Making the Switch without video game manuals

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by: Hairball

When I got the Nintendo Switch last year, one thing that really hit me was the disappearance of the printed instruction manuals. The "instruction booklet" as officially called by Nintendo has long been a part of their video game packaging since the original NES was released.

They have continued to been a staple of the video game packaging through the Super NES, N64, GameCube and the Wii consoles, though over the years the content has become thinner and thinner.

If you look at the manuals from past games, such as Super Mario World for the Super NES, the manual is almost like a mini-guide, outlining the story of the game, along with detailed instructions to guide you on your journey, it was 30 pages in all! Video game manuals were serious business, and they were a work of art!

Super Mario World manual Super Mario World manual
Pages from the Super Mario World manual with the level of detail you just don't see anymore

Subsequent generations continued to feature the printed manuals with the games, however things started to shift once the Wii U was released.

On the Wii U, earlier releases still included the traditional printed manuals, with basic instructions and nice graphics - they have noticeably started to become increasingly flimsy. Later in the cycle, games have stopped including the print manual altogether, instead having a "quick start" or "action guide" pamphlet card at best. All games came with a digital in-game manual - but it was unintuitive and clunky to read. However, one major advantage of the in-game manual is that you can navigate to the manual at any time by hitting the home button on the Wii U GamePad.

New Super Mario Bros. U - a Wii U launch game in 2012, did come with a printed manual, although it was a fairly short one. Not long after in 2013, when Super Mario 3D World was released it only came with a printed action guide card with a more detailed electronic manual that can be viewed on screen.

Super Mario 3D World Action Guide
Super Mario 3D World Action Guide

Super Mario 3D World Digital Manual
Example of Super Mario 3D World digital manual that can be navigated using the Wii U GamePad

Towards the end of the Wii U release cycle, even the printed cards have started to disappear. On the Nintendo Switch, even the digital manuals have gone the wayside too. The tiny transparent game cases for Nintendo Switch games come with some fancy art inside or very basic of instructions printed on the back cover, and for some games, it's literally blank space. The cases are nice for storing and displaying your video games, but it's seriously barebones compared to how it used to be.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe inside box
At least the port of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gives you some simple instructions in case you have never played Mario Kart before...

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle inside box
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle comes with a lot of "blank space", I'm sure Taylor Swift would appreciate it

Super Mario Odyssey inside box
Official lyrics to "Jump Up, Super Star" for Super Mario Odyssey

To be fair, there are usually pretty decent in-game tutorials in most Nintendo Switch games, it's not that the lack of a formal manual significantly takes away from the gaming experience, but it just feels like an empty feeling when you open the game case and also you have is a game card with (maybe) some fancy art and that's all. It feels like you're missing something.

I get it, print media has become a relic, and these days we live in an impatient society is Googling for quick answers, or watch a tutorial explaining things on YouTube, manuals are almost unnecessary. But still, it would be better if games came with a manual out of the box, it just makes the product feel far more polished. It's an underappreciated art now.

Physical games are probably the next to go out the door, that would be the end of an era - and that day might be coming sooner than we think. But at least for now, we still have box art...

Do you miss the video game manuals? Is this a Switch that you like or loathe?

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