There are so many games available for digital download on the Nintendo Switch, but the library varies depending on where you live. Tons of fun games are only officially on sale in Japan and Europe, and every now and then a country will get early access to an upcoming global release before other parts of the world.
Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch is a region-free console, so you can usually import a boxed copy of a game from Japanese or European retailers, pop it in your Switch and play without much fuss (barring any language barriers, of course). It also means users can access another region’s eShop to download games, demos, and other content exclusive to a specific country — but doing so is a little trickier.
To download games from other regions to the Switch, you need to create a region-specific Nintendo account linked to its own profile on your system. In some cases, a regional Nintendo account is even required to play physical copies of imported games, or to access DLC and online features or game modes.
This all might sound tedious, but we’ll guide you through the entire account creation process, show you how to link it to your Switch, and give you tips on how to find and buy games in the Japanese and European eShops.
How to create and link a regional Nintendo eShop account
The first step is to create a new Nintendo account from a browser on your computer, phone, or tablet.
- Go to accounts.nintendo.com.
- Click “Create a Nintendo account.” (Make sure to use a different email from your default account.)
- Select the country/region of residence for eShop you want to access — Japan, Europe, North America, etc.
- Finish the account creation.
Next, you need to create a new user profile on your Switch, and use it to link to the Nintendo account you created above.
- Grab your Switch, open the home screen, and go to Settings > Users > Add User.
- Follow the steps to create a new profile.
- Select “Link a Nintendo Account” when prompted. Sign in with the regional Nintendo account.
- A verification code will be sent to the Nintendo account’s email address. Punch in the code on your Switch when prompted, and the account will be linked.
How to buy and download games from other countries on the Nintendo eShop
With the regional account setup and linked to your Switch, you can now access your chosen country’s eShop. Just open the eShop from the Switch’s home screen, then select the correct profile when prompted.
Loading the eShop is easy enough, but once you’re in, things can get confusing.
The North American, European, and Japanese eShops look and function identically, but the differences in language and currency/price can make browsing, searching for, and buying or downloading content more difficult than you might expect — especially on the Japanese store. Here are a few tips that may help you navigate the process.
First, you can make searching for a game easier by changing your Switch’s keyboard language:
- Open the Switch’s keyboard (a quick way to do this is to tap on or select the search option in the eShop).
- Select or tap the globe icon at the bottom of the keyboard overlay.
- Select the language you want to use for your keyboard.
- You can swap back to English (or any other language) by selecting the globe icon again.
You can now type using a different language’s alphabet, and your Switch will offer predictive text suggestions at the top of the keyboard. Unfortunately, there is no way to translate the entire Japanese eShop into other languages directly on your Switch, but the Google Translate app on your Android device or iPhone does an OK job if you really need it.
As for buying games, the process is also the same on each eShop, but your payment methods won’t always work. While you can try adding your credit card info during check out, not all bank cards will work — and if they do, your bank will likely charge a conversion fee for the trouble.
Another option is to load up your eShop account with gift card credit purchased from a retailer like Play Asia, which sells both Japanese and European eShop cards. The Play Asia store pages also include steps for redeeming the cards in the Switch’s eShop.
Playing games from other regions on Nintendo Switch
Once the game is downloaded to your Switch, you can select it from the home screen or the library screen. Happily, you can play eShop games with accounts from any region, so if you want to play a Japan-exclusive demo on your North American Switch profile, you can.
The only exceptions are DLC, which will be linked to the regional account you bought the game with — so if you’re playing a Japanese game with DLC for example, you can only play the DLC with your Japanese eShop account. The same goes for certain online games that require a regional-specific account.
Given the restrictions longtime gamers used to face importing games from other regions, none of the above should give you pause — a whole world of Switch gaming is open to you.