The day pre-orders went up for the Nintendo Switch, I ordered one from Best Buy. Since then, it has become my go-to gaming system. However, there are a few small changes I wish Nintendo would make. One of those is the addition of a d-pad to the left Joy-Con controller.
Disclaimer: This is not easy to do. You run a high risk of messing up one of your Joy-Con controllers. I messed up a ribbon cable connector the first time I attempted the right Joy-Con. Go slow, take your time. If you have questions, please feel free to ask them below, but I will not be responsible in any way for any damage to your switch or its controllers.
Hori makes a controller with a D-Pad. I did not try this controller because the description clearly states, “For use in handheld/portable mode only.” I use my switch in handheld mode most of the time. However, I wanted the D-Pad to work while playing with it docked as well.
Mod the left Joy-Con to add a D-Pad. I did some research and found BASSTOP made a replacement shell for the Nintendo Switch that includes the hardware to add a D-Pad to the left Joy-Con.
BASSTOP Right / Left Switch Joy-Con White Controller w/ D-Pad (No Electronics)
TriWing Screwdriver – Used to work on the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con.
Find a flat, well lit place to take apart your Joy-Con. There are lots of little screws and parts that you don’t want to lose during this process.
First use the size 00 Tri-Wing screwdriver and remove the four screws from the back of the Joy-Con. Using the prying tool, slowly pry the back of the Joy-Con away from the front. There are two ribbon cables that you will need to be careful with.
Next, remove the battery. Mine was stuck down with a little sticky tape so I used the prying tool again and gently pried up on the battery until it popped out. I also disconnected the slide rail from the back of the Joy-Con shell. I found this made working on the remaining parts much easier.
Battery, Battery Tray, HD Rumble:
Once that is complete, you will want to disconnect the battery and HD Rumble motor (Connector circled in yellow). I was able to simply pull up on both of these connectors.
Now I removed the battery tray. The screws are size 2.0 Phillips. The screws that need removed are circled in red in the above image.
At this point, I started to look at the button assembly attached to the battery tray. I could not figure out how to take it apart without breaking it. After a quick Google search, I found that a lot of people seem to break the bottom connectors when trying to take this apart. I decided to not risk it and leave the battery tray grey. If you take yours apart and want to post how you did it, let me know. I will link to it here.
At this point, I removed the main controller board. There are seven screws, circled in red, that need to be removed. Be careful when removing the board, there is a spring on the rear shoulder trigger that can be easily lost.
Install the D-Pad button and transfer all other button parts to the new Joy-Con face. Make sure they are all facing the correct way and sitting how they should. I had to do a number of test fits to get everything how I liked it.
Slide Rail Buttons:
I decided to disconnect the ribbon cables from the slide rails to the main board to make this easier. If you are careful, you should not need to do this.
Unscrew the two Phillips screws from the slide rails. Remove the old buttons and install the new white ones. Make sure they are in the correct location and facing the right way before reassembling.
Install Main Board into new Shell:
Test fit and install the main board into the new Joy-Con back plate. Make sure all the buttons are still in place, the slide rail release button is installed, and the joystick is centered. Once everything looks correct you can use the Phillips screws to secure the main board.
You can now install the HD Rumble as well.
Shoulder button, Ribbon Cables, and Other Connectors Oh My:
You can now reinstall the top shoulder button. Be careful not to lose the little spring. Also, if you removed any of the ribbon cables, carefully reconnect them and make sure all connections are secure. Below is a quick list of things you might want to check before proceeding to the final assembly.
- Buttons correct and feel correct.
- Joystick centered and freely moves.
- Slide rail buttons are installed correctly and facing the correct way.
- Two slide rail ribbon cables connected and secured.
- HD Rumble connected.
- Back shoulder button installed and spring is positioned correctly.
- Shoulder button ribbon cables connected.
- Battery connected.
Reinstall the battery tray and secure with three Phillps screws. Install the battery in the tray.
Reconnect the slide rail to the rear shell, make sure you don’t forget to install the slide rail release button, and secure it with one Phillips screw.
After confirming everything looks correct, carefully close the shell and test.
Turn on your Switch and test the Joy-Con’s buttons by selecting System Settings and choosing Test Input Devices. Note: The Capture and Home buttons can not be tested this way. Nintendo Official How to Test the Controller Buttons page.
To test the joystick you will need to select System Settings, choose Controllers and Sensors, then Calibrate Control Sticks. Nintendo Official How to Calibrate the Controllers page.
If all your buttons test good, congratulations! Secure the shell with the four remaining Tri-Wing screws and enjoy your Nintendo Switch Joy-Con with a newly installed D-Pad.
The whole process took me about an hour to complete the left Joy-Con.
I hope this was helpful to anyone who just happens to find this site and wants to install a D-Pad on their own Nintendo Switch Joy-Con. If you have any questions / comments please feel free to ask them below. I try to answer everyone.