Do You Need a Memory Card for the Nintendo Switch?

Nintendo Switch microSD card

The Nintendo Switch is one of the most popular gaming systems in recent years, offering a wide range of titles to enjoy. As with any game console, it is essential to have all the necessary accessories to ensure that you get the most out of your gaming experience. One of the key components many people buy for the Nintendo Switch is a memory card, which allows you extra storage space to save your games, data, and more. In this article, we will discuss whether or not you need a memory card for the Nintendo Switch and other key considerations.

Can You Play Nintendo Switch Games Without A Memory Card?

You may be wondering if you need to purchase an SD card in order to play games on the Switch. The answer is no, you do not need a memory card in order to play games on your Nintendo Switch.

Regardless of whether you have the Nintendo Switch, Switch Lite, or the OLED version of the console everything you need to play the device comes in the box. You do not need to buy any extra accessories to get started with your Nintendo Switch. However, depending on which version of the console you have, how many digital copies of games you want to download, and what other things you will want to save to the built-in storage it is possible that the console will run out of internal storage space at some point.

How Much Built-In Memory Does a Nintendo Switch Have?

The Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite both come with 32GB of internal storage, while the Nintendo Switch OLED has an additional 32GB of built-in memory, giving it a total of 64GB of internal storage.

At first glance, 32GB or 64GB of internal memory may seem like a lot at it doesn’t go as far as you may think when you consider that the operating system will take up 11GB of space. This leaves 21GB of available storage on the Switch and Switch Lite consoles for users to store their games and other data, while the Switch-OLED users are left with 53GB of remaining storage.

So how fast can you use up the available storage space on these consoles? Well, a large part of that answer depends on how many games you download as well as the file sizes of those games. Some games can have file sizes of under 1GB, but those games are often less graphically impressive and offer less playable content. However, once you start talking about the more popular and well-known titles, you will notice that not only are they more expensive, but very often their file size is quite large as well, often ranging anywhere from 5-15GB or more.

Here is a sampling of file sizes for some popular Nintendo Switch games:

  • Minecraft – 1.3 GB
  • Nintendo Switch Sports – 2.3 GB
  • Splatoon 3 – 5.4GB
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3 – 7.4 GB
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – 7.4 GB
  • FIFA 23 – 13.8 GB
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – 14.4 GB
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – 17.3 GB
  • Mortal Combat 11 – 32.5GB

As you can see, depending on which games you download, it is possible to entirely use up the available storage on the Nintendo Switch with just a handful of games. This is true for the Switch and Switch Lite, as well as for the Switch-OLED with its larger storage capacity.

How to Maximize Storage Space on the Nintendo Switch?

Running out of storage space on your Nintendo Switch is a common problem – especially if you like to download and play a lot of digital games. Fortunately, there are a few ways to manage your storage space and make sure you have enough room for your favorite titles without having to use a memory card.

To maximize storage space on the Nintendo Switch, here are three tips:

Delete Games or Save Data

The first step is to delete any unwanted games or save data from your Nintendo Switch. This can be done easily by navigating to the Home Menu, selecting System Settings, and then Data Management. From here, you can delete any game or save data that you no longer need.

Note: If you delete digital games from your Switch you will still be able to download them again if you want to play them again later. Conversely, deleted save data can’t be recovered, which means that the progress you made on a game will be lost. So think carefully before deleting your save data. 

Use Cloud Storage for Your Save Data

Another way to maximize your storage space is to use a Nintendo Switch Online membership. The Nintendo Switch Online membership is a subscription service that provides access to a range of features for Nintendo Switch owners. Included with the subscription, you get access to online multiplayer gaming, a library of classic NES and Super Nintendo games, and special offers on select Nintendo Switch titles. With this service you can store your save data in the cloud, freeing up some extra space on your console.

There is also a more expensive Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership that adds to the base membership with access to a library of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, and access to paid downloadable content for select Nintendo Switch titles.

We are big fans of the Nintendo Switch Online Membership as we highlight it in our list of top Nintendo Switch gifts for Switch owners. Whether or not you want to make the jump up to the higher-priced Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is a personal choice, but we help you make that decision in our article All You Need to Know About Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack – Is It Worth It?

Regardless of which one you choose either membership will allow you to store your game save data in the cloud. Just remember that you will need an active subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online service in order to take advantage of this feature.

Buy Physical Copies of Games

Another great way to maximize storage space on your Nintendo Switch is to purchase physical copies of your games instead of buying and downloading them digitally. While it may be more convenient to download digital copies, physical copies will help you conserve storage space on your switch.

If you are unsure about how you feel about trying to limit yourself to physical copies of video games you may want to check out our article about physical vs digital games where we discuss their pros and cons.

Benefits of Buying a Memory Card for the Nintendo Switch

Getting a memory card for your Nintendo Switch offers multiple advantages that can help enhance your gaming experience.

By investing in a memory card, you can expand the storage capacity of your console allowing you to store more game save data and screenshots. Perhaps more importantly, you will have more room to download and store your favorite games and downloadable content from the Nintendo eShop.

Not only does having a memory card for your Switch make it easier to access your library of titles, but you can also expand your library without needing to take up any extra physical storage space, which is great for people who have limited shelf space or like to minimize clutter. Furthermore, having a memory card in your Switch makes it easy for you to carry multiple games on long trips, ensuring that your favorite titles are always available when you want them.

Finally, with the increased storage capacity a memory card provides, you can stop worrying about running out of space or deleting older files to make room for new ones,

What Types of Memory Cards Can the Nintendo Switch Use?

The Nintendo Switch uses microSD cards for additional storage. Many people use the term “microSD” cards when referring to cards that measure 15 x 11 x 1 mm. However, this type of card is divided into three groups: SD, SDHC, and SDXC, with each designation relating to the card’s storage capacity.

microSD cards – These cards have storage capacities that range from 128MB to 2GB. With storage capacities only going up to 2GB you don’t want to bother using these cards in your Switch. You should look at microSDHC and microSDXC cards instead

microSDHC cards – The HC stands for High Capacity. These cards have storage capacities that can range from 4GB to 32GB.

microSDXC cards – The XC stands for Extended Capacity. These cards have storage capacities that can range from 64GB to 2TB. For gamers who plan on downloading many games getting one of the higher capacity SDXC cards is going to be your best option. While theoretically, it is possible for microSD cards to have storage capacities of up to 2 terabytes, the microSDXC cards that are currently available for purchase don’t go up to 2 terabytes. It is possible that 2TB options will be available in the future, but right the largest capacity card available to buy is 1TB. This essentially means that the max card size for the Nintendo Switch is 1TB.

Note: If you choose to use a microSDXC card with your Switch, on their website Nintendo states that a system update will be required.

In addition to ensuring that you get a card with a high enough storage capacity to meet your needs, for best gameplay performance you will want to use a microSD card with a high transfer speed. Nintendo recommends using cards with the following specs:

  • UHS-I (Ultra High Speed Phase I) compatible
  • Transfer speed 60 – 95 MB/sec

Below are different memory card options for the Switch that meet Nintendo’s specifications:


Do Physical Games Cards Use Storage on a Nintendo Switch?

None of the data stored on the game card is copied into the Switch’s storage. However, developers may issue updates and patches for games that the Switch needs to download and install before you can access them. This means that some games may require some of the Switch’s internal storage space, but the exact amount of space used will vary from game to game.

Additionally, it is also worth pointing out the game save files also take up some of the Switch’s storage.

It’s important to bear all of this in mind if you plan on purchasing a large number of physical copies of games for your Nintendo Switch, as you could still eventually run out of storage space and need to consider buying a microSD card to expand your Switch’s storage capacity.

Does the Nintendo Switch Come With a Memory Card?

A microSD card is not included with any of the Nintendo Switch systems, but some retailers may try to create their own bundles that include a compatible microSD card. Regardless of whether you get a microSD card included when you buy your Switch, microSD cards are readily available to purchase from any number of retailers, including Amazon.

What Information Can Be Saved to a MicroSD Card on Nintendo Switch?

A microSD card can be used to store photos and videos taken with your Switch, as well as downloaded apps, games, updates, and DLC content from the Nintendo eShop.

It is probably also important to note that Nintendo reminds us that the game save data is stored in the Switch’s system memory and can’t be copied or saved to a microSD card.

What Happens if You Run Out of Storage Space on a Nintendo Switch, Switch Lite, or Switch OLED?

Without available storage, users can no longer download additional games, apps, updates, and DLC content from the Nintendo eShop. In addition, this also means that you won’t be able to save your game data until storage space gets freed up.

Can You Download Games on the Nintendo Switch Without a microSD Card?

The built-in storage of Nintendo Switch consoles can be used for game downloads, however, the internal storage space is limited as we discussed earlier. Therefore, it is important to check the size of any game you are intending to download to ensure that it fits within the available space. If the game size is larger than the internal storage, an SD card will be required in order to download the game.

Thankfully, there are still a good number of games with smaller file sizes that can be downloaded without the need for an SD card. With many games having a file size of less than 5GB, you might be able to only download 4 to 6 full games before your internal memory is full.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Nintendo Switch is a great console that can be enjoyed with or without a memory card. If you plan on downloading a lot of digital games or taking screenshots, a memory card can be useful for expanding your storage. However, for many gamers, the internal storage of the Nintendo Switch is enough for their gaming needs. Ultimately, it is up to the individual gamer to decide how they want to use the console as they determine if they need a memory card.

Last update on 2024-05-30 at 06:50 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Dan G.
Dan G.

Dan is a video game enthusiast who has been playing games for over three decades. Starting out as an "old school" gamer, Dan has since embraced the modern age of gaming, thanks in part to his kids who inspired him to explore today's current consoles and games.

With a passion for video games and a desire to help others, Dan has become an expert in the field, specializing in video game consoles and hardware. Through his numerous articles and reviews he enjoys answering questions and helping parents understand the different options available for their kids.

If you're looking for expert advice on video games and consoles, Dan is a go-to source for reliable and informative information.