What Are Nintendo Amiibo?

Amiibo combine the worlds of gaming and toy figurines

Amiibo is Nintendo's line of toys-to-life figurines that players can use to unlock features in many games for several different Nintendo platforms.

The figures are fun to collect, as they are faithful representations of beloved video game characters. But they are also functional. With embedded tech, amiibo toys can interact with supported video games, allowing data to transfer to and from gaming systems, including Nintendo Switch, Wii U, and the New Nintendo 3DS.

How Do Amiibo Work?

Each amiibo (plural: "amiibo") is sculpted to look like a character from a video game and includes a hidden radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. When a player scans the RFID chip inside an amiibo with a compatible Nintendo system, the system recognizes which amiibo it is and acts accordingly.

Amiibos are small figures that look like video game characters and hide the ability to unlock some fun surprises in many of your favorite Nintendo games.

Daniel Boczarski / WireImage / Getty

The specific effects vary from game to game. Some games, like Super Smash Bros., allow players to store information in their amiibo, customize characters, store data, and take the saved content with them to play on friends' consoles.

Most games and amiibo interact in a read-only capacity. That means the console scans the amiibo and tells the game which kind of amiibo it is, but it makes no changes to the amiibo. In these cases, the amiibo will unlock a character, skin, or level or grant a special effect.

Are Amiibo Required to Play Nintendo Games?

Amiibo are designed to enhance Nintendo games but are not required. Some games may be easier if you have the right amiibo.

For example, scanning a Mario amiibo when playing Super Mario Odyssey on the Nintendo Switch grants immunity to damage for 30 seconds, and scanning a Princess Peach amiibo grants a life-up heart. Scanning a Mario, Bowser, or Peach amiibo unlocks unique wedding costumes. (Players can unlock these costumes by completing in-game goals.)

Having the right amiibo handy can give you an advantage, but you won't miss out on anything if you don't. The only game that requires amiibo to work is Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival.

Which Nintendo Systems Work With Amiibo?

Nintendo introduced Amiibo with the Wii U, but the platform is compatible with any Nintendo Switch, Wii U, or New Nintendo 3DS. That means if you have a Mario amiibo from the Wii U era, it will also work with a Nintendo Switch.

Amiibo is not region-locked either, which means you can use amiibo from Japan, Europe, or North America regardless of the type of Nintendo system you have.

You can find amiibo scanners for each compatible Nintendo console in the following locations:

  • Wii U - On the GamePad.
  • Nintendo Switch - In the right Joy-Con and the optional Pro Controller.
  • New Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL - In the lower touchscreen.

Older Nintendo systems can be made compatible with the addition of a near-field communication (NFC) reader accessory:

  • Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL - Requires a wireless NFC reader (sold separately).
  • Nintendo 2DS - Uses the same wireless NFC reader as the 3DS.

Which Games Work With Amiibo?

Here are some of the most popular Nintendo Switch games that work with amiibo. You can use this list to help you choose your first amiibo or check out Nintendo's complete list of amiibo-compatible games.

  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Zelda amiibo provide special Zelda-themed gear, while unrelated amiibo provide other free loot.
  • Super Mario Odyssey - Mario, Peach, and Bowser wedding outfit amiibo provide the corresponding costumes in-game. Many other amiibo award outfits.
  • Fire Emblem Warriors - Any Fire Emblem-related amiibo will provide in-game weapons and items. Chrom and Tiki amiibo provide special rewards.
  • Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Wolf Link, Zelda 30th Anniversary, and Breath of the Wild amiibo give special rewards. Other unrelated amiibo offer lesser rewards.
  • Kirby Star Allies - Certain Kirby, King Dedede, Meta Knight, and Waddle Dee amiibo unlock illustration pieces and items.
  • Splatoon 2 - You can save data to any Splatoon series amiibo. Pearl and Marino amiibo unlock their outfits.

The presence of a character in a given game is not a guarantee that a related amiibo will work with that game.

What Are the Different Kinds of Amiibo?

Most amiibo are tiny, collectible figurines, but some take different forms. The NFC cards found in amiibo figures are so small they can fit inside playing cards.

Amiibo take the form of:

  • Figurines
  • Playing cards
  • Breakfast cereal boxes
  • Plush toys

Regardless of the form an amiibo takes, they all use the same RFID technology and function similarly.

How Rare Are Amiibo, and What Happens if You Miss out?

The rarity of amiibo varies from one to the next and depends on how many Nintendo produced. Many amiibo are limited edition, creating scarcity and a vibrant second-hand market.

While avid collectors may keep tabs on amiibo releases, average gamers do not need to worry about it.

If you miss out on buying a special edition Super Mario Odyssey series Mario figure, you won't be able to take advantage of a free unlock for the Mario tuxedo costume. However, it will still be possible to unlock the costume by achieving an in-game goal.

In many circumstances, a game will allow the player to scan any version of a specific character and receive the same benefit. For instance, scanning a Super Smash Bros. or Classic Mario amiibo in Super Mario Odyssey offers the same invulnerability bonus as scanning a Super Mario Odyssey series Mario amiibo.

  • How many amiibo are there?

    More than 200 amiibo figures and card packs are available worldwide. You can see a complete list on Nintendo's official website.

  • How much do amiibo cost?

    New figures can cost $16-30 USD, while trading card packs can start at around $6 each. Some amiibo are rare and worth a lot of money to avid collectors in the third-party seller market. For example, a new gold Mario figure can go for more than $100 on sites like eBay.

  • What do the amiibo do in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?

    Wolf Link attacks enemies and helps Link find items. The Zelda 30th Anniversary amiibo give in-game items and treasure chests, while any other compatible amiibo give random in-game items like plants, fish, and meat.

  • Which amiibo work with Skyrim?

    Many Legend of Zelda-related amiibo are compatible with Skyrim. Tapping them once daily gives the player a chance to get Zelda-inspired gear in the game, including the Master Sword and the Hylian Shield.

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