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Best Nintendo Switch controllers in 2021

Best Nintendo Switch controllers in 2021
(Image credit: Future)

The best Nintendo Switch controllers aren't only an escape from long-running Joy-Con drift issues. The proper controller can help refine your competitive edge in Super Smash Bros., or add an extra layer of immersion when emulating older Nintendo classics. 

For several console generations, Nintendo has been in a league of its own when it comes to innovating peripherals. That being said, the company occasionally thinks so far outside of the box that simple things like comfort are overlooked. A prime example is the Nintendo 64 controller’s trident-esque design, a peripheral seemingly designed for those among us with three hands.

While (drift-issues aside) the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons are incredible bits of tech — offering fantastic motion and local multiplayer support — there are a slew of alternative controllers that offer anything from nostalgic authenticity to enhanced ergonomic support. After combing through an extensive list of both proprietary and third-party peripherals, we’ve narrowed down our favorites to highlight the best Nintendo Switch controllers.

What are the best Nintendo Switch Controllers?

If you’re looking for a controller that doesn’t sacrifice the Switch’s motion controls, HD Rumble, or amiibo functionality, then Nintendo already has you covered. The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller retains a host of features available through the Joy-Cons in a new, more conventional design. Evocative of the Xbox Wireless Controller in terms of layout and general shape, the Switch Pro Controller’s comfort, features, and performance make it our top pick for the best Nintendo Switch Controller.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

The Nintendo Switch, unlike other eighth-generation consoles, was designed with both home and portable gaming in mind. This makes the Switch the most versatile console available, but it can leave you feeling heavily reliant on the Joy-Cons when it comes to hand-held usage. However, the Hori Split Pad Pro is ideal if you’re looking to take your hand-held gaming up a notch. The Joy-Con alternative is chunkier, easier to handle, and more spacious in its button placements. The inclusion of a true D-pad is another welcome addition that rounds off the Hori Split Pad Pro as the ideal controller for hand-held gamers who don’t want to compromise on comfort or performance.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that you already own the best Nintendo Switch controller without realizing it. Thanks to devices like the MAYFLASH Magic-NS, your favorite Bluetooth-enabled peripherals from other systems can now be used with the Nintendo Switch — including the PS5’s DualSense controller. It’s a great way to enjoy your favorite Nintendo games without having to adjust to a different control layout at a fraction of the price of picking up a new controller.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

1. Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Best Nintendo Switch controller

Reasons to buy
+HD Rumble and motion controls+Amiibo support+Familiar, ergonomic design
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack-Pricey

There’s no use in denying that Nintendo’s Joy-Cons are fantastic pick-up-and-play peripherals for party and casual multiplayer games. However, when it comes to more demanding titles, their cramped buttons and small frame are far from ideal. Nintendo’s solution? The Switch Pro Controller. As a more traditional take on the console controller, the Switch Pro Controller features full-sized thumbsticks, a four-direction D-pad, and a more spacious layout similar to that of the Xbox Wireless Controller. Its ergonomic design allows for comfort over longer periods of use, and the familiar layout allows for muscle memory reactions with greater precision. 

The Switch Pro Controller uses the same battery as Nintendo’s previous Pro Controller for the Wii U. However, with more advanced features, such as HD Rumble, an NFC touchpoint, and motion controls, the Switch Pro Controller doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Wii U Pro controllers' 80-hour lifespan. Still, the 1,300 mAh lithium-ion battery will double the life of the Switch’s Joy-Cons, with approximately 40 hours of usage from a 6-hour charge.

Picking the Switch Pro Controller will set you back $69.99; it's a steep price, but not much more expensive than similar PlayStation or Xbox peripherals. This is a solid investment for anyone who takes their gaming seriously, whether you’re looking to save the kingdom of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild or chasing down that next victory royale in Fortnite.

(Image credit: 8bitdo)

2. 8Bitdo SN30 Pro

Best Nintendo Switch controller for retro gaming

Reasons to buy
+Highly rated D-pad+Nostalgia evoking design+Rumble and motion controls
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack-No amiibo support

As third-party controllers go, the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro is among the most highly rated. Not only does it sport a fantastic and responsive D-pad, but the SNES-like appearance and layout make playing through Nintendo Online’s classic game library a nostalgia-laden joy.

While you’ll have to forgo amiibo compatibility and HD rumble, the SN30 Pro does have standard rumble and motion control functions. The controller’s retro Super Nintendo style has also been modernized with two clickable thumbsticks and additional shoulder buttons, along with the capture and home buttons. These are subtle changes that don’t spoil the overall retro aesthetic and increase the SN30 Pro’s versatility as an all-around controller.

The SN30 Pro’s $55.99 price tag might seem daunting at first, but behind its retro design is a wholly competent and responsive controller that can easily rival the Switch Pro Controller in all but HD Rumble and amiibo support.

(Image credit: Hori)

3. HORI Split Pad Pro

Best hand-held Nintendo Switch controller

Reasons to buy
+Familiar, ergonomic design+Good accessibility options+Rear-facing buttons+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-No motion controls, amiibo support, or rumble

Joy-Cons are great, but they aren't particularly comfortable. In terms of sheer ergonomics, the Switch’s default controllers have a long way to go to catch up to console contemporaries like the Xbox Wireless Controller or Sony’s DualSense. While the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is more in line with those peripherals, hand-held users seem to be getting the short end of the stick.

Enter the HORI Split Pad Pro, a full-sized controller experience in Joy-Con form. With its larger analog sticks, sturdy D-pad, and a well-spaced familiar layout, the Split Pad Pro is ideal for some serious on-the-go gaming. Vastly improving on the ergonomics of the standard Joy-Cons, the Split Pad Pro features chunkier grips that make holding the Switch for longer periods more comfortable. There’s even a host of accessibility options, including reassignable buttons, rear-facing inputs, and two turbo functions.

While the Split Pad Pro doesn’t include rumble feedback, motion controls, or amiibo support, it’s well worth the $49.99 asking price as a no-frills Joy-Con alternative. If you’re looking for a richer hand-held experience when it comes to the Switch, look no further.

(Image credit: PowerA)

4. PowerA Wired Controller

Best budget Nintendo Switch controller

Reasons to buy
+Wide variety of designs+10ft detachable cable+Low cost
Reasons to avoid
-Sub-par D-pad-No rumble, motion control, or amiibo support

If you’re looking for a simple, no-frills controller that won’t cost much, the PowerA Wired Controller could be the ticket. Available in a wide range of vibrant designs and colors, the PowerA Wired Controller can be found for as little as $15 on Amazon.

However, that price does have several drawbacks as rumble, motion controls and amiibo support are all missing. As the name implies, the PowerA Wired Controller has no wireless option, though its sizable 10-foot cable can be detached for easier storage.

The PowerA Wired Controller is very similar to the Switch Pro Controller in terms of layout and shape. Buttons are well spaced and two full-size thumbsticks will offer you more precision than the ones found on the default Joy-Cons. And while the D-pad won’t amaze you, it will suffice for most games that don’t rely on it too heavily. As budget controllers go, the PowerA Wired Controller is decent value and a simple plug-and-play device that would make a serviceable backup or guest controller.

(Image credit: Mayflash)

5. MAYFLASH F500 Elite

Best Nintendo Switch controller for fighting games

Reasons to buy
+Sanwa components+Sturdy build+Turbo switch
Reasons to avoid
-Rumble requires an additional wrist strap-Expensive

The Switch is home to many fantastic fighting and arcade titles, so why not make the most of them with the MAYFLASH F500 Elite? This arcade stick consists of nine highly responsive buttons and a precision four-way joystick — all of which are high-quality Sanwa components. The F500 Elite has ample space for wrist support, and its top and bottom metal plates give the controller enough weight to feel secure both in your lap or on a tabletop.

The MAYFLASH F500 Elite costs a whopping $144.99, a price reflective of its premium Sanwa inputs. There are cheaper options available but they are usually built from less responsive components. Similarly outfitted arcade sticks can often cost north of $200, making the F500 Elite one of the best price-to-performance arcade sticks available.

(Image credit: Mayflash)

6. MAYFLASH Magic-NS

Best Nintendo Switch controller alternative

Reasons to buy
+Cheap+Large compatibility pool+Works with USB and wireless controllers
Reasons to avoid
-Not all controllers support rumble or motion controls-Only supports one device at a time

No prizes for noticing that the MAYFLASH Magic-NS isn’t actually a controller. Instead, this Bluetooth adapter allows you to take your favorite USB or Bluetooth wireless controllers from other platforms and use them freely with the Nintendo Switch. The list of compatible controllers is impressive. With support for PlayStation peripherals alone, it spans from the DualShock 3 right through to the PS5’s new DualSense controller. 

It’s worth pointing out that not all controllers are compatible with motion controls, and that each adapter can only support one controller. However, for only $19.99, the Magic-NS is an easy, cost-effective way of making use of controllers you already own without having to buy something new.