Joy-Cons vs. NES Controllers: Which should you use with NES Nintendo Switch Online?

Nintendo Switch NES NSO with NES controllers
Nintendo Switch NES NSO with NES controllers (Image credit: iMore)

The NES controllers look and feel like they stepped out of 1985, and I mean that in a good way. They bring back fond memories of sitting three-feet from your TV after school, trying to beat your high score in Metroid. The Joy-Cons, on the other hand, are today's Nintendo controller and they work with more games than just the ones available in your NES Nintendo Switch Online Library.

NES controllers vs Joys-Cons: Which should you buy?

When it comes to NES Nintendo Switch Online games, nothing beats playing classics with a classic. That's why Nintendo made the NES controllers for Switch and that's why it's only available to Nintendo Switch Online members. You can only use the controllers to play games in the NES Nintendo Switch Online library, but when you consider that the games come with your membership, you can convince yourself that the exclusive controllers are just like buying a new game.

The Joy-Cons that come with your Switch are nothing to sneeze at, however. If you never get your hands on a pair of NES controllers, you're not going to feel like your missing out on anything. If you need an extra pair of Joy-Cons, you can use them with any and all Switch games. Plus, they fit the Grip and other accessories and peripherals designed for Joy-Cons.

Who should get the NES controllers

Basically, what it comes down to are nostalgia and money.

Did you own an NES when you were a kid? Did you play Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, or Excitebike when they first came out? Do you love the feel of sharp edges on your perfectly rectangular controllers or the slight concave feel of the buttons? If you understand what I'm saying, you will be sent down memory lane with the NES Nintendo Switch controllers.

The way the buttons respond to the NES games — the way the D-pad feels in your hands instead of a joystick — it's like you're 10-years old all over again.

The NES controllers only work with NES Nintendo Switch Online games, so you're spending $60 on a very specific experience. If you've got the extra money and remember what it was like to play NES games as a kid, you won't be disappointed with the NES controllers for Nintendo Switch.

Who should stick with the Joy-Cons

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

Even though nostalgia wins out with the NES controller, nothing else is missing from a Joy-Cons experience with NES Nintendo Switch Online games. Nintendo made an incredible experience with the Joy-Con controllers. The unique HD Rumble feature adds to the overall fun, something the NES Controllers don't do.

The Joy-Cons also work with every game on Nintendo Switch, including the ones in your NES Online library. You're not paying a single extra dollar for a perfectly wonderful experience.

If you do decide that you need an extra set of Joy-Cons, you can choose from a wide variety of colors, including ones designed for specific games.

If nostalgia is not your bag, or if the thought of spending $60 just for a set of controllers that only work with one set of games seems outrageous, stick with your Joy-Cons. If you need a second pair, you can find them in a variety of different colors.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).