Switch’s Pro Controller is Nintendo’s best traditional gamepad yet

The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller feels great even if it isn't worth $70.


Nintendo is trying to pull an Apple.

The Japanese game company is charging a premium for the accessories that go along with the console it is launching on Friday (read our Switch review), and that includes a new $70 gamepad.

The Switch Pro Controller is a traditional wireless input device that features a button layout that closely mimics the Xbox One/Xbox 360 design. And for the first time in a while, Nintendo’s Pro Controller is essentially on-par with the gamepads from Microsoft or Sony. With solid build quality, responsive buttons that provide pleasant and consistent feedback, and long-lasting rechargeable battery, the Pro Controller makes a lot of sense for people who want to use the Switch primarily as a television-based console.

But can Nintendo really get away with charging $10 more for its controller than the $60 DualShock 4 or Xbox One S pads? Well, the publisher sees Apple charging $30 for its USB cable and $50 for a Lightning adapter, and it could be attempting to boost its revenue by charging more as well. And many people will probably cough up the extra cash because the Pro Controller is better than the JoyCons that come with the Switch.

What you’ll like

Nintendo finally put everything in the right place

Since the Wii, Nintendo consoles have had Pro controllers as alternatives to pads that come with the system. On the Wii, you could use a Wii Remote and a Nunchuk to play Mario Kart, or you could get the Pro controller instead. Same with the GamePad tablet for Wii U and that system’s Pro Controller. The problem, however, was always that Nintendo’s button layout doesn’t work. The Wii U Pro Controller has the control stick above and to the right of the face buttons. This makes jumping and aiming in something like a first-person shooter uncomfortable or even painful.

The company has fixed such flaws. Switch’s Pro Controller has the face buttons and the right stick in the same pattern as you’d see on controllers for Xbox or PlayStation. The result is that this controller feels a lot like those other gamepads — and that’s great.

It feels nice in your hand

On top of the arrangement of the buttons and the sticks, Nintendo is using high-quality materials. The plastics are pleasant to the touch, and they have a hearty and dense quality that makes the device feel rugged, like it can take a few drops to a hardwood floor.

The grips also extend down far enough that you can get all of your fingers around them without any discomfort. I don’t like the way my pinky hangs off of some other gamepads, and that doesn’t happen here.

Buttons are punchy and responsive

Nintendo has also put in some effort to ensure that using the buttons and moving the analog sticks are rewarding actions on their own. The buttons give a popping feedback that makes you want to continue smashing them. The control sticks make a subtle clicking noise whenever you move them outside of their deadzone that I would compare to rupturing bubble wrap. And the D-pad is clicky and bouncy, providing excellent feedback. You can feel it return to its normal position.

What you won’t like

D-pad takes some getting used to

The only real issue I’ve had using the Pro is that I sometime hit Up on the D-pad when I’m trying to hit Right. I haven’t done that in a while, but it was something I did repeatedly when I first started using it. This isn’t a defect. I like this D-pad, but something about its construction is quirky, and it took me a little time to adjust to it.

It shouldn’t cost $70

As much as I like the Switch Pro Controller, I wouldn’t necessarily choose it over the DualShock 4 or Xbox One S pads. If all of them worked on PC, I’d probably still end up using the Xbox controller. So why is this device $10 more than equivalent products from Microsoft or Sony? The reason could be because Nintendo thinks it can get away with it, and I don’t think most consumers will find that to be a compelling argument.

Conclusion

Nintendo’s possible efforts to squeeze extra revenue from accessories aside, the Switch Pro Controller is great, but I wouldn’t recommend it without some caveats. If you plan to primarily use the Switch as a portable, then stick with the JoyCons. Playing on the TV with the JoyCons docked into the Grip works fine even if it isn’t nearly as comfortable as the Pro. And if you only plan to occasionally connect the Switch to a TV, I don’t think a $70 dedicated controller is worth it.

But if you want to play a lot of games like Zelda on a TV for hours at a time, the Pro is probably the controller for you.

Nintendo provided GamesBeat with the Pro Controller for the purposes of this review. It is out March 3 for $70. 

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