Welcome to the second week of Cheap Controller Showdown. In this continuing series, I attempt to find and go through all the various cheap controllers that have made their way into my home over the years. Some are great and some are garbage, but hopefully, we can separate the wheat from the chaff, and you won’t have to make some of the same silly purchases that I have.

If you missed Part 1, we took a look at the very bottom of the budget controller barrel. Today we’re taking a peek into the world of 3rd party Switch Pro controllers. Not since the days of the Wii have we seen a console generation so filled to the brim with wild accessories of varying quality and usefulness. You can’t throw a rock on gaming social media without getting an ad for Switch controllers of questionable origins these days. The Official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller will set you back $70, and a pair of official Joycons goes for $80. It isn’t surprising that folks might be on the lookout for a more affordable option. So let’s take a look at what’s out there and see what might be worth your money

The Licensed Partner – PowerA

These are probably the brands of 3rd party Nintendo controllers you might be most familiar with. Nintendo officially licenses its IP to PowerA for its wired and wireless controllers. This example specifically is the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller. Where a real deal Switch Pro controller will set you back 70 smackers, the PowerA option is a much more palatable $40. Couple that with various character designs on the accessories themselves, and you have a recipe for an impulse purchase at Target or something that you might consider more for a child’s daily rough-and-tumble use. Mine was purchased for the latter reason, and it has admirably handled a good few years of service on the front lines.

PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller

PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller

The PowerA is going to be a compromise for price, no matter how you look at it. The controller lacks the premium feel of the official Switch Pro controller and is missing a host of features you might be hoping for with a controller in 2024. Right off the bat, this is just a Switch controller. There is no USB C port to connect the controller to a PC for use over there. I haven’t been able to connect it to anything else via Bluetooth. This was designed only for connecting to the Nintendo Switch.

The PowerA is also battery-powered by two AAs, so you might be making up that cost difference over time depending on use. They promise 30 hours of play on two batteries, and I think that’s in the ballpark of real-world use. Amiibo functionality is out as well sadly, but they do try and make up for it with the inclusion of M1 and M2 mapping buttons on the back.

The PowerA D-pad has a fair bit of a rock and wiggle to it and isn’t my favorite, but the analog sticks have a great range of motion and height. The sticks snap back quickly to the center from any position. Unfortunately, after a few years of loyal service, they have begun to develop some drift. This might be fixable with some effort and elbow grease, but for now, it’s a handy backup when my son has a friend over playing games. When you compare it to the “other controller” you might get handed by a friend back in the 90s, it’s a godsend.

Despite any aging this has done, it has served us well. I’d have no problem saying PowerA is ok enough for the job, so long as you’re willing to make a few sacrifices.

PowerA Enhanced Nintendo Switch Controller

The Unofficial Licensed Controllers

Bootleg Zelda Tears of the Kingdom Pro Controller

Bootleg Zelda Tears of the Kingdom Pro Controller

This is where things get interesting and slightly dubious. These are the “Switch Pro” controllers that sell for under $25 on various marketplaces across the internet. They look the part of the official controllers and certainly promise a lot of the same functionality, but that price is low for a reason. These are Chinese clone controllers that are made with zero blessing from the big N. They are, indeed, bootleg controllers. Parts of this hobby can wade into some murky gray waters. It is up to each consumer to decide how they feel about making such purchases. These are available right now via Walmart’s web store, so it isn’t like US retailers are taking a stand against these practices. It is what it is. You know you aren’t buying the real McCoy.

What really makes these controllers a bit of a roll of the dice, is build quality. Different batches are going to come out differently, and none of them are going to be perfect. But hey, we’re not looking for perfect, we’re looking for a deal. So can you get away with a decent controller option for only around 20 bucks? Well…..yeah, you really kinda can. Given the cost of entry, I actually think that these represent a pretty great value. These types of clone devices have come impossibly far in the last decade compared to what they were, and it really shows with these controllers. Gone are the thin shelled weightless trash of the dregs. These are hefty, solid, and feel great in the hand.

Bootleg TOTK Switch Pro Controller

Project Build

Bootleg Smash Controller

He’ll never be a real Smash Bro, but he’s scrappy

About a year ago, I found myself with more free time than I was accustomed to after relocating to the Midwest. I had some time off before my next employment gig got started. During this free time, I decided to build an emulation console out of an old Dell enterprise PC. My controller of choice for this adventure in tinkering was the off-brand Super Smash Bros Pro Controller. Between using the PC with an external build of Batocera for emulation, and some lighter-weight PC gaming courtesy of Steam Big Box mode.

This system and controller were my primary gaming devices while most of my belongings were still in the logistical nightmare of moving in a shared load across the country. And honestly? I really don’t have anything to complain about. It was a dependable gaming mate during that time, and I was consistently impressed that I was getting this experience out of such a cheap purchase.

The Wildcard

Totk Switch Pro Controller

Would you think it’s real?

The next controller on the list was purchased basically out of sheer curiosity. It looks like I paid about $28 for this Tears of the Kingdom Pro Controller after tax. Everything about it looks the part. The packaging was all there and the unit itself looks right in all the right places. Was this some sort of extra stock that built up and allowed them to be sold for a third of the retail price? Of course not – it’s fake.

Amiibo and Switch Pro

Cat Peach knows something is wrong….

After unboxing, inspecting, and connecting the controller, I was really starting to wonder if this was the real deal. A friend suggested one sure way to determine its authenticity was to try out Amiibo functionality. Sure enough, this doppelgänger couldn’t pass the test. This was purchased in October 2023, and I can’t be sure that NFC functionality hasn’t since been added to these controllers, but at the time, it was a sure way to check if you had something legit.

This is where I insist that you heed my warnings. I paid $25 in 2023, but these same controllers are now being sold for $70+ on AliExpress and advertised as 100% authentic. If you take nothing else away from this series, just make it not to trust AliExpress sellers at their word on authenticity.

Fake Switch Pro listing

What I paid in October of 2023

This is a bootleg clone product. At $25 there’s value to be had on what is basically the same as the real deal minus some figure scanning.

Current Fake Switch Pro Listing

What the bootleg is selling for at the time of publishing

At $70 you’re being taken for a ride and sold something different from what you think you’re buying. There is no value at $70, and you should go purchase real stock from a trusted retailer.


The problem with recommending these as a viable option is that your experience may not mirror my own. Guaranteeing the same manufacturer isn’t always possible in this space, and to say quality assurances can be lackluster is putting it lightly. Know that if you do go down the path, you are gambling a bit, but there’s a decent chance that you may be rewarded for your risk. There is value to be had in some of these controllers, but you have to decide how you feel about buying them and accept any associated risks. If you want the savings, you have to be willing to play the game of deception.

Come back around next time when we jump into more Switch controllers and the world of fake Joycons. See ya there!

Have you purchased any off-brand Switch Pro Controllers? What has been your experience? Let us know in the comments below, and chat with us in our Discord!

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