Wednesday , September 15 2021

Best Nintendo Switch controller for 2021

Save some cash while upping your stats with these Nintendo Switch gamepads.

The Nintendo Switch‘s Pro controller is far superior to the company’s smaller Joy-Con controllers for more demanding games. (Drift issues aside, the Joy-Cons are good for simple multiplayer games.) The Switch Pro controller has actual grips and is more comfortable. When you’re in the heat of the moment, the full D-pad and larger buttons help you find the right controls. All of Nintendo’s controller features like HD Rumble, NFC for Amiibo scanning and motion controls are supported, and it works with or without wires. It’s great, but it’s also regularly priced between $60 and $70. 

A number of cheaper third-party Switch Pro-like controllers are available for a lesser price. That’s why we tested out several options to find the best Switch controller you can buy right now. Nintendo’s official game controller still leads the way in button feel and comfort, but some of these alternatives do come close.

Aside from lower prices, going with a third-party Switch Pro controller has some advantages. For example, some have a Turbo button for faster firing rates or mappable buttons to make certain commands easier to trigger. Plus, a few of the ones we chose can be used with MacOS, Windows and Android, too. We’ll update this list periodically as we try new products. For even more options, check out GameSpot’s recommendations

As I said above, if you can afford to get the official Switch Pro Controller, do it. It’s the best you can get at the moment in terms of comfort, performance and features. And if you need to buy more than one controller, maybe get this one for yourself and one of the less expensive options below for visiting friends and family.

The PowerA wireless controller comes closest to the feel and design of Nintendo’s Pro controller, and you can normally get it for $40 to $50, depending on the design, from Amazon, Best Buy and other sources. The PowerA wireless controller doesn’t have HD Rumble, IR or Amiibo NFC support like the Switch Pro controller does, but it does have motion controls. It’s also available in game-themed versions including new ones with Grookey, Sobble and Scorbunny (pictured) from Pokemon Sword and Shield.

Its one added feature is two extra buttons on the bottom of the controller that can be mapped on the fly. It runs on AA-size batteries, which some people don’t like. I get that, but I like not worrying about running out of power while playing and I use rechargeable AAs so I don’t burn through disposables. Also, since the battery isn’t built in, you don’t have to trash the controller once the battery stops holding a charge.

If you like to customize, this Bluetooth controller is for you. Using 8BitDo’s Ultimate software, you can remap buttons, adjust stick and trigger sensitivity as well as vibration control and easily create macros for complicated button combinations. The left-hand controls are flipped so the layout is more like a PlayStation controller, but everything feels good and responsive. It’s comfortable, too, although the black-on-black design makes the button labels near-impossible to see, but other colors are available

The 8BitDo SN30 Pro Plus Bluetooth Gamepad controller, which normally sells for $50, works with the Nintendo Switch console, Android, Windows and MacOS. Another nice feature: Its rechargeable battery pack can be easily swapped out for a new one so you can keep playing if the included one runs down or no longer holds a charge.

It’s like the regular PowerA Enhanced controller except smaller. The $50 Nano has the look, feel and features of the larger model including motion controls, rumble (not HD rumble, though) and mappable buttons. It runs on a built-in rechargeable battery instead of replaceable AA cells, though. A six-foot USB-C cable is included for charging; you’ll get up to 20 hours on a single charge.

The Nano is designed for travel (it even comes with a nice little pouch for storage), but it’s also good for kids or anyone with smaller hands. Also, while the shell is more compact, the buttons are full size, which is generally great. However, in a couple of games where I was button mashing furiously, I would regularly miss the Y button and hit the Home button instead — not great if you’re in the middle of a battle. At least the mappable buttons on the back of the controller made a workaround possible. 

One other minor point: I noticed the Bluetooth range on mine is a couple of feet shy of the full-size version’s range. It’s something easily solved by sitting a bit closer to the Switch and an acceptable compromise for an on-the-go Pro-style controller.

Want something a little more retro, but not as retro as a joystick or arcade stick? The $45 full-featured ergonomic design of the SN30 Bluetooth Gamepad controller makes it a more travel-friendly Nintendo Switch Pro controller alternative. And there are no mushy buttons here: Everything feels firm and responsive. It can be programmed for use with Android, Windows and MacOS, too.

It’s wired, but the $17 Horipad is one of the more comfortable controllers we tested, and its buttons and sticks feel nice, too. But, while it does have a Turbo button, it lacks vibration and motion control. Its D-pad isn’t a true pad, but a plastic piece that snaps on over four discrete buttons. It works fine, but the fact that it’s a wired controller might be a deal-breaker for some. Currently, the black version of the controller is tough to find at its normal price but you can find it in blue and red. 

The Insten falls under “You get what you pay for” for me but, for what it’s worth, it’s the favorite of my 8- and 10-year-olds. It’s just a basic wireless controller with aggressive dual-shock vibration. It’s comfortable but feels cheap and flimsy. To be fair, though, the controller did survive a high-velocity altercation with my TV and I can’t say the same for the TV. The best part about the Insten is the price, especially if you want multiple controllers: You can pick up a two-pack for less than $50, though it’s currently sold out.

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This Article was first published on cnet.com

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