Nintendo hints at new Switch arcade controller in unearthed patent

A Nintendo Switch screen next to a N64 controller
(Image credit: Nintendo)

A patent for a video games controller filed by Nintendo last year has been unearthed online, prompting fans to speculate what new device the games giant may have in the pipeline.

First discovered on Twitter and reported by Nintendo Life, the patent was submitted in July 2021 and published publicly in January earlier this year. 

It covers the design of a new controller but particularly concerns the device’s interior over its external body. According to the document, the design has been created with the aim of making “an internal structural body of a game controller more compact”. As such, most of the patent’s details concern the internal arrangement of its components and circuits.

However, it also includes several technical drawings of the controller’s exterior, showing a design that Nintendo hasn’t revealed before. The front of the gamepad features a D-pad, four buttons, and two shoulder pads on its side, while the back looks strikingly similar to the protruding top half of an N64 controller.

It doesn't feature the N64’s three-pronged grip, however, any analog sticks, or a Start or Menu button.

The patent also mentions a vibration system and the inclusion of a battery compartment, suggesting it’s wireless. 

An NFC circuit is housed inside, too. That will let the device controller communicate with other devices across short distances without the need for an internet connection. NFC is the same system used to scan Amiibos with the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons. 

A technical drawing of a protoype Nintendo controller

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Analysis: is an arcade controller on the way?

Several details of the patent hint at what the forthcoming design may be used for. Its emphasis on providing a compact internal structure, combined with a simple front that only includes a few buttons, suggests it’ll be a small, barebones controller - exactly the type of gamepad that would suit arcade systems.

Home arcade controllers have seen a resurgence in popularity over the past few years, with devices like the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick and the HORI Fighting Stick Mini letting you play classic arcade titles on the Nintendo Switch with era-appropriate hardware. Nintendo may be producing an arcade controller of its own, although the lack of a central joystick would suggest the controller’s targeting a different section of games than the existing devices.

While its design somewhat resembles the top of an N64 controller, the absence of any analog sticks and its missing grips indicate this design isn’t related to Nintendo’s classic console. Plus, an official N64 wireless controller has already been released, leaving little for Nintendo to improve upon.

It’s tempting to assume this patent gives us our first glimpse into the latest Nintendo controller, but it’s best to reserve your excitement. Patents are often secured on speculative grounds, allowing firms to claim intellectual property on a design that may never make it to market, or be radically redesigned by the time it does.

You need only look at the unused Nintendo Switch Joy-Con patents, which include everything from a hinged Joy-Con to a clip-on version, to see the extent to which designs can change.

Don't wait for Nintendo to reveal all, find the best Nintendo Switch accessories now.

Callum Bains
Gaming News Writer

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games.