On this Mar10 Day, I’d like to take a moment to celebrate the conclusion of an epic quest that I’ve been on. Namely, to find the “perfect” Nintendo Switch controller.
I’ve had, in the back of my head, several criteria for this elusive holy grail:
GameCube Button Layout
The GameCube controller is, for my money, the most perfect video game controller of all time.
Previously I would’ve said the Super Nintendo controller was the best, and I think it still is for 2D games. But for 3D, you simply need to have at least one analog stick, and the industry seems to have settled on two analog sticks being the right number of analog sticks.
With that in mind, the GameCube controller is the perfect incarnation of the modern control scheme:
- The primary buttons are different sizes and shapes. This gives you no-look tactile feedback, so you can easily tell which is which by touch.
- It fits perfectly in the hand. I know this is highly subjective, but for my money the GameCube controller fits just-right in the sweet spot between the original XBox’s unweildy behemoth controllers, and the Switch Joy Con’s for-dainty-waifs-only petiteness.
- No stupid gimmicks.* Whether it be the Joy Con’s integrated NFC reader and IR camera, or the expandable add-on paks of the N64 and Dreamcast controllers, there’s something to be said for addition by subtraction. While the Joy Con’s NFC reader, IR camera, or the N64 and Dreamcast controllers’ expandable add-on paks are “neat,” aside from adding rumble and memory cards in the case of the N64, would anyone really miss those features?
* Okay, so the GameCube controller’s analog shoulder trigger things were kind of a gimmick, but c’mon, they were cool.
I’m not a fighting game guy, and I’ve never really felt that the almost imperceptible lag introduced by Bluetooth communication wasn’t worth the trade-off of not needing a cord that people can trip over, potentially knocking the console off of whatever shelf it sits on and breaking it.
Integrated Rechargeable Battery
Hunting through your kitchen “junk drawer” for AAs when you’re in the middle of a session of Breath of the Wild is dumb. It’s 2023, if your earbuds have a lithium battery in them, so should your Nintendo controller.
While motion controls are a bit gimmicky, it’s undeniable that they are necessary for a lot of puzzles in first-party games for the Switch, so not having them is a non-starter if you want to use the controller for anything other than Smash Bros.
Ever since the Switch launched in 2017, I’ve kept an eye out for a controller that matched all of these criteria, but everything always failed in one or more of these “must-haves.” Wired controllers that are meant strictly for Smash Bros. purists. Wireless controllers that take AAs or don’t have motion controls.
Then, suddenly in January of this year, it happened. I saw a post on Nintendo Life (my video-game news source of choice) about a new controller being released by an outfit called NYXI called “the wizard.” It ticked all the boxes: gamecube layout, wireless, motion controls, rechargeable.
It even had something extra that I hadn’t counted on: the two sides can separate just like Joy Con, and snap onto the side of the Switch console for handheld play. Neat!
The only problem: it was backordered. Well, I dutifully back-ordered one, and it finally arrived this week.
The Holy Grail
Coincidentally, a new wave of courses for Mario Kart 8 released this week as well, which was a perfect test for the new controller, and not to put too fine a point on it, but this thing is bitchin’.
It feels great in the hand, the sticks are excellent and the shoulder buttons have just the right amount of “action.” Makes playing in handheld mode much more of an appealing option for me, the Joy Con’s tiny size always made it very awkward previously.
The only drawbacks are:
- The programmable macro-buttons on the rear of the controller are too easy to bump. Luckly this is pretty easily mitigated by simply disabling them.
- The “turbo mode” buttons are similarly just an extra box-checking gizmo that I don’t care about, but easy enough to ignore.
- While the controller has rumble, it’s not “HD rumble,” so everything is the same intensity, and it’s just a hair too intense for my liking. Not a deal breaker, but it’d be nice if you could configure the rumble to be slightly less intense, which would probably also extend the amount of play time you get between charging.
It was also, shockingly, slighly cheaper than an actual Nintendo “Pro Controller,” but doesn’t feel cheap or brittle at all.
Highly recommended if, like me, you have big hands and find the Joy Con awkward, or you just love the GameCube’s button layout. This is not an affiliate link and I’m not being paid to promote this, just sharing a cool thing that I like.