Offering unprecedented versatility, the Nintendo Switch has enabled you to take your game room into the wilds (or the subway) since 2017, and then bring it home to finish up on the TV. A handheld gaming console’s controls have never been so multifaceted. The Switch gives you many ways to play right out of the box. You can attach the Joy-Con controllers to the device’s sides for hand-held mobile play, link the device to a television and use the Joy-Cons as two separate controllers, or combine the Joy-Cons into one linked controller.
However, even with all these options, some Nintendo Switch games call for a level of precision that just isn’t available with Joy-Cons. The small flat construction of Joy-Cons also might not fit every hand size. That’s why it’s worth considering pro-style controllers.
With so many ways to play, it’s not surprising that the Nintendo Switch platform has also inspired an extensive library of available game controllers. Along with pro-style controllers, the market is also rife with often excellent controllers modeled off older systems, like the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System), or arcades. In this guide, we’ll steer you through some of the spike-traps and point you to the best Nintendo Switch Controllers out there.
— Best Overall: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
— Best Budget: PowerA Wired Controller
— Best Retro: 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Bluetooth Gamepad
— Best Joy-Con Replacement: Hori Nintendo Switch Split Pad Pro
— Best For Switch Lite: 8Bitdo Lite Bluetooth Gamepad
— Best Space: Nexico Wireless Controller, Cosmic Nebula
— Best Compact: PBTails Choc Bluetooth Controller
How We Picked The Best Nintendo Switch Controllers
Nintendo Switch controllers come in lots of shapes and permutations. For this list I researched controllers from the most popular makers, comparing them for numerous quality and novelty points, and stacking them up against each other.
Nostalgia: With gaming nostalgia as one of the clearest selling points of the Nintendo Switch, the competition includes lots of controllers that hearken to designs from older systems, while usually updating them with the buttons needed for modern Switch gaming. These legacy designs compete with high performance models like the proprietary Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
Longevity: While all controllers have the capacity to wear down over time, Joy-Con control sticks have an unusual propensity to drift over time, when compared to the proprietary controllers of other console systems. With lots of use, these controllers sometimes cease tracking the stick as well as they’re supposed to, either from mechanical wear, or issues with digital sensor longevity. This drift can be helped by using a second controller as your main when your Switch is plugged into the television and saving your Joy-Cons for hand-held mobile play.
Precision And Ergonomics: Some of the more nostalgia-oriented controllers, as well as included Joy-Cons, don’t offer the best ergonomic precision for every hand type. Pro-style controllers are often the solution to this problem. Modeled after the classic designs found with Xbox and Playstation controllers (as well as Nintendo controllers past, like the GameCube controller), these ergonomically designed performance units yield a level of precision and comfort unavailable from the flat and relatively-squashed bodies and button configurations offered by Joy-Cons.
Bluetooth Connections: Bluetooth connections are always nice when it comes to gaming controllers, but with the Switch Lite they are especially nice. Some of the Bluetooth-compatible models also work with the Nintendo Switch Lite, which doesn’t feature detachable Joy-Cons or TV play, and won’t connect to most line-based controllers without aftermarket adapters. These Bluetooth-compatible controllers open up the Switch Lite to new types of play.
We further explain how we test gaming equipment here.
The Best Nintendo Switch Controllers: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Nintendo Switch Controller Overall: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
Why It Made The Cut: With excellent ergonomics and a tuned button array, this controller feels and works great.
— Connection: Wireless
— Battery: Charges with USB-C to USB-A
— Features: HD Rumble, Motion Controls, Amiibo Reader
— Ergonomic design
— Accurate controls
— Wireless connection allows it to sync with Switch Lite
There’s a certain precedent that’s come to feel like the gold standard in precision gaming controllers. It’s that style of controller design that the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller hits on the head so well. For adult hands, this controller just feels good, and with its long-lasting control sticks and performance button builds, it works just as well as it feels which is why this controller is the best Nintendo Switch controller overall. Using Bluetooth wireless technology, this controller is an excellent supplement to your out-of-the-box Joy-Cons for cross-room play when your Switch is hooked up to the TV, but it also functions beautifully as a supplemental controller to the Switch Lite. With the Switch Lite you won’t need to buy any sort of aftermarket controller line connection like the Switch Dual USB Playstand By HORI, instead the Pro Controller seamlessly links to your device.
The one downside to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is that it is expensive, and it’s often on backorder. Sometimes it can be hard to get one of these from a reputable seller. The available stock is often bought up online by scalpers who charge exorbitant fees. Meaning you’ll have to wait for the next release to get one at a good price.
Best Budget Nintendo Switch Controller: PowerA Wired Controller
Why It Made The Cut: This no-frills wired controller still does an excellent job where it counts.
— Connection: Wired 10 ft USB
— Battery: N/A
— Features: Lots of fun color options
— Get one with your favorite Nintendo character on it
— Good functionality and feels good
— No rumble
— No Bluetooth
— Won’t work with Switch Lite
Looking for a controller that fits in your hands better than your Joy-Cons? Want to save money on some secondary controllers for multiplayer Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Game Night? This wired Switch controller from PowerA doesn’t come with special features like HD Rumble or Motion Controls, but it does do its job, and it does it well making it our pick for the best budget Nintendo Switch controller. With a 10-foot cord, wired doesn’t have to mean on the floor at the foot of the TV. The buttons and stick controller work well, and the controller feels good. That means that this controller is situated at the perfect position between price and function to make it an excellent pick to fill out your controller collection — without having to empty your wallet. We also love the fun print designs on these controllers, that make it truly yours.
If you’re attracted to the lower price point of the PowerA Wired Controller but you want a little more, the PowerA Wireless Enhanced does most of the things we love about the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller for a price that’s substantially lower.
Best Retro Nintendo Switch Controller: 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Bluetooth Gamepad
Why It Made The Cut: This retro controller is packed with features, like Bluetooth compatibility, solid rumble, and motion controls.
— Connection: Wireless
— Battery: Charges with USB-C
— Features: Rumble, clickable joysticks, motion controls
— Classic D-Pad
— Connects to Switch Lite with USB
— Compatible with PC, Mac, Steam and others
— Might not have the best build quality for great longevity
Miss the glory days of SNES gaming? Some game classics just feel better on the types of controllers they were built for, whether you experienced playing them back in their heyday, or your Dad did. The 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Bluetooth Gamepad takes you back to 1990 while still delivering the functionality you expect today. Capable of syncing with your Switch Lite with a Bluetooth pairing, or delivering great control wirelessly for a multiplayer session on the home theater, this retro controller is also pairable with PC, Mac, Steam, and Raspberry Pi. The controller charges with a USB-C connection. It serves up powerful rumbles, delivers motion-detection support, and even includes a screenshot button.
8Bitdo isn’t constrained to one SNES design port, however. They also offer an incredible arcade-style controller in the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick for Switch & Windows, which makes a beautiful fighting game controller that's as fun to play on as it is impressive to look at. It might have the best design as a (somewhat) novelty controller of anything on the market. The company also offers an excellent retro option with handles in the 8BitDo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller, which does everything the Sn30 does with a slightly different design.
Best Joy-Con Replacement: Hori Nintendo Switch Split Pad Pro
Why It Made The Cut: With its ergonomic design, these Joy-Con replacements make your Nintendo Switch more comfortable than ever in handheld mode.
— Connection: Plug in
— Battery: N/A
— Features: Larger buttons, assignable rear triggers
— Great ergonomics for larger hands
— Less drift issues with control stick
— No rumble
— No motion support
If you’re like many of us and the Nintendo Switch with Joy-Cons is just a little too small for long gaming sessions, then the Hori Nintendo Switch Split Pad Pro is a solid ergonomic solution making it the best Joy-Con replacement. These large Joy-Con replacements can revolutionize hand-held gaming on the system for those with larger hands. With rear triggers, solid control sticks unmarred by some of the drift tendencies you’ll find in out-of-the-box Joy-Cons, and mappable buttons, this controller makes your Switch feel like a Pro controller even in handheld mode.
That said, these do come with some drawbacks. Unlike the Joy-Cons, these aren’t removable for play when your device is connected to a television. The lack of rumble and motion support can also be an issue, as many games make motion support a critical part of how they’re played. However for shooters, and twitchy fast-paced games, these responsive Joy-Con replacements can really make the difference.
Best For Switch Lite: 8Bitdo Lite Bluetooth Gamepad
Why It Made The Cut: With a remarkably clicky D-pad control, this controller is meant as a supplemental SNES-style controller that does a sincerely great job... at that.
— Connection: Bluetooth
— Battery: Rechargeable USB-C
— Features: Clicky D-Pad, rear triggers
— Optimized for 2D play
— Works with Switch Lite
— Bluetooth compatible
— No joy sticks
— Missing some of the higher end features
Often on the road with the kids? Like 2D party games? This is a controller meant for specific situations and types of gameplay. While the 8Bitdo Lite Bluetooth Gamepad will never compare to a pro-style controller for shooters, it’s not meant to. This retro controller is Bluetooth compatible and perfect for group play on any of the Switch’s 2D multiplayer games. Pairable with a Nintendo Switch Lite, this works great for multiplayer sessions in the back of the car. It’s also an excellent choice for anyone who simply misses the feel of old SNES controllers and wants to experience some classic platformers on the controller type they were meant for. With an excellent clicky D-Pad, this will live up to your memories of SNES controllers past.
For something even more portable, the Zero 2 brings an even tinier controller. At an extremely low price point for a USB controller, it’s a perfect solution when you’ve got lots of hands crowded around the Switch Lite.
Best Space Nintendo Switch Controller: Nexico Wireless Controller, Cosmic Nebula
Why It Made The Cut: This budget-friendly wireless controller comes with pro controller features and out-of-this-world aesthetics.
— Connection: Wireless
— Battery: Charges via USB-C
— Features: LED Indicators, Fast Charging, Rumble
— Futuristic look
— Sturdy battery
— LED activity rings
— Occasionally unresponsive
The Nexico Wireless Controller isn’t exactly the final frontier of Nintendo Switch controllers, but it sure looks like it is. Its background is a multi-colored nebula complete with a bounty of stars. While the Nexico Wireless lacks behind our winner in overall reliability and build-quality, there are still plenty of features to love here.
Both control sticks come with LED activity lights that glow anytime the controller is connected. Weirdly enough, even though it connects to the console via Bluetooth, you do have to plug it in via USB-C upon first use. For a controller at this price point, there’s plenty to love. Like higher-end options, there’s a built-in six-axis gyroscope and dual motors for the best rumble experience. Nexico Wireless Some users reported occasional issues with the Bluetooth connection, but it can run up to 10 hours on a single charge. Plus, the controller enters sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity to prolong its battery life. We like the Cosmic Nebula look, but there are three other designs available, depending on what catches your eye.
Best Compact: PBTails Choc Bluetooth Controller
Why It Made The Cut: PBTails Choc Urban Steel packs a lot of features in a small space while being one of the most inspired designs available.
— Connection: Bluetooth and Wired
— Battery: Charges via USB-C
— Features: Travel size, rumble, long battery life
— Up to 15 hours of playtime on a full charge
— Eye-catching design available in four colors
— Compatible with Switch, Windows, Android OS, and other popular systems
— May be too small for large hands
The old adage about big things in small packages still rings true, especially if we’re talking about the PBTails Choc Bluetooth Controller. This pint-sized powerhouse packs many of the same capabilities of a Pro Controller at a fraction of the cost.
For one, its battery life is almost unmatched in its price range. Choc charges to full in as little as two hours and runs up to 15. This low-profile wonder still packs all the buttons available on a typical 16-button “pro” style controller including four triggers, clickable thumb sticks, and even dedicated home and snapshot buttons. There’s even a customizable turbo button, four vibration levels, and a six-axis gyroscope for motion controls. It works great with Nintendo Switch, but it works equally well on Windows and Android OS. And because it’s available in four colors, it’s personalizable. Unbelievable portability means this smaller controller may feel unnatural if your hands are really big. Still, as slim as it is, it is still quite ergonomic, so gaming for hours won’t strain your wrists.
Things To Consider Before You Buy A Nintendo Switch Controller
While some controllers like the PowerA Wireless Enhanced will work well for most any type of game, there are others that excel at specific genres. If you’re a platformer fan, or 2D-party-game connoisseur (and Nintendo Switch is the right place to be if you’re either), the 8Bitdo Lite Bluetooth Gamepad has one of the nicest clicky D-Pads we’ve seen. In some games, a clicky D-Pad might be more important than all the rest. If you’re a fan of high-end shooters, you should consider investing in the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller with its excellent build quality.
Limitations of Joy-Cons
Right out of the box the Nintendo Switch comes with some excellent controllers. The Joy-Cons are innovative. Compatible with so many modes of play, you’ll be ready for lots of genres and play situations without investing a dime more. However, Joy-Cons do present limitations with their small size and their propensity for joy-stick drift. For certain games, you might want something more.
With the Switch OLED hitting the market in October 2021, the platform now has three main families. That said, most controllers that work on any Nintendo Switch will work on all, with the Switch Lite’s limitations being the exception. The Switch Lite only connects to USB controllers or controllers connected via the Switch Dual USB Playstand By HORI.
Related: Take your play to the next level with one of the best gaming laptops.
Q: Do you need extra Joy-Cons for Switch?
No, the included Joy-Cons work perfectly well and even work for multiplayer. However, you can always add more or sub in a different type of controller for other play options.
Q: How much does a Nintendo Switch controller cost?
Most Nintendo Switch Controllers cost between $20 and $100. For most users, it shouldn’t be necessary to spend more than $100. You’ll be hard pressed to find a really good controller for less than $20.
Q: What controller is best for Fortnite Nintendo Switch?
We love the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller for Fortnite. It’s perfectly calibrated for shooters with its quality control sticks and its ergonomic design makes it fit the hand excellently. Alternatively, the PowerA Wireless Enhanced is a great option that has many of the same features as the Pro.
Q: What controller is better for small hands?
For really small hands we love the 8Bitdo Zero 2 which makes for an excellent Bluetooth compatible group controller for the Switch Lite. The performance 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro is also a solid choice that updates a classic SNES-inspired design with modern features.
Q: Is a Pro Controller or GameCube Controller better?
GameCube controllers do make excellent controllers; they even have motion controls and rumble. The PowerA Wireless GameCube Style Controller also makes a nice contemporary alternative. However, the Pro is still our pick as the best overall controller for Nintendo Switch, and that’s because of its top-line ergonomics, excellent button and control stick design, and special features that bring it up-to-date in a way that a classic GameCube controller just isn’t… quite.
Final Thoughts on Nintendo Switch Controllers
With its emphasis on versatility and nostalgia, the Nintendo Switch remains one of the most exciting platforms in modern gaming. Its community of controllers comes with a breadth of options that sails beyond the competition. No matter your play style the Switch has something for you. With the OLED edition updating the system’s visuals, the platform just keeps getting better. For the best performance Joy-Con controller alternative out there, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is our overall favorite. However, we can’t help but love the interesting retro-inspired updates that 8Bitdo keeps dishing out, and the 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Bluetooth Gamepad is no different. Whether you’re into high-end shooters, or 2D classic platformers, there’s a Nintendo Switch Controller out there for you.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.