The best part of the Nintendo Switch Online Subscription Service is the accompanying classic games. Since its launch, Nintendo has consistently added several NES titles, including some improved additions; just this week came a version of Metroid that starts you with a wide range of powers right in front of the big battle with Ridley. But what's the best way to play these 8-bit classics? Switch Joy-Con and Pro Controller are both advantageous, and there are also a few solid after-market controllers. Now, Nintendo has another solution: a wireless recreation of the original NES gamepad. I've tested them for a few days, and while they are almost perfect for Switch Online NES games, there are a few hangups that will prompt you to ask $ 60.
The price tag gives you a pair of NES gamepads, which are mostly identical to the rectangular ones you remember. All the buttons are where they should be and they have a nice depth and clickiness. But there are two main differences. One, the controls are wireless. Two, it's a Joy-Con stylus on top that lets you block the controller into Switch for mating and loading. It looks strange, but works well enough. The rail also means that the controls have two additional buttons on the top. They are small, but easily accessible, and they work like any other shoulder button.
When you play any of the NES games available through Switch Online, the controller works perfectly. This should not be surprising: it's an almost identical recreation of the original gamepad. Not everyone needs or wants that level of precision, of course, but there is something to say to have the right tool for the job. I appreciate it while I'm riding Ninja Gaiden and the excellent soundtrack. The new shoulder buttons are also useful. The left is the screen, while the right takes you home. Press both of them and it will bring up the suspension option. It's a great, slightly modernized version of an iconic controller. (And that makes the frustrating inclusion of a wired, home-free NES Classic gamepad the more inexplicable.)
One of the strangest things with the new controller is that you can only buy it if you have a Switch Online subscription. It's a confusing, very Nintendo decision, even when it's going to be sensible when you play around with it. Because the new controller does not work very well with other games.
Most of this comes down to the fact that virtually all modern games require more than the two-face buttons available on an NES controller. Out of curiosity I tried a lot of different games and the results were not pretty. I managed to load Fortnite but none of the available buttons let me actually get into a match. And while I could technically play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate I could not jump, which is a pretty big handicap. In Dead Cells I could jump and roll but not attack.
Even easier games were unplayable. Playdead's unsettling Inside actually only requires two buttons – one to jump, one for moving objects – but it still did not work because the game did not recognize the NES d-pad. It's hard to play when you can not move. The only modern game I played with the controller was the excellent two-button fighter Pocket Rumble . You can probably get around this by remapping in a few games, but the fact is that the NES gamepad just does not have enough buttons for most post-NES games.
Of course, no one takes these controls to play Fortnite or Smash Bros. But this illustrates how much less flexible these game paths are compared to third party options, often having additional buttons and working on multiple platforms. The one use of the controller, outside of Switch Online, are the many retro releases that have turned the switch over the past six months. I managed to play the first Mega Man games with few problems. It's not as seamless as playing a NES game via Switch Online – I had to do some button repairs to make the controller work – but it's better than playing Mega Man 2 with a Joy-Con .
Really, regardless of whether you should download a NES Switch controller, depends entirely on how much you plan to play classics via Switch Online. The service costs 20 dollars a year, and currently has more than 30 NES titles right now, with new added each month. Going on, it will probably be the best way to access classic Nintendo titles. Gamepad is the ideal way to play them, but otherwise the use is very limited. For something else, it's better to pick up a cheaper and more flexible third-party option.