Eenie Meenie Miny Controller!
Make no mistake, Nintendo has designed an excellent piece of technology in the Nintendo Switch.
The console has been wildly popular over the last couple of years, owing to the variety of first party and third party games available, and the versatility of the console. However, because Nintendo has designed the Switch to be portable, what it gains in function, it misses out in form.
Problem with Joy-Cons
The Joy-Cons, designed to fit the relatively small console and to be able to split into single controllers, lacks in a couple of areas. For one, its Analog Sticks and single Joy-Con body can be too tiny for users with larger hands to use comfortably. That, coupled with the infamous “drift” issue, can make Joy-Con usage a rather frustrating event, especially for those who use the Nintendo Switch as a home console primarily.
The Joy-Cons are simply not suited for home gaming and prolonged usage (read: abuse, because using more force means your character is stronger or faster right?). While the console does come with a Joy-Con Grip, it by no means solves the issues of the small Analog Sticks, or drifting. Even wanting to charge your Joy-Cons while you play requires the use of an additional accessory.
It is no surprise then that many gamers turn to Pro Controllers or alternative Controllers to alleviate their problems, and make their gaming experience more enjoyable on the whole. We’re here today to give you the down low on the better controllers out there on the market, both budget and otherwise.
Let’s kick off the list with some wireless controllers that would give you a run for your money.
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
The first party Nintendo Controller. Its rubberized grips and shape of the controller makes for a comfortable gaming experience. Its Analog Sticks are just the right size, and its button layout is like the Xbox, with its D-pad below the Analog Stick.
It comes with all the functions of a Joy-Con, like NFC reader, HD Rumble, Motion Controls, and has Wired and Wireless Support. Its battery life is no joke, with a whopping 40 hours on a full charge (Of course expect this to reduce slightly with prolonged usage and recharges).
So if this is the perfect controller, why should we continue down the list at all? Because of two things.
The first is its D-Pad.
It features a traditional D-Pad rather than the individual directional buttons of the Joy-Cons. But for some reason, its D-Pad tends to be “mushy”. What we mean is instead of a satisfying input feedback like you would get from other brand’s D-Pads, pressing down on the Pro Controller’s D-Pad at the wrong angle can feel like it did not register properly, and sometimes will even trigger unintended directional inputs. An example is pressing “down” will sometimes trigger “left” or “right” inputs and for games which require precise button inputs, this can be a pain.
The other main reason is of course, budget. The standard Pro Controller will cost you $99 +/- depending on where you get it from, and for special editions of the controller, it would cost more. So for users on a tight budget (we understand, purchasing the console itself already makes your wallet cry), we have a couple of above average controllers to recommend that won’t burn as massive a hole in your pocket.
Gulikit King Kong Pro Controller
The name of this controller makes it seem like a beast (ha), but when you look at it this controller is as sleek and minimalist in design as they come. Its buttons faces are all various shades of black, with silver for its shoulder buttons and the balls of its Analog Sticks.
In terms of features, this comes pretty close to the original Pro Controller, and more! It supports Amiibo connection and Motion Controls, and while it does not have HD Rumble, it does have Adjustable Vibration Settings.
Additional features includes Adjustable Sensitivity on both its ZR and ZL buttons and Analog Stick, a Turbo Mode, customizable Button Mapping and a Macro button which can record inputs for up to 10 minutes.
Its battery life is 10 hours, and it supports native connection to Windows, Steam, and Android via Bluetooth, no software installation needed. It connects via a USB-C Cable for wired connection or charging.
The one thing we do have to mention for this controller is that the way the grip and back face is built makes it slightly awkward for our hands to press on the shoulder buttons. This is something to take note of as it might start to affect your hands after long hours of gameplay.
The King Kong Pro Controller comes at a retail price of $63.90 (again, will vary +/- depending on where you get it from), which is $30 less than the Pro Controller.
It does have a “younger brother” version of a controller retailing for just $49.90, the Gulikit King Kong Controller. The non-pro version does not support Amiibo, cannot adjust stick or shoulder button sensitivity, does not support motion controls on PC/Android and its Macro button can record inputs for up to 10 seconds.
8BitDo SN30 Pro+ Bluetooth Gamepad
Those familiar with the 8BitDo brand can tell you that this is a solid brand which makes solid controllers, and it so happens we are familiar with the brand. 8BitDo prides itself on playing on your nostalgia, with a majority of its products adapting a retro look, most noticeably Nintendo’s retro consoles. But copyright aside (they actually got copyright claimed), one of their recent gamepads is a close rival to the Pro Controller.
The 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ Bluetooth Gamepad comes in 3 different colours, Black, SN Edition (a reference to Super Nintendo), and G Classic Edition (Gameboy Classic).
Its grip feels comfortable and just right, something you could hold for hours without any noticeable discomfort. It opts for a completely flat face as compared to the slightly curved faces of the previous two controllers. This gives it an old school vibe, like playing on an NES or SNES controller, but with better grip support.
It does not support Amiibo, and does not have HD Rumble, but it does have a modifiable Vibration Feature. It has Motion Controls. And let’s be honest, the lack of an NFC reader (Amiibo support) isn’t that important a feature because you have it in your Joy-Cons anyway.
Additional features includes Button Mapping, Adjustable Sensitivity on Analog Sticks and Trigger Buttons, as previously mentioned Modifiable Vibration Intensity, Macro Mapping and a Turbo Function.
It can last up to 20 hours on a full charge, and can connect to Windows, Android, macOS, Steam and Raspberry Pi via Bluetooth which gives it a slight edge over its competition. 8BitDo themselves provides regular updates for the controller as well, and while that is a good thing, just take note it will require you to connect to the PC for updates.
The great thing about this controller is that it does not have any glaring faults, but here are just a few things to take note of. Because of the regular updates, sometimes buttons or connections might stop working if your controller is not up to date, and there might be bugs in some of the updates which will require you to wait for the next patch to fix (but you could always roll back to a previous version).
The D-Pad is above the Analog Stick ala Dualshock style, so if you are someone who needs their Analog Stick to be placed like the Pro Controller, this might deter you.
The SN30 Pro+ retails at $65.90 which is roughly the same price as the Gulikit King Kong Pro.
It does have a couple of other “lesser” models which is cheaper, but in terms of function, this would be the best.
Nyko Wireless Core Controller
Nyko is a notable brand for the Switch in particular, even though they make accessories for other platforms as well. Their products are widely used on the market, and they continue to make innovative and interesting advancements with their peripherals. Today we will be bringing up the Wireless Core Controller.
Originally starting with a standard black edition, the Core Controller line has grown to include interesting colours like Transparent, Blue, Purple, Green, Red and even White. The controller leans towards the light side, and the form is comfortable to grip.
Again it does not support Amiibo, but it does have Motion Controls, Vibration and a Turbo Feature.
It is compatible with Android devices via Bluetooth. However, it requires a wired PC connection. It connects via Type-C USB. Its battery life is 20 hours.
A plus point is that its Analog Sticks are concave, meaning your thumb will fit snugly and not move around too much when using it.
One thing we did take note of is that the Analog Sticks felt a bit tight, snapping back to its default position a bit too forceful for our liking, perhaps making precise aiming a bit more difficult.
The colour choices might seem a little off-putting to some, but you can always fall back to black.
The Wireless Core Controller retails for $45.90, about half the price of a regular Pro Controller. This makes it an ideal budget controller for you, while not missing out on most of the important features.
Of course we can’t mention third party controllers without mentioning the most "first party" third party brand, Hori. Hori makes accessories that are licensed, essentially rising them to the “first party” status.
The controller we are going to mention today is the Wireless HORIPAD series. In terms of look, this controller in our opinion wins. Because of Hori’s licenced status, it can pull designs from Nintendo’s most popular IPs like Mario, Zelda and even Pokémon, so you can rep your favourite games.
It’s slightly larger than the Pro Controller, so those with smaller hands take note. In terms of layout, it’s the same as the traditional Pro Controller, so users will feel right at home.
Features is where this controller loses out a little to its competition. It does not support Amiibo, and actually has no Rumble at all, although it does retains Motion Controls. The lack of rumble may be a deal breaker for some as playing without a vibration feature may feel odd for gamers who like immersion.
In terms of additional features, this controller has none, no Macros, no Turbo and no Button Mapping features. To put it simply, it is a no frills alternative to the Pro Controller with a better look. It has a battery life of 15 hours.
On average it is around $20 cheaper than the regular Pro Controller depending on where you look, with some more popular designs like Pikachu costing pretty much the same as the Pro Controller. If you have the cash to burn, you could bag yourself a cool controller.
The useful thing about Wireless Controllers is that even though you use them primarily at home, you have the option of taking them out with you and using it outside easily. Of course, there are users out there who keep their Nintendo Switch as a home console, never taking it out of the dock. For those of you who do just that, we have some Wired Controllers to recommend.
Hori yet again takes the stage with its Wired Controller, but this time, with some added features.
The Wired HORIPAD controller has a Turbo function and a Detachable D-Pad adapter so you can switch from a full D-Pad to individual directional buttons if you so wish. Sadly, Amiibo support, Motion Controls and Vibration functions are missing from this controller.
The cable length is 10 feet or approximately 3m.
This is slightly cheaper than the Wireless Controller, going for $65.90.
PDP Faceoff Wired Pro Controller
Another noteworthy Wired Controller is the PDP Faceoff Controller. Also licensed by Nintendo, this controller features a fun gimmick, the faceplate of the controller can be swapped out for another design. For users who like to customize, this might be a useful feature as the controller has Mario and Luigi style faceplates.
Again, sadly this lacks Motion Controls or a Vibration feature, but it does have Turbo.
The cable length is 8 feet or approximately 2.4m.
This controller retails for $46.90.
Of course, there are a bunch of other controllers to explore out there, with a bunch of other cool features, so don’t take our word for it, look for a controller that fits your particular needs. However, if we were to recommend one from the list, the 8BitDo controller would be our favourite, where function and form blend well together with an affordable price to boot!
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