The best part about the Nintendo Switch Lite is the return of the D-Pad

The newly revealed Nintendo Switch Lite (opens in new tab) looks great. It’s a smaller, cheaper, slightly more efficient version of the Switch designed with handheld play in mind (something reflected by the low Nintendo Switch Lite price (opens in new tab)). It’s basically a bid for the 3DS crowd, but even if, like me, you aren’t interested in a handheld-only Switch, there’s reason to be excited about the Switch Lite, as it’s added one of the most-requested Switch features: a dang D-Pad. 

I don’t want to diss the Switch, but, well, here we go: the directional buttons on the Switch’s left Joy-Con are no good and very bad. They’re especially bad for 2D games like Hollow Knight or Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, or menu-heavy games like Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, most JRPGs including Pokemon Let’s Go (opens in new tab), and by extension Pokemon Sword and Shield (opens in new tab)

The directional buttons are the main reason I almost never play my Switch without my Pro Controller, and they’re demonstrably inferior to a traditional clicky D-Pad in every conceivable way – so much so that players quickly took to modding a proper D-Pad onto their Joy-Cons shortly after the Switch launched. Anything annoying enough to compel players to break the warranty on their brand-new and otherwise stellar console or controller is a surefire problem, so I’m thrilled to see the Switch Lite get a D-Pad. 

I suspect the D-Pad was added largely to mirror the 3DS’ profile – again, 3DS fans being the Switch Lite’s primary market – but I like to think it was partly because someone at Nintendo saw all those posts about players modding D-Pads onto their Joy-Cons. And I’m hoping that the Lite’s D-Pad Joy-Con style will become available for other members of the Switch family in the near future. I’d love to see an alternate Joy-Con pack for the normal console, and for D-Pads to be standard on the long-rumored Switch Pro (opens in new tab) (for lack of a better label) which will reportedly beef up the system’s innards. 

I’ve reached out to Nintendo regarding the possibility of D-Pad-equipped Joy-Cons and will update this story if I hear back. 

Update: In an interview with CNET (opens in new tab), Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser confirmed that “there are no plans, or nothing to announce, in terms of further variations of Joy-Con,” which has crushed my heart. I’m still holding out for Joy-Con D-Pads on the would-be Switch Pro, though. 

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