I started playing Super Smash Bros using a Wii Remote, held sideways. You can imagine that it was very difficult to do so, as most of my opponents used the ever-dominant Gamecube controller. While it didn’t have much of an impact on my Brawl play, as Brawl is a very slow game, that really shifted around once I switched to Melee and had to use the Gamecube controller.
Those of you familiar with the competitive Smash scene know that the first-party Gamecube controller is the absolute favorite of the community. I think there’s a legitimate argument that the Gamecube controller may be the best controller of all time, and I happen to buy that argument. Nintendo recognizes this, and has bent over backwards to make first-party controllers available to the newest generation of Smashers in both Smash 4 and Ultimate. The new controllers were inexpensive and plentiful… for about a week. These days, you’ll come up with these results when you search for a first-party Gamecube controller:
Nobody should spend $100 on a first party Gamecube controller. You may be willing to pay that much, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea when you could also spend money on amiibo. Instead, let’s find a good alternative or two that will suffice quite well.
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
Typically running about $70, the first-party Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is a rather useful and helpful controller to have in your library. It’s compatible with just about everything, it is far more durable than the cheap Joy-Cons, and you can connect it to quite a few things if you know how to screw around with Bluetooth properly.
However, it has two downsides: $70, and first-party versions don’t have great wired options. If you’re training an amiibo that has frame-perfect reaction times, you don’t want to be 20 frames behind them. Wireless controllers tend to have noticeable lag in frame-specific situations, and it doesn’t look like that will ever change. This isn’t really that great of an option.
Joy-Cons with Joy-Con Grip
Yes, these do come packed-in with your Nintendo Switch, and it actually isn’t half bad as a controller in and of itself. It feels somewhat like a smaller, wimpier Pro Controller and has a similar button layout, and has about the same input lag. At least it comes at no extra cost, right?
Eh. Joy-Cons are expensive, sometimes more costly to replace than a Pro Controller when they eventually break. As it happens, they also don’t last that long. Unless Joy-Cons get an official price drop, they’re a much worse option than the Pro Controller.
Right Joy-Con, held sideways and with a third-party “comfort grip”
PowerA Wired Nintendo Switch Controller
This is without a doubt the best option for your money. You can buy these controllers in two forms: Gamecube-style, and Pro-controller style. The Gamecube-styled ones are mostly just replicas of the original first-party Gamecube controller colors, with Nintendo Switch-specific buttons added in. It also includes a ZL button that the original didn’t have, allowing it functionality with other Nintendo Switch titles as well. PDP has more Gamecube-style cosmetic designs, but I’ve not had good experiences with their Gamecube knockoffs (remember the Wii U ones that plugged into the Wii Remote?).
The Pro-controller style is functionally the same as the Gamecube controller, with the same buttons. The heads of the C-stick and analog stick are a little bit wider than they should be, but they’re solidly functional. You’ll find yourself reaching for this over your first-party Gamecube controllers more often than not. The PowerA Pro variety has quite a few cosmetic designs as well, and is very sturdy. If you’re an angry gamer, this is a good choice.
Best of all, you can buy these from Gamestops and Wal-Marts for about $25. If you happen to break your controller in a fit of rage (which is unlikely), you can replace it cheaply. As far as I can tell, the only downside of both styles of controller is that it’s very, very loud if you’re really trying to play as best you can. If you are among people who are sleeping near you, say at a sleepover or trying not to disturb your spouse, go for the first-party Gamecube controller over the PowerA. Otherwise, I absolutely recommend the PowerA Wired controller whenever possible.