When you want to play like its 2002 but in 2020
The Nintendo GameCube controller has withstood the test of time. Over the years, we have seen many third-party accessories call back to this classic design, alongside Nintendo themselves releasing new versions of the 19-year-old controller for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Most GameCube-styled controllers are marketed towards Super Smash Bros. fans since, to this day, the classic controller is the weapon of choice for many players in the competitive scene. These controllers are fun to use for other titles too, especially whenever you want to feel nostalgic for the little indigo lunchbox.
With so many options out there, it can be tough to determine which GameCube-styled controller is the best for you. PowerA presents perhaps the most practical GameCube-styled controller with its wireless iteration. It blends a nearly identical classic design with staple Switch features like the Capture and Home buttons to create a retro-modern experience. While there are a couple of aspects that keep it from being completely perfect, if you are looking for a controller that brings back memories of your gaming childhood or are interested in a solid Super Smash Bros. Ultimate accessory with wireless freedom, this controller might be just the one for you.
The PowerA wireless GameCube-style controller is a near 1:1 recreation of the original controller it emulates. The size and shape feel immediately familiar to those who found themselves playing the classic (now retro) console. Aside from the additional buttons, a larger directional pad, and overall lack of cable, you might easily mistake this controller for one of the original accessories bundled with the console back in 2001. While the shell looks and feels almost identical, the most major design differences come from the shoulder buttons and triggers.
This controller comes with two shoulder buttons instead of the singular Z button that can be found on the original design. Unlike the original Z button, these new L and R buttons have quite a bit of traveling to do before activating. This makes sense due to the L and R buttons having more function in current titles whereas the Z button was mainly used for auxiliary actions back in the day. This is an interesting design choice that works well ergonomically, making them stick out so they are easier to press when your fingers are resting below on the curved triggers. While not identical to the Z button of yesteryear, it is similar enough to evoke feelings of familiarity while being much more satisfying to press.
The triggers, while providing a similar chunky press, don’t travel quite as far as their original counterparts. This is most likely because Nintendo’s controllers nowadays are entirely digital, with no analog buttons, bumpers, or triggers to speak of. Due to these changes in Nintendo’s design philosophy, having the full range of motion for the triggers wouldn’t make much sense, even if it would be more accurate to the original design.
The d-pad is larger than the standard GameCube controller’s, but even with the increased size, I can’t imagine many games you would choose to use the d-pad over the analog stick. The original GameCube controller was designed with a tiny d-pad for a reason. The primary focus is the analog stick, so GameCube titles only used the d-pad for very small tasks that didn’t require intricate inputs. Using the D-pad in conjunction with any of the face buttons as opposed to the analog stick, at no fault of the d-pad, but due to the shape and placement of the face buttons. Even though PowerA and other accessory makers like HORI emphasize the increased d-pad size as a selling point, there’s no practicality to using it in a fighting game, platformer, or any other title that requires precision because the controller’s ergonomics aren’t made for it to be used as the primary input method.
There are multiple colors available for the PowerA Wireless GameCube-style controller. You can get your nostalgia fix in purple, black, gray, silver, and gold. The controller is also available in special Umbreon, Espeon, and Pikachu variants that would go great with a remaster of Pokémon Colleseum. Along with the individually purchased controllers, players can find a 3 pack available that comes with a purple, gray, and black controller.
While there are certainly a lot of options available, some might feel that there isn’t that much variety, especially in comparison to the character-themed offerings from HORI, PDP, and PowerA’s own branded controller offerings in other styles. I would love to see wilder orange, blue, or translucent throwbacks to the original controller colors as well if PowerA continues supporting this line. All in all, the color options available are great and I am extraordinarily grateful that an original purple is an option for the maximum nostalgia factor.
Aside from the additional function buttons like Home, Capture, -, (with the start button being replaced by +) and the additional shoulder button, this is essentially a modern replica of the classic GameCube controller. It feels and plays almost just as you remember. For those who haven’t used a GameCube controller before, there is a lot to love, but it isn’t ideal for every title out there.
For plenty of Nintendo games, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the GameCube controller layout is the golden standard. The core gameplay has remained the same for Smash Bros. since Melee released on the GameCube in 2001, so using a controller like this to play Smash Bros. is a totally valid choice. The eight-way gate is great for confirming your directional inputs for movement and attacks and the buttons all seem to conform to the combat. The A button is large and in charge, demanding the most space because it is the most likely to be used to perform the primary action. The X and Y buttons are sized and angled in a way to make them easy enough to access for special actions like jumps and the B button is smaller and meant to be used on its own, not in conjunction with X or Y like the A button is, so that’s where your special moves come in. The triggers have a great spring in them that causes the triggers to bounce back so you can quickly press them again. The rubber used for the analog sticks is definitely less grippy than the original GameCube counterpart though, which is definitely up to user preference on whether this is good or bad, but I would prefer a bit more resistance to my fingers slipping off. This is probably my biggest gripe for an overall great controller. They seem responsive enough though so that’s good at least.
Nintendo designed games on the GameCube to compliment the controller, nowadays as controller designs have standardized, this isn’t always the case. Playing a more traditional fighting game like Street Fighter, BlazBlue, or Under Night In-Birth, with a GameCube style controller is definitely not recommended since every action requires the same amount of attention and the multi-shaped and sized face buttons don’t compliment their gameplay. Even major Nintendo titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have changed their gameplay to where using a GameCube style controller (without remapping the buttons) is incredibly impractical. That being said, it is a ton of fun to use in games with limited actions or fewer necessary inputs like Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Animal Crossing, and Pokemon.
For as fun as this controller can be, it doesn’t have any additional features found in many third-party controllers nowadays. There isn’t a turbo feature or additional mappable back buttons. This is as true to form as you can get when it comes to a licensed third-party peripheral. Perhaps the fact that this is essentially the same controller you remember with a few tweaks is all that you need, and that is perfectly fine, but similarly priced offerings from PowerA and other manufacturers can get you those extra features that could be more beneficial than just a familiar form factor.
While it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of similarly priced enhanced controllers, it does have motion capabilities and they work pretty well. While motion controls aren’t required in many games, it is a useful feature that ensures greater compatibility. Playing Super Mario 3D All-Stars felt so right (and yet so wrong at the same time, at no fault to the controller, it is just weird playing Super Mario Galaxy with anything that isn’t a Wii remote and a Nunchuk) with the PowerA wireless GameCube-Style controller.
Other standard Switch features like HD Rumble, IR, and amiibo support are absent, however. This seems to be the case for most third-party controllers which is always a clear indicator for consumers that if you want a controller with every standard feature you are going to have to go first-party. If you are using the controller mainly for Super Smash Bros. you will have all of the functionality you need to play the core modes but amiibo training will require you to grab a Joy-Con or first-party Switch Pro controller to play with your AI buddy. While not always necessary, some games require rumble to solve puzzles, which would, unfortunately, cause you to need to switch controllers when the situation arises, or not use the controller at all in those titles due to its lack of compatibility.
The PowerA wireless GameCube style controller feels even more retro since it requires AA batteries but it comes with a pair in the box which is nice. With one pair of batteries, you can get up to 30 hours of gameplay which is no small feat. Using replaceable batteries as opposed to a rechargeable battery onboard comes with its benefits and challenges. There’s no need to wait for your controller to charge, if you have another pair of batteries, all you need to do is swap them out and you are back to 100%. This will require you to have AA batteries handy, however, but if you invest in a couple of pairs of rechargeable AAs you could get the best of both worlds. (Also be sure to recycle your depleted batteries!) Since there isn’t a rechargeable battery onboard, there isn’t a micro USB or USB-C port for a wired connection. This would have been an added benefit for players who want to take advantage of the wireless functionality, but also have the speed and dependability of a hardline connection when the situation demands it. The PowerA wireless GameCube style controller does feature 5.0 Bluetooth support though, which makes it possible to use on other devices like PC or mobile without the need for a cable.
While there might be more versatile controllers out nowadays, you might find yourself coming back to the PowerA wireless GameCube style controller because of its familiar foundation. I would go as far as to say that you might be giving up some functionality for nostalgia when it comes to playing most games that aren’t Super Smash Bros. with this and any GameCube style controller, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth using. While I can’t recommend it for any fighting game that isn’t Smash, this design is simply a ton of fun to use for a good amount of other titles like 3D platformers, RPGs, and anything else that reminds you of the good old days of playing on the console with a built-in handle
PowerA replicates the original controller design very respectfully and I am glad to see that the classic design still has a home in today’s marketplace. At the time of this review, it is the only licensed wireless GameCube style controller out there, which gives it an edge against competitors. If you are someone who finds themselves playing Super Smash Bros. often and would like a wireless option that maintains the GameCube controller’s legacy or just someone who loved the days of playing on the classic console, I recommend picking up at least one of these controllers for your library.
The MSRP for the PowerA wireless GameCube style controller is $49.99 and it is currently on backorder on the manufacturer’s site, but you can find it on Amazon ranging from $29.99 to $49.99 depending on your choice in color and its availability. The three-pack retails for $119.99.
- Almost identical to the original GameCube controller in just about every way creating a modern-retro experience to games played.
- The only licensed wireless Gamecube-styled controller on the market.
- Features motion controls for compatibility with a broad number of games.
- Long battery life.
- Compatible with PC through Bluetooth 5.0.
- No rumble.
- Requires AA batteries.
- No additional features like turbo functionalities or mappable extra buttons.
- The rubber on the analog sticks is less soft and grippy in comparison to other offerings.
- No micro-USB or USB-C port for a wired connection.
PowerA provided Shoryuken with the Wireless GameCube Style controller for this review.