Why I Love Nintendo’s Pro Switch Controller

The perfect evolution of all Nintendo’s revolutionary controllers

Key Takeaways

  • The Pro Controller is Nintendo’s dedicated wireless Switch controller.
  • It only works with the Switch, not with PCs, phones, or iPads.
  • Apart from its terrible D-pad, it’s perfect.
The Nintendo Pro Switch Controller

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

Nintendo’s Pro Switch Controller is the best way to play games on your Switch, and it might even be the best Nintendo controller ever. 

Nintendo is well known for making the most fun games around, usually on hardware that looks pedestrian, or even retro, compared to the latest consoles from the competition. But it also has a history of making amazing and innovative game controllers.

The NES gamepad might not look like much today, but it was a lot better than the wrist-breaking Atari CX40 Joystick from 1977, for example, and the N64 controller defined controls for the era of 3D games. 

The Pro Controller might not be as game-changing as those early designs, but it combines the best of all of them into a unit that is accurate, full-featured, good-looking, and that brings levels of comfort usually only associated with a memory-foam mattress draped with a gravity blanket. 

The Pro Controller may not be the best controller available... But if you buy one, you will never regret it.

Why It’s So Good

The Pro Controller doesn’t look special. It’s the same plastic croissant shape that Sony introduced with its PlayStation controller. It doesn’t even have any fancy extras, like the N64’s third, central prong, trigger, and then-novel analog stick. It’s just a standard dual-analog controller—on the surface. 

The Pro Controller is an evolution of all Nintendo’s previous innovations. It has the N64’s analog stick (two of them), the Wii’s motion control, the solid buttons and shoulder controls of the SNES, and its haptic rumble makes games more immersive and provides interactive feedback.

It’s the sum of all these parts that make it so good. Everything (almost—see below) is pitch-perfect. The unit is comfy for small and large hands, and the transparent black sections make it look good, too, like an artifact from a video game. 

The only bad part of the controller is the D-pad. It’s fine in games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild, where you use it as four individual buttons to select your weapons and so on. But when used as an actual directional D-pad in the SNES games that Nintendo Switch Online subscribers can play, it’s hopeless.

On the SNES controller, a good player can pull off flawless Hadoukens and Shoryukens every time in Street Fighter II. However, playing with the Pro Controller, you’re lucky to get one out of 10 to fly. It’s so bad that I don’t bother to play the games anymore—and I used to be able to defeat SFII challengers playing with my feet. 

The Nintendo Pro Switch Controller.

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

It Makes You Better

Here's a true story. It happened last week and is the reason I pitched this article to my editors. I play a lot of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with my partner, a newcomer to gaming and a pretty mean kart driver. But they almost always lose, and in a seemingly random pattern. One race, they'll come in second place, the next race, ninth.

After a complaint of the shoulder button not working (you need it to hop, and therefore to drift, which is the fundamental Mario Kart driving skill), we switched controllers. I handed over my Pro Controller and took the JoyCons that come with the Switch. And guess what? I lost.

I finished in eighth place. My better half finished first. The good news is, the races are now much better matched. The bad news is that I have to buy another $70 controller. 

The Pro Controller may not be the best controller available. Perhaps the $180 Xbox Elite controller would take that title. But if you buy one, you will never regret it.

If you screw up a game playing it with the Pro, then it's your fault. You won't get hand cramps, nor get confused about what buttons you should be pressing. You'll spend a short time getting accustomed to its layout, and then you will forget about it, leaving you to enjoy the game.

And isn't that exactly the point of a good controller?

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