One of the most anticipated Nintendo titles of the year has finally dropped: Super Smash Bros Ultimate. But with any fighting game, it's important to know what controller to use. Some praise the original GameCube design, while others opt for less-common controllers. I've gone through all of the major styles and brands to help you figure out which one is best for YOU.
But before we can get into the specifics, there's some precursory information you need to know. Let's start with the options that are available for the Nintendo Switch game.
All Switches come with a pair of Joycons. These are those small attachable controllers that click into the side of the Switch, or onto a comfort grip. These CAN be used individually, but with significantly fewer options than using two of them combined. Those wanting a larger, more traditional experience can use a Pro Controller. They're larger and look more like how most gaming controllers look. The third option is the GameCube controller. These are originally from the Nintendo GameCube console. They're arguably the most complicated option, but many professional players consider it the best. We'll dive deeper into all three options later.
Regardless of the controller, there are certain brands to consider. Nintendo themselves manufacturers all three options. But if you want more, better, or more affordable, there exist some third-party manufacturers. In this article, we will touch on the two most popular (and Nintendo Approved) third-party brands, Power A and HORI. All three manufacturers have their strengths and weaknesses, which we will expand upon later.
Depending on the types of friends you keep, this will be the most common controller you see. A pair comes with the Nintendo Switch itself, and literally all Switch games support them. It makes sense to own more than one pair. And if you need to support a large number of players, the left and right Joycons can be set independently as two different controllers, doubling your group potential.
Playing with a Joycon pair proved to be a better than expected experience. I was seldom hindered by the small button and joysticks. And when I used the provided comfort grip, I could more or less play as effectively as usual.
The single-Joycon mode was the biggest surprise. This was the equivalent to using a lone Wiimote for Super Smash Bros Brawl, which was a god-awful way to play. The D-pad controls and limited buttons made performing any moves difficult. The single Joycon option had resolved that entirely. Each one had a joystick, four face buttons, and two shoulder buttons. I could operate without hindrance, performing all my intended actions.
The Joycon option has a few flaws, however. The biggest is purchasing them. Nintendo themselves are the only manufacturer of Joycons, and they're the most expensive option. A single pair will cost you $80. Their battery capacity isn't fantastic either. So expect to have some "on charge" while you use a different pair
I also noticed some difficulty performing "tilt attacks" with these controllers due to their rather small joystick size. These are directional attacker performed by only tilting the joystick in a direction and pressing the A button. With such small joysticks, it was hard to only tilt.
While you can't find non-Nintendo Joycons, Power A has a bunch of different comfort grips. They don't feel any different than a Nintendo comfort grip, but they have some cool designs if you want something more unique than the standard dark grey.
The Pro Controller
The Pro controller is a more viable option, so to speak. Its traditional shape and diverse availability means you're more likely to find something that suits your specific needs and interests. Unfortunately, this didn't make up for the various problems I had when trying to play Smash Bros with one.
The large size of a Pro Controller means that people with larger hands will have an easier time handling one compared to the other controllers. The size translates to the joysticks as well, meaning "tilting" was notably easier to do with this controller format. They're also the most common third-party product, so there is a vast selection of Pro Controllers, with various improvements and customization.
The Pro Controller was my least favorite option, however. Something about the placement of the face buttons made it too easy to lose my hand placement. This caused me to frequently press the wrong button when playing. I easily performed the worst with a Pro Controller.
Nintendo produces a single Pro Controller model, available for around $70. It's comfortable, sturdy, and had a long lasting battery life. Who needs variety, anyway?
Hori produces three Pro controllers. a wired one, a Mario themed one, and a Zelda themed one. They're of an acceptable quality and will do everything you need. The wired option is one of the cheapest, at $20, with the wireless ones at $50. But if you want a wireless one that isn't based on the aforementioned franchises, HORI can't help you.
Personally, Power A really knocked it out with Pro Controller options. They have pages on pages of different controller styles available referencing many Nintendo characters. They even have a solid gold option. The wired options are a comfortable $30. They also have an "enhanced" wireless option, where you can custom set two additional buttons that rest on the back of the controller, which is pretty cool. They're some of the most affordable wireless options as well, at $50. Their catch? The wireless controllers take AA batteries, instead of being rechargeable. While some see this as a tad archaic, it does mean you can immediately swap out dead batteries, no waiting on it to charge. So it's personal preference there.
If you're determined for a Pro Controller, I'd recommend Power A's enhanced wireless option.
The GameCube Controller
This one is an interesting one. It had established itself as THE controller of choice when Super Smash Bros Melee for Nintendo GameCube had become a competitively viable game. Since then, the controller has been an in-demand option even today. To make this happen, Nintendo began offering an adapter to use the old controller with the current console, as well as a reproduction of the controllers. This can be the hardest option to find, depending on how picky you want to be.
If you want the original, authentic experience, you'll need two things: a GameCube controller and adapter. Nintendo used to offer both of these on their website, but only the controller remains available (at $30). So finding the adapter will vary based on availability. Last I looked, local stores were sold out. If you still have the original controllers from the mid-2000s, then all you need is the adapter. But keep in mind what 10+ years will do to technology. Not to mention that they aren't guaranteed to work with non-Smash games. If you're wanting a GameCube controller. you're better off with a third party option.
Compared to the other two options, the GameCube controller felt the best to play. the smaller size made control management easier. And since each face button is a different size or shape, I never forgot what button was what. I undoubtedly performed by best when using one of these.
Hori has five different GameCube controller options. Labeled as "battlepads," all five are based on popular Nintendo characters and are wired, so no luck with wireless or nondescript options. While they worked well enough, I found myself not liking the "hand feel" of these controllers. They felt somewhat fragile and the springing sensation in the joysticks and trigger buttons didn't feel strong. They're fairly priced at $25 dollars.
Power A does the best here, as well. They have both wired and wireless GameCube controllers, available in four different colors. They feel better than the HORI ones in regards to buttons and joysticks but not quite AS good as the original 2006 controllers by Nintendo. They're also somewhat light feeling. which can be offputting. The best thing about them is the wireless option. Power A is the only one to offer a wireless option for the GameCube controllers. While pro level players may be concerned about input delay, I found that the wirelessness didn't hinder my abilities whatsoever. They do have the same battery setup as their Pro controllers, so get some batteries. The wired options are priced at $25 while the wireless is at $50.
Which One is Best?
Comparing them all to each other. I found the wireless GameCube controller option by Power A to be my favorite. The only downside to them is the need for batteries, which was easily offset by buying some rechargeable batteries. The wirelessness let me play comfortably wherever, no cable mess, in a layout that I did my best with. Since the game recognizes it as a Pro controller, I could play other games with it as well, such as Katamari Damacy. While every controller and brand are acceptable options. This was definitely my favorite. Considering that they frequently run out of stock, I'm probably not alone in thinking so.
This article is not promoted or endorsed by Nintendo, HORI, or Power A. Some controllers were provided for the purpose of comparison, some I already had, and the rest I had to borrow from my neighbor. Good lookin' out, Steve.