Switch NES controls look just like the original, with the same blocky corners, plastic-solid construction and concave buttons that keep your fingers perfectly straight. But of course there are some big differences: They are wireless, and they have L and R buttons at the top, placed in a Switch Rail connection. You charge them by sliding them onto your switch while it is anchored. But unlike the console, Joy-Cons is not supposed to hold the switch while the NES pads are connected. They are only meant for detached wireless games.
After turning on the controls and running through a system update, I was ready for some retro action. That's when I ran into my first problem: They can't get to the home screen of regular Switch games. My console continued automatically Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and I was annoyed to find out that I had no way to get out of the game with the NES controller. I had to turn on a Joy-Con just to do it. When I returned to the home screen, I had no trouble navigating and launching the NES game collection on the retro gamepad.
My main test criteria for NES emulators and equipment are simple: How well do they play Super Mario Bros. 3? It is the 8-bit platform at its most refined, making it a good test for the controller's accuracy and reliability. When I learned to fly Racoon Mario and traversed the first world of the game, I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed using the NES gamepad. It was like flashing back to the childhood bedroom, where I would spend hours diving in Mario 3 with my younger brother.
But do some really need NES gamepads? That is the tougher question. At $ 60 for the couple, it seems so expensive for controllers that are only meant for emulated NES titles. And don't forget that you also need to subscribe to the Switch Online service ($ 20 per year for people, $ 35 per year for families) to play these games. You're better off just shelling out $ 70 for the Switch Pro controller, which is a major upgrade over standard Joy-Cons for most modern titles. The NES games can be easier to sell if they were closer to $ 40, at least it would not feel like you were shelling out for an expensive game.