The Nintendo Switch is one of the most inventive pieces of consumer tech in recent memory, but a few good accessories can make it more practical on a daily basis. And to prepare for Ars Gaming Week, we’ve spent the past couple of months researching and testing various controllers, chargers, adapters, and all sorts of additional gadgets to figure out which of those accessories are most worth buying.
Note that all testing was done on an original Switch console, not the newer model with improved battery life (and a few other significant upgrades) or the forthcoming Switch Lite, which has Joy-Con controllers that are not detachable. We’ll upgrade this guide in the future as more standout accessories hit the market (I’m still waiting on a worthwhile Switch headset, for one), but here’s how to optimize everyone’s favorite handheld right now.
Table of Contents
- Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
- 8BitDo SN30 Pro
- PowerA GameCube Style Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch
- 8BitDo Wireless USB Adapter
- FastSnail Grips
- Hori D-Pad Controller (L)
- SanDisk microSDXC Card for Nintendo Switch (128GB)
- Hestia Goods Nintendo Switch Carrying Case
- Tomtoc Slim Hard Case for Nintendo Switch
- Hori Compact PlayStand for Nintendo Switch
- PowerA Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Charging Dock
- Nintendo Joy-Con AA Battery Pack
- Anker PowerPort Speed PD 30 Nekteck USB-C to USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 Cable
- Plugable USB 3.0 to Ethernet Gigabit LAN Adapter
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
The Switch’s versatility is a major part of its appeal, but in order for it to meet its portable-meets-home-console aims, Nintendo had to make very clear sacrifices with the hardware. One of the more obvious trade-offs is its “Joy-Con” controller, which is split in two and detaches from the base of the console itself.
Given the goals of the device, the Joy-Cons are probably as effective a compromise as Nintendo could produce. But compared to the more standard gamepads of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, they’re decidedly less comfortable—the buttons are tiny and not as satisfying to press, everything’s more cramped together, and some joysticks appear to have issues with long-term reliability.
If you primarily use the Switch like a supersized Game Boy, there’s not much you can do about this. But if you often have it docked to a TV or propped up on a stand, Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller is a worthwhile investment. If you have any experience playing with a PlayStation or, especially, an Xbox, it should feel right at home—there’s more room to grasp, more give to the buttons, grippier handles, and just the right amount of space between all the controller’s elements. It’s immediately and significantly more comfortable. There’s an actual d-pad, too, and its rechargeable battery lasts an excellent 35-40 hours per charge. Since the Pro Controller is supported on Steam, it can also double as a handy controller for PC gamers (though it requires a little extra setup to work outside of Valve’s client). It doesn’t sacrifice any of Nintendo’s motion control of Amiibo scanning features, either.
Nintendo’s $70 asking price for the Pro Controller is undeniably steep, and having a built-in headphone jack like Sony’s and Microsoft’s respective controllers would have been appreciated. But if you often keep the Switch docked and play for extended periods of time, the Pro Controller should prove to be a pleasure to use.
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
8BitDo SN30 Pro
One of the nicer perks of Nintendo’s Switch Online service is the library of classic NES games that come bundled with the subscription. There are more than 40 titles available as of this writing, with more added to the pseudo virtual console each month. If you make particular use of the NES app, or you just play lots of games that take after those retro-style platformers and RPGs, 8BitDo’s SN30 Pro controller is worth a shout. It’s a crisp recreation of a Super Nintendo gamepad but with PlayStation-style joysticks and dual trigger buttons that allow it to work with more modern games.
You have to appreciate the SNES style for this to work—the SN30 Pro’s “dog bone” shape is virtually identical to the original SNES pad, so it’s significantly smaller than modern gamepads, and its lack of handles makes it less comfortable to grip over extended periods. But if you’re still bought in, 8BitDo has made this design about as polished and responsive as it could be. The trigger buttons are smaller than I’d prefer, but they are defined clearly enough to make avoiding accidental presses easy. The four face buttons have just the right amount of travel, while the d-pad is neither too firm nor too mushy. The joysticks are clickable and smooth to rotate. They don’t get in the way of the traditional SNES-style elements, even for those with larger hands like myself. The start and select buttons have nifty + and – symbols next to them to indicate their use on the Switch, and there are still Home and screenshot buttons onboard. Motion controls and basic rumble functionality are supported, too. It gave me no latency or input lag issues. 8BitDo rates the pad’s battery life at roughly 18 hours, which is consistent with my experience. It charges quickly via a USB-C port, thankfully, though it doesn’t work when wired in to a Switch dock.
8BitDo sells a more faithful SNES gamepad replica called the SN30, but that pad’s lack of ZL and ZR buttons makes it difficult to use with the Switch’s interface, and its lack of joysticks makes it useless for most newer games. More recently the company launched the SN30 Pro+, which has a more modern design with handles to grip, but at that point you’re close enough to the more comfortable Pro Controller that I’d recommend most Switch owners just buy that instead. The SN30 Pro hits the sweet spot between utility and nostalgia more cleanly—it provides that authentic feel for retro-style games, and while it wouldn’t be my first choice for newer titles, it can still handle them. Nintendo is rumored to be working on an SNES-style Switch pad of its own, but the SN30 Pro comes with the benefit of working on Windows, Mac, Android, and Raspberry Pi in addition to the Switch.
8BitDo SN30 Pro
PowerA GameCube Style Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch
Let’s keep the nostalgia train rolling. If you’re still fond of the, let’s say, idiosyncratic layout of Nintendo’s old GameCube controller—or you’re just a Super Smash Bros. fanatic who thinks the series peaked with Melee—PowerA’s GameCube Style Wireless Controller might make sense for longer play sessions.
To be frank, this gamepad isn’t as well-made as the aforementioned Switch Pro Controller or the SN30 Pro. Its hard plastic chassis feels cheaper, it lacks vibration and Amiibo scanner support, and pressing down the ZR trigger button creates a hollow “echo” vibration throughout the rest of the controller. It also runs on AA batteries instead of a built-in rechargeable unit, though it does get a healthy 30 hours of battery life.
This controller has the Switch’s usual screenshot and menu buttons, though, it’s wireless, it supports motion controls, and it has no issues with latency. Most importantly, it’s as close to a modern facsimile of a GameCube controller as you’ll get. Personally, that’s not a huge selling point: the uneven face buttons, thinner handles, tiny d-pad, and stiff “C-stick” haven’t gotten any less awkward to me in the 18 years since the GameCube launched. But I can’t deny the many people who love the feel of the original GameCube pad—this controller provides that.
It’s an especially apt choice if you’re a heavy Smash Bros. player. The octagonal gates around the left joystick make it easier to enter precise inputs—up-left, down-right, etc.—than the smoother gates of the Switch Pro’s joysticks. And the shorter length of that stick, along with the closeness of the face buttons, are more conducive to making inputs faster. So while I can’t recommend this gamepad as universally as the Switch Pro Controller, you could do worse for $45 if you just want that classic GameCube feel.