At $79.99 per set, Nintendo’s Joy-Cons for the Switch aren’t cheap to replace. And if you, like many Switch owners, have purchased more Joy-Cons than you thought you would due to the analog sticks acting up, you might be interested in this gizmo called the Nitro Deck by CRKD, a new hardware company within Embracer Group.
Think of the $59.99 Nitro Deck as an exoskeleton for the Switch, fitting either the standard or the OLED version, that serves to enhance the console in some welcome ways. The foremost feature of the Nitro Deck is its Hall effect analog sticks, which are made to last and also bigger than those tiny ones on the Joy-Cons. These analog sticks are housed within a tough plastic shell that makes the Switch more ergonomic to hold and use. Plus, it has a very strong kickstand.
For some, those traits alone may make the Nitro Deck worth it, but it has even more features and few compromises (sorry to amiibo fans, though — it lacks an NFC touchpoint). It offers every button found on the Joy-Cons, plus some extras, including four configurable back paddles à la Valve’s Steam Deck (these can be disabled, if you’d prefer a simpler experience). Like most good third-party controllers, each button on the Nitro Deck can be set to Turbo mode, letting you spam a button as quickly as you want to make games easier. It also supports rumble and motion controls, in case you like to use gyro aiming in games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom or Fortnite.
The Nitro Deck doesn’t contain a battery, so it can’t extend the life of your Switch. That said, I didn’t notice this accessory draining my Switch’s battery any faster than usual. Despite snugly fastening into the Switch’s USB-C port, the Nitro Deck doesn’t get in the way of charging, either, since it has a USB-C input on its back — two, actually. The second port lets you use this gadget as a wired controller when you have the Switch console docked to your TV. I don’t see myself ever picking the Nitro Deck over the wireless Switch Pro controller for this particular use case, but it’s nice that it serves some purpose when it’s not cradling a Switch.
Something you give up with the Nitro Deck is the Switch’s portability. For most people who own a Switch and some other handheld, like the Steam Deck or ROG Ally, the Switch’s smaller size and comparably large game library makes it the one most likely to be brought along on vacations. But the Nitro Deck turns the Switch into something just as thick and hefty as one of those pricier, more powerful competitors.
The model pictured throughout this post is a limited-edition version of the Nitro Deck that, beyond its GameCube-esque color scheme, includes a hard zip-up case, two pop-on thumbstick replacements, and a USB-C to USB-A cable to plug it into your Switch’s dock. Those extras add up to $89.99, but if those additions don’t mean much to you, I suggest opting for the simpler (yet still pretty fetching) color schemes that cost $59.99.
If you mostly play your Switch in handheld mode and want something that turns it into a more ergonomically friendly device, there are some solid options out there, like the Hori Split Pad Compact. But if you want more comfort, plus rumble, motion controls, and vastly better analog sticks, there actually aren’t many options for you outside of the Nitro Deck. It’s both a great, relatively affordable alternative to replacing your Joy-Cons, and a fun-looking, if chunky, Switch accessory that doesn’t skimp on must-have features.
The Nitro Deck is now available. The accessory was provided by Crkd. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.