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Published Sep. 14, 2021

The Nintendo Switch is a marvel. You can dock it and rock it with graphically impressive games on the big screen, or pull it up and head on out for gaming on the go. So many excellent franchises, from strategy RPG “Fire Emblem” to laidback friend-pleaser “Animal Crossing,” have very forgiving control schemes without the need for particularly precise finger dexterity or quick decision-making. But what about those fast-twitch joy-bringers? Does the included-in-the-box, strapped-to-the-screen Joy-Con bring it? Sadly, not always. For games like “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” “Fortnite,” or “Pokemon Unite,” a higher level of control is required. And more intense gaming means you’ll want more comfortable gear. Don’t worry, though, because whether you’re couch-bound or handheld, analog stick or d-pad, we’ve got you covered with our list of the best Nintendo Switch controllers.

How we selected the best Nintendo Switch controllers

We combined hands-on research with insights gathered from fellow gamers on staff and around the international community to deliver a list you can trust. Every one of these Nintendo Switch controllers come highly recommended from multiple playtesters or outlets and every one has spent some amount of time in my hot little hands to see if it passes the thumbs stress test.

Why aren’t my Joy-Cons enough?

The standard Joy-Cons that come packaged with the Nintendo Switch are meant to slot into the sides of the Switch screen for split use when in handheld mode. For many games, this set-up is relatively comfortable and ergonomic. However, as a separated controller, either individually or docked together in the included Switch grip, the Joy-Cons really can’t rise above “fine.” The buttons are very small and the directional pad (d-pad) especially does not respond particularly well. Additionally, the analog sticks on the Joy-Con have a tendency to develop a problem known as “drift.” Drift happens to almost any analog control stick and it is an issue wherein the “neutral” position of the stick is either no longer neutral because of mechanical wear and tear or no longer read as neutral because of digital issues within the circuitry of the controller. Whichever happens to be the case with Joy-Cons, drift seems to occur more often than with competitors’ first-party controllers (DualShock/DualSense for the Playstation and the Xbox Wireless Controller). The best way to avoid drift developing in Joy-Cons is to use them as infrequently as possible, meaning that a secondary controller is preferable when the Switch is docked and connected to your TV both for superior control, and to preserve the Joy-Cons for use in handheld mode.

What are my options when it comes to extra Nintendo Switch controllers?

There are four main types of secondary Nintendo Switch controllers. The first is “pro-style” controllers. These controllers are similar in design to the PlayStation and Xbox controllers that have become the standard form factor over the past 10 years. Even PC gamepads tend to mimic many of the design elements of these two controllers and Nintendo Switch pro-style controllers carry on that tradition. Next are retro controllers, whose form factors recall consoles of the past. You can get Nintendo Switch controllers that mimic Nintendo and Sega controllers from the 8-bit era (Nintendo Entertainment System) all the way to the 128-bit era (Nintendo GameCube). These controllers are adjusted to have all the buttons features on a set of Joy-Cons, but have dimensions and color combinations that harken back to gaming days past. Third are arcade sticks, which feature a joystick instead of a directional pad or analog thumbstick and all the buttons on the face of a large rectangular base. These controllers look like the control set-ups for arcade games and are sometimes referred to as a “fight stick” because of their prevalence in use among high-level non-“Smash Bros.” fighting game players (think back to putting your quarters on “Street Fighter” to call next). Lastly, you have controller set-ups, grips, or docks that are meant to enhance or replace the Joy-Cons while the Switch is in handheld mode. These Nintendo Switch controllers may offer wider grip bases or different-style button layouts that may appeal to many users.

Are all these controllers compatible with the Switch Lite?

The Nintendo Switch Lite, which costs less than the standard Switch and has controllers bonded to its screen (plus no TV hookup capabilities), is compatible with any Nintendo Switch Wireless controller without issue. Simply pair the controller with the Switch Lite the same way you would with the Switch. In fact, because the Switch Lite does not feature rumble compatibility with its built-in controllers, pairing Joy-Cons or another wireless rumble-compatible controller with it is the only way to initiate this feature. Wired controllers are a different beast, however. While there are no Nintendo-created wired controllers for the Switch Lite, there is an officially licensed adapter by the controller and accessory company Hori that not only allows the use of wired Switch controllers with the Switch Lite but also serves as a stand to tilt the screen up towards the player.

Which Switch controller is right for me?

While there are a few Nintendo Switch controllers that stand above the rest in terms of quality, the most important consideration before you buy an extra controller for your Switch is your own play tendencies. If you play in handheld mode almost all the time, you may simply want to invest in some additional Joy-Cons. If you want to play certain games, there are certain styles of controller that are popular with those games, like GameCube-style controllers with “Super Smash Bros.” Do you absolutely need wireless? Wired controllers tend to be a little cheaper, so if your Switch dock is quite close to where you usually sit to play, you may want to go with a wired option. Assess your own situation first, then consult the experts.

The Best Nintendo Switch controllers Reviews & Recommendations

All of the below options serve their functions expertly, have a solid track record of quality for both the controller and the company, and feel pretty great in our tester’s hands. As our picks for the best Nintendo Switch controllers, consider them all “highly recommended.”

Best Nintendo Switch pro-style controller: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Pro Feel, Pro Design

There’s no better general option for an extra controller than Nintendo’s own Switch Pro Controller. Extremely comfortable, responsive, and reliable, it’s a significant upgrade for nearly any genre of game. Nintendo

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Why it made the cut: Every feature you want in an ergonomic form factor with the reliability and performance that can only be guaranteed by a first-party product, Nintendo’s premium wireless controller gets everything right, from the weight to the springiness of the shoulder buttons. A joy to use.

Specs:

  • Wireless
  • Motion Controls
  • Rumble Compatibility
  • Amiibo Reader
  • Internal battery charges with USB-C to USB-A cable included
Pros:Cons:
  • Great layout
  • More expensive than third-party controllers
  • Responsive directional pad
  • Very few color choices
  • Every needed feature included
  • When it comes to a pro-style controller, you want two things: feel and performance. Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller delivers both. Extremely well-fitted to most adult hands, the Pro Controller has just the right weight, comfortable and responsive buttons and sticks, and plenty of bells and whistles. Want to use motion controls like you could with the Joy-Cons? Check. Want to scan the chips in your Amiibo figures, unlocking bonuses in some of your games? Check. Want the buzzes and “bzzts” that come from rumble feedback? Check. The battery life on the Pro Controller is impressive, too, outperforming both the PS4’s DualShock4 and the Xbox One’s Wireless Controller. The only drawback of the Pro Controller is that, as a first-party Nintendo product, it rarely goes on sale. If you want one (and I think you do want one), you’re most likely going to have to plunk down $60. While that’s more than most other Nintendo Switch controllers, it’s worth every penny.

    Best third-party controller for Switch: PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller

    Now You’re Playing with PowerA

    A slightly scaled-down clone of the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller loses a few features while offering a few new ones for a slight discount, resulting in a very solid overall value. PowerA

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    Why it made the cut: More easily found on sale than the first-party Pro Controller, the PowerA Enhanced offers essentially the same form factor and responsiveness while adding programmable buttons in place of some of the Pro Controller’s features.

    Specs:

    • Wireless
    • Motion Controls
    • Internal battery charges with USB-C to USB-A cable included
    Pros:Cons:
  • Programmable buttons
  • No rumble support or Amiibo reader
  • Same great feel as the Pro Controller
  • Some users complain of drift issues with the thumbstick
  • Extra-long battery life
  • PowerA is a solid brand in the realm of video game accessories. The company’s Pro Controller clone, the Enhanced Wireless Controller, is our pick for the best 3rd party controller for Switch. With impressive battery life, the Enhanced Wireless Controller will last as long as you need and charges with an included USB-C to USB-A cable. Due to being a third-party product, you’re more likely to find the Enhanced Wireless Controller on sale than a Pro Controller, meaning you can save anywhere from $10 to $20 over the Pro pretty regularly. What do you lose? Well, there have been some reports of the thumbsticks in the Enhanced developing drift worryingly soon, though the reviews overall are pretty stellar and I personally haven’t experienced the problem. Amiibo figure chip reading is not supported in the Enhanced, nor is rumble functionality. Outside of those negatives, you get the ability to remap your buttons controller-side, meaning you can swap out button functions even if the settings on a game don’t allow it. This is a boon for accessibility for certain gamers with disabilities or those who just like their cancel button and accept button to be consistent across games.

    Best GameCube-style controller for Switch: PowerA Wireless GameCube Style Controller

    Play Like It’s Y2K

    A favorite of “Smash Bros.” players, the GameCube form factor is available in a great wireless controller from PowerA. While there are few frills on this controller, being GameCube style and having that same feel, plus being wireless, is enough for enthusiasts. PowerA

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    Why it made the cut: For serious “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” players, nothing but a GameCube-style controller will do. PowerA powers ahead of its competitors due to its improved directional pad and wireless freedom.

    Specs:

    • Wireless
    • Motion Controls
    • Powered via two AA batteries (included)
    • GameCube form factor with slightly larger directional pad
    Pros:Cons:
  • Classic GameCube feel with larger directional pad
  • AA battery-based instead of rechargeable lithium-ion
  • Wireless
  • No Amiibo or rumble support
  • Excellent color options
  • The top-level “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” players largely prefer a GameCube-style controller to even the Pro Controller because of the button layout and/or having learned to play the game in the “Super Smash Bros. Melee” era. If you have a similar feeling, there are a lot of Nintendo Switch controllers on the market but none quite capture that GameCube feel like PowerA’s Wireless GameCube Style Controller. All the classic color palettes from the turn of the millennium are available, starting with classic pack-in purple and going all the way to Wavebird grey. Everything about this controller feels right, except the directional pad, which actually feels better thanks to being made larger and more tactile. A drawback of this particular controller is that it’s powered not by an internal lithium-ion battery, but by AA batteries. This can lead to some expenses over time and an annoying need to keep fresh batteries on hand (though you can get your own rechargeable AA batteries), but for those who truly want to “Smash, it’s 100-percent worth it.

    Best arcade stick for Switch: 8BitDo Arcade Stick

    Stick It To ‘Em

    A joy to look at and a joy to use, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick captures the stand-up cabinet feel with a tight joystick and nice, springy buttons in a weighty-but-not-heavy block that also happens to feature some really eye-catching aesthetics. 8Bitdo

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    Why it made the cut: Great visual panache, authentic feel, and solid construction make the 8BitDo Arcade Stick stand out among its peers.

    Specs:

    • Wireless or Wired (with USB-C)
    • Mappable buttons
    • PC Compatibility
    • Internal battery charges with USB-C
    Pros:Cons:
  • Gorgeous to look at
  • Expensive compared to game pads
  • Mappable/programmable buttons with macro support
  • Cannot be used with games that require two analog sticks
  • Internal battery
  • Can also be used with a PC
  • If you’re into retro gaming or 2D fighting games, you probably understand the value of a good arcade stick. Dropping the two analog sticks for a single joystick, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick offers that nostalgic cabinet feel with a nice, clicky, responsive gumball stick and springy, clicky buttons that are fully programmable. The Arcade Stick is a unique tool that is only appropriate for certain games. For example, trying to play “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” with this controller simply wouldn’t work, given the lack of a second stick. However, if you want to bust out some “Street Fighter 30th Anniversary,” “Mortal Kombat 11,” or “Dragon Ball FighterZ” with full control over your champion of choice, there really is no choice in the matter. As shown by their adoption in high-level fighting-game tournaments like EVO, arcade sticks are simply the superior option when it comes to non-“Smash Bros.” fighting games. Your old-school arcade beat-em-ups, shoot-em-ups, and score-em-ups will feel more like the originals, too. The Arcade Stick is one of the more expensive controllers we’re profiling, with a base price of $90, but that’s actually really good among arcade sticks across all platforms, with tournament-quality sticks sometimes reaching $200-$250. Assuming your library has enough games to benefit from the Arcade Stick, it’s a strong recommendation for the best Nintendo Switch controller for arcade games.

    Best handheld mode upgrade for Switch: Hori Split-Pad Pro

    More Joy Than Cons

    If you want to feel like you’re playing with a gamepad in handheld mode, the Hori Split-Pad Pro offers improvements over the grip, buttons, and delicacy of the Joy-Cons, as long as you can handle the heft. HORI

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    Why it made the cut: Handheld mode can use an upgrade and Hori offers that with the Split Pad Pro, which improves nearly every facet of the handheld control experience, as long as you’re willing to make your Switch considerably bigger.

    Specs:

    • Replaces the Joy-Cons
    • Larger grip, buttons, triggers, analog sticks, and directional pad than Joy-Cons
    • Assignable rear triggers
    • Turbo functionality
    • Must be connected to Switch screen to function—does not work as a separated controller, and not compatible with Switch Lite
    Pros:Cons:
  • All inputs are larger
  • Heavier than Joy-Cons
  • System is easier to grip
  • Cannot be used when separated from the Switch screen
  • Buttons and sticks are comfortable and responsive
  • Not compatible with Switch Lite
  • No motion controls or rumble
  • All of the Nintendo Switch controllers before now have been separate models that are designed with television play in mind. Hori offers a slightly different improvement in their handheld mode Joy-Con replacement, the Split Pad Pro. The Split Pad Pro tries to bring the separate controller experience to the handheld Switch but expanding the sides and depth of the unit, offer a rounded grip, sizing up all the buttons and analog sticks, and offering a true direction pad in place of the “button pad” of the Joy-Con. Despite the size increase, I personally didn’t find the added weight off-putting, though children and adults with smaller hands might feel as if the Switch has become unwieldy initially with the Split Pad Pro. You can still slide the Switch screen into the dock when the Split Pad Pro is connected; there’s enough clearance from the grips that it shouldn’t prevent a connection. There are two additional buttons within the crook of the Split Pad Pro’s left and right grip that are programmable, allowing you to actually add new functionality over a Joy-Con. Action and adventure games like “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” or “Mario Odyssey” benefit greatly from the Split Pad Pro, but keep in mind that a modicum of functionality is lost, such as motion controls, rumble, NFC, and IR.

    Best single-game controller upgrade: Nintendo Joy-Con Wheel

    Vroom Vroom Beep Beep

    While the Nintendo Joy-Con Wheel only has one use—to improve “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” motion controls—it’s really fun for that one use. Nintendo

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    Why it made the cut: It’s just a plastic frame for a Joy-Con that resembles a steering wheel. And yet, for “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” that’s enough.

    Specs:

    • Plastic cradle for the Joy-Con
    • Resembles a steering wheel
    • Two in one package
    Pros:Cons:
  • Resembles a steering wheel
  • Only resembles a steering wheel
  • First things first, do not buy the Nintendo Joy-Con Wheel if you answer “no” to these questions: Do you own, or plan to own, “Mario Kart Deluxe 8?” Do you use motion controls when playing “Mario Kart Deluxe 8?” If you’re still with me, you should buy the Nintendo Joy-Con Wheel. Motion controls with the tiny, single Joy-Con are incredibly frustrating when Karting, and simply by slicking a Joy-Con into one of these plastic wheels, you get a stronger sense of how much tilts is the right amount of tilt to get your turns going. Do these plastic frames have any other use? Absolutely not. But they do exactly what they need to for their single use and, because they’re made by Nintendo, the plastic is high-quality and the fit for the Joy-Con is perfect.

    FAQs

    Q: Does the Pro Controller drift?

    No analog stick is entirely immune to drift, but there have been very few reports, even after years of being on the market, of Pro Controller stick drifting. Can the Pro Controller drift? I’m sure it can. Does the Pro Controller drift? It seems like an incredibly rare instance.

    Q: Are third-party Switch controllers better?

    While they offer some options that the Joy-Cons and Pro Controller from Nintendo do not, I can confidently say the best controller on the market is, in fact, the Pro Controller. However, the best controllers from third parties are not far behind at all. So while no third-party controllers are not better, they are a perfectly reasonable alternative to save a few bucks or if things like mappable buttons, wider PC compatibility, and turbo functionality are important to you.

    Q: Why do pro “Smash Bros.” players use GameCube controllers?

    The “Smash Bros.” pro scene really didn’t start to develop until the second game, “Super Smash Bros. Melee” for GameCube, was released. Many players cut their teeth on this version and some even continued to prefer it to the Wii “Smash Bros.” game released several years later. Even those that did switch to the Wii game tended to use GameCube controllers instead of Wiimotes because they offered more precision and the first few iterations of the Wii console had built-in GameCube controller ports, requiring no adapters at all. Because of this multigeneration precedent, much of the instruction in YouTube videos or strategies discussed online are based upon the assumption of players using GameCube controllers. That isn’t to say you can’t be a competitive “Smash Bros.” player using another controller type; there are successful players using Pro Controllers right now.

    The final word on the best Nintendo Switch controllers

    Overall, the Nintendo Pro Controller is the easiest of our profiled items to recommend to all players. It improved the most experiences across the board while not sacrificing any compatibility. However, our other options provide very specific benefits that you should consider before deciding which controller to pick up. No matter what you choose, I do recommend buying at least two additional controllers to add to your original right and left JoyCon. This allows for four-player “Mario Kart,” “Mario Party,” or “Smash Bros.” games in your living room—though there may be some fighting over the “superior” controllers.

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