Sometimes shit happens, like accidentally deleting a save file you’ve invested lots of blood, sweat, and tears into. Unfortunately, there’s no way to backup the save files for Nintendo Switch games. It seems hard to believe but Nintendo has confirmed that’s the case.
An FAQ on the company’s site explains Nintendo says on its own site that save data is kept on the system’s internal storage and “cannot be saved or copied to a microSD card.” If the internal memory fills up, the FAQ says some of it will need to be deleted to make room for new save files. And remember, the Switch internal memory is only 32GB, nearly a quarter of which is taken up by the OS.
That’s a departure from the Switch’s handheld and home console predecessors, both of which allowed users to transfer and backup save data. On the Wii U, save files could be transferred to USB storage devices while on the 3DS had an elaborate and cumbersome but still effective way of transferring save data to other 3DSs. On the Switch, however, the Data Management section only lets you delete what’s already there.
When asked about whether there was really no way to move save data from one Switch to another, Nintendo said in a statement to Kotaku, “At this time, it is not possible to transfer save data from one Nintendo Switch system to another.”
On the PS4 it’s pretty easy to move save data between the system, USB storage devices, or Sony online cloud storage. It’s possible to sync save data between some games on PS4 and their Vita versions even. For all of the inadequacies of Sony’s solution, it still looks remarkably robust compared to what’s currently available on the Switch.
In effect what this means is that if your Switch breaks, or is lost, so is all of your hard work. Everything you ever accomplished in Zelda: Breath of the Wild gone. All those unlocks in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe once again locked. We’ve traveled a long way from the days of patiently and carefully navigating save menus and caring for memory cards so as not to overwrite or corrupt the endless hours poured into our favorite games, but somehow the Switch makes that past feel closer than it should be.
Of course, Nintendo’s coy use of “at this time” leaves the door open to possibly adding the feature down the road, or finding some other bizarre workaround as the company seems to love doing. But for the time being you’ll want to take extra care. “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” goes the John Donne poem. The same cannot be said for my Breath of the Wild saves.