The Nintendo Switch may well be one of the best consoles ever made. More than 125 million units sold, and a library that puts just about every other system to shame. That said, just because the Switch continues to enjoy incredible amounts of success doesn't mean it's flawless. That's why there are various accessories available for the console that customize the Switch to best suit you. The Nitro Deck is the latest of those accessories, and it might well be the best one I've ever used.
The Nitro Deck is effectively a replacement for your Joy-Con controllers when using your Switch in handheld mode, although it also doubles as a pro controller (more on that later). Getting started with the Nitro Deck is simple. Remove your Joy-Con and slide the screen into the deck. The deck's interior is scratch-resistant, although I'd still recommend taking care with this first step. The only other step you need to take is to make sure your pro controller wired communication is turned on in the Switch's system settings. After that, your Nitro Deck is set up and ready to go.
Adding that amount of bulk to my Switch, I expected there to be a transition period during which I'd not enjoy using it, but that wasn't the case at all. The deck has clearly been designed with comfort in mind and, if anything, it's more comfortable to hold than an actual Switch. The only part of the deck's design that took some getting used to were the back buttons, partly because I didn't realize they were pre-programmed when I first started using it.
The four buttons on the back of the deck are mapped to replicate the actions of the shoulder buttons. Since the first game I tried using the accessory with was New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, which doesn't use the shoulder buttons for the most part, when I occasionally tapped them by accident, nothing happened. Cue a rude awakening when I hopped over to Tears of the Kingdom. I hit the back button mapped to ZR which resulted in Link quickly firing off an arrow.
It was an annoying discovery, but not for long, and one that you will hopefully never encounter as I've pre-warned you about it. Not only can the back buttons be remapped to duplicate the action of any button on the front of the Nitro Deck, but if you can't help tapping them on occasion, like me, they can be unbound entirely. You can also program them to mimic a series of button presses through a relatively simple process outlined in the video below.
Other than unexpectedly shooting an arrow into the floor, there was something else that made me jump when first using the Nitro Deck, but this time in a good way: its rumble. The deck seriously vibrates when given the opportunity which adds a level of immersion to your games, immersion that I didn't realize wasn't there before until I used the deck. Sure, the Joy-Cons vibrate when prompted, but not to the same extent as an entire deck is able to.
That brings us swiftly to the biggest advantage the Nitro Deck has over your humble Joy-Con controllers. I’m talking about stick drift, or more specifically, a lack of it. The Switch's controllers have suffered from drift for the console's entire run, and other than the odd comment here and there, and a promise to fix drifting controllers for free, Nintendo has never properly addressed it. Naturally I haven't been using the Nitro Deck long enough to determine whether it might suffer from drift a year or more from now, but among CRKD's top priorities when building the accessory was a promise it won't suffer from it at all. That's a big and very important promise to make, and if it's one that can be kept, the Nitro Deck will be well worth the $90 it costs, just $10 more than a new pair of Joy-Con.
The Nitro Deck comes with its own carry case, replacement thumbsticks should you want to switch things up or the ones it comes with wear out, and a 2.5m USB-C cable. That cable is what you'll need to use the deck for something I mentioned earlier, playing your Switch while docked. Not only is the Nitro Deck a deck, but it doubles as a pro controller. All you need to do is connect the deck to your dock while the console is docked and press both thumbsticks for three seconds. The LED in the bottom right corner of the deck will change color to indicate it is now in wired mode, and you'll need to do the same to put it back into handheld mode.
Much like the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers, there are a few different Nitro Deck designs to choose from, which might well be my favorite thing about the deck. There are four colors to choose from; mint green, grey, black, and purple, but it isn't just any purple. It's an unmistakable GameCube purple, and just in case you're not convinced, its right stick is yellow, and its A and B buttons are green and red. The rest of the buttons, including the d-pad, are the same shade of grey as the corresponding buttons on a GameCube controller.
There is only one real downside I found when using the Nitro Deck: the battery. More specifically what the Nitro Deck does to the Switch's battery. The deck is bigger, beefier, and better than your normal Joy-Con, and the price you have to pay for that is it's going to suck away the console's battery life a lot faster. While I'm not sure how long you'll have, I'd estimate while in the Nitro Deck, your Switch will likely lean toward the lower end of the console's standard battery life. So four hours or less, depending on how much you're using it and how long you've had your Switch. If you're only going to be using the deck around the house then that shouldn't; be a problem since it has an input on the back so you can charge your Switch while you use it, but if you want to take it further afield, your use may be limited.
Nitro Deck Purple Limited Edition With Carry Case
The Nitro Deck is a Nintendo Switch accessory that can be used in handheld when connected to your console, but also as a pro controller when your Switch is docked. This purple edition is based on the color scheme of the GameCube and includes a carry case.
If you plan on using the deck on the go, battery power will be an issue. Size might be a problem too, and that may well be the slim silver lining for me on the battery front. Even though every version of the Nitro Deck other than the black one comes with its own carry case, it makes my Switch big enough that it's unlikely I'll be using it out and about. It’s a shame, as I'd love to show off its GameCube colors to anyone who happens to look my way.
My take when it comes to product reviews like this one is you can tell if something is good or not if you're going to keep using it after the review is done. When it comes to the Nitro Deck, it will absolutely be used after I'm done writing this review. In fact, other than when I use my Switch on the move, using the Nitro Deck when my Switch is in handheld mode is now my new normal. It’s a terrific product that will change the way you use your Switch without you even noticing, and if you get the purple version, it looks damn good while doing it, too.
A Nitro Deck was provided to TheGamer by CRKD.