The Nintendo Switch has revolutionized console gaming. By introducing a modular design that allows a traditional home console experience while simultaneously offering portability, Nintendo has truly changed the game. However, the diminutive size of the Joy-Con can be problematic for gamers with larger hands. Thankfully, there are plenty of Joy-Con alternatives that cater to a variety of different needs.
What are Joy-Cons?
The Switch is so successful in part due to the innovative Joy-Con controllers. These controllers pack a ton of tech into a tiny package and can function in two ways. The Joy-Cons can slide onto the sides of the Switch, making it a portable console. Alternatively, the Joy-Cons can be detached and used wirelessly. In this mode, the Joy-Cons can be used as motion controls for a single player, or they can be used as independently-functioning controllers for two players.
This revolutionary approach to controllers has allowed the Switch to be very versatile. That being said, the Joy-Con is not without criticism. The diminutive size of the Joy-Con can be too small for people with larger hands. In addition, the placement of some of the buttons is awkward and uncomfortable (we’re looking at you, shoulder buttons). Furthermore, the official Nintendo Joy-Cons can be very expensive, with pairs hovering around the $100 mark.
1. Hori D-Pad Joy-Con
If you love playing platformers or fighting games on the Nintendo Switch, the Hori D-Pad Joy-Con is a must-buy. The stock Joy-Cons do not feature a directional pad. Instead, on the left Joy-Con where a D-pad traditionally would be, are four face buttons. This is because the Joy-Cons can be detached from the Switch and used as two separate controllers. This necessitates the need for both Joy-Cons to have standard face buttons. Granted, when the left Joy-Con is connected to the console, the face buttons are remapped to function as a D-pad. That being said, it is a poor substitute for the real thing. The Hori D-Pad Joy-Con is exactly what it sounds like, a Joy-Con with a traditional D-pad in lieu of the face buttons.
While fans of platformers and fighters may have been sold at the mere mention of a proper D-pad on the Switch, there are a few caveats. First, the placement of the D-pad on the Hori D-pad Joy-Con isn’t ideal. It sits directly below the left analog stick in the middle of the Joy-Con. Because of the tiny size of the Joy-Cons, it can be hard to get a proper grip and pull off certain moves. Furthermore, the Hori D-pad Joy-Con lacks quite a bit of the technology that makes the stock Joy-Cons so impressive. Hori has removed Bluetooth connectivity, vibration, the accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as the SL/SR buttons. On the plus side, ditching all that tech results in a lower sticker price. That being said, the big sell here is the presence of a proper D-pad when the Switch is in portable mode.
2. Nyko Dualies
The Nyko Dualies aim to fix some of the major criticisms of Nintendo’s Joy-Cons without reinventing the wheel. Nyko’s Dualies still maintain the original design of the stock JoyCons; however, they make some much-welcomed tweaks.
First, the Dualies feature a chunkier body, resembling a more traditional controller. This provides additional ergonomics, particularly for gamers with larger hands. In addition, Nyko has changed the placement of the shoulder buttons. On the original Joy-Cons, the shoulder buttons are very small and oriented toward the center of the controller. The shoulder buttons on the Dualies are much more pronounced and sit on the “shoulders” of the controller, where gamers would expect them to be.
Furthermore, the Dualies include a dedicated programmable turbo button. Nyko also included thumb caps that can change the height and size of the analog sticks for even greater customization.
The Nyko Dualies don’t skimp on the internals like the Hori D-pad Joy-Con. The Dualies feature motion controls, vibration and wireless operation. That being said, they do not have NFC. This means the Dualies can’t be used in portable mode with the Switch console. Because the Dualies cannot slide on to the sides of the Switch console, they must be charged independently via a USB-C charging port. Despite these set backs, the Nyko Dualies are perfect for Switch owners who are looking for a more ergonomic gaming experience. Best of all, you can get a pair of the Dualies for a fraction of the cost of the Nintendo branded Joy-Cons.
3. Hori Split Pad Pro
The Split Pad Pro is Hori’s attempt to take the best aspects of the Switch Pro Controller and transform it into one of the best Joy-Con alternatives that can be used in portable mode. Simply put, the biggest draw of the Split Pad Pro is its sheer size.
The Split Pad Pro is easily double the size of the standard Joy-Con, with extended grips similar to that of an Xbox One controller. In addition, the Split Pad Pro features larger analog sticks and larger buttons. Thanks to it’s beefier size, the buttons are spaced further apart, alleviating the cramped feel of the original Joy-Cons.
Sheer size isn’t the Split Pad Pro’s only claim to fame. It also features a programmable turbo button, as well as two additional buttons on the back. This is similar to the assignable paddles found on pro controllers for the PS4 or Xbox One. Using the Split Pad Pro with your Switch might be a bit cumbersome. For those with larger hands or those looking for a pro controller experience on the go, though, it’s well worth the price tag.
What Joy-Con alternatives do you recommend? Let us know in the comments! If you’re looking for a more traditional controller experience on the Nintendo Switch, take a look at our picks for the best Nintendo Switch Pro Controller alternatives.