The One Accessory Every Old-School Switch Owner Needs

As a fighting-game fanatic, one of my favorite things about the Nintendo Switch is that I can play games like Street Fighter, Pocket Rumble and Pokken Tournament DX on the go.

There's just one problem: The Switch's Joy-Cons lack a proper D-pad, and trying to pull off fireballs and crazy combos with the system's directional buttons or analog stick just doesn't feel right.

That's why I was overjoyed the moment I picked up Hori's D-Pad Controller and slid it onto the left rail of my Switch. This $25 gadget gives your Switch the directional pad it always should have had in portable mode, and I can't imagine going back to playing fighting games or platformers without it.

Hori's D-Pad Controller replaces your system's left Joy-Con, providing a traditional D-pad where you'd normally find four separate buttons on Nintendo's controller. The rest of the accessory is pretty much identical to a normal Joy-Con in terms of button layout. The analog stick feels faithful to that of a standard Joy-Con, though the shoulder buttons are a tad clickier and the minus (-) and screenshot buttons have a soft, rubbery feel.

But the raison d'etre of Hori's D-Pad is, of course, the D-pad. Hori's directional pad has a satisfyingly squishy feel that's flexible while still allowing for precise inputs.

I had no problem pulling off complex combo motions in the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection using Hori's controller and found the D-pad to be equally accurate for the precision platforming of games like Mega Man X and Super Mario Bros. I'd even go as far as to say it's better than the D-pad on Nintendo's $70 Pro Controller, which feels a bit stiff by comparison.

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The Hori D-Pad Controller does come with a few caveats. It lacks HD rumble, a motion sensor and wireless functionality, and, naturally, it can't be used horizontally as a stand-alone controller. Still, considering that a single Nintendo Joy-Con will run you around $50, Hori's $25 alternative is a steal for its more basic, focused functionality.

I have mixed feelings about the D-Pad's overall design, which comes in Zelda and Mario variations, with a special Pokemon edition on the way. I've grown to really dig my Legend of Zelda D-Pad, which gives my Switch a neat limited-edition look thanks to the controller's slick translucent plastic and elegant Zelda-themed etchings. But I do wish that the accessory came in more-neutral solid colors — particularly for folks looking to match the gadget with their existing right Joy-Con.

And while I understand that these controllers are officially licensed by Nintendo, I don't exactly associate Zelda, Pokemon and Mario games (well, the 3D ones at least) with a need for an accurate D-pad.

Minor design quibbles aside, Hori's D-Pad Controller just might be my favorite thing I've ever purchased for my Switch. If you play tons of fighting games and platformers on the go, it's absolutely essential.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.