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Nintendo’s Joy-Cons brilliantly solve a modern day console nuisance

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One of Nintendo’s best innovations is getting better with age

Nintendo Switch - right Joy-Con sideways Nintendo

You can duel your friends in Sushi Striker — one of my favorite new games — and doing so is yet another reminder that the modular nature of the Joy-Cons is still one of the best things about the Nintendo Switch.

And my admiration for the design has only grown with time, as it’s a feature that keeps proving its worth. You’re carrying around local multiplayer games wherever you go; you need only flip up the kickstand and detach the two Joy-Cons.

But the mobile nature of the controllers is only one of the things that’s so great about them. I didn’t realize how often I had to hunt down wireless controllers in my house, change batteries or keep them charged until I started using the Switch more often and noticed how nice it was that the controllers were always just ... there. You don’t need to worry about keeping them charged, because they charge themselves when you’re using the Switch as a portable system. The Switch is its own charging dock when it’s connected to the base like a standard console.

These design decisions make the Switch ridiculously easy to use, to the point where you barely have to think about it. One of my kids walked in and saw me playing Sushi Striker using the Switch as a portable, expressed interest in trying it, and in three seconds I had the system in the dock and handed them one of the Joy-Cons so we could battle. The shift from portable to console, and more importantly from single portable to one console with two controllers all charged up and ready go, was seamless.

And the fact that every Switch owner gets access to two controllers with their initial purchase has only proven more useful with time. Crawl is a great game on the PC, but the ease with which you can get four Joy-Cons together with a single Switch to play with your friends makes the game much more accessible. Lugging a laptop to someone’s house with all those controllers or crowding everyone around a single computer monitor was a pain in the ass. The Switch version makes everything simple.

Playing local multiplayer games with the Switch in either portable mode or console mode is the easiest thing in the world, and it’s due to the fact that the system is always packing a plus one to the invitation. Overcooked has become a standard in our home, and that might have happened without the modular nature of the Switch’s Joy-Cons, but the Switch makes it so easy that it never seems like a bother to bring another person in.

I don’t think people realize how often small annoyances keep them from doing in things in life. Anyone who has sold anything online knows how often even a small amount of friction leads to someone abandoning their shopping cart instead of buying something. The simpler you can make something, the fewer speed bumps there are in the way, the more likely people are to do things, whatever they are.

Which was Nintendo’s genius; it made local multiplayer something that came packed into the Switch. In fact, it’s packed onto the Switch, even if you’re away from your dock. The lack of challenges between a single player and playing a game with a friend means that multiplayer gaming happens much more often, and never feels like an ordeal.

The more local multiplayer games that are released, the more useful the Joy-Cons feel. It’s a feature that continues to age like wine.