let you capture Pokémon with motion controls via swinging the JoyCon around. You won’t be able to do either on the Switch Lite, though you can still catch Pokémon and complete the game by using the standard face buttons.
The World Ends with You: Final Remix
While I would say that this definitive version of TWEWY is best experienced in handheld mode, one of its biggest draws was multiplayer which can only be done with two separated JoyCons.
Similarly, Astral Chain has a really interesting co-op mode where one of you plays as the cop and another plays as its legion companion. This too can only be done with separated JoyCons and thus cannot be done on the Lite.
This is another game that is better experienced in handheld mode due to how beautifully it plays with the touch screen. However, it also gave you the option to use JoyCon motion controls to control the celestial brush while in TV or Tabletop mode, controls that you now cannot use on the Switch Lite.
Taiko no Tatsujin Drum 'n´ Fun!
While this rhythm game comes with its own Taiko Drum controller, it also has a mode that lets you use the JoyCons as phantom drumsticks, a mode that is incompatible with the Lite.
Mario Tennis Aces
Nintendo couldn’t make a tennis game without allowing you to swing around JoyCons like a madman. While Mario Tennis Aces can get pretty competitive and competitive games want precise controls, it’s still worth noting that you can’t use any of the game’s motion control options with the Lite.
Any First or Third Person Shooter
Shooters on the Switch tend to come with motion control options for aiming. You can still use these controls on the Switch Lite but since you’ll be tilting the screen as well your mileage may vary.
There are many other games that can’t be fully played on the Switch Lite. Any game with a local multiplayer focus is likely hampered by the Lite’s small screen. Any game with a motion control focus is hampered by its permanently attached JoyCons. Any game that uses HD rumble as a main game mechanic simply won’t work because the Switch Lite doesn’t have it. The same holds true for games that use an IR sensor. Keep this in mind when you purchase a Switch Lite. While you can play most games in handheld mode, the Switch library is only growing and that means the exceptions to this rule will become more numerous as time goes by.