I’m not saying you should pick up the PowerA Wireless Kirby Nintendo Switch Controller simply because it’s adorable. I mean, that sort of is what I’m saying, but I promise you that I got more out of this pad than a fuzzy feeling of joy in my cold, hardware-reviewing heart. In theory, this third-party gamepad shouldn’t have placed my official Pro Controller. So, the fact it did definitely scores it brownie points, even if I do have a few gripes with what’s going on beneath its bubble gum exterior.
For the most part, the best Nintendo Switch controllers sing from the same hymn sheet. While premium pads will provide you with features like hall effect sticks and haptic rumble, the rest stick with the same rounded shape, D-pad design, and chonky face buttons that are significantly larger than a regular pad. Perhaps it’s that sameness that draws players like me, who are a sucker for cute mascots, to options like PowerA’s wireless Kirby homage. It draws a line between fun and functionality, and that's important in a controller.
It’s worth noting that this also isn’t the first time we’ve been graced with a Kirby gamepad. In fact, PowerA actually has a wired Switch controller with the tiny Smash Brawler printed on one of the grips. However, I think I speak for every fan out there when I say that a version that looks like it has been gobbled up by the little pink monster is superior, despite the fact it lacks the features of those aforementioned premium pads.
Before I gush about how adorable Kirby is, I want to run through what the PowerA Wireless Nintendo Switch Controller will furnish your fingers and thumbs with. In a sense, this pad feels more like one of the best Xbox Series X controllers than one for the Switch, as it uses AA batteries rather than being rechargeable. I know some of you out there prefer this, especially since it means a longer run time than integrated lithium cells. That said, this wireless pad also completely forgoes any sort of wired connectivity or means of charging up a pack, and that doesn’t feel like something I should be dealing with in 2024.
On the plus side, the Kirby controller does boast remappable buttons on its pink keester. I’d be lying if I said I took any Switch game seriously enough to make full use of back buttons, but if you ask again while I’m playing Mario Kart 8 against my partner, I might have a different answer for you. Competitiveness aside, the feature helps strengthen the controller's versatility, and that’s something I’m always on board with.
What the $44.99 Power A Kirby controller won’t hook you up with is HD rumble, IR Camera functionality, Motion Controls, or Amiibo NFC support. That’s no different from many other budget gamepads out there, and I’d question the quality of any that does for less than the Pro Controller. Still, it does mean this pad perhaps best serves as a player 2 controller, as games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will make use of that list of features.
It’s amazing how simply printing a pair of eyes and chubby cheeks on the front of a gamepad can instantly sell me on a controller. That was absolutely the case for this PowerA pad, as I couldn’t stop giggling at the fact it looks like Kirby used their copy ability on a Nintendo Switch accessory. I mean, that’s just silly in the best possible way, and now that I’ve got my hands on it, seeing the design in person is giving me even more serotonin.
The pink plastic passes the smell test in terms of quality, and I’ve no reason to believe PowerA skimped on materials to keep costs down. This is something I always look out for in third-party pads, as the last thing you want is for brittle parts to break off inside and turn it into an infuriating maraca down the road. I’m also a fan of the subtle texture change between the front and back, as the latter’s rougher feel goes a long way in terms of grip.
I wouldn’t say this PowerA controller is heavy-duty, and it feels almost too light without batteries inserted. Sticking in a pair of AAs offset any notion of it feeling cheap, but the main reason for its weight is down to the lack of rumble motors and the usual tech within one of the best PC controllers. Missing innards aside, the ergonomics stick pretty close to Nintendo’s official design, with the only noticeable difference being that the thumb sticks feel ever so slightly taller.
Not to potentially pop Kirby’s beautiful pink bubble, but it takes more than big cartoon eyes on a controller to rival the rest. Therefore, I put the Kawaii gamepad through its paces just like I would any other console or PC controller. Before you ask, yes, I did also use the pad to play through the puffball’s latest outings on Switch, even if I thought Super Mario Wonder was a better platformer to test it against.
First up, let’s chat about Mario Kart 8, as I’ve been using the Kirby gamepad for most sessions with my partner for a good while now. I like to powerslide my way through each race, and I’m pleased to report that PowerA’s shoulder buttons didn’t let me down on that front. There’s a little extra resistance compared to Nintendo’s own controller, and I was initially worried that’d affect my timings in some way. Yet, it doesn’t, and I’ve become accustomed to the distinct click produced by all the pad’s buttons.
Moving onto Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe, the platformer provided me with a reason to swap from thumbstick to D-pad. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the exquisite quality of the official Pro Controller, but the rollability and general feel of this pad are perfectly serviceable. Floating, slam transforming into a brick, and general platforming all felt pretty on point, and I have no real complaints to make about the approach. I say this coming off the back of my Lenovo Legion GO review, which featured ‘TrueStrike’ controllers with completely woeful directional buttons.
I already name-dropped Super Mario Wonder, so it’s only right I fill you in on how the controller fared during the bizarre adventure. The extra resistance on the face buttons did add some anxiety to more punishing platforming sections, especially the ones that involve borderline button mashing to chase a Wonder Flower. However, I’m willing to admit that this was all mostly in my head, as I’m pretty sure my hilarious fails in the game would have still happened if I had been armed with a Pro Controller.
Should you buy the PowerA Kirby Wireless controller?
The Kirby PowerA Wireless controller may lack features compared to other Switch gamepads, but it makes up for it with pink puffball perfection. If you’re a fan of the round, hungry hero, you’re probably already looking for an excuse to pick this peripheral up, and I’m pleased to say it holds up both as an adorable setup add-on and as a capable console controller.
That said, I’m hesitant to recommend this gamepad to anyone who isn’t that into Kirby, as the Switch controller race has plenty of alternatives running up the track. I do still think it is definitely one of the best affordable options out there regardless of its cute shell, but I think PowerA should be adding a way to play using a USB-C cable to all its wireless controllers in the future.
How I tested the PowerA Kirby Wireless controller
For a month, I used the PowerA Kirby Wireless controller as my main Nintendo Switch gamepad. During that time, I played multiple rounds of Mario Kart 8, a chunk of Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe, and a few multiplayer sessions in Super Mario Wonder. I kept the official Pro Controller to hand so I could draw comparisons in terms of ergonomics and feel, while assessing whether it holds up in terms of controls and comfort.
Looking for something PlayStation-flavored? Check out the best PS5 controller options available right now. Alternatively, take a peek at the best joysticks or the best racing wheels for PC if you want something a bit more situational.