Mid-cycle hardware refreshes may sometimes feel like a relatively recent development, but console manufacturers have been releasing revised versions of their consoles since video gaming first entered the home. You might associate Nintendo hardware refreshes mostly with handheld consoles thanks to the umpteen variants that have crowded shelves over the past decade or so, but many of its home consoles have also received a facelift.

It’s not always the case that these refreshes are ‘upgrades’, either, with marquee features sometimes removed entirely in a new SKU. With Switch Lite arriving at a cheaper price point than the standard model, what better time to take a look back at the company’s history of hardware refreshes?

For the purposes of this feature, we’re not going to deep dive into the ‘silent’ hardware revisions that manufacturers routinely put out to address flaws or take advantage of cheaper or more efficient components and the like. Here we’re concentrating on refreshes that introduced (or removed) significant features with cosmetic differences, too. And no, the Classic Mini consoles don’t count!

So, let’s head back to the 1990s…

NES-101 / AV Famicom

New-Style Super NES / SNS-101

Pikachu Nintendo 64

The Nintendo 64 didn’t get a budget facelift after the GameCube launched. Nintendo did, however, copy the colours of the ultra-fashionable iMacs of the day and eventually released a multitude of consoles with coloured shells. We remember being a little perplexed that these weren’t a Day One option, but that was a more innocent time when a launch console could reasonably be expected to last the entire generation (and well beyond – our launch unit is still going strong two decades later). Coloured variants would go on to be a fixture of Nintendo hardware from this time onwards.

Discounting the Chinese-only iQue 64 Player, the only version of the N64 which actually alters the OG console’s form factor was the Pikachu Nintendo 64 which changed the power button into a Pokéball and embedded a plastic Pikachu in the right-hand side of the console, with light-up cheeks and a reset button on his right foot. Hardly an essential ‘upgrade’, but lovely nonetheless.

Panasonic Q

Wii Family Edition and Wii Mini

Game Boy Pocket and Light

Game Boy Advance SP and Micro

Nintendo DS Lite and DSi / DSi XL

Nintendo 3DS XL, Nintendo 2DS, New Nintendo 3DS (XL) and New Nintendo 2DS XL

With the DS’ successor, things started to get a little silly with a Nintendo 3DS ‘family’ of systems. Although the original 3DS arguably launched in a better state than the DS ‘Phat’ did, the Nintendo 3DS XL was a very nice upgrade with bigger screens which made finding the 3D ‘sweet spot’ easier, plus a matte finish which hid unsightly fingerprints.

Then came the 2DS, a non-folding slate-like affair aimed at younger children that removed the 3DS’ namesake gimmick and which, along with cockroaches, will be the only thing to survive a nuclear apocalypse.

Next up, Nintendo produced the New Nintendo 3DS, a beautiful little system with faceplates, a C-stick (a ‘nub’, really), ‘ZL’ and ‘ZR’ buttons, much-improved viewing angles for the glasses-free stereoscopic 3D thanks to face tracking and – most importantly of all – Super Famicom-style coloured face buttons. Beautiful! Slightly larger than the original model, this is a lovely little machine. Of course, Nintendo also released an XL version (the only one available in North America for a time), but the standard New Nintendo 3DS arguably hit the sweetest spot of all these refreshes.

We’re still not finished, though. Further muddying the waters, shortly before the launch of Switch Nintendo also announced the New Nintendo 2DS XL. There’s no non-XL version of this console, so this final (we assume) variant is essentially a New Nintendo 3DS XL minus the auto-stereoscopic 3D. And a fine console it is, too – although it’s hard to summon much enthusiasm after this many redesigns! As we said above, should really be keeping an eye out for a mint one at a bargain price right now, but as is always the case, there’s a new kid on the block grabbing all the attention…

… and finally, Nintendo Switch Lite

Bridging Nintendo’s home and handheld console strands, we finally arrive at the Nintendo Switch and its new little sibling, the Switch Lite. This portable-only version does for the ‘flagship’ model what 2DS did to its elder family member – namely, ditch its namesake gimmick.

No, the Switch Lite doesn’t ‘switch’ anymore and won’t play a handful of games out of the box without extra controllers. The ability to switch between docked and handheld mode may well be the ‘point’ of the hybrid console, but as we’ve seen with the 2DS, naming conventions shouldn’t stand in the way of a system for which there’s a market. As refreshes go, we would have liked to see that bezel around the screen reduced, but otherwise Switch Lite seems to be a fine addition to a long line of hardware refreshes, and no doubt we’ll be adding it to our collection of Nintendo consoles before long.

Quite the resume of altered hardware, no? Which one do you think offered the biggest improvements? Let us know by clicking your favourite below and hitting the ‘Vote’ button at the bottom:

We would ask which you liked the least, but the Wii Mini is the only correct answer. If for some reason you loved that abomination, though, feel free to sound off in the comments and otherwise let us know which of these you invested in and why they give you the warm fuzzies.