The newly-unveiled Nintendo Switch is a promising idea for those looking to take their living room games out and about with them. But did you know that you’ve already been able to do something almost identical with your Android phone or tablet for a while now? All you’ll need is a capable Wi-Fi network, Chromecast or Miracast-ready TV, a bluetooth controller of some sort, and you’re good to go. While you won’t get access to all the new exclusive Nintendo titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey, there still is a more cost effective way to play games on the big screen. There are plenty of solid Android games these days though, and it’s more than possible to play quite a few classics with a good emulator.
In case you missed Nintendo’s big announcement, the Switch is a combination of a tablet, attachable controller, and a dedicated dock for connecting the device up to a larger display. The big selling point it that customers can play their favorite games on the go, and simply pop their Switch into the dock to enjoy their favourite games on the big screen.
If you’re not keen on spending the $300 asking price for the Switch, here’s how to set up a cheaper Android-based alternative:
Picking a controller
There are plenty of gaming controllers for smartphones these days and you don’t need to spend a fortune to get something good. Controllers designed specifically for smartphones will come with a grip to hold your handset, and most of these will fit phones of all sizes. It’s always worth checking how far the grips extend if you have a particularly large handset, though.
To connect these controllers to your smartphone, all you’ll need is a simple Bluetooth connection. Just turn Bluetooth on and pair up your phone to your controller through the usual settings menu – it’s that simple. For a look at some the best controllers around, check out our list below:
If you want to get as close as possible to that Nintendo Switch feel, then you might want to take a look at controllers that can seat your phone’s display right in the middle of the buttons and sticks. These certainly aren’t as common as your regular Bluetooth controllers, but the CamRom Telescopic or ETTG G9023 will give you a closer feel to the Nintendo Switch. These whitebox designs might not be as well-built as some of the better known controller brands out there, so again, you’ll want to make sure that your phone will fit in securely.
Streaming games to your TV
With portability sorted, let’s take a look at hooking your smartphone up to your TV. We’re going to be using wireless connectivity, so you’ll want a strong Wi-Fi connection in your living room. One trick is to have your devices use your router’s 5GHz connection, if it has one, as this is usually less cluttered than regular 2.4GHz bands and should ensure good speeds.
Streaming a game to your television is as easy as sending a live screencast to your TV
If you happen to have a Miracast-enabled TV, you’re already halfway there. Streaming a game to your television is as easy as sending a live screencast to your TV. With Miracast, this can be done by heading into your phone’s display settings and hitting “Wireless display”. From there, click enable or on, and the phone will scan for nearby Miracast-enabled devices on your network. Pick your TV, enter the PIN code displayed on your TV and you’re good to go.
Alternatively, you can turn any Android device and HDMI TV into a streaming pair using a Google Chromecast. These little devices only cost $35 and can be used for streaming music, movies and games. Some modern TVs are even shipping with Chromecast (well, Google Cast, technically) support built in. To connect your Android phone or tablet to a Chromecast, plug the Chromecast into your TV and ensure that it’s on the same wireless network as your phone. If you’re unsure, check out our guide for setting up your Chromecast.
There are a selection of Chromecast-friendly games and apps that already come with their own casting options built in. Alternatively, you can cast your entire smartphone screen to push any game to your big screen. To do this, head on into the Google Home app, tap the menu icon in the top left corner, then go to Cast screen / audio and select your Chromecast or TV from the list.
The downside with wireless streaming rather than using a cable is one of latency, although for this won’t be a problem for most users. It’s also worth noting that a number of Android games are played in portrait mode, and will therefore appear in the same way when casting to your Android TV. So you might have to put up with black bars on a few titles. Also, if you’re experiencing any performance issues, be sure to turn the game’s graphics settings down if possible, as casting does take up some additional resources.
Not every Android game has Bluetooth controller support, unfortunately
There may be one or two annoyances here and there, but screencasting is certainly an easy and inexpensive way to bring your favorite Android games to the TV. Plus, pairing up your phone or tablet with a Bluetooth controller can help turn your device into a comfortable portable and living room console.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons to buy a Nintendo Switch. First up, not every Android game supports a controller, so you might find that you’ll still need to use your fingers for your favorite titles. There are exclusive games to think about, too, as well as the hardware specs and performance of the phone that you have available. Still, Android phones and tablets are already pretty handy at taking your games from your pocket to your big screen.