You may not have heard of the company 8bitdo (pronounced “eight-bit-doe”), but you really should know about it. The brand has carved out a strong niche for itself as the creator of retro-inspired gaming accessories that focus on build quality, compatibility, and customization. The 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus is the flagship controller of the company. In our 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus review, we’re going to tell you why it is one of the best controllers you can get for the Nintendo Switch, as well as computers and Android devices.
8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus review: What is it?
You likely recognize the design of the SN30 Pro Plus as looking like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System’s controller. That is deliberate. The original version of this product — the SN30 — was basically just a replica of the SNES controller but designed for wireless use. The follow-up — the SN30 Pro — introduced analog sticks and wider system compatibility. The SN30 Pro Plus adds analog triggers and a more ergonomic grip system.
At its core, though, the 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus is a controller that should specifically appeal to people who want to play Nintendo games. Whether those are modern titles on the Nintendo Switch, emulated retro games on your PC, Mac, or Linux machine, or even emulated games on your Android phone, this controller can do it all. It can be used in both Bluetooth and wired modes as well as in Xinput, Dinput, and Switch modes. Basically, there’s not much you can’t do with this controller.
To make things even more interesting, it comes with free software from 8bitdo that offers a full customization suite. You can reprogram every single button, adjust dead zones for the analog sticks and triggers, and even write macros that get saved to the controller directly. The macros even work with Switch games!
In other words, don’t be fooled by the retro looks of this controller. This is a very powerful device that should appeal to gamers of all ages.
One of the biggest signs of a cheap controller is a reliance on AA batteries. Most premium controllers these days come with a rechargeable battery pack, which immediately sets them apart from their cheapo rivals. However, 8bitdo offers the best of both worlds by including a rechargeable battery pack that you can take out and replace with AA batteries. The choice is yours!
The build quality of the 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus is exemplary. It feels the way it looks — like someone smashed an SNES controller into a Sony DualShock 4 controller. As such, both younger and older gamers should feel right at home.
As mentioned, you can use this controller with a variety of systems. It works natively with the Nintendo Switch and offers almost all the same things as the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. That includes rumble (which is customizable and includes both a left and a right motor) and a six-axis gyro. There are very few Switch games that won’t work with this controller.
In fact, the analog triggers of the SN30 Pro Plus give it a leg-up over even the Switch Pro Controller. However, there are only a handful of Switch games that take advantage of analog triggers, so they will be more useful for PC games or emulated GameCube titles.
All the fundamentals of a good controller are here, too. Long battery life (probably about 20 hours or so), USB-C support, wired mode support, and a well-crafted D-pad.
On a final note, if you don’t like the SNES-inspired color scheme of the 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus, there are two other models. One has a color scheme reminiscent of the original Game Boy while another is just blacked out: black controller, black sticks, black buttons, black everything.
What’s not so good?
It may seem like the 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus is perfect. It almost is, but there are a few things about it that could still see improvement.
For Switch players, the controller does not have IR or Amiibo support. Granted, even the Switch Pro Controller doesn’t support IR, but Amiibo lovers won’t find compatibility here.
The biggest letdown for Switch users, though, will be that you cannot use this controller to power on your Switch. You’ll need to go through the anguish of getting off the couch and manually turning your Switch on before playing. This likely isn’t 8bitdo’s fault, though — it seems like a classic Nintendo caveat to me.
Outside of Switch compatibility, all users will face a USB-C cable issue. The instructions that come with the SN30 Pro Plus very plainly say that you should not use just any USB-C cable with the controller. Instead, you should only use the matching cable that comes with the controller itself. Now, it’s absolutely plausible that this is just 8bitdo covering itself from buyers messing up their controllers using faulty USB-C cables, but I wouldn’t want to risk finding that out. To protect your investment here, you should only use the included cable.
Finally, I have noticed that during long play sessions, the plastic seam that connects the two halves of the controller can dig into my palms a bit. This causes some slight discomfort after a few hours. This doesn’t happen with a lot of other premium console controllers such as the Switch Pro since there is no seam on the grips. Hopefully this is something 8bitdo rectifies in a future version of this product.
8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus review: Should I buy it?
The reason I first bought an 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus was to play emulated Nintendo games. For that, it is perfect. It works on all my systems. The ABXY buttons are in the “Nintendo” arrangement rather than the “everyone else” arrangement. It’s totally customizable. If you want a controller for Nintendo emulation, this is what you are looking for, without question.
If you’re looking for an all-around controller that you can use with your PCs, Android devices, and Nintendo Switch, this is also a stellar buy. It will lack some compatibility with the Switch, but its robust customization software and seamless compatibility with other systems more than make up for those losses.
That all being said, if you are looking specifically for a controller just to play Nintendo Switch games, you should probably skip this. For $10 more, you should pick up the official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller as that will offer Amiibo support as well as the ability to turn on the console from the couch. That’s a worthwhile $10 if you ask me.
The 8bitdo SN30 Pro Plus is not cheap: its list price is $49.99. However, 8bitdo puts it on sale quite often for as much as 50% off. If you’re trying to be cash conscious, just wait around a bit and you’ll eventually find it at a cheaper price.