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To Master Cuphead, Remap Your Controls

Cuphead has finally arrived on the Nintendo Switch and with it comes my third purchase of this absolutely incredible game. I won’t go off on how amazing it is as you can find positive reviews just about anywhere, but I would like to say that it is one of the most finely tuned and designed games I’ve ever played. It is smooth as hell and add on top of that some of the best and most unique art ever in a game and you’ll see why people love it so much.

Due to Cuphead’s challenging and fast-paced gameplay getting accustomed to the controls is crucially important. My first time playing it I quickly realized the default control scheme really did not work for me.

default controls
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There are a few things that make the default controls pretty terrible for playing Cuphead:

  • “Switch Weapons” uses the L button
  • “Lock” uses the R button
  • “Dash” uses the X button

Using the L and R buttons when ZL and ZR are unused is going to be an inferior option for many players. ZL and ZR are larger and easier to locate manually while playing and my fingers lay there more naturally when holding the controller. Since, besides “Shoot”, the “Lock” action may end up being your most pressed button, R is not a great choice. For years I’ve cursed this standardized layout of game controllers when accidentally hitting ZL and ZR instead of L and R and playing Cuphead was no different.

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“Dash” on the X button is similarly an odd choice. Since dashing is so frequently combined with jumping, having it above B and therefore not easily reachable means you are constantly slower to dash. Similarly to the L and R buttons, I find the X button is often best left for more passive moments in games. If your thumb is focused heavily on B (Jump) and Y (Shoot) you’re just not going to be able to easily pivot to X in the chaos of a Cuphead boss fight,

There’s no right answer to a controller layout, but the default is not going to be the best option for a lot of people. In fact, it will actively make many people play worse. Here’s the layout that I find works best for me:

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  • “Jump” and “Shoot” stay the same, I find that placement to be closest to what I’ve been used to for 30 years of bullet hells, platformers, run and guns, and boss fights.
  • “Ex Shoot” remains at the A button because it’s just out of reach of B and Y so I won’t accidentally hit it.
  • “Switch Weapon” is moved to X because I really just don’t like L and R buttons for any fast paced gaming for reasons stated above. Also X was freed up by my other changes and just feels more natural to me.
  • “Lock” is moved to ZR. You should be using “Lock” A LOT, especially in moments when you need to stand near the boss but don’t want to touch it, shooting at angles, and on bosses with platforms. I often find myself subconsciously pressing it at all times and only releasing it when I want to move. Having it at ZR makes “Lock” and “Shoot” be operated by the same hand, which feels natural and coordinated while playing.
  • “Dash” is at ZL because you will also be using this a lot and want it simultaneously accessible while shooting and jumping. Also, similarly to “Lock”, having “Dash” on the left side of the controller makes my left hand control all movement in the game, which again feels more natural.
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So, that’s my layout! Do you have a different control scheme? Do you like the default? Do you LOVE CUPHEAD???? Let me know below!

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