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Nintendo is perhaps best known for making fun, light-hearted games that feature colorful graphics and whimsical, memorable characters. From adventure games to puzzles, the company offers something for fans of almost every genre. One way that Nintendo has pushed innovation in recent years is with its release of the Switch, a combination gaming entertainment system.

The beauty of the Switch is in its ability to be either a handheld, portable console that you can take with you, or something that you can plug into another display to use more like a traditional console. Its companion, the Switch Lite, is a good choice for those who want just a handheld system.

Some gamers might wonder if you need internet access to enjoy any or all features that these two devices have to offer. We’ll cover that topic in our article below. Additionally, we’ll go over what you can or can’t do with either of these devices based on the internet access you have, common problems you might have connecting the Switches to the internet at all, and talk about both digital games and offline mode features.

Do You Need Internet for Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite?

Yes and no. If you have just received either your Switch or Switch Lite, you’ll need to set up a primary user account. This will contain all of the data you might use when you download, play, save progress, or otherwise do anything with games on the consoles.

If you have more than one Switch, one of them will be registered under your account as the primary console. If you have a new one with nothing on it, you’ll need to connect to the internet to be able to download content from Nintendo’s e-shop store that you can access from the device directly. In short, you do need internet access in order to get games onto your console that you can play later.

Once you have the games you want downloaded to your console, you can still play them offline. Many games today require an active, constant connection to the internet in order to play or record data.

For the most part, this is true for multiplayer games where you are connected to servers in order to play with other gamers. However, many of the titles you can find for the Switch or Switch Lite are meant to be single-player experiences.

As such, you can play them offline and still progress through them as you would normally. Your progress is saved, just as it would be on any handheld console, and you can always sync it up later.

What Are Some Reasons Why You Need Internet for the Switch?

We touched on it earlier, but you would need the internet in order to download games or other things from the online shop. As all of this is digital content, it makes sense, but it is not your only option.

You can buy physical game cartridges to be able to play your favorite Switch or Switch Lite games without ever connecting to the internet at all. Of course, you may lose some functions, and you would need to establish a connection if you ever wanted to play any online-only multiplayer games with friends.

Second, you would need an internet connection in order to update any games you might have. When games are released, they may have bugs or glitches that cause unintended exploits, graphical or input errors, and other problems that might make it hard to progress.

Developers look for these things actively, and they do their best to correct these issues as soon as they know about them. The primary way they do this is by writing code that they then release as updates called patches. Patches are designed to fix specific errors with how a game runs.

A single title could have multiple patches over the course of its life, but they are most common within the first few months following the initial release. The most efficient way to roll patches out to users is through a downloadable update. This ensures that all current players of Switch games get the updates to fix them all at once.

However, an internet connection is something you’ll need to have in order to download the patch. It is important to remember that even single-player games with no multiplayer components can have updates that you might need to get this way.

There is a case during the initial setup for the Switch or Switch Lite during which you’ll be asked to create an internet connection profile. Although you will need this to access any online features or downloads from the shop, it isn’t technically necessary to set something up at that time.

You can choose to skip it and come back later, if you would like to do so. You’ll still be able to play cartridge content in offline mode, as long as it isn’t a game that needs connectivity for player vs. player interactions.

Why Am I Unable To Connect to the Internet on Nintendo Switch? 8 Reasons & Fixes

Although there are many situations in which you don’t need the internet in order to enjoy the Switch or Switch Lite, you might want to get online from time to time. Unfortunately, it can be the case that your console will not connect to your Wi-Fi network or any public network.

There are a few reasons why this might be, and we will go through some of the most likely scenarios with you. Our list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but it will present some common troubleshooting fixes for you to try.

1. Before you do any messing around with your Switch, check to see if the Switch online network itself is down. Although this is rare, it can happen that the servers that your Switch or Switch Lite connect to might be experiencing some problems. If so, you’ll need to wait until they are back up again to get your console back on the internet. This step can save you some time tweaking your system.

2. Something might be temporarily misconfigured in terms of how the console communicates with the web. Try powering down your Switch completely to see if it resolves the issue.

You can do this by holding the power button for about five seconds to get the appropriate menu. Turn the console off fully, wait a bit, and turn it back on.

3. Similarly, there could be a minor issue with the signal your Wi-Fi network is sending out. You can try restarting your router, modem, or both to see if the issue clears up. If not, you can also power cycle either device by unplugging them for at least 30 seconds.

4. If this is your first time setting up your console, double-check to ensure that your network settings are the same as what you’re entering when you’re activating your account.

If there are mismatches between the proper settings on your Wi-Fi network and your Switch, the device won’t be able to connect to the web.

Most importantly, you need to make sure that you are entering the appropriate security key that matches the one protecting your Wi-Fi. On a related note, test your network settings to make sure there isn’t a problem there.

5. Check to see if airplane mode is enabled on the Switch. This feature would prevent it from accessing anything that might help it connect to the online world.

6. Your network’s firewall might be placing some kind of block there as well, so you may need to separate the Switch from it in order to gain connectivity.

7. Check for system updates that you might need. You may find that you can connect to the internet but still not play online games. This can happen if you need system updates, which should be current in order to play games like these.

8. If all else fails, check with Nintendo Support to see if there is another solution.

Can You Play Downloaded Games Offline on a Nintendo Switch?

Yes, you can play downloaded games offline. Once they are on your system, they should run fine. You would still need to connect to the internet to update the games, if that is something that matters to you.

All single-player experiences should function fully offline. Some games are online-only, however. Others do have some elements that are online, and you might miss out on these if you only play in offline mode.

Why Won’t My Nintendo Switch Play Digital Games Offline?

Even if everything works correctly on your network, it can happen that you’re unable to play games offline that you downloaded digitally. One of the major causes of this is that the Switch isn’t linked to your Nintendo account properly.

Check to make sure that it is, and take the necessary steps to link it. You may want to try unlinking it and setting it up again, too. Otherwise, it might be that your Switch is not the primary console that you’re supposed to be using with that account.

Only the primary console can play downloaded games offline. Make sure the Switch you want to use is set to that status, then try to play the games again.


The Switch is an excellent console that offers a lot of flexibility, and its Lite cousin gives players the true handheld experience they might desire. Many games can be played offline, but some of them require online connectivity. Others might still need updates or support, and they’ll need a connection for that, too. If you encounter any problems with this, you can try some of our handy troubleshooting tips.