The Pros and Joy-Cons of Each Switch Controller Layout

It’s crazy to think that just nine months ago, the Switch was released as the world’s first major console/handheld hybrid. It’s seen some amazing games in its short lifespan: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle are literally just a few of them. So far they’ve paced their releases brilliantly and Nintendo still has a lot left up their sleeves for this unique little console. That wonderful mix of portability and its ability to be played on a TV has led to something relatively fresh – there are so many ways to play games on this console.

Sure, there’s obviously on-the-go or on-the-couch, but even then, is it best to play with a Pro Controller or separated Joy-Con? Do you throw back its feeble kickstand, detach those Joy-Con and have the jolliest airplane ride possible? What about just holding that little baby in your hands and living life dangerously by playing it in the bathtub like a crazy person? Here’s a list of all the different controller layouts players can experience with the Switch, and the positives and negatives of each of those permutations.

The Professional (Docked, Using the Pro Controller)


+ Extremely precise controls
+ Fantastic battery life for the controller
+ Big-screen possibilities
+ No worries about that Switch battery dying while docked
+ Joy-Con are free for multiplayer goodness
+ Still has the freakily-accurate HD rumble
+ Joy-Con are conveniently being charged while you play

– Some motion controls don’t work very well cough Mario Odyssey cough
– Restricted to the TV
– Extra $70 investment
– Can’t play like this when taking a break from playing basketball

The Independent (Undocked, Using Attached Joy-Con)

+ Play Breath of the Wild ANYWHERE
+ Beautiful, bright screen
+ Joy-Con provide precise and comfortable controls
+ Pretty much the only configuration in which touch controls work
+ Games often run smoother in handheld mode
+ A handheld that can actually play first-person shooters

– Battery usually only lasts around three hours
– Resolution maxes out at 720p
– Needs a carrying case or screen protector to keep the system pristine
– Motion controls here amount to flailing the entire Switch around carelessly as strangers watch you struggle
– Can’t fit into your pockets, unless cargo shorts are your jam

The Relaxer (Docked, Using Split Joy-Con)


+ The best configuration for motion controls
+ Sprawl out on a couch with no care in the world, arms splayed at any which angle you so choose
+ Easy transition to local-multiplayer by passing off a Joy-Con
+ Get to hear that amazing click when you put the Joy-Con back into the system
+ Switch up the color scheme of your Joy-Con (if you want to throw down an extra $80)

– Older left Joy-Con often gets de-synced from the Switch
– Joy-Con battery life has to be kept in mind
– Some hands are a bit too big for these little guys
– Leaves the Switch itself feeling alone and naked inside the dock without its two best friends

The Traveler (Undocked, Using Split Joy-Con)


+ Amazing for plane rides
+ Allows you to play games however you like, even without access to a TV
+ Play multiplayer pretty much anywhere this way
+ Motion controls work fantastic

– Have to be pretty close to the screen to see properly
– Kickstand isn’t particularly stable
– Impossible to charge the system while playing this way
– Lots of battery charges to keep in mind (the Switch itself, and both Joy-Con)
– Requires a steady surface for play

The “Hasn’t Bought the Pro Controller” (Docked, Using Joy-Con Grip)

+ No extra cost
+ Relatively comfortable
+ Makes it harder to lose track of either Joy-Con
+ Looks like a weird puppy

– Potentially removes some local multiplayer capabilities
– Chargeable version costs $30
– Alarmingly light-weight
– Looks like a weird puppy

The Prepared Traveler (Undocked, Using Joy-Con Grip)

+ A decent middle-ground between portability and playability
+ Solid controls at no extra cost
+ Strangers on the airplane will have a slightly better idea of what the heck you’re actually doing

– Reduces overall portability of the console
– Again, batteries

The Absolute Madman (Undocked, Using the Pro Controller)

+ Makes sense for gamers with big hands

– What are you doing?! That’s not portable anymore! Are you just going to throw your Pro Controller in your backpack? Its joysticks can get all messed up as it rolls around in that old JanSport you’ve been rocking for ten years now! Sure, it’s a nice controller, but at what cost? You could have absolute precision on an airplane, but just use the darn Joy-Con if you have to. Heck, the controller itself is bigger than the switch and definitely less portable. And you’re just going to leave the Joy-Con attached to the system with the kickstand up? Have we not evolved past this?

Reassess your life decisions.