If you’re playing the Nintendo Switch in docked mode, you know the pain of playing with Joy-Cons in the grip. The sticks are way too small, the alignment of the right stick with the face buttons are terrible, there’s no d-pad, the trigger and shoulder buttons are way too shallow for play outside of handheld gaming, and if you get the infamous Joy-Con stick drift, good luck getting that repaired in quarantine. But the official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is too expensive. Good thing for a majority of people needing a Pro Controller alternative, the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ will work just fine.
What is it?
It’s a controller. That’s literally all that is.
If you remember the old Famicom-style controller I reviewed a while back, this is the latest version, this time patterned after the SNES controller. Unlike previous iterations of SNES-inspired controllers, the Pro Plus – the Plus is important – features two analog sticks and grips so it’s less a replica of the older controller and more of a modern controller that’s been dressed up as a retro controller.
Aside from the default SNES-style colorway, it also comes in an all-black design and one dressed up in the colors of the Game Boy. I got the all-black one because I’m boring and I like losing my controllers in the dark.
The SN30 Pro+ connects almost seamlessly to your Nintendo Switch, which reads it as a Pro Controller. You’ll get to immediately play with no noticeable lag. If you prefer the Playstation-style analog stick layout where both sticks are at the bottom of the screen, that’s also a bonus.
Let’s Talk About The D-Pad
Where do I start? The official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller’s d-pad sucks. There’s just no way to play around with it. It’s way too easy to trigger diagonals with it, which means life and death if you’re in the middle of a heated match in, say, Street Fighter. I’d say it’s passable for platformers, but I died way too many times in Dead Cells due to a diagonal getting triggered when I needed to back off from an enemy.
I’ve had no issues with the 8BitDo’s d-pad. It feels a bit mushy compared to most modern controllers – it lacks a satisfying clicky feeling when you press down on any of the 4 directions – but that feeling disappeared a few minutes into Tetris 99 as I can now last longer because of the more precise inputs.
The Face Buttons are a bit Weird, Though
Bim of Geekout pointed this out in his own review of the SN30 Pro+, but it took me a while to get used to the weird placement of the face buttons. They’re in a rhomboid layout, so if you’re used to a modern controller, you might have trouble finding the face buttons. You’ll get used to it after a while, though.
If you’re considering getting this but you don’t have a Switch, that’s totally fine. The SN30 Pro+ supports Windows, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Steam, and Android. There’s also unofficial iOS support, but there’s no official documentation for it.
To connect your SN30 Pro+ to these devices, you’ll need to press and hold these button combinations:
- Nintendo Switch – Start + Y
- Android – Start + B
- Windows (XInput) – Start + X
- macOS – Start + A
Then press the pairing button hidden away next to the USB-C port on top, and then search for Bluetooth devices using the platform of your choice!
Customize Your Controller
8BitDo’s Ultimate Software for Windows and macOS lets you customize your controller for every platfom you want to use it for. You can swap out the button assignments for an Xbox-style layout if you’re using it on PC, and you can also change out the sensitivity and deadzones of the analog sticks. And since the triggers are analog as well, you have an option to change out the sensitivity if they feel way too deep if you’re already used to the Switch’s shallow z-triggers.
I personally haven’t dug deep enough into the software for me to actually implement any changes, but it’s nice to have that option for people who are unhappy with how their controller works.
Okay, so what else?
The 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ has gyro controls, which is pretty much a non-negotiable for me when I’m shopping around for a Switch controller. Shooters that support gyro are more fun and aiming is more precise this way. I didn’t see any issues with the calibration when I went for a couple of rounds of Splatoon 2 and Risk of Rain 2, so that’s great.
If you’re one of the 12 people who collect Nintendo Amiibo and actually use them, instead of displaying them on a shelf unopened like a non-sociopath, you’d be disappointed to know that the SN30 Pro+ doesn’t have NFC support. You’d need to have another controller that does support NFC next to you if you wanna scan anything.
Lastly, the SN30 Pro+ doesn’t support turning the Switch on remotely. This isn’t a big deal for me since I can always just reach over and turn my Switch on while docked, but for those who have cavernous living rooms and have to walk three miles just to turn on their consoles, I’m sorry that you have to make that walk.
So, is it worth it?
Did you read the title of this review? Yes, get this. The d-pad is superior to the janky one on the Pro Controller, and this gives you most of the features you need for only PHP 2,300, or around $50 USD. If you really want the NFC support, or the ability to turn the Switch on from afar, or the wonderful designs of the special edition Pro Controllers, sure get the official option.
The Pro Controller, despite the d-pad, is honestly really great in its own right, and since it’s official, you don’t have to worry about a Switch firmware update suddenly cutting off any support for the 8BitDo controller. The Pro Controller is, frankly, the more comfortable controller, and I prefer its asymmetrical thumbstick placement over the SN30 Pro+. But it’s also significantly more expensive.
But if you really need a controller now and you don’t have the dough to spend on a Pro Controller, don’t waste your money on other third-party controllers. Get the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ over the plethora of Switch controllers, because it’s totally worth it.