Even though it’s less than a year old, the Switch already has a great selection of local multiplayer games. The problem this presents is that Switch controllers are expensive. Since I already have a Pro Controller and a pair of Joy-con, I decided to look at low-cost options for the seldom used 4th player’s controller. While I considered the 8bitdo controller I mentioned in my previous accessory post, I wanted to see if I could go even cheaper. That’s when I found Hori’s Switch controller, the Horipad, on sale for $20 (marked down from $30). Since I’ve had good experiences with Hori products in the past, I decided to jump on the opportunity to get a spare controller for almost a quarter the price of the official models.
Right off the bat, I should mention that this controller is cheap for a reason; it’s a wired controller and it excludes most of the special features of the Joy-con and Pro-con. The Horipad has no amiibo scanner, no motion sensors, and no rumble motor. Thus, what you end up with is a very old-school basic controller hooked up to your futuristic hybrid console. The Horipad has a similar size and button layout to the Pro Controller but feels much lighter. The buttons have a nice springy response and the distinct shapes of the plus/minus buttons compared to the home and screenshot buttons make them easier to tell apart by feel when compared to the Pro-con. The analog sticks are taller than those of the Pro Controller and have a little less resistance. For the D-pad, Hori made a strange compromise between the Joy-con and Pro-con design: the traditional-looking D-pad can be popped off of the controller to reveal four individual directional buttons underneath.
To test out the Horipad, I ran it through a gauntlet of games of different genres. Here’s how it fared in each:
- Fast RMX (racing) – The Horipad was more than up to the task with this lightning-fast racer. My future space car driving was about the same as it was with the Pro-con.
- Kamiko (hack-n-slash) – While the buttons felt good, I could tell the D-pad was a little off. When using Kamiko’s dash, it was easy to veer slightly diagonally when trying to go straight. Detaching the D-pad to use the underlying buttons wasn’t particularly comfortable. I probably could have gotten used to the more sensitive diagonal inputs, but I would probably just play with the analog sticks instead.
- Mario Odyssey (3D platformer) – Much to my surprise, the Horipad worked quite well for this game. I ran through a few of the post-game platforming challenges with little issue. The lack of motion sensors and amiibo scanner are definitely felt the most in this game though.
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild (action/adventure) - Exploring the expansive land of Hyrule was very comfortable with this controller. Despite the analog sticks feeling a little loose when compared to the Pro-con, I was able to line up shots with the bow and arrow much better I could with the Joy-con.
- Nine Parchments (shoot-'em-up) - I could tell joysticks are not quite as accurate as the Pro Controller's but after playing with it for a few minutes, I adapted pretty well. This was the controller I was using when my wife and I beat the final boss during our first playthrough and I didn't feel like it hampered me at all.
- Shin Megami Tensei Synchronicity Prologue (2D platformer) - After my issues with Kamiko, I was concerned about how this game would control with the D-pad. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it worked out just fine. The issues with the D-pad only seem to come up in 8-directional situations and most 2D platformers are only 4-directional.
- Skullgirls (fighting) - Everything felt pretty good except I had a hard time reliably pulling off specials that required circular inputs with the D-pad. To be fair, I generally do better with these kinds of moves using an analog stick anyway, but I suspect the D-pad on the Horipad was partially to blame.
Overall, I was pretty satisfied with this budget controller and would consider purchasing one as a spare controller to be a no-brainer. For use as a primary controller, your mileage will vary based on your situation and game preferences. The 10-foot (3 meters) USB cord will be a deal breaker for many (I used a USB extension cord to give myself enough slack when sitting on the couch). I would also say this controller is a no-go for people who primarily play games that require 8-directional D-pad input or motion controls. For everyone else, the Horipad is a very cost-effective upgrade from using the Joy-con but it doesn't quite reach the Pro Controller's level of excellence. If you want the best possible experience and can spare $70, the Pro Controller is still the way to go, but it's hard to deny the bang-for-the-buck factor of the $20-$30 Horipad.
CAUTION (maybe): When testing this controller I found that my cat could not resist attacking and biting this it. She's never shown any interest in biting my Xbox 360 controller, Wii U gamepad, or other Switch controllers. It may just be that I have a weird cat (highly probable), or perhaps Horipads are manufactured in a facility that also processes catnip... who knows? Just don't say I didn't warn you.