Upgrade Your Nintendo Switch Joy-Con with a D-pad

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I recently bought a Nintendo Switch, and it is awesome. So far, I’ve finished Super Mario Odyssey, gotten to 2BC in Dead Cells, and made it about half-way through Super Mario Bros. U.

Super Mario Odyssey was a joy to play, for the most part. It is probably my least favorite 3D Mario game so far, but the controls feel great.

That pair of 2D platformers are challenging without a D-pad. I knew this would be a problem when I bought the Switch. In fact, this is the main reason I considered saving myself $100 with a Switch Lite. The Switch Lite has a D-pad. The full-size Switch has four buttons instead.

The four buttons do make for a serviceable D-pad, but the situation isn’t ideal. I was making mistakes all the time in Dead Cells. I could feel myself missing the button I intended to hit during intense situations.

If you want a D-pad for your Switch, what options do you have?

The Switch Pro controller

The Nintendo Switch Pro controller looks like a fantastic controller. I’m not quite sure why its retail price is $70. That’s $10 or $15 more than a Dualshock 4!

If my goal was to sit in front of the TV most of the time, then the Switch Pro controller would be the perfect option. It is comfortable, well made, and has an excellent D-pad.

The Switch has been awesome. I can throw it in my laptop bag or my shoulder bag, hop on my electric unicycle, and ride to the park. I want to be able to use my D-pad on a bench at the park. I don’t want to have to carry a Switch Pro controller around and find a place to set the Switch up on its kickstand!

HORI D-pad controller

At first, the HORI D-pad controller seemed like the best option. Everyone says nice things about its D-pad, and its $25 price tag is quite reasonable.

The HORI controller only works when attached to the Switch. It has no wireless functionality at all.

This would probably work out all right for me. I haven’t really played any multiplayer games that use just one Joy-Con yet.

I didn’t like the idea of carrying an extra Joy-Con just in case I felt the need to play a multiplayer game at the park or while waiting for a plane at the airport.

This seems like a great option, but it just isn’t the option for me!

eXtremeRate Soft Touch Joy-Con Housing

In my opinion, this is the way to go. I’m extremely happy with how this setup feels. The $20 price tag may make this appear to be the cheapest option, but you’ll also have to invest about an hour of your time and a hearty amount of confidence to get this thing up and running!

This is just a set of replacement housings for your existing Joy-Cons. This is awesome, because it means you’re still using Nintendo’s high-quality hardware inside the controller. Everything still feels stock.

The bummer is that you have to take your controllers apart, and these controllers go together like a puzzle. If you’re not confident in your abilities, then you may wind up ruining a $70 Joy-Con. This is unlikely to happen. You may have trouble reassembling everything, but even if you can’t, I bet you can find a friend that can help bail you out!

I had my replacement housing in my hands for about a week before installing it, and I’ve still only replaced the housing on the Joy-Con with the D-pad.

I’ve been using the D-pad for about a week so far

It is such a nice upgrade. It is also a much better D-pad than the tiny D-pad on the Switch Lite.

I was encouraged to do the upgrade because I was having a lot of trouble finishing 1BC in Dead Cells. I could feel so many of the mistakes I was making, and I knew a D-pad would help me out.

I acquired my second boss cell a few hours after installing the D-pad mod. It made such a big difference for me!

The eXtremeRate housing feels quite nice

I’m still playing with only one housing installed. The aftermarket shell is made of some sort of plastic that feels soft to the touch. It isn’t a huge difference, but I do find it to be nicer than the stock Joy-Con on the other side of my Switch.

I’ve used a lot of cheap controllers with crappy D-pads. This isn’t one of them. This D-pad is top-notch.

This doesn’t surprise me. The mechanical parts of this D-pad are all stock Nintendo parts. The pushbuttons on the PCB are still stock, and the rubbery bits are still stock. eXtremeRate’s D-pad just sits on top of the high-quality hardware.

I was a bit worried at first. Most D-pads have a little rocker protuberance underneath. This keeps you from pushing left and right or up and down at the same time. This D-pad doesn’t have anything like that. You can easily force all four directions at the same time.

I understand the reasons why they would do this. They couldn’t add a protuberance to the mold if they wanted to use Nintendo’s rubbery piece. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there are 2-player games where you might need to hit opposing buttons at the same time. I guess you’d still be able to do that with the eXtremeRate D-pad.

This hasn’t caused any trouble for me. Nintendo’s springy rubber under the D-pad is stiff enough that you won’t even notice that there is no rocker. Unless you’re putting a lot of effort in, it feels like a normal D-pad.

Which design should you choose?

I chose the classic NES design. The NES was really my third game console. It wasn’t my last, but it was the last game console of my childhood. It made sense to me to go with the original NES look.

The classic SNES design looks much better. Even though I never really got into the SNES, I should have chosen it anyway. The NES design isn’t quite authentic enough. It is pretty much just a black controller with red buttons.


If you’re like me, and you play a lot of old-school games, then you absolutely need a D-pad. If you want or need a portable, wireless D-pad that you can use while on the go with your Nintendo Switch, the eXtremeRate D-pad housing is most definitely the way to go. It is worth the effort to get it installed!

What do you think? Do you play a lot of D-pad-heavy games? Are you using the eXtremeRate D-pad shell, or are you using something else? Did I make the right choice? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!