Published on October 23rd, 2023 | by Andrew Haverty
Borderlands 3 Nintendo Switch Review
Summary: Borderlands 3 is a solid port over to the Nintendo Switch. What the game lacks in looks and performance, it makes up for in just about everything else.
Let me start by saying that I had no idea Borderlands 3 was in development for the Nintendo Switch. With all other Borderlands titles on the Switch already (including Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands), I guess it was only a matter of time before the collection was completed. Four years after its original release, Borderlands 3 is here for Nintendo owners fight alongside the Crimson Raiders, shooting and looting their hearts out along the way.
Everybody’s first thought, as it should be, is how well Borderlands 3 would run on the Switch. Four years ago we praised Borderlands 3 on Xbox One for its incredible graphics and gameplay, giving it a perfect score in our original review. Boot up the same game on the Switch and, yeah, it’s noticeably different. This is expected on the Switch given its limited hardware, but there are a few standout downgrades. When booting up the game you’re treated to a load screen with a dancing claptrap for roughly a minute and a half before even getting to the main menu. Load times to both start playing and fast travel from planet to planet both take about 40 seconds each.
Environments are less detailed, character and weapon textures look rough around the edges, and the game seems to run in 1080p and max out at roughly 50-ish fps. I can’t say in full confidence that it ever reached 60fps for me, but it seems like it’s constantly trying to. The frame rate constantly fluctuates between around 25fps and 55fps depending on how intense the action is and, while trying to get the most out of the hardware is admirable, it doesn’t seem to do the gameplay experience any favors. The previous ports of Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel on Switch both run at a more consistent 30fps with far less hiccups. I think I prefer the lower, more consistent framerate, but that’s just me. All this may sound a bit harsh, with Gearbox obviously pushing the limits of what the Nintendo Switch is capable of, but it’s hard not to criticize when you can play the exact same game in 4k at a buttery smooth 60fps on a Series X or PS5. And while the downgrade on the Switch is expected, it’s a bit unexpected that I prefer the look of the previous two Borderlands games on the Switch. Playing in handheld mode softens the rough textures for a slightly more enjoyable visual experience, so those with a Switch OLED just might prefer playing on the smaller, but crystal clear screen.
There were a couple of audio issues I encountered where it seemed like things briefly got dead quiet in an intense firefight. Also, I came across a few instances where characters where supposed to be talking but just all of a sudden stopped, with the captions continuing on screen.
Despite Borderlands 3’s graphical and performance shortcomings, I’m happy to say that it’s still impressive to see the game in its entirety running on the Nintendo Switch hardware. The game is much bigger than Borderlands 2, which was already much bigger than the original Borderlands, so I assume this is why it took long for this entry to release on the platform. If you’ve played the game before, everything is here: hundreds of missions, billions of weapons and huge areas of the galaxy to explore. That in itself is an impressive feat. That means that if you haven’t played the game before, you won’t be missing out on anything that other players have already experienced on other platforms. The Switch version also comes with all previous DLC, giving players hundreds of hours worth of gameplay in one complete package.
Multiplayer is unfortunately a major disappointment here since there is only two player online co-op. You can’t bring in a third or fourth friend like on other platforms and split-screen co-op is completely missing on the Switch version. Once again, this is another major difference from the Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel ports, both of which have those split screen capabilities. Hopefully this sort of thing can be added with a patch but, for now, this is a huge letdown.
Despite my gripes, about five hours in, I had already accepted the presentation for what it was and I was having a great time slaying baddies with bonkers weapons and meeting new allies with uniquely bizarre personalities. Of course, for those with other options, Borderlands 3 on the Nintendo Switch is certainly not the best way to play the game. But it’s all here. There are loads of fun weapons to loot, exciting bosses to fight, and enough humor to keep anyone entertained from beginning to end. If the Switch is your only option, this is still a truly fine way to experience a great game.