So, you have a Nintendo Switch and are planning to buy yourself a new controller. Which one should you buy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each one? Well, let´s take a look.
Nintendo offers two types of controllers for its hybrid console:
Joy-Con: The default controller, each Switch (but not the Switch Lite) comes with two Joy-Con, a left one (with a – button) and a right one (with a + button).
Depending on the game, they can be combined into one gamepad or used separately. The Joy-Con is wireless, and it needs to be charged along with the Nintendo Switch in the Dock, or with an independent charging station.
The Joy-Con boasts several additional functionalities. They can rumble, serves as an Amiibo reader and have motion controls, which have a lot of games that use them on the Nintendo Switch.
Some games are only compatible with the Joy-Con. They are party games like Super Mario Party or title made to take advantage of a peculiar control scheme, like The World Ends With You.
Click on the image below to check out the Joy-Con at Amazon:
Pro Controller: The Pro Controller is a gamepad similar to its peers on the Xbox and the PlayStation. Its ergonomic design makes it comfortable for long hours of play. Plus, it packs the same features as the Joycon; An Amiibo reader, rumble (but not HD rumble) and motion controls (albeit a bit different than the Joy-Con).
The Pro Controller is wireless by default but can be connected to the Switch with a USB-C cable. The controller charges itself while connected, so you don´t have to worry about batteries while playing.
Click on the image below to go to Amazon´s page for the Pro Controller:
These were the two controllers made by Nintendo, however, there are some third-party alternatives that might interest you. For example:
Arcade Stick: These types of controllers are meant to emulate arcade cabinets. Made especially for fighting games, they can be clunky if you try to use them on other types of games.
If you love classic fighting games and are looking forward to playing Dragon Ball Figtherz, Mortal Kombat or Pokken competitively, a stick is the controller for you.
The best entry-level stick that you can buy for the Switch is the Fighting Stick Mini:
Faceoff Deluxe Wired Pro Controller: This third party gamepad is similar to the Pro Controller but without the ability to play wirelessly.
Why would you choose this controller over the official alternative? Because it has a built-in jack for headphones, so you can plug them in to listen to the game without bothering anyone else.
If your headset comes with a built-in mic, you use the voice chat in games like Fortnite or Splatoon without relying on Nintendo´s app (however, unlike its counterparts on PC and other consoles, voice chat is not that popular in Switch games, so don´t expect to hear many replies).
You can get the controller over here:
Now that we know what the options are, what are the pros and cons of each one?
Benefits of each Controller:
Good for local multiplayer. Since the Joy-Con is technically two controllers linked together, it can be split between two players for games that have local multiplayer. If you are someone who regularly plays with friends, then buying an additional Joy-Con is cheaper than buying two new Pro Controllers.
It´s more versatile. You can change the way you play with the Joy-Con depending on the game and your preferences. Maybe you like to hold them like a Wiimote to aim at the screen in Splatoon, but prefer a more traditional experience when you play Breath of the Wild. Want to play with a normal gamepad? Just attach the Joycon to the Grip. They can be used however you´d like.
They are compatible with every game. As the default Nintendo Controller, you can use the Joy-Con to play every game on the console, while the Pro controller is not compatible with a few party/dance games.
More familiar: If you grew up playing games before the Wii, or with the Xbox or Playstation, holding the Pro controller will feel right at home. The Joy-Con might be harder to get used to.
More comfortable: As it is designed for long hours of play, the Pro Controller´s more ergonomic design feels easier on the hand for extended hours of playtime.
Slightly more customizable: Since these controllers are regular gamepads, you can customize its appearance and it´s functions, up to a certain degree. A useful for people who like to mod their stuff.
Made for fighting games: For those who want to play classic (i.e not Smash) fighting games or grew up on the arcades, the fighting stick is the default controller in the competitive scene. It is practically a must-have in tournaments.
In addition to the advantages that the official Pro Controller has, this one also boasts:
Headphone support: This controller comes with a jack that allows you to plug-in your headphones or USB mic while you play. Ideal if you live with several people that you rather not disturb or if you want to enjoy clear sound delivered straight into your ears.
USB Mic support: If you want to chat online with your friends without having to install Nintendo´s voice app on your smartphone, this controller offers you a way to plug in your headset and chat away.
Disadvantages of each Controller:
Less comfortable: While holding the Joy-Con is not uncomfortable per se, it is less comfortable than holding the Pro Controller. If you have big hands especially, this might be an issue, unless you buy one of the extended grips available.
Drift: A common problem with the Joy-Con is that they might experience drift in their analog stick. This means that the stick will move in a random direction without input from the player.
It is believed that this problem is caused by dirt and other waste jamming the base of the stick under the plastic. If you want to know more about it, we published a post about the drift (along with ways to fix it).
More expensive: If you are buying a controller for yourself, then a pair of Joycons is more expensive than a single Pro Controller.
Less battery life: Compared to the alternatives, the Joycons discharge faster than all the other alternatives. They “only” last 20 hours (the duration varies a bit depending on the game), compared to the 40 of the Pro Controller.
Not useful for Handheld mode: If you use the Switch mainly on handheld mode, then buying a Pro Controller is a bit counterintuitive, as you will rarely get the chance to use it. An additional Joy-Con can at least serve as a replacement in case something happens to your original one.
Too specialized: Arcade sticks are for one thing and one thing only: Play fighting games. For everything else, the other controllers are more comfortable and more suited to the task.
Lack of support: As this is not a controller officially made by Nintendo, it lacks their customer support. Likewise, any update to the Switch firmware might cause performance issues (which hasn't happened yet but remains a possibility).
Cable: This controller is exclusively wired. If you prefer to play wirelessly to avoid dealing with an annoying cable and people (or pets) tripping over it, you are out of luck.
If you are looking to buy a controller because you want to play with your friends, the Joy-Con is the obvious choice.
However, if the gamepad is for yourself, then a Pro Controller (or its wired variant) will be better. After all, you already own the Joy-Con that came with the Switch, why buy more of the same?
Of course, there are some variants between each type of controller, mostly the Pro Controller. For example, there are several of them shaped like Gamecube controllers for nostalgia's sake, each been slightly different than the other. So bear that in mind as well when you choose and take your time to explore the alternatives.
If you want to play fighting games competitively, odds that you already know what an arcade stick is. If you are the kind of person that puts many hours in the training room and is thinking about hitting up a fighting game tournament ( as long as it´s not Smash), then the stick is up to your alley. We reviewed on such stick here, if you are interested in an entry-level alternative.
The Switch has many more additional controllers, but we found that these are the ones that most people would want. f you want to browse all the different controllers available for the Switch we have a compilation on this page here.
What do you think is the best one? Let us know in the comments. And if you want to know when either of the controllers goes on sale, join our mailing list!