So I gave in and picked up one of the items I put on last year’s Christmas wishlist, a Nintendo Switch. I’ve had a blast with it so far. I just finished The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I’m now itching for some classic 2D game action.
There’s only one problem, though: the Switch Joy-Cons don’t have a d-pad.
The lack of a proper d-pad won’t be a problem with 3D games like Zelda, but throw in a classic-style game like The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+, and the analog sticks are going to get to you as you try to navigate dungeon after dungeon. Let’s not even get started on fighting games like Ultra Street Fighter 2. You can pick up a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, but at $70 it’s too expensive for something I don’t even plan on using that much except for very specific games.
If you’re a cheapskate like me, the 8bitdo controllers might be up your alley. They’re half the price of the official Pro Controller! Originally released way back in 2015, 8bitdo’s retro-themed controllers work with PC, Mac, Android, Linux, iOS, and with a firmware update, the Nintendo Switch.
Firmware Upgrade & Syncing
To upgrade your 8bitdo controller for Switch compatibility, head on to the 8bitdo support site, download the firmware for your controller, follow the instructions in the file included with the firmware, and you’re good to go. Syncing is a bit confusing – go to Controls > Change Grip/Order on the Switch, and then don’t follow the on-screen instructions. Instead, press the Power Button + Y to put your NES30 Pro on Switch mode, wait for a minute, and it should pair like a charm.
So I got the 8bitdo NES30 Pro and I’ve used it for about a week now. The buttons feel chunky, in a good way, and really remind you of the old Famicom/NES controllers and all the good and bad that comes with it. I thought it was responsive enough, and the d-pad is going to give me calluses like the original Famicom controller did. The analog sticks were small and grippy. My only complaint with the NES30 Pro is too small and the shoulder buttons are awkwardly-placed, forcing my hands to take a weird grip when I have to use them.
But hey, that’s what I get with a controller that evoked the classics.
I Suck at Games
I started with The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+, and it was a massive improvement over the Joy-Con’s analog stick and directional buttons. I can actually control Isaac better, and I actually lasted more dungeons than I thought I would. I still suck at this game, though, and I died more times than I can count. But hey, at least I got to the second basement this time!
Then I tried Kamiko. Oh look, here’s another game I suck at. I’m not sure if it’s lag or the game, but there were instances where my inputs weren’t registered. I can’t count the number of times I got hit because enemies were right behind me and I couldn’t get my character to face them. As expected, the NES30 Pro did not make me magically good at this game.
I also tested the NES30 Pro on games that I’m competent at, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Fast RMX. They worked as well as expected, although for Zelda, the lack of motion controls meant that I had trouble aiming when I needed to use my bow & arrows.
Finally, I booted up the game I really bought the NES30 Pro for: Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers. And I sucked at it. I had trouble throwing hadoukens, but I’ll chalk it up to my skills being terrible. Other inputs were working fine, and the controller worked perfectly when I lent it to an officemate who immediately wiped my ass on SF2.
Guess who’s going to spend time in Training Mode.
Is it worth it?
So, is the NES30 Pro and other 8bitdo controllers worth it? It depends on what you’re using it for. I think it’s a great fit for retro games and platformers. If you don’t mind losing motion controls and HD rumble, plus if you’re willing to live with the less-than-ideal shoulder buttons, I highly recommend it. It’s responsive, relatively cheap, and easy to set up. You can use it on your Nintendo Switch and a bunch of other systems.
NOTE: I bought the 8bitdo NES30 Pro with my own money. This review was not sponsored in any way.
Do you have the 8bitdo NES30 Pro controller? Do you like it so far? Are you planning to get one? Do you have other third-party controller solutions on the Nintendo Switch? Let’s talk about it in the comments!