TL;DR – These are the Best Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Controllers:
1. GameCube Controller
A Legend For a Reason
Let’s be real – ever since Melee, an all-around better Super Smash Brothers controller has yet to come along. The classic GameCube controller is so well designed for Smash Brothers because so many of the moves in the game were built with it in mind. The prominent A button is a boon for quick jabs and smash attacks alike, while the C-stick hangs out of the way unless you need it to pull off a directional attack and struggle with switching directions on the left stick. The small B key reminds us that Special attacks are indeed special and not spam. Never mind how easy it is to roll off the A button to hit either the X or Y for a quick jump to get right over the head of your opponents.
The triggers may be a little deep and the Z button a touch squishy, but many of us will have learned how to compensate for that. Though the GameCube controller can’t directly plug into the Nintendo Switch, all it takes is a simple and affordable adapter to connect. That’s a small price to pay when you consider that you’ll be getting a low-latency wired connection for up to four controllers, don’t need to worry about battery levels, and can use the old GameCube controllers you’ve had for the last 20 years.
2. PDP Wired Fight Pad Pro
A Great Budget Option
PDP makes a $25 GameCube-inspired controller that plugs into one of the Nintendo Switch’s three USB ports. The cord stretches 10 feet, so you’ll likely have no problem playing from your couch. The PDP’s frame is thicker than any of the other controllers I tested. I didn’t love the way it felt; it’s almost reminiscent of the Xbox’s Duke controller.
Whereas the GameCube only has one bumper (the Z button, located in front of the right trigger), the Fight Pad Pro has two—and both allow you to perform air dodges and grabs. The triggers are quite lovely, spanning the entire top ridge of the controller and sporting a small groove that your index fingers can rest on. Its smooth texture feels exponentially better in your hands than the Hori (more on that below), and it also sports an additional, taller C-Stick which is easy to attach. I preferred the included thumbstick and found it ever-so-slightly easier to pull off C-Stick attacks with this larger counterpart.
The controller’s only major downside is how freakin’ loud it is. Like, wake up your fiancée in the other room loud. The harder you jam the buttons, the louder it gets—and you’ll notice this especially when you’re smashing that A button during the Classic mode credits scene (or at least my fiancée did). It’s a bit thick and extremely loud, but PDP’s built a capable GameCube-inspired controller that can be plugged directly into your Switch Dock—no adapter required. I especially loved its taller, detachable C-Stick for performing smash attacks quickly. At just $25, it’s also cheap enough to easily recommend.
3. Nintendo Joy-Cons
Surprisingly Decent (in a pinch)
Of course, if you own a Nintendo Switch, you’re already the proud owner of a pair of joy-cons. When attached to a joy-con grip, they make for a surprisingly effective controller for all types of games—Smash included.
The tiny controller’s tinier buttons don’t inspire much confidence, but I’m always blown away at just how capable these little guys are. I like the clickiness of the buttons, but the low thumbsticks and small triggers aren’t going to be anyone’s preferred option. And if you have extra large hands, you’re going to hate it. My tallest friend (6’4”) started swearing the second the Joy-Cons graced his hands.
Things fall apart when you’re forced only to use a single joy-con to play. The bumper/triggers are mushy, and the buttons are finger-crampingly close together. But worst of all, a single joy-con has fewer buttons than something like a GameCube controller. Nintendo solves this problem by mapping grab to SL and shield to SR. It works, but you’re probably not going to be super competitive with this setup. Of course, if you don’t have any alternatives, it’s still a fun way to get in some casual two-player action.
These Joy-Con controllers won’t be anyone’s first choice, but they’re a far cry from the horrible hand-me-downs we used to play on. They work best with the included Joy-Con grip, where they feel more comfortable and are much easier to game on. Playing with a single Joy-Con, however, is not ideal and your play will suffer on the microscopic device.
4. Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
Expensive, But Worth It
If you’re not a GameCube diehard, the Switch Pro controller is another excellent option. As far as its design and build quality go, it’s easily the most premium feeling device on the list. Nintendo’s $70 controller is heavy in the right way and offers rumble too (a feature sorely missing on the PDP and Hori controllers). Its uniform A, B, X, and Y buttons don’t incentivize the A button like the GameCube controller, which I also prefer. The thumbsticks snap back quickly and I adore the shallow click of its digital triggers—perfect for quick air dashing and rolls. There’s no C-Stick, but the Switch Pro’s secondary stick is comfortable and tall enough to easily hit from side to side—just like the PDP’s attachable version.
However, if you’re into tournament play, you already know you’d be better off with a wired solution. Any wired controller will have better latency than a wireless controller, and some tests show the Pro controller has worse latency than even Joy-Cons. While I’m not competitive enough to notice the difference, at certain levels of play it’s going to be a deal breaker.
But, for anyone who prefers wireless—and hasn’t sunk hundreds of hours into a GameCube controller—the Switch Pro is probably your best bet. Plus, you can still find it on Amazon. The best Wireless controller I tested, the Switch Pro controller oozes with quality. It’s heavy and ergonomic and features HD rumble. At $70, it’s not cheap—but it is versatile and feature-rich, while still feeling great for Smash. Unfortunately, at high-levels of play, the latency is a dealbreaker.
5. PowerA Wireless Controller
PowerA’s wireless controller is an undeniably appealing option for nostalgic gamers. The design is closely modeled after the original GameCube controller—with a few subtle differences. First of all, its wireless—which means all of the latency issues mentioned earlier are applicable here, too. (PowerA does make a wired version that plugs into the Switch Dock.) It also boasts a made-for-Switch button interface—which means you can navigate to the home screen and take screenshots. That also means it’s got two bumpers, where the original GameCube only has one. Besides that, almost everything about its design is indistinguishable from the OG GameCube controller—down to its nostalgia-inducing color combos. (I opted for grey and purple.)
In place of an internal battery, PowerA opts for two double A batteries in the back which help power its wireless action. That adds to the weight, but I like the size and balance of the controller, and the weight made it feel solid in my hands.
The controller, while almost flawless, does have two noticeable issues. First is the noise—it’s nearly as loud as the PDP controller above, and the A button may actually make more noise. Second, the triggers feel cheap, with a ton of give before they’re activated. All-in-all, that’s not a lot to complain about—and I noticed that after a few hours, this was the first controller I reached for when loading up Smash. If you’re looking for a modernized GameCube controller, this should be your first choice. Its design, shape, and feel all harken back to the OG GameCube controller, but it’s easier to sync and sports modernized buttons. It’s loud, and the triggers aren’t great, but at $49.99, this is the best option I tested.
6. Hori Nintendo Switch Wireless HoriPad
For Smash Bros. Ultimate Players Who Also Play Other Games
Compared to Hori’s wired controller above, its wireless option doesn’t fare much better. While it’s not coated in a tacky grip like the Battle Pad, it doesn’t feel much better. While the controller has a pleasing thickness, it suffers from the same “hollow” feeling and its triggers just feel godawful. They’re aggressively sloped and made from uncomfortable, sharp plastic. Basically, they’re exactly the kind of triggers you’d expect to shatter if you dropped the controller.
It’s too bad, because there’s still a few things to love about the controller, especially its great Mario– and Zelda-themed designs. The controller boasts an accelerometer and gyroscope for motion control—which is great for other games, but won’t help you in Smash. The buttons are also wonderfully mashable, and are some of the quietest I’ve played with. The battery is rated at 15 hours of play, and recharging is done by simply plugging it into a a micro usb cable. The triggers alone should be enough to deter you from the Wireless Horipad. Add to that, it feels cheap and, at $49.99, costs the same as higher quality controllers. While the design is solid and the buttons are decent, its not enough to redeem the weird triggers. You’d be better off with something else.
7. Hit Box Smash Box
Best Fight Stick Controller for Smash Bros. Ultimate
Smash Bros. Ultimate might not seem like a game that’s complicated enough to need a fight stick to play, but there are just some players who prefers the form factor and tactile feel of an arcade stick. If you’re in that camp the Hit Box Smash Box might be just what you’ve been looking for.
That said, it’s not exactly a traditional arcade stick controller as it doesn’t even have a lever. Instead you get a plethora of buttons—23 in total to be exact. So you’re pretty much hitting buttons to do everything from move left to right, jump or hitting C-stick buttons for easy smash attacks (don’t spam that last one). Best of all you can pull off all your moves on Hit Box’s extremely clicky and tactile arcade buttons.
8. Hori Split Pad Pro
Best Handheld Smash Bros Controller:
As convenient as it is that the Nintendo Switch is portable and can have its controllers simply attach to its sides, the Joy-Con aren’t really the best or most comfortable controls for a lot of games, especially for larger hands. So, what if you could replace them? That’s exactly what the Hori Split Pad Pro does. This controller fully replaces your Joy-Con when in handheld mode. They slide right into the same slots your Joy-Con would, but they’re so much bigger.
What does that size offer? For one, the Hori Split Pad Pro offer up much bigger thumbsticks, giving your more fine control over your movement and aim in games. They also have a larger D-Pad, making it much easier to use than the diminutive D-Pad on the Joy-Con. The triggers and bumpers also got a handy size increase. These controllers even add assignable rear triggers and a turbo function. Just note that the Split Pad Pro only works while slotted into your Nintendo Switch, as there’s not wireless functionality.
9. 8BitDo Arcade Stick
Best Wireless Fight Stick for Smash Bros. Ultimate
While a lot of us probably would never want to switch away from the classic GameCube controller for any Nintendo game with the word “Smash” in the title, there are a lot of good reasons to consider a quality fight stick to take into battle. The 8BitDo Arcade Stick is a worthy partner on the Nintendo Switch, as you can actually use it with the console wirelessly, letting you sit back and smash in comfort.
The controller features a ball-top joystick for true arcade-style and puts the buttons you need for Smash Bros all in an easily mashable arrangement. You may find that these highly responsive buttons actually give you tighter control over your character than the mushier buttons on a GameCube controller once you get used to the different layout. Another perk of this controller is that you’re not limited to using it with your Switch. It will also support your PC, so you can play a lot more fighting games with it than a classic GameCube controller. The lack of analog control from the joystick could present some issues, but you have the option of swapping components out later.
More Expert Tech Roundups
Nic Vargus is a writer and tech enthusiast who thinks SSB 64 is the best in the series. He wept tears of joy when King K. Rool was announced, and you can follow him on Twitter.
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark