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Released in 2017, the Nintendo Switch is one of the top-selling video game consoles of all time. More than 107 million of these units sold around the world since its introduction. As the Switch is a hybrid console, you can play games on both the gamepad and when you connect yours to a TV.

To play games on the Switch, you use a game card that you insert into the console. Whether you play at home or on the go, it’s easy to lose track of your games. That is why you’ll want to look at what to do if you lose a Nintendo Switch game card.

What Do I Do if I Lost a Nintendo Switch Game Card?

There isn’t much you can do when you lose a game card. Think about the other consoles you had in the past. Did Sony or Microsoft offer to send you a new cartridge when you lost one?

Nintendo is the same, but there are some things you need to know about using a game card in your Switch and what you can possibly do if you lose it.

How to Use a Nintendo Switch Game Card

No matter which version of the Switch you have, you need to locate the game card slot, which is on the top corner. Find the cover on this slot and gently press it back until it opens.

You then need to insert the cartridge into the slot with the Nintendo logo on the top and facing you.

Push the cartridge down until you hear or feel a click, which lets you know it’s in place. Once you turn on your Switch, the name of the game and the loading page will appear on your screen as long as you inserted it correctly.

What Options are Available if You Lose a Game Cart?

Many new Switch owners think that Nintendo will replace lost or stolen game cartridges because the title of the game will still appear on their consoles. You have a few options on what you can do to replace a lost title.

Buying another copy is one option. Some Nintendo Switch games have a tendency to retain their value and even go up in price, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a cheaper copy.

Try looking on reselling sites such as eBay and in game stores like GameStop. You may find a new version of the game for half of what you paid for the first copy. Or a used copy in like new condition for a lot cheaper than new.

You can also buy a new copy from the Nintendo eShop, which is usually cheaper than buying a physical copy. Make sure that you have your Switch connected to the internet and that you have a payment method on file.

The license code that allows you to play the game is on the cart itself. Even if you have the original box and manual, you cannot play the game until you buy a new copy.

Nintendo does not give you a digital copy of a game when you buy a physical copy. The company will not replace a lost cartridge because it has no proof that you owned the game. Having the title on your Switch might mean that you borrowed a friend’s copy and played it.

If you replace a physical game with a digital version, it will retain your progress and let you pick up where you left off as well as give you access to any items you earned in the game as the game data saves to the console.

The only way Nintendo will replace game cartridges is if you buy one that has some type of damage and only if the company published the game.

For games from other developers, you need to contact them for a new copy. You can also contact Nintendo for help if you buy a Switch game cart that comes with a digital code but the code is not inside the box.

Depositphotos_258086678_S Woman playing Nintendo Switch at home

Can I Play a Switch Game if I Lost the Cartridge?

While the Switch is popular with both adults and kids, you might think twice before you let your kids play with yours or take it to a friend’s house.

You cannot play a Switch game if you lose the cartridge. All of the game data and info that allows you to play it is on the cartridge. If you don’t have the physical copy, you can’t play the game.

Think about it this way: digital games attach to your Nintendo account while physical copies attach to your Switch. Though some consoles allow you to buy a physical game and save it onto the hard drive, the Switch lacks this option.

You can download a digital copy and play it on your Switch, but you can only play physical games when you load the cartridge.

One benefit of buying digital copies is that you can download them to different Switch consoles. You might have an older version that you use and then invest in one of the newer models.

As long as you use your Nintendo eShop account, you can download a copy onto your new Switch. This should let you pick up where you left off on the old console, too.

Can You Re-download Digital Games on Nintendo Switch?

All the digital content you buy from Nintendo remains in your eShop account. You just need to know the information associated with your account.

Whether you need to re-download a game that you played on an old Switch or one you deleted off your console, you can use your account.

This is especially helpful if you by some chance broke your switch and need to get your games back. Check out this article for more information if you’re curious on what you can do if you break your Switch.

How to Re-download Switch Games

Turn on your Switch and wait for it to load. Click on the HOME button and load your account details, before you re-download a game, you need to make sure that it appears in your list of purchased titles.

Even if the Switch archived the game because you didn’t play it in a while, it should still appear under your purchased titles.

You may find that a game you own does not appear on your Switch. If this happens, visit the Nintendo eShop and check your account. Once you find the game, select the Re-download button from the menu.

As long as you have an internet connection, a copy of the game should download to your Switch.

What Should I Do if I Don’t See the Game?

There is a chance that both your Switch and eShop accounts will not show a game you bought. This often happens when you have two or more Nintendo accounts.

Check all the accounts you have as you might find that you bought it under a different account.

Physical Switch Games VS Digital Ones, Pros & Cons

You have the choice of buying physical or digital Switch games, but how do you know which one is better? Physical games are perfect for completists and collectors.

You get a copy of the game along with a box and manual, which you can display. Digital games are only available on your Switch and don’t include any physical items.

The best way to determine which ones to buy is with a look at the pros and cons of each one. Check out the pros and cons of both physical and digital games before you head to a game store or the Nintendo eShop.

Pros of Digital Switch Games

Digital games give you instant access to the titles that you love and let you take those games with you. You don’t need to worry about losing the cartridges because the digital game exists on your console.

The Nintendo eShop helps you download games so fast that you can buy and play within 20 minutes or less without driving around to stores in the hopes of finding a copy. Some of the other pros of digital Switch games include:

  1. Adding a bigger microSD card allows you to carry more games with you.
  2. Digital games give you fast access to exclusive expansion packs.

Cons of Digital Switch Games

The biggest con of buying digital Switch games is that you cannot share the games with others. You may miss out on the fun of swapping games with your family and friends.

Another issue is that you cannot resell old games you no longer play to buy new games. Digital copies are only available under your account.

You might also worry about what would happen if the eShop shuts down. Anyone who used the DSi Shop in the past remembers when it shut down and blocked players from grabbing copies of digital games they lost.

The same thing happened with the Wii Shop when Nintendo stopped making the console. There is no guarantee that the digital games you buy today will be available years from now.

Keep in mind that digital games are often almost as expensive as physical games.

Depending on the game, sales can happen rarely, especially Nintendo games where discounts aren’t massive rarely runs sales to help you save money.

Another con is memory storage.

Some games can be rather large and if you have a small memory card, this can limit the amount of games on the card.

Of course, the way to solve this is to upgrade that memory card. Or if you’re an avid gamer, to have multiple microSD cards.

Pros of Physical Switch Games

One big pro of buying physical games for your Switch is that you can save money. You don’t need to buy just from the Nintendo eShop because you can visit any game store and buy titles online.

If you don’t mind waiting a few months, you may find that prices drop by quite a bit, too. This is especially true if there’s a holiday around the corner and retailers has some sales.

With physical copies, you can also make money. When you find yourself stuck on a game and stop playing it, you can easily trade it or sell it to a game store and get money for a new game.

Some Switch games even go up in price, especially limited edition or collector versions of games.

If you live with others who have Switches, you can save money when you share games. All you need is the cartridge, which you can put in your Switch and start playing right away. This lets you easily and quickly expand your game library.

Cons of Physical Switch Games

Not everyone loves Switch games because the console requires a copy of the game to play it. As you found out above, you can’t play a Switch game if you lose your cart.

For example, you might leave the game behind in your hotel room after a vacation or have it stolen when someone takes your bag.

In addition, if you buy a lot of switch game, there cases can take up space that otherwise can be used for something else.


As Switch game cards are hard to replace, you’ll find that you don’t have many options when you lose one. Your best option is buying a new digital or physical copy as you won’t lose your progress.

With digital copies, you can download a new copy to your Switch if you delete or archive yours. With so many benefits to digital copies, it’s no wonder why so many Switch players now choose digital games over physical ones.

However, if you are on a budget for games or want to recoup some money for this hobby, you may have to opt for physical games so you can sell them and buy another one. Or if a new console comes out, you can sell the games to help fund the purchase.