After the slow sales of the Wii U, fans were a little apprehensive about Nintendo’s next console. Not only did the Nintendo Switch perform well at launch, but it went on to be one of the fastest selling systems ever. The game lineup for this mobile console has made it quite popular, leading it to sell more than 55 million units. This can be attributed to many things, including the many options it offers when it comes to gameplay styles. You can play it in tabletop mode, handheld, and even on the big screen. Because of this, there are a wide variety of controller options you can use, depending on the game and setup.
In this list, we’ve compiled all of the system’s best controllers, for whether you’re in handheld, docked, or tabletop mode.
Joy-Con and Joy-Con grip
Yes, these are the basic controllers that come with the Nintendo Switch but having a few spares is handy especially with the number of local co-op games available on the Switch.
The versatility of the Joy-Cons is incredibly useful, both with the system in its handheld configuration and docked in an entertainment center. Each comes equipped with face buttons, two bumpers, and triggers, directional buttons, as well as additional bumper buttons located on the side from when you’re only using one of them at a time.
When attached to the Switch, they’re nearly perfect, offering much better control over your game than you’d get with an older Nintendo system or even the PlayStation Vita, and you can hand one to another player to play some Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the go.
The Joy-Con controllers can also be attached to the Joy-Con grip to turn them into a sort of standard gamepad, albeit a small one. If you don’t opt for another controller, it does the job admirably, and we were able to make it through dozens of hours of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild without using anything else. If you don’t want to worry about reattaching your Joy-Cons to your console after each session to juice them up, the Joy-Con Charging Grip might be a good call.
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
If you spend the majority of your time with the Nintendo Switch in its dock, the small Joy-Con grip might feel too small. In that event, you’ll want to invest in the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
It’s expensive, usually retailing for around $60, but the Pro Controller comes with large face buttons, bumpers, triggers, and analog sticks. It also has a more traditional directional pad that feels similar to those available on the Wii U’s controllers. Its shape is similar to the Xbox One’s controller, and its internal battery lasts far longer than the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4.
The Pro Controller isn’t just for playing the Switch at home, either. Some larger carrying cases for the Switch, such as the Game Traveler Deluxe, include a compartment that can either hold a Joy-Con grip or a Pro Controller. With the system’s kickstand or a separate stand, you can be playing your favorite games on the go using the same controller you use at home.
Hori Joy-Con with D-Pad
When using the Nintendo Switch in its handheld configuration, it can feel slightly odd due to the lack of a traditional directional pad on the left Joy-Con, which instead uses split buttons. To rectify this, Hori has created its own left Joy-Con controller, complete with a directional pad and available in a variety of different styles.
For those playing 2D platformers on the go, it will make controlling your character feel more natural, though you’ll sacrifice rumble in the process.
The Hori controller isn’t meant to completely replace your regular left Joy-Con, as it’s only compatible with the system in handheld mode. It also reportedly drains the Switch’s battery more quickly than other controllers, but its $25 price means you can only use it occasionally and still feel like you got your money’s worth.
8Bitdo Zero 2
Going on a road trip and want to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze with your friends? 8Bitdo’s Zero 2 controller is a tiny alternative to the Joy-Con controllers that contains all the buttons you need for split-screen multiplayer games.
In addition to a traditional direction pad, face buttons, and shoulder buttons, it also includes motion control support, and it comes in a variety of colors meant to emulate the Game Boy Pocket.
As an added bonus, the 8Bitdo Zero 2 controllers also support the PC, Mac, and Android devices through Bluetooth, and their firmware can be updated wirelessly. They are expected to release this spring.
Read our full 8BitDo Zero 2 review
Welcoming the Nintendo Switch Lite with open arms, is none-other than 8Bitdo, the pioneers of the inexpensive and effective Nintendo Switch controller revolution.
The Nintendo Switch Lite, unlike the regular Switch, is a purely handheld experience. That’s how Nintendo sold it, anyway. And while you can’t detach its controllers and hook it up to a TV for a spot of big-screen gaming, you can connect other controllers to it. The 8Bitdo Lite controller is a micro-sized pad designed to complement the portability of the Nintendo Switch Lite. It foregoes joysticks in favor of two (or three) D-pads, lending itself more to 2D or slower-paced 3D games rather than, say, Astral Chain or Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Oh, and it’s insanely affordable. Like $25 affordable. With turbo button functionality and a handy USB-C charging function, it’s probably the best alternative controller out there for the Switch Lite player who doesn’t always want to hold their console up to their face just to enjoy a spot of Stardew Valley. Just don’t expect any fancy motion or rumble features. That’s how those costs stay low.
PowerA Wired Controller Plus
While some people prefer to take their Switch systems with them wherever they go, others rarely take them out of the dock. If you fall into the latter category and often play with friends, PowerA’s Wired Controller Plus can serve as a good second gamepad for your guest.
It comes with a 10-foot cable, so you can use it from a couch without any issue, and it features a button layout nearly identical to the Pro Controller. It also comes in two Nintendo-themed designs that include Mario and Zelda.
For those of you who aren’t enthused about wired controllers, there’s also an enhanced version of PowerA’s Controller that uses Bluetooth so you don’t have to stay tethered to your console.
The Wired Controller Plus won’t necessarily replace the Pro Controller as it lacks motion functionality and HD Rumble, but for the $25 price, it’s hard to pass it up, and you can purchase one or two extra to accommodate larger gatherings.
No, this isn’t a new lookalike GameCube controller meant to emulate the real thing – the Nintendo Switch actually supports the classic GameCube controller with the use of a special adapter.
Both are available with the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch, giving veteran players the classic control scheme they know and love. The adapter is identical to the one used for the Wii U, so you can plug that into your Switch if you still have it, and this gives you enough ports for everyone in the match to use a GameCube controller.
The GameCube controller is a unique beast, and perhaps that’s why it’s better to simply support it on future systems rather than attempt to copy it. Its C-stick, asymmetrical button layout, and ergonomic shape make it a must-have for any Smash Bros. fan, and it’s even being reproduced specifically for fighting fans who don’t want to use one of the Switch’s newer controllers.
If you want to play your Switch using GameCube controllers while you’re traveling, the only way to do so out of the box is by bringing your dock with you. However, 8BitDo released the GBros. wireless adapter to coincide with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The adapter connects to the GameCube controller like the Wii’s Classic Controller did, effectively turning it into a wireless controller with up to 30 hours in battery life. It even has “share” and “home” buttons so you aren’t missing out on any features, and its color scheme matches the original GameCube’s purple design. If you want to use it with the NES Classic, SNES Classic, or Wii Classic controllers, you can do that, too.
PDP Wired Fight Pad Pro Controller
Want to play with a GameCube-style controller but don’t want to spend money on Nintendo’s USB adapter or a third-party adapter? The PDP Wired Fight Pad Pro Controller mimics the look of a classic GameCube controller. With the standard left analog stick and a smaller C-stick on the right, the face buttons feel nearly identical to Nintendo’s own controller.
It also includes shoulder buttons and triggers on both sides, so you can use it for Switch games that a standard GameCube controller wouldn’t be able to handle.
The Wired Fight Pad Pro Controller doesn’t include motion sensors like the Joy-Con or Pro Controllers do, as it was primarily designed as an alternative accessory for playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You can remove the C-Stick on the right side and replace it with a second analog stick, and this comes included with every controller.
They are available in Mario, Zelda, and Pikachu, Luigi, Peach, variants, so you can let your friends know who you’re going to take into the next match. You can purchase the Wired Fight Pad Pro controller for just $25 a pop.
Esywen wireless controller for Switch
Nintendo’s own accessories — as well as most third-party options — don’t allow for much in the way of customization. The Esywen wireless Switch controller is an exception to that, offering a similar layout to the Pro Controller, but with several options to give you the ideal gaming experience. The controller features adjustable turbo and dual motors, both of which have three different levels to select, and retains the motion control functionality of the Pro Controller. It also pairs via Bluetooth and comes with a three-year warranty and technical support in case you run into any problems.
The Esywen is less than half the price of the Pro Controller, as well, and because it is charged with a standard USB-C cable, you can keep playing while you charge. It loses the Amiibo functionality of the official Nintendo options, but for the price, that’s a pretty small concession.
If you’re a fan of the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 setup instead of the Xbox One’s asymmetrical design, you’ll also appreciate the Esywen wireless controllers. Its sticks are both located under the buttons and directional pad, and all customization buttons are directly in the middle for easy access.
PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller
Nintendo doesn’t offer much in the way of customization for its controllers, with even the expensive Pro Controller essentially being a “take it or leave it” deal. PowerA addressed this with its Enhanced Wireless Controller, which offers a similar design with additional buttons to make your gaming experience even better. And with 40 or so character designs to choose from on its Amazon page, these things are almost as collectible as Funkopops!
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller resembles the Pro Controller at first glance, with similarly positioned analog sticks, as well as the same face buttons, shoulder buttons, and triggers. The directional pad is slightly smaller but worked perfectly fine during our time testing it. It’s also quite a bit lighter as it makes use of standard AA batteries instead of the internal battery pack found on the Pro Controller.
Where it really differs, however, is in the two customizable “Advanced Gaming Buttons,” which function similarly to the paddles found on the Xbox Elite or Scuf Vantage controllers. You can quickly program these buttons to perform the function of any other button, and they can be switched on the fly if you need to alter them for a specific game. If you just want to use it as an alternative for the Switch Pro Controller, that’s just fine, as well, as it still features motion controls despite costing significantly less.