When it comes to Nintendo Switch controllers, the options the Switch actually ships with aren't that great--you receive a standard pair of Joy-Cons (still prone to drift) along with a plastic grip you can slide them into to create something more similar (but not really similar) to a standard controller for playing Switch on your TV. Upgrading to the Switch Pro Controller, sold separately for $70, is an added expense. And while the Pro Controller is certainly one of the best Switch controllers you can buy in 2021, it's not the only one. For those on a budget, those looking for special features like mappable buttons, or those looking for better options for handheld mode, there are a ton of great third-party Switch controllers out there that enhance the Switch experience in a number of ways.
We've tested all sorts of Nintendo Switch controllers to find the ones we think are most worth picking up. Some of the top brands to consider include 8BitDo, a maker of retro-inspired controllers and the company behind our favorite Pro Controller alternative, the Pro 2; Hori, which makes the Split Pad Pro and more of the best Nintendo Switch accessories; and PDP, which offers some of the best budget Switch controllers and a great GameCube-style option as well. Depending on your Switch gaming habits and needs, you can find a great third-party Switch controller out there for less than the price of a Pro Controller--though it's not a bad idea to invest in one of those as well.
From Switch Pro Controller alternatives and better Joy-Cons to fight sticks and retro pads, here are the best Switch controllers we've tried and swear by. Plus, check out our picks for the best Nintendo Switch carrying cases, screen protectors, and grips as well as great Bluetooth headsets for connecting to the Switch.
- The best ergonomics of any controller I've used
- Buttons are satisfying to press
- Features NFC/Amiibo support, HD rumble, and motion controls
- D-Pad is prone to incorrect inputs
- $70 price tag is a bit steep
Listen, we can't talk about the best Nintendo Switch controllers on the market without first talking about the first-party option, the Switch Pro Controller. The Switch Pro Controller is a great buy for most players with very few faults. For me, it has the best ergonomics among Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony's first-party console video game controllers. It's the perfect size for large hands, and the triggers are shaped just right for resting fingers. The face buttons feel good to press; the +, -, Home, and Screenshot buttons click wonderfully; and the analog sticks have a good amount of tension; it even has motion control included, so you don't have to switch to Joy-Cons for certain Switch games. It's got great battery life, too, and even works with the Switch Lite, if that's something you're looking for. All these advantages make it work brilliantly for most Switch games.
The main problem I have with the Pro Controller is the D-pad. It's prone to incorrect inputs, which is most noticeable when playing puzzle games like Tetris 99 or fighting games like Mortal Kombat 11. This usually happens when you press a direction on the pad, but you're a little off-center, causing an input in the wrong direction. It's not an issue most of the time you're playing with the Switch console, but when I'm playing a game that relies heavily on the D-pad, I always opt for something other than the Switch Pro.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller also boasts a lot of features most third-party controllers rarely include as well as a pretty capable USB-C to USB-A cable. This includes NFC/Amiibo support, HD rumble, and motion controls. These things aren't required for the vast majority of games, but every now and then, a certain utilization of them can put a smile on your face--HD rumble is used excellently in Super Mario Odyssey, for example. However, the Pro Controller's price tag is also $70 USD, which is more expensive than both the DualShock 4 and latest Xbox One controller. There's no doubt the Pro Controller is one of the best Nintendo Switch controllers and one of the best Switch accessories you can buy, but when there are great options at cheaper prices, it's hard to justify buying a second, third, and/or fourth for your friends to use for, say, Smash.
- Extensive button mapping and macro customization, including two new back buttons
- New switches make togging between custom profiles and modes easy
- Adjustable dead-zones for analog sticks and triggers
- Customizable rumble functionality
- Removable, rechargeable battery lasting up to 20 hours
- Allows for the use of two AA batteries instead of the battery pack
- Also doubles as an excellent option for classic games
- Requires a computer to customize controller inputs
For a long time, the 8BitDo SN30 Pro Plus ranked on this list as one of our favorite Switch controllers, but its successor, the 8BitDo Pro 2, improves on the Pro Plus in key ways while retaining its best features. The Pro 2 is, quite simply, the best Switch Pro controller alternative on the market, with a design inspired by the SNES. This Bluetooth gamepad features extensive customization for button mapping, analog sticks, trigger inputs, and vibration adjustments. Notably, the Pro 2 adds two back paddle buttons to give you more control while playing, along with an enhanced grip and more ergonomic shape. It allows you to swap button inputs, invert the X and Y axis on your analog sticks, and more. You can even create macros of up to 18 inputs. All of this customization must be done on a computer screen, but 8Bitdo's customization software is a breeze to use. Plus, this software is now available with Android and iOS as well as PC.
Custom profile switching is another new feature present in the Pro 2, letting you store up to three different profiles that can be switched on the fly with an easily accessible button on the front of the controller. This is joined by a mode switch button on the back, which lets you switch between Switch, macOS, D-Input, and X-Input for quickly pairing to different devices.
My personal favorite thing about this controller is the fact that it includes a removable, rechargeable battery and also allows for disposable batteries. As someone who is currently sitting next to a box of dead PS3 controllers, I'm happy to know there is a great alternative to the Switch's Pro controller that I'll be able to use long after its rechargeable battery dies.
- Great D-pad
- Excellent ergonomics
- Remappable paddles
- Audio port works great for voice chat-enabled games and listening with headphones
- Can hit paddles by accident in some cases
- Can't wake the Switch up from Sleep Mode
When I learned the Switch had a Pro controller alternative that included an audio port, boasted remappable paddles, and only cost $25, I didn't expect much in the way of quality. The PDP Faceoff Deluxe+ wired controller exceeded my expectations and is now one of my favorites to use with the Switch. Holding it, it feels very similar to Nintendo's Pro controller. I don't think any of these controllers beat the Pro controller in pure ergonomics, but this PDP pad comes close. The general shape is the same, but the sticks and triggers come up a touch higher. I like the raised height of the triggers, but I feel like they could have been reshaped a bit to better fit the natural curve of your fingers.
Nevertheless, this hardly ruins the experience. The inclusion of remappable paddles is a fantastic addition. You can map any button to these paddles, and I found it incredibly useful for games that assigned sprint to a face button. In Breath of the Wild, I'm able to sprint, jump, and glide, all while controlling the camera with my thumb firmly planted on the right stick. Of course, this can present some problems in certain games. When switching from Breath of the Wild to Super Mario Maker 2, I would instinctively squeeze the paddle while making some jumps. And unfortunately, there's only one configuration profile and no way to turn the paddles off, so if you don't want to use them, you'll have to go through the short process of mapping them to each other--this makes it so there's no input when pressing them. It's a minor issue, but an annoying one nonetheless.
Thankfully, the PDP Faceoff Deluxe+ feels good enough to deal with the occasional accidental button press. Its analog sticks have similar tension to the Pro controller's, and it has a great D-pad. The 3.5mm audio port is a good option for voice chat in supported games (e.g. Fortnite), though I spent most of my time using the port to listen through my favorite pair of headphones. This works really well, with the ability to control your volume on the controller itself and within the Switch's menu. And with its wired connection, you don't have to worry about its battery dying. Because that wired connection powers the Switch, however, you won't be able to turn the console on from Sleep Mode--you'll have to hit the Power button on your docked Switch before starting to play. As long as you're okay with these few inconveniences, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the Faceoff Deluxe+ wired controller.
- Ergonomic design makes handheld play more comfortable
- More accurate analog sticks than Nintendo's Joy-Cons
- Excellent D-pad
- Bigger face and shoulder buttons
- Easily fits into the dock with Split Pad Pro attached
- Programmable back paddles
- Restricted to handheld use only
- Back paddles can only be programmed to a button on its respective side
- No rumble, motion controls, or NFC reader capability
The Hori Split Pad Pro is the best set of Joy-Cons I've ever played with. As someone with big hands, the small Joy-Cons are extremely uncomfortable to use, basically forcing me to use a grip case whenever I play in handheld. With the Split Pad Pro, I don't need anything else to have a comfortable experience. It's not quite as comfortable as holding a real controller, but the Split Pad Pro has enough extra material to easily fill your hands and make the button placement comfortable to interact with. And as far as the buttons, D-pad, and analog sticks go, I couldn't be happier. The analog sticks offer a smoother, more accurate experience, while the D-Pad is one of the best I've seen for the hybrid console--especially in handheld mode. The Switch is even easier to dock with the Hori Split Pad Pro attached, fitting into its plastic home like a puzzle piece.
However, the Hori Split Pad Pro does have its downsides. With the lack of any kind of rumble or motion controls, I was left wondering if I was missing out on any specific features in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening--some Switch games, like Cadence of Hyrule, use HD rumble in critical ways. After looking through articles online, I convinced myself I wasn't, but that uncertainty will likely rear its head with each new game. Another minor annoyance is the inability to map both back paddles to the ABXY face buttons. The Split Pad Pro can only be used in handheld mode because the controllers have no way of communicating wirelessly--with the Switch or each other. This leaves the left paddle with limited options for remapping; I couldn't find a good use for the left paddle that was more convenient than just pushing the D-Pad. Of course, with this being a pair of Joy-Cons that need to be attached to the console, it doesn't work with the Switch dock, either (we recommend a screen protector since you're going to be spending a lot of time in handheld mode when it's not charging on the Switch dock).
Despite these few shortcomings, I can't see myself returning to Nintendo's official Joy-Cons. The added size of the Split Pad Pro would be enough, but the smoother analog sticks, superior D-Pad, and bigger buttons make me excited for the next time I play my Switch.
- A great, convenient option for a D-Pad in handheld mode
- Very comfortable for games that excel with a D-pad
- Restricted to handheld use only
- Incompatible with most cases and grips
- Doesn't come with a matching right controller
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Switch Joy-Con as a game controller is the lack of a proper D-Pad on its left Joy-Con. It's not an automatic dealbreaker, with games like Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate not utilizing the D-pad for anything super demanding, but when the situation calls for it, the Hori D-Pad Joy-Con feels a lot more precise and comfortable when playing in handheld mode without having to resort to a fully alternate gamepad.
The D-pad on Hori's Joy-Con is softer than what I usually look for, but it's hard to deny just how pleasant the experience is. I didn't realize how much I missed a D-pad until I used this to play games like Mortal Kombat 11, Tetris 99, and Super Mario Maker 2. These games, as well as many others, have since been a lot more enjoyable in handheld mode.
There are a few things that are important to note, however. First off, this Joy-Con can't be used wirelessly, so you're restricted to using it in handheld mode. Secondly, it's incompatible with most cases and grips. This is because the latch button protrudes out further than the official Nintendo Joy-Cons. I took a pair of scissors and cut out a space for it on my cheap Orzly grip case, but I likely won't be doing the same to my more expensive accessories. Finally, you should note that you'll only get one left controller--there's not matching right controller included.
- Wide range of designs from popular Nintendo franchises and more
- Supports motion controls and mappable buttons
- Comfortable ergonomic design is extremely similar to Switch Pro Controller
- Build quality feels cheap compared to other brands
- Uses two AA batteries, not rechargeable (unless you use your own rechargeable batteries)
- No support for HD rumble, IR, or Amiibo NFC
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller is an honorable mention when it comes to discussing Switch Pro Controller alternatives. Though it can't stand up to the Pro 2's build quality and customization, this controller is a nice alternative to PDP's Faceoff Deluxe+ if you're looking for a wireless option. PowerA has outdone itself when it comes to the range of designs available for the Enhanced Wireless Controller, with bold and striking designs themed after Nintendo franchises and other popular series, from Mario and Zelda to Cuphead, Spyro, and The Witcher. Priced at $50, you'll often find nice deals on older designs at Amazon as well.
Build-wise, the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller is simply lacking compared to some other controllers on this list. It feels lighter and cheaper than the Pro Controller, the joysticks are slightly taller, and the D-pad is slightly further in. Overall, the controller looks and feels quite similar to the first-party option with a comfortable, ergonomic design and standard button layout, but it lacks that premium feel. You do get two mappable rear buttons and support for motion controls, but not HD rumble, IR, or Amiibo NFC. Finally, this model runs on AA batteries and can't be recharged similar to the Pro Controller, though you could use rechargeable AA batteries in it.
Ultimately, we love the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller for its unmatched range of themed designs and its overall similarities to the Pro Controller with a cheaper price tag, though we don't recommend picking this up to be your main Switch controller. Instead, make this your second or third Switch controller that you pick up for multiplayer sessions or for when your Pro Controller needs to charge.
- Fantastic D-pad and ergonomics
- Connects directly to Nintendo Switch
- Also compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, and Raspberry Pi
- Not suitable for all games
8BitDo's M30 controller might just be one of my favorite pads ever. As a Sega Genesis kid, I've always held a special place in my heart for the six-button controller, which is what the M30 emulates and improves on. Its ergonomics have been shaped differently to make it more comfortable to hold than the Sega original, and the D-pad is by far my favorite of any 8BitDo controller. Classic titles, platformers, and fighting games are the obvious choice for the M30, but I've also found myself enjoying Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with it. It's definitely not going to work with every game, especially those that rely on a second analog stick, but it's a controller I'll always go to if it's possible to do so.
- Better shoulder buttons than the subscription-exclusive NES Joy-Cons
- Includes a Home button
- Connects directly to Nintendo Switch
- Also compatible with retro receivers and USB adapters
- Not suitable for all games
The 8Bitdo N30 isn't going to be for everyone. It's an NES-style controller that is great for very specific games, like everything in the Switch Online NES library and very few others. I prefer the NES controller's shape and button layout for that console's games, but in trying to find other uses for the N30, I was largely unsuccessful. Even modern Tetris games like Tetris 99 and Puyo Puyo Tetris require more than the D-pad and B and A buttons--the extra two face buttons on the N30 are restricted to Turbo. The N30 includes shoulder buttons for L and R, which does extend the number of games it can be used with (e.g. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe), but the options are still limited.
I mostly use my N30 in conjunction with a retro receiver that lets me use it with real NES hardware and RetroUSB's AVS. It's my new favorite pad for that console. It's also an excellent option for the Switch, but it's not necessary to enjoy any game, NES or not. However, if you are looking for that very specific NES experience, I can wholeheartedly recommend the N30. Nintendo's own NES Switch controllers are good, but they have inferior shoulder buttons and need to be charged the same way as your Joy-Cons--not to mention, the Nintendo Switch Online subscription that's required before you can even purchase them. With all this considered, the N30 is perfect for the job, if you can find it in stock.
- Enables use of a DualSense, DualShock 4, Bluetooth-enabled Xbox controller, Wii U Pro, Wiimote, DualShock 3, and any compatible 8Bitdo controller
- Easy to set up
- Some games can cause abnormal vibration, which requires firmware updates to fix
- Can't wake up the Switch from Sleep Mode
The first time I plugged the 8Bitdo Bluetooth adapter into my Switch console dock, it felt like black magic. I was using my DualShock 4 on a Nintendo platform, hitting Circle when it asked for A, Cross when it asked for B. And when it asked for X? You guessed it: Triangle. There was definitely a period of getting used to what buttons I should be pressing for each input the Switch requested, but once this passed, the adapter proved an excellent way to use not just the DualShock 4, but a wide array of Bluetooth-enabled controllers that don't already connect to the Switch directly.
Of course, any controller you'll use with this adapter won’t include features like HD rumble, motion controls, or Amiibo support. These losses are negligible for the vast majority of experiences, especially when using your favorite Bluetooth controller is the trade-off. One downside to this adapter, however, is a rumble issue that crops up with certain games. Most recently, I've experienced this with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, where your controller will vibrate abnormally even if you turn off rumble in the Switch’s system settings. This issue has been fixed for games like Splatoon 2 and Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy, though this requires you to plug the adapter into a computer to update the firmware. If you want a cheap way to have a great controller work with your Switch console, this is the gizmo to buy.
- Hand grips are extremely comfortable
- Shoulder buttons fit nicely to the curve of your fingers
- Interchangeable C-stick is great for different types of games
- Wired connection offers latency-free controls
- D-pad is small like the original GameCube controller
- Can't wake the Switch up from Sleep Mode
The classic GameCube controller is an iconic one, especially if you have vivid memories of playing Super Smash Bros. Melee. If you'd rather play all of your new Nintendo Switch games with something resembling a GameCube controller, PDP's line of Wired Fight Pad Pro controllers are among the best GameCube-style controllers out there, and that's thanks to PDP not being afraid to change the classic pad. The Fight Pad Pro's grips are longer than the GameCube's, making for more comfortable ergonomics that fit better in the palm of your hands. All of the shoulder buttons have also been modernized, with ZL and ZR forming nicely to the curve of your index fingers. Lastly, you're able to remove the C-stick's nub and replace it with a proper GameCube-style analog nub.
All of these changes make it easier to enjoy the GameCube's classic shape and unique button placement in a more modern design. The only downside to the controller's design is the size of the D-pad, something the original GameCube pad suffered from as well. The Fight Pad Pro is designed with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in mind, and it works great for it, but thanks to the interchangeable C-stick and the more comfortable shoulder buttons and grips, it's a great controller for games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, too.
- Very similar to the original GameCube controller
- Adds a larger D-pad and extra shoulder button
- Easy to connect the wireless version to Switch
- Wireless version can wake the Switch up from Sleep mode
- Nice selection of designs
- Wired version can't wake the Switch up from Sleep mode
PowerA's GameCube-style controller feels very similar to Nintendo’s original controller with its shape and size; however, that doesn't mean it's without changes. The biggest difference is the larger D-pad, which makes it better suited for games like 2D platformers or fighting games--though there are still controllers with better D-pads out there if you're looking for one. Thankfully, where PowerA's controller excels is with games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
PowerA's GameCube-style controller isn't as comfortable as PDP's take on the pad, but it is much more similar to Nintendo's original design. If you're looking for a controller that is nearly identical to the GameCube's--but with some modern niceties--then PowerA's pad is a good option.
- Joystick feels sturdy and accurate
- Buttons are very satisfying to push and click
- Ability to swap between D-pad and analog stick control
- Features buttons for every Switch function
- Turbo option
- Also works for PC
- No way to detach or replace cable
- Replacing parts isn't as easy or accessible as other sticks
As far as high-end fight sticks go for the Nintendo Switch, you don't have a lot of choices. Thankfully, Hori's experience in making quality sticks has carried over to Nintendo's hybrid The Badole. The Real Arcade Pro V fight stick is an excellent option that excels with fighting games but is also capable of controlling most games on the console, thanks to a switch that lets you swap between D-pad and analog stick controls as well as buttons for every function the platform features. This makes it a great option for accessibility in addition to being particularly excellent for punching and kicking dudes in the middle of a tense fight.
The one problem I have with the stick is the fact that it's not especially easy to take apart and replace specific components. You need a screwdriver to get to the components, while other companies have opted for easily accessible compartments. Other than that, the RAP V Hayabusa is a fantastic fight stick at a great price point, and if you're looking for one that'll work with your Switch (and PC), then you won't be disappointed.
- Great stick for the price
- Despite being "mini," it's not too small for big hands
- Rubber feet keep fight stick from moving around on surfaces
- Works well for all fighting games
- Turbo function
- No way to change the joystick from D-pad control to analog sticks
- Cheap price means cheaper components
If you're somebody who plays fighting games but has been hesitant to drop the serious amount of money that's required for a high-end fight stick, then Hori's Fighting Stick Mini is a great beginner's stick. Despite its cheap price and lightweight form factor, it's perfectly capable of keeping you in the fight--I tested it with Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, Ultra Street Fighter IV, and Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid across Switch and PC to great success.
Because the Fighting Stick Mini is much cheaper than higher-end sticks, it's questionable whether its components will last the punishment a fighting game fan can dish out. The lack of features is a tad disappointing as well, especially the inability to swap the joystick's control from the D-pad to the analog sticks. Despite all that, the Fighting Stick Mini performed well in the midst of fights, and that cheaper price tag makes it hard to ignore. There's no denying that it's an excellent option for beginners or even parents looking to introduce their kids to fighting games.
- Comfortable shape and size
- Buttons feel more like traditional controllers instead of typical fight pads
- Secure wired connection
- Interchangeable faceplates
- Ability to swap between D-pad and analog stick control
- Only suitable for fighting games and other 2D-focused titles
- Limited compatibility with PC
There aren't a lot of options for fight pads on the Switch, and while there are a number of retro controllers that make for great fighting game pads, there's always something you're giving up, whether it's a pair of shoulder buttons or control over the analog sticks. PowerA's wired Fusion Fight Pad solves these problems with a dedicated switch that lets you swap between D-pad and left and right analog stick control--it also features all four shoulder buttons. The pad itself resembles that of the Sega Saturn, which is one of the best controllers for fighting games and 2D platformers ever. The Fusion Fight Pad doesn't quite reach those heights, but it's still a great option if you're looking for a versatile controller.
The Fusion Fight Pad performed beautifully with all of the Switch fighting games I tested it with, though there was limited compatibility on PC--some games didn't work at all, while others required me to remap some controls. The buttons are stiffer than those of most fight pads, so the first impressions weren't great, but when it came to actually playing, that stiffness wasn’t an issue. The Fusion is very comfortable in the hands, and while it's not a perfect match for the Saturn, it still feels familiar and good because of the similarities. If you're looking for a proper fight pad for the Switch, then PowerA's Fusion Fight Pad is sure to impress, especially if you're a fan of more traditional controller buttons.
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