March 11, 2016

How to Avoid Raptor Claws: A Guide to Handheld Gaming Grips

You're having a good old time playing your favorite handheld game and then it happens: you realize your hands have contorted into a pretzeld nightmare. Raptor claws. I, too, used to game in pain until I realized there was a better way. So let me help you get a handle on the situation. The answer, my friends, is molded plastic. But there are many varieties of such plastic and many handhelds. You want to avoid crippling hand pain but don't know where to start? Luckily for you, I'm crazy and have money to blow. I have spent years acquiring a collection of handhelds and grips, perhaps in preparation for this day. So here it is, the event hundreds of dollars in the making. Find your preferred handheld below and get ready to board the train to grip town!

I have a vanilla 3DS

I'm not sure who the 3DS was designed for, but it obviously wasn't the average human person. It didn't take long for me to realize the 3DS has the worst ergonomics of all time. I had quite a bit of discomfort playing Ocarina of Time, but when Mario Kart 7 rolled around I decided it was time for a grip.

My recommendation: CTA Digital silicone grip

Price: $8.83
  • Comfortable
  • Doesn't block any ports
  • Bot bulky
  • Has a kickstand to prop your system up, useful if your arms get tired or for Kid Icarus

  • Hard to find these days
  • Fragile; the piece that clips on the back breaks easily but can be fixed just as easily with tape or glue
  • No extra storage slots

This thing may make your 3DS look like a boomerang, but it is oh so comfortable. The 3DS has two main problems: one is the general shape of it that gives you nothing to hold on to, and the other is that the shoulder buttons are terribly shaped. If you ever need to use said triggers you have to bend your fingers into horrible cramp-inducing shapes. This grip is the perfect shape because it gives your palms something to hold on to and angles your hands out so your fingers rest comfortably in all the right places. It made 3DS gaming so comfortable, in fact, that I never felt the need to upgrade to an XL for many years. Unfortunately, it looks like this grip was released so long ago (at the system's launch) that they no longer make it. I've only found a single retailer who seems to have any, ElectOtronics, so you're making a gamble with whether you'll actually receive it or not. They don't look crooked, at least, and for only $9 I'd say go for it.


Other CTA grip: So you can't get your hands on a CTA silicone grip. Not a problem! You can always go with CTA's other grip instead. For whatever reason, even though this is the first iteration of their 3DS grip and is even older than the silicone one, it's readily available. This one has an SD card storage slot built into the kickstand, although the whole thing isn't quite as ideal of a shape. It's a decent cheap alternative. ($10)

Hori racing wheel: Designed for Mario Kart 7 to replicate the feel of a steering wheel, so it's wheel shaped. This one will cover your shoulder buttons and replace them with beefier versions. I've not used it, but it has pretty good reviews, is officially licensed, and I know from experience that Hori makes great quality accessories. ($10)

Hori grip stand: Unlike the racing wheel, this one (obviously) has a stand. It has more bulk on the bottom rather than the sides, giving it a different feel from some other grips because it sits your hands straight instead of angled out, although it does has small slide-out handles. (~$15)

Hori Monster Hunter 4 hunting gear: This crazy looking thing will really give you something to hold on to and will replace your triggers with more substantial ones. However, it's quite expensive for a grip so I wouldn't recommend it unless you've got a lot of money to spend. (~$45)

Avoid: power grips (Nyko, CTA), dreamGEAR silicone condom

I have a standard 3DS XL

The XL is generally more comfortable to use than the the regular 3DS due to its increased size and larger shoulder buttons. But that doesn't mean it can't get even more comfortable!

My recommendation: A'class Assist Grip

Price: ~$45

  • Perfect shape angles your hands comfortably
  • Soft-touch matte plastic
  • 4-way adjustable kickstand
  • 2 3DS game card slots
  • Doesn't cover any ports or knobs, including the headphone jack
  • lightweight
  • Expensive
  • Hard to find
If there was a king of grips this would be it. Unfortunately, it's pricy and difficult to track down. When I got my XL for Smash Bros, I set out on a quest to find a grip that was equivalent to the CTA grip I already had because that shape was simply perfect. After a lot of searching I found that, thankfully, such a product existed. In most ways it's generally better than the CTA since it has more features in a similarly small package. Plus, it's a lot sturdier. Once again, this grip was so comfortable that it turned me off from upgrading to the New XL, although I eventually did because something is wrong with me.

There is a version of this grip made by Cool Clown ( the best named company in video game peripherals) that is nearly identical except the plastic is different and it covers the headphone jack. If you're looking to buy the A'class grip, make sure the package has the OK! headphone jack sticker on it.


Hori Monster Hunter 4 hunting gear (gore magala): Like its little brother's version, this thing is designed for long play session comfort because it's made for Monster Hunter. It replaces the shoulders with larger buttons and gives you pretty substantial grips to hold on to. It is, however, significantly less gigantic than its predecessor, and somehow less expensive. Feels pretty good overall, and those shoulder replacers are excellent, but I'm not the biggest fan of the "bulk" grip that basically adds more mass instead of handles.  (~$30)

Cyber Gadget rubber coating grip: First of all, this thing isn't rubber. What they actually mean is that it's matte plastic. Second of all, you'll be seeing Cyber pop up again later because they seem to be the prominent grip manufacturer these days. The Cyber grip is decent overall. It's got a (rather large) stand which houses space for two game cards, though it does feel a tad flimsy and is kind of hard to pop in and out. Your system essentially sits on top of this grip, so it won't cover any ports but also isn't quite as natural feeling. (~$22)

Avoid: generic grips that are less than $10, any kind of trigger grip

I finally got the small New 3DS!

Unfortunately for us all, there are only two options regularly available for the New 3DS Regular, and neither one of them is great.

My Recommendation: Cyber Gadget rubber grip

Price: ~$20

  • Soft touch matte
  • Storage for two game cards
  • Doesn't block any ports or switches
  • Kickstand
  • Bulky
  • Makes you reach for shoulder buttons
  • Fake triggers are really annyoing
  • Hard to apply and remove
  • Kickstand feels fragile

As I mentioned before, Cyber seems to be the only one making grips these days. And by "making grips" I mean "making the exact same grip for several 3DS models". This one is basically identical to the 3DS XL version I listed earlier. Your 3DS snaps on top of it rather than sitting flush like the other grips I've mentioned. This isn't too bad except that it forces you to reach up for the L and R buttons which is kind of awkward. The handles on this one are longer and straighter as well, but this isn't necessarily a huge problem either. However, what really nearly ruins it for me are the fake triggers molded into the back. They're obviously put there for your pointer fingers to rest on, which is exactly what happens, except they don't do anything. Essentially there's two protrusions on the back that only get in the way. This grip forces me to rest my fingers on these fake triggers instead of the actual shoulder buttons (which, might I remind you, you have to reach for) which I absolutely hate. I'm not sure why they didn't just go all the way and make shoulder button enhancers like Hori does. At least that way my fingers would be resting in a worthwhile place.

I'll be honest, I don't think this grip is really very good and I'm only recommending it because the alternative is worse. However it does have countless positive reviews from other buyers, so people seem to really love it. It definitely is functional even if it's not the most comfortable. If you really need a grip because of your carpal tunnel or something, then go for it. Otherwise, I think us N3DS owners will have to go gripless.


This generic knockoff grip: Generic knockoff grip will cover your cartridge slot and cause you to nearly break your system trying to remove it.

A new challenger approaches! 

But what's this? A third option? It seems I've accidentally stumbled onto a secret third grip that is definitely not easy to find. It's the Gametech Trigger Grip, which I had been made to believe was only for the New XL because nobody was openly selling this variant. I can't comment on its quality yet because it's coming from Japan and I won't get it until the end of March at the earliest, but I will update this guide when I get it!

I upgraded to the New 3DS XL!

Luckily you've chosen the more popular of the two new models, so there's a little more variety here.

My recommendation: The Hori Monster Hunter X Hunting Gear

Price: $40 if you're lucky, way too much if you're not

  • Nice, substantial grip shape
  • R and L replacement buttons feel great
  • Doesn't block any buttons or ports
  • No stand
  • Extremely bulky
  • ZR and ZL buttons are loose and mushy
  • Mostly very expensive
I seem to have lucked out by finding one of these for around $40, since they normally go for around $80 or more. That's absolutely crazy and not worth it. If you happen to find this for a reasonable price, though, it's probably your best bet for a New 3DS XL grip. It is definitely huge compared to most grips, but it's designed to be comfortable for long play sessions of Monster Hunter, so that's to be expected. This is one of those grips that wraps around the back, covering the shoulder buttons and replacing them with larger ones. The L and R buttons feel great and sit in just the right spot. The ZL and ZR buttons are lower down and trigger shaped for some reason. These are really loose, mushy, and sensitive to the point where you can't even rest your fingers on them, and I'm not sure why they didn't just give them the same thin rectangular shape as the others. Luckily, your fingers will naturally sit comfortably in either position and the Z buttons aren't used a whole lot anyway since they're exclusive to the "New" line of systems. Overall, it's a bit larger than I would have liked but suits my comfort needs the best.


Gametech Trigger Grip: The very grip I just mentioned for the smaller New 3DS is also available for the New XL and is, literally, just a larger version. This grip replaces both sets of the R and L like the monster hunter grip, except this one adds triggers for the Z buttons instead of a second set of (mushy) buttons. It could turn out better or worse than the Hori grip, and I'll let you know once I get mine. In any case, it's significantly more affordable. ($19)

Cyber Rubber Grip 2: Rubber grip 2? But what happened to the first one? That'd be the New 3DS grip I recommended early by not recommending it. There's an identical one for the XL, but this improved version moves the fake triggers because I guess folks in Japan complained about it. Instead of up where your pointers will rest, they're further down where your middle fingers rest. I guess that's better? I honestly don't really understand why they don't remove the protrusions instead of just moving them around. (~$26)

That's all well and good, but I have a Vita!

Not to worry, friend, I've got you covered. There's a few decent grips for the Vita, but one of them clearly reigns supreme.

My recommendation: The Cool Clown Assist Grip

Price: N/A

  • Cutouts for everything including the headphone jack, charger, camera, and the entire back panel
  • Perfectly fitted
  • Comfortable handles are just the right shape and angle
  • Gone forever

This thing slips around your Vita like a glove and essentially turns it into a PlayStation controller. It's perfect, as far as grips go. It's also no longer available for some reason. After hearing about this legendary grip that some Vita fans simply couldn't live without, I went on an extensive search. In all that searching, I was only ever able to find a single one for sale, which I purchased from a man in Australia for $111 US dollars because I'm a crazy person. But, man, it sure is nice! If you ever come across one, especially for a good price, don't hesitate to buy it.

Realistic Alternatives

Hori Assist Grip: I've said before that Hori makes great stuff, and for only $16 I'd say this grip is worth a shot. It looks a little bit bulkier than the Cool Clown because your console clips on top of it, but it does have adjustable extendo-grips. ($10 + shipping)

CTA Hand Grip: I used this one before I got my hands on the glorious Cool Clown grip. It's actually very comfortable! I recommend it, but keep in mind that it clips into the charging slot so you can't charge your Vita while using it. Also, it pretty wide which makes it less portable. ($12.50)

A new challenger approaches!

The JEC L2/R2 Grip Cover: This is an upcoming grip created specifically for PS4 remote players. It has extra triggers that will somehow magically poke the back of your Vita for you, because so many remote play control schemes use the back touch panel as a replacement for missing triggers. It's a bold claim and I have absolutely no idea if it will work or not. If you're feeling bold, you can preorder one now from Play-Asia. ($33)

Avoid: trigger grips (they don't seem to consistently work), anything no-name generic, power grips

No, no, no! I have a slim Vita!

Alright, don't get your panties in a bunch! This is also the only system I don't own myself so you'll have to just go by customer reviews.

PDP Trigger Grip: 3/5 stars on Amazon. Probably wouldn't go for this one. Folks are saying it's cheap and can actually scratch your system. ($15)

dreamGEAR Comfort Grip: 4.5/5 stars on Amazon. One of those silicone condom grips that people seem to love for some reason. ($20)

Cool Clown Assist Grip: Don't let the name fool you, Cool Cown's 2000 model grip is significantly different. It's got stubby little grips and replaces the shoulders with triggers, which can be hit or miss. ($22 + shipping)

JEC L2/R2 Grip Cover: The same one from before but for the slim Vita. This version is already available. ($44 + shipping)

Kelux Hand Grip: 4.5/5 stars on Amazon, though based on only seven reviews. This looks almost identical to the larger Vita's PDP grip, right down to the clip in the power port. However, this one seems to have a molded matte underside and a kickstand. Honestly, it looks pretty great, especially for the price. That is, if you can live with the charging port being inaccessible. ($14)

And that's it! Hopefully this guide has helped you get a grip on what's right for you!

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