The 5 best third-party Switch controllers of 2021

Switch up to something more comfortable.

Image via 8bitdo

Nintendo’s Switch is a versatile console that allows gamers to play in handheld mode or on a TV. To complement the console’s versatility, it also comes with Joy-Con controllers that also offer multiple configurations. Joy-Cons can fit together to work in paired mode or split into two to play with a friend. These controllers also work in portable or handheld mode, depending on whether they are connected to the dock or not.

While Joy-Con controllers are packed with features like motion controls and rumble function, they have some significant drawbacks. They can be very expensive, and players with larger hands often find their small size uncomfortable. Some players dislike the unorthodox shape and lament the lack of a D-pad.

Luckily, there are many third-party Joy-Con alternatives for users to choose from. Many of these controllers are cheaper than the original Joy-Cons and sometimes have better functions and ergonomics. Some of the best third-party Joy-Con alternatives are officially licensed by Nintendo and feature many of its characters like Mario and Zelda.

These are the five best third-party Switch controllers of 2021

Best overall third-party Switch controller

PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller

Image via PowerA

PowerA’s Enhanced Wireless Controller is a direct competitor to Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller and has a similar design. Its overall shape is reminiscent of Xbox controllers with a similar button layout and the addition of two buttons on each side under the grip. Many players find conventionally shaped controllers more comfortable than Joy-Cons for long playing sessions.

One of the larger selling points of the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller is that it’s officially licensed by Nintendo and comes with a wide range of front panels with different themes. Users can choose between their favorite characters like Mario and Pokémon or first-person shooter games like Apex Legends and Doom

While the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller has solid build quality, there are a couple of drawbacks. Its lack of a rumble function can harm the gaming experience and reduce immersion. The fact that it can’t be recharged and uses AA batteries might also be a deal-breaker for some users.

Best multiplatform third-party Switch controller

8Bitdo Pro 2 

Image via 8Bitdo

Many players use multiple platforms for gaming and need a controller capable of working with all of them. The 8Bitdo Pro 2 is compatible with many devices like the Nintendo Switch, PC, Android, macOS, and Steam. 

Apart from working with most devices, the Pro 2 has enhanced functionality and is packed with features. Unlike the Enhanced Wireless Controller, it has a built-in rumble function. It is also possible to map the buttons, change the analog sensitivity, and create profiles for different games or platforms. Users can also create macros for one-touch access to a sequence of buttons.

The Pro 2 saves users money by offering an all-in-one solution for most platforms. It also has countless customization options and a 1,000mAh rechargeable battery. While this controller isn’t cheap, it offers outstanding value because it saves users from purchasing additional controllers for other devices. 

Best ergonomic third-party Switch controller

Hori Nintendo Switch Split Pad Pro

Image via Nintendo

One of the most common complaints of the regular Joy-Cons is their small size. Hori solves this issue by giving its Switch Split Pad Pro a large surface area and ergonomic shape for players to grip. 

The Hori offers some improvements over the standard Joy-Cons. Having more space to work with allows the Split Pad Pro to include a D-Pad that’s missing from the regular Joy-Cons. It also has larger buttons and analog sticks, making it easier to use. Like the previously-mentioned options, it has two programmable buttons on the back for added functionality.

There are also some major drawbacks to the Split Pad Pro. It’s very bulky and drastically increases Switch’s size. Some players won’t mind, but others may find it harder to game on the go. Another disadvantage is that it only works in handheld mode and can’t work independently of the Switch or with the dock. Some users might also be disappointed at the lack of motion controls and rumble feature.

Since the Split Pad Pro only works in handheld mode, it has a limited audience. Gamers who play on the go might appreciate having more space to hold and bigger buttons, but they might also be disappointed by the added bulk. It’s still a worthwhile option for mobile gamers wanting a better grip on their Switch.

Best retro third-party Switch controller

8Bitdo Sn30 Pro G Classic

Image via 8Bitdo

The 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro G Classic shares many features with the Pro 2 but comes in a more compact, retro-inspired package. Both controllers have a similar appearance, with the main difference being the lack of grips on the Pro G Classic. It’s easy to see that the Pro G Classic takes its inspiration from the Super Nintendo controller and adds analog sticks and triggers.

Despite being smaller than the Pro 2, the Pro G Classic shares its multiplatform capability. It’s compatible with various devices, including the Nintendo Switch, PC, Android, and Steam. This capability makes it ideal for gamers wanting a one-stop solution for their gaming requirements.

For a retro-inspired controller, the Pro G Classic has surprisingly modern features. Unlike the Split Pad Pro and Enhanced Wireless Controller, it has a rumble function and motion control. The Pro G Classic also gives users the option to connect via Bluetooth or with a USB-C cable.

While the Pro G Classic has modern features, it still retains an old shape that might not be appealing to the modern audience. Some players will appreciate the nostalgia, but most players will probably choose the Pro 2 instead.

Best budget third-party Switch controller

PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller 

Image via PowerA

Some users don’t need multiplatform capability or other advanced features and just want a basic controller to play on their Switch. PowerA’s Enhanced Wired Controller has a similar design to the more expensive Enhanced Wireless Controller but forgoes the wireless connection in favor of a Micro USB cable.

The Enhanced Wired Controller shares most of the advantages and disadvantages of its wireless sibling. It retains the comfortable Xbox-like shape and rear programmable buttons, but it doesn’t have a rumble function or motion control.

There are many themed front panels available for the Enhanced Wired Controller. With over twenty themes to choose from, including Animal Crossing, Super Mario, and Pokemon, users are spoilt for choice and can have a controller to match their favorite game.

One of the main drawbacks of the Enhanced Wired Controller is its wired connection. More advanced users will be turned off by this feature, although it’s expected at this price point. The Enhanced Wired Controller is still a practical choice for users wanting an affordable Switch controller, and it stands out with its brightly colored themes.

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