Can You Download Switch Games From Card?

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By Eric Wilson

If you’re a Nintendo Switch owner, you know that the console’s library of games is constantly expanding with new titles. While many gamers prefer to purchase their games digitally through the Nintendo eShop, others prefer to buy physical game cartridges instead.

But can you download Switch games from a card? Let’s explore.

Understanding Nintendo Switch Game Cards

First, it’s important to understand what exactly a Nintendo Switch game card is. Also known as game cartridges, these small cards are inserted into the console and allow players to access their favorite games without needing an internet connection. Game cards come in different sizes and storage capacities, ranging from 1GB to 32GB.

While some players may assume that game cards simply act as a physical version of digital downloads, this isn’t entirely true. While certain aspects of the game may be stored on the card itself, such as save data and updates, the bulk of the game’s content is still stored on the console’s internal memory or microSD card.

Can You Download Switch Games From a Card?

So, can you download Switch games from a card? Unfortunately not. Unlike other gaming consoles such as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, there is no option to install games directly from physical media on the Nintendo Switch.

Instead, when you insert a game card into your console, it will prompt you to either start playing immediately or download any required updates before starting gameplay. Once these updates are downloaded and installed onto your device’s internal memory or microSD card (if present), you can begin playing your new game.

Why Can’t You Download Games From a Card?

For some players, it may seem odd that they can’t simply install their new game directly from the physical cartridge they purchased. However, there are several reasons why this isn’t possible on the Nintendo Switch:

  • Storage Space: As mentioned earlier, the Nintendo Switch’s internal memory and microSD card are used to store the bulk of game data. This means that even if you were able to install games from a card, you would still need additional storage space to hold all the necessary files.
  • Data Transfer Speeds: While game cards are a convenient way to play games without an internet connection, they aren’t ideal for transferring large amounts of data quickly.

    Downloading games directly from the Nintendo eShop or another online retailer is often faster than installing from a physical cartridge.

  • Piracy Prevention: Finally, it’s worth noting that preventing piracy is likely one of the primary reasons why Nintendo doesn’t allow players to download games from a card. By requiring players to install games through official channels such as the eShop or physical retail stores, it makes it harder for individuals to illegally distribute copies of popular titles.


While it may be disappointing for some players who prefer physical game cartridges, downloading Switch games directly from a card simply isn’t possible. Instead, players must rely on either digital downloads or physical media combined with updates downloaded onto their console’s internal memory or microSD card.

Despite this limitation, owning physical game cartridges can still be a great way to build your Switch library and enjoy your favorite titles wherever you go. With proper storage and care, your collection can last for years to come.