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Best Nintendo Switch controllers of 2021

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Best Nintendo Switch Controllers of 2021
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Picking up some of the best Nintendo Switch controllers will help you find ways of playing games that are just as versatile as the console is, or something more specialized.

The Nintendo Switch's included Joy-Cons make the system easy to enjoy, but there are plenty of other great controller options to enhance your play experience either at home or on the go. From high-end gamepads for competitive games to retro controllers for classic platformers, we've tested the Switch's most popular controllers to help you find the best pick for your playing style. 

There's more than one Switch to pick for though. You've got the basic Switch, as well as the Nintendo Switch OLED, which offer portable and docked gameplay. There's the portable-only Nintendo Switch Lite too, which with its fixed controls requires two or more of these controller picks to play local multiplayer off of one console. Fortunately all these controllers will work with the Lite, with some designed deliberately to be just as easy to transport about.

Whether you're an aspiring Smash pro, are looking for a cure for Joy-Con drift or just need something for your player two, here are the best Nintendo Switch controllers to buy now.

What are the best Nintendo Switch controllers?

If you don't mind the expense, the overall best Nintendo Switch controller option is the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. This lets you easily play games with a traditional gamepad either wired or wirelessly, and offers the same motion control, rumble and NFC functions as the default Joy-Cons do. Equally, buying another pair of Joy-Cons can be a good option if you're looking to add more color to your Switch console or add extra multiplayer options.

If you want a cheaper option, PowerA's Enhanced Wireless Controller offers a similar experience to the Pro Controller. It runs off of AA batteries too, which not only means you can play with it for an impressively long time, you can easily swap them out and keep playing rather than plugging the controller in to charge.

Hori's D-Pad controller looks like a basic Joy-Con but adds a D-Pad in the place of the analog stick. This is handy if you prefer the more digital inputs, for example while playing old-school platforming games, or fighting games where input directions are crucial for blocking and performing special moves.

Our pick for Nintendo Switch Lite owners is the 8BitDo Lite. It's a compact controller that's easy to carry around with the smaller Switch, making playing off the screen without the built-in controls and with multiple people a viable option. It doesn't offer any advanced features, or even an analog stick, but it's still a good choice.

The best Nintendo Switch controllers you can buy today

Best Nintendo Switch controllers: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Best overall Switch controller

Specifications
Size: 6.1 x 5.7 x 2.5 inches
Weight: 14 ounces
HD Rumble: Yes
Motion Control: Yes
NFC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Supremely comfortable design+Sturdy sticks and buttons+Supports NFC, rumble and motion controls
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-So-so d-pad

It carries a hefty price tag, but Nintendo's Pro Controller is still the best traditional gamepad for playing Switch games like Splatoon 2 or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with maximum precision. Its translucent plastic design is both sturdy and supremely comfortable, with ergonomic curves and textured grips on the handles. The thumbsticks are durable and soft to the touch, and the face buttons are big and satisfyingly clicky. 

One of the controller's only shortcomings is the d-pad, which is solid, but not as big or precise as some of the third-party options out there. The Pro Controller also features full-HD rumble and motion-control support, as well as NFC functionality for scanning in amiibos.

Best Nintendo Switch controllers: 8BitDo SN30

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. 8BitDo SN30

For old-school gamers

Specifications
Size: 5.6 x 2.5 x 1 inches
Weight: 3.3 ounces
HD Rumble: No
Motion Control: No
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Attractive, nostalgic design+Affordable+Great d-pad
Reasons to avoid
-SN30 model lacks additional shoulder buttons

If you want to play retro games and platformers like the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, Super Mario Maker 2 and the Switch's multitude of NES games the way they were meant to be played, the 8BitDo SN30 is the best Nintendo Switch controller. This slick retro pad is essentially a re-creation of the iconic Super Nintendo controller, with a lightweight candybar design, an excellent d-pad and snappy face buttons. Better yet, the latest SN30 models come in a variety of gorgeous colors inspired by the Game Boy Pocket. If you want the SN30's old-school design but with dual thumbsticks and additional shoulder buttons, we recommend checking out the SN30 Pro.

Read our full 8BitDo SN30 review

Best Nintendo Switch controllers: PDP Faceoff Deluxe+ Audio Wired Controller

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. PDP Faceoff Deluxe+ Audio Wired Controller

For gamers seeking built-in audio

Specifications
Size: 6.2 x 6 x 3.3 inches
Weight: 14 ounces
HD Rumble: No
Motion Control: No
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Low price+Solid design+Programmable buttons+Good feel to the buttons and triggers
Reasons to avoid
-Nonremovable wire-No rumble

PDP's Faceoff Deluxe+ Audio Wired Controller stands out from the pack by being the only one of our best Nintendo Switch controllers that you can plug a pair of headphones into. That means you can get more immersed in Breath of the Wild from the couch, or use your gaming headset to talk with friends in games that support built-in voice chat (including Fortnite). It's also a fine budget controller in its own right, offering a solid plastic build, satisfying sticks and triggers, and handy programmable buttons on the rear for mapping extra inputs.

Read our full PDP Faceoff Deluxe+ review

Best Nintendo Switch controllers: PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller

(Image credit: PowerA)

4. PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller

A budget Pro Controller alternative

Specifications
Size: 6.4 x 6.3 x 2.6 inches
Weight: 13 ounces
HD Rumble: No
Motion Control: Yes
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Cheaper than Pro Controller+Solid sticks+Motion controls+Great colors and design+Extra programmable buttons
Reasons to avoid
-No rumble-Top heavy-Battery powered

If you don't have the $70 to fork out for Nintendo's Pro Controller, the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller is the best Nintendo Switch controller alternative for $20 less. This gamepad has a lightweight but substantial design, solid buttons and analog sticks that we've found to be even smoother than that of the Pro Controller. And while PowerA's controller lacks rumble, you'll still get motion-control support for titles like Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. To top it off, the Enhanced Wireless Controller comes in a variety of slick color schemes that include licensed Mario, Zelda and Diablo options. 

Best Nintendo Switch controllers: Nintendo Joy-Con

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. Nintendo Joy-Con

The best multi-purpose controller

Specifications
Size: 4 x 1.4 x 1.1 inches (per Joy-Con)
Weight: 1.7 ounces
HD Rumble: Yes
Motion Control: Yes
NFC: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Versatile design+Comes in a variety of colors+Includes HD rumble, NFC and motion control
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Sure, the Switch packs two Joy-Cons, but it never hurts to have an extra pair or two handy for multiplayer games. Each individual Joy-Con doubles as a stand-alone mini-controller, which makes them the best Nintendo Switch controller to pass to a friend for casual titles like Super Mario Party or Overcooked. And since Joy-Cons come in a rainbow of colors, picking up a new pair is a great way to personalize your Switch. If you just need a single Joy-Con, Nintendo also sells them as single units.

Best Nintendo Switch controllers: Hori D-Pad Controller

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Hori D-Pad Controller

The best for platformers and fighting games

Specifications
Size: N/A
Weight: N/A
HD Rumble: No
Motion Control: No
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Excellent d-pad+Solid analog stick and shoulder buttons+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't work wirelessly-No rumble

If you're jealous of the Nintendo Switch Lite just because it has a proper d-pad, save your $200. Hori's excellent D-Pad controller will do the trick for just $25. This neat little accessory replaces your Switch's left Joy-Con with one that features a full directional pad, which feels even more precise and satisfying than Nintendo's Pro Controller. It also comes in a trio of fun styles for Zelda, Mario and Pokémon fans. While it doesn't work wirelessly and lacks HD rumble, Hori's custom Joy-Con is the best Nintendo Switch controller for anyone who plays fighting games or platformers on the go. 

Hori Split Pad Pro

(Image credit: Hori)

7. Hori Split Pad Pro

The best Nintendo Switch controller for dedicated handheld use

Specifications
Size: 6.69 x 6.22 x 2.17 inches
Weight: 8 Ounces
HD Rumble: No
Motion Control: No
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Full-sized controls+Additional rear buttons+Diverse range of colors/patterns
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-No motion controls etc.

Your Switch will somehow still fit into its dock when you attach the Split Pad Pro in place of your Joy-Cons. However this controller isn't designed for the Switch in TV mode. You will instead appreciate Hori's officially licensed peripheral best in handheld mode, where you get the full benefit of its full-sized controls and bonus rebindable buttons mounted on the back grips.

Just like the Joy-Cons, the Split Pad Pro comes in an impressive array of colors and special editions, letting you express yourself more than most third-party pads. Taking this out and about will be tough going due to the extra weight however, and you don't get any special features like NFC or motion controls that make certain games extra enjoyable.

Best Nintendo Switch controllers: 8BitDo Lite Controller

(Image credit: 8BitDo)

8. 8BitDo Lite

The best Nintendo Switch controller for the Switch Lite

Specifications
Size: 120 x 66.2 x 16.2mm
Weight: 84 grams
HD Rumble: No
Motion Control: No
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Compact size+Custom turbo button+Lively Switch-Lite inspired design
Reasons to avoid
-No advanced features-No joystick

If you want a separate controller to complement your handheld-only Nintendo Switch Lite, then 8BitDo sells a suitably Lite controller for you to try. The compact controller comes in the same bright yellow or blue as the Switch Lite, and features dual d-pad inputs. 

The lack of analog stick could be an issue depending on the game you're playing. It also doesn't feature any advanced features like the standard Switch controls do, which again may pose an issue when playing certain titles. Overall though, having a controller designed with the Switch Lite in mind is a great idea, and could prove to be a handy back-up pad when you are in the mood for some impromptu multiplayer or co-op.

How to choose the best Nintendo Switch controller for you

When picking the best controller for your needs, you'll need to first off decide which form factor you want. Maybe you want something that's shaped more like a PlayStation or Xbox controller, or you're after something like the Joy-Cons that come with the Switch. Perhaps you want a totally different shape also, to better suit the games you're playing. Decide this first before going forward.

The next big question is wired or wireless. The Switch allows for both Bluetooth and USB connections, but if you're playing it away from the dock, or have a dockless Switch Lite, then you only have one USB-C port to use. If you like to use your Switch out and about, Bluetooth is likely the better option for you.

The last big priority when picking the best Nintendo Switch controller for you is if you want or need the special features of the basic Switch controllers, namely rumble, motion controls and NFC. You don't need any of these to enjoy gaming on the Switch, but if you own Amiibos or play games that require motion controls, you'll need a controller that supports this. Rumble is less critical, but is still a point of preference you should consider when buying.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.