I have giant hands with the dexterity of a toddler and arthritic thumbs, so it didn’t take long for me to grow painfully frustrated with the Nintendo Switch’s tiny Joy Con controllers. The larger size of the Nintendo Switch Pro controller is the answer for me. Not only is it more comfortable, but it has bigger buttons and a full D-pad to compensate for my clumsiness (some of it, anyway). It’s great, but it’s also between $60 and $70 to buy, and that was before COVID-19 shortages.
There are third-party Switch Pro-like controllers, however, offering more comfortable gaming for less money. We tested several of them to find the best Switch controller out there. Honestly, none offered the same comfort and button feel that we appreciate about Nintendo’s official game controller. But there are ones that come close.
Going with a third-party Switch Pro controller does have some advantages aside from a lower price, too. For example, some have a Turbo button for faster firing rates or mappable buttons to make certain commands easier to trigger. Plus, a few here can be used with Windows, MacOS and Android, too.
Read more: Best Nintendo Switch accessory to buy for 2020
The PowerA wireless controller comes closest to the feel and design of Nintendo’s Pro controller, and it normally sells for $40 to $50 depending on the design from Amazon, Best Buy and more. The PowerA wireless controller doesn’t have rumble, IR or Amiibo NFC support like the Switch Pro controller does, but it does have motion controls.
Its one added feature is two extra buttons on the bottom of the controller that can be mapped on the fly. It runs on AA-size batteries, too, so you don’t have to worry about running out of power as you play a game and you can always use rechargeables. Also, since the battery isn’t built-in, you don’t have to trash the controller once the battery stops holding a charge, unlike some other controllers.
Many of the third-party controllers leave out some of the Nintendo Switch Pro controller’s features such as NFC Amiibo functionality, vibration or motion control. The Beboncool has them all and a customizable Turbo button — and it’s about half the price. I’m not a fan of the separate buttons for the D-pad and the buttons are a bit mushy in general, but the performance and overall quality are fine for the money.
If you like to customize, this Bluetooth controller is for you. Using its Ultimate software, you can remap buttons, adjust stick and trigger sensitivity as well as vibration control and easily create macros for complicated button combinations. The left-hand controls are flipped so they’re more like a PlayStation controller, but everything feels good and responsive. The 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+ Bluetooth Gamepad controller works with the Nintendo Switch console, Android, Windows and MacOS. Another nice feature: Its rechargeable battery pack can be easily swapped out for a new one.
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Want something a little more retro, but not as retro as a joystick or arcade stick? The full-featured ergonomic design of the SN30 Bluetooth Gamepad controller makes it a more travel-friendly Nintendo Switch Pro controller alternative. And there are no mushy buttons here: Everything feels firm and responsive. It can be programmed for use with Android, Windows and MacOS, too.
Like the 8BitDo controllers above, the RegeMoudal’s sticks are both at the bottom. If that doesn’t turn you off, this lightweight controller is a good choice for an Nintendo Switch Pro controller alternative, thanks to an adjustable Turbo button, long battery life and three levels of vibration.
It’s wired, but the $20 Horipad is one of the more comfortable controllers we tested, and its buttons and sticks feel nice, too. But, while it does have a Turbo button, it lacks vibration and motion control. Its D-pad isn’t a true pad, but a plastic piece that snaps on over four discrete buttons. It works fine, but the fact that it’s a wired controller might be a deal breaker for some.
The Insten falls under “you get what you pay for” for me but, for what it’s worth, it’s the favorite of my 8- and 10-year-olds. It’s just a basic wireless controller with aggressive dual-shock vibration. It’s comfortable but feels cheap and flimsy. To be fair, though, the controller did survive a high-velocity altercation with my TV and I can’t say the same for the TV. The best part about the Insten is the price, especially if you want multiple controllers: You can pick up a two-pack for less than $50.
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Originally published earlier and updated periodically as we review new products.