Yeah. Me too. I also remember most of the online invites including a BYOC note. And everyone would show up with their lucky GameCube controller. The one with a scuffed sticker on it, a wire wrapped neatly around it. Each setup would have an adapter ready, knowing almost everyone would be whipping out a trusty GameCube controller with dirtied joysticks.
It was almost like you wouldn’t be taken seriously unless you were carrying one in your backpack.
“The GameCube is easily the best controller for Ultimate,” Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez told me without hesitation.
Is the GameCube used by default just because we're all used to it? It can’t be that simple.
The GameCube controller is “clickier.” It’s something that can’t be the same. It’s just more satisfying to use than other controllers. Each button press has more impact. You can feel it working. And the C stick doesn’t have a lot of grip, noted Kashan “Chillin” Khan — it can be smacked around for smash attacks and aerials.
It’s also wired. The Pro Controller being wireless has caused interference in tournaments. James “River” Wade had to mod his Pro Controller to match the insides of a GameCube controller just to avoid the possibility of a wireless delay. It’s hearsay, Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby noted, but it does happen. And if you’re that 1% it happens to, you’re screwed.
Furthermore, the GameCube controller just has the best button layout — plain and simple. It has that big A button for your primary attacks. It’s big and it’s centered. You can’t miss it. Then a smaller B button is right nearby, allowing you to slide your finger over. It’s comfortable. It’s effortless. And then there’s the X and Y, which are a completely different shape. Your muscle memory just knows which button is which without having to look. Without even having to think about it.
But there’s a keyword there: Muscle memory.
GameCube controller: Superior or sentimental?
“A large part of it is nostalgia,” Dabuz admitted. “It’s been the controller option since Melee. A lot of people have been playing since Melee or Brawl. And the Wii Mote and Nunchucks are bad. So during that whole time, you’d be using a GameCube controller.”
He added: “The Smash community favors the GameCube controller so much because we’ve been using it ever since 2001, for Melee. It’s muscle memory. We’re so used to using it for the past few decades… That’s the main reason that Smash pros prefer it. We grew up with it.”
“I feel like with Ultimate, it was so ingrained for Smashers to play on a GameCube controller that it’s just the defacto choice,” Chillin said.
Smash legend Ken Hoang said it’s basically a superior Nintendo 64 controller, another familiar controller we’ve been using since the dawn of Smash.
Almost every Smash pro has been playing with a GameCube controller daily for years — decades, even. And they all have learned the exact way to use it to their advantage. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma uses the standard button layout and is one of the few pros to do so. Dabuz uses L to grab after getting used to that during a 3DS demo where he couldn’t change the controls. His Z button is set to jump for Rosalina & Luma. Chillin uses L to jump to open up some tech possibilities like moving in a different direction right after an attack cancel. ChuDat took off tap jump and uses R instead — this allows for an Up B out of shield more consistently. His C stick is used for tilts.
So is it just muscle memory and familiarity? Is the GameCube used by default just because we're all used to it? It can’t be that simple.
So I asked: Let’s say someone starts playing Ultimate with a different controller. That’s what they’re used to. Would they have an equal chance of winning a match in Ultimate over a GameCube controller player?
It seems the GameCube controller has had a flawless run through the winner’s brackets and might remain the best Smash controller of all time.
Hungrybox said you could lose to a guy playing on a Guitar Hero controller if they were good enough and you were bad enough.
“I think the GameCube controller is the best controller simply because I've played every Smash game on it. But it really comes down to the player themselves. There's no real reason you should feel the need to use one over the other if you're able to perform perfectly well.”
That sentiment was echoed by the other pros, too. Ken even said he knows players who were good with the Nunchucks during Brawl. He didn’t note whether they could beat him with the Nunchucks, however.
Dabuz said he can use the Pro Controller just fine. The Pro Controller is another viable option despite the 1% chance you’ll lag. Maybe just use it when playing against friends or in smaller events, Dabuz noted.
Can the GameCube controller be 3-0d?
“I’ve used the Pro Controller a fair bit,” Chillin added. “It’s a solid standard controller these days. It reminds me a lot of the 360 controller, where it’s well designed. If you start with the Pro you’re probably fine and not at a significant disadvantage of all. And it’s better than Joy Cons at least.”
Yeah. Don’t use Joy Cons. Just don’t.
Hungrybox noted that the sticks themselves are stiffer so you can’t land proper angles and not-directed inputs as easily. Dabuz said the buttons are just too tiny. Chillin said the same thing on account of his “huge hands.” Using Joy Cons is just asking for a cramp. And all the buttons are tiny. It’s not intuitive. ChuDat said the Joy Cons are fine for playing on the road with friends but they’re not viable for competitive Smash due to the limited amount of buttons.
Okay, I said, trying once again: If someone started with the Joy Cons and knew them like the back of their tiny, cramped hands, would they still be at a disadvantage to a GameCube controller player in Ultimate?
“Totally,” ChuDat said.
He didn’t even have to think about this. The Joy Con just can’t start a combo during a dash due to the lack of C stick. He said he’d recommend that a Joy Con main still switch to a GameCube controller or Box.
What, what's the Box?
Apparently, there’s a new controller in Smashville and it might take the throne from the GameCube controller. ChuDat told me that the Box might be the best option for Smash in general — even better than the GameCube controller. Yep, no amount of familiarity, dirt, and stickers would make the GameCube controller better than the Box.
The HitBox is an arcade-inspired controller that would use the same adapter as the GameCube controller, making it ready for any tourney. The layout removes the need for a stick altogether, which removes the possibility of a control stick messing up, said ChuDat.
Oftentimes, when players mash their control stick in one direction and then release it, the move will input in the opposite direction due to the stick moving in that direction upon its release. Snapback is a major problem and this intuitive made-for-Smash controller is the solution.
“I sound like I’m sponsored by them but I swear I’m not,” ChuDat informed me.
“Box controllers have been getting more popular since they provide ways for humans to do TAS-level inputs,” Hungrybox noted, proving ChuDat isn't the only one to feel this way.
So maybe the Box is the controller of the future. The GameCube controller could handle every level but now it’s faced with Master Hand and maybe it can’t keep up. Only time will tell since the Box is not released to the general public quite yet. But maybe it will have a lot of fighting game enthusiasts changing their minds once they see this arcade-style Smash controller. Maybe Smash is a true fighting game after all — it now has the controller to prove it.
But until then, it seems that the GameCube controller holds the uncontested spot as the best one for Ultimate. Even though Ultimate isn’t considered as complex as Melee — without the ability to choose between light and hard shields and less of a need for joystick notches — it still holds up as the best controller to hold. It hits all the right buttons. And it’s…
Well, I’ve run out of puns. But it seems the GameCube controller has had a flawless run through the winner’s brackets and might remain the best Smash controller of all time. And even if the Box manages to meet it in the finals, the GameCube controller is iconic either way the match goes.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.