How to Download Games On Nintendo Switch (Plus Troubleshooting)

November 15, 2023 • Zachary Amos


Wondering how to download games on Nintendo Switch? Downloading games allows you to access more of your library at once and play certain games offline. It’s easy to get started, but you might run into a couple of technical speed bumps. This guide covers the download process, plus some easy troubleshooting tips. 

How to Download Games On Nintendo Switch

Learning how to download games on Nintendo Switch is easy and just takes a few taps. If you’re tired of carrying around physical game cards or worry about losing them, you can download games directly to your console instead. 

First, double-check that your console is connected to the Internet. Next, open the Nintendo eShop on your Switch (it’s the yellow shopping bag icon at the bottom of your home screen). You may already know what game you want to download. If so, use the “Search/Browse” option in the shop to find the game you want. 

Otherwise, you can spend some time browsing the eShop for something that looks fun. Pro tip: check out the “Games With Demos” filter on the search tab to see games that offer a free trial version. 

After you find the game you want, click the “Proceed to Purchase” button (or the “Download Demo” button). Complete the checkout process if necessary and then your Switch should prompt you to start the download. 

How to Download a Switch Game With a Code

Are you wondering how to download games on Nintendo Switch using a prepaid code? It’s super easy when you know where to look. Keep your code card handy and open the Nintendo eShop on your console. 

On the side menu in the eShop, scroll down to the “Enter Code” option at the bottom. Type in your code in the boxes provided and follow the steps on the screen to start your download. 

Pro tip: you can also use the “Enter Code” page to activate a prepaid Nintendo Switch Online membership. However, if you want to manage or cancel an existing membership, go to the Nintendo Switch Online app on your console and select “Membership Options and Support.”

Why Won’t a Game Download?

What if you learn how to download games on Nintendo Switch, but your download won’t go through? The most common reason games won’t download on Nintendo Switch is inadequate available memory. If there isn’t enough space on your device for the game’s file size, your Switch will automatically pause the download. 

So, if a download isn’t working on your device, start by checking your available memory. Go to the settings app on your Switch and scroll down to “Data Management.” This tab will show you how much free space you have on your device and your MicroSD card if you have one installed. 

Keep in mind that most Switch consoles don’t have much onboard storage. The default memory size is 32GB. So, you can quickly run out of space even if you only have a couple of games installed. For example, Zelda: Breath of the Wild is over 14GB, almost half of the base Switch storage. BOTW’s sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, set a new file size record for the Switch, clocking in at 18.28GB! 

How to Free Up Space On Nintendo Switch 

What can you do if your Switch is out of storage or doesn’t have enough for your download? You have a few options. First, take a look at the games you have installed. Are there any you don’t play anymore? Consider archiving those. 

The archive feature removes software from your device but leaves the app’s icon in your library. If you ever want to play it again, tap the icon to download it back to your device. You can also enable the “auto-archive” feature, which will automatically archive games you haven’t played in a while. 

Screenshots and videos can also take up loads of storage space on your Switch. Select the “Manage Screenshots and Videos” option in the “Data Management” settings tab to see how much space this content is using. You can also move, delete or archive screenshots and videos from that menu. 

If you don’t already have a MicroSD card installed on your Switch, it’s worth investing in one. MicroSD cards are an easy and affordable way to significantly increase your console’s onboard memory. For example, you can get an officially licensed 128GB MicroSD card for about $35 on Amazon. 

Switch App Won’t Download Even With Space Free

What if you have plenty of free space on your Switch, but a game still won’t download? There are a few possible causes. First, make sure you are connected to the Internet. Your Switch will automatically pause downloads if you lose your connection. 

Next, make sure you don’t have a game or app running, such as the Nintendo eShop. Your Switch can only use one Internet-connected app at the same time. So, if you’re using the Internet to play Animal Crossing, your console won’t be able to download another game simultaneously. 

To resolve this issue, simply save your game and close it for a few minutes while the download runs. 

Can You Play Downloaded Games Offline On Switch?

One reason you might want to know how to download games on Nintendo Switch is so you can play them offline. Unfortunately, downloading a game doesn’t always guarantee it will be playable without Internet access. 

Some games require an Internet connection for basic functions like time sync or multiplayer. As a result, the game can’t run offline. Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Fortnite are two popular examples. 

The main benefit of downloading a game on your Switch is removing the need for a physical game card. You can play any downloaded game, even if a physical game is in your card slot. It’s a convenient way of making your game library more accessible. 

Plus, many games will run offline. As a general rule, any game with multiplayer features probably needs an Internet connection. Single-player titles, like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, run just fine offline since they don’t have online play features. 

Unlocking the Full Potential of Your Switch

Learning how to download games on Nintendo Switch unlocks a whole new capability for your console. By downloading games, you can access more of your game library compared to using physical game cards. It also gives you access to many of your favorite games offline.