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.

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