8bitdo – SNES30 Gamepad Review

I’ve never really been that guy that bought or used third party controllers. I would go out of my way to get official branded stuff, both for longevity’s sake and because I wanted anyone playing with me to have an equal experience. With the Switch however, extra controllers are expensive. You can pay upwards of $100CAD for a pair of Joy-Con, and the Pro Controller is similarly priced. Thank the gaming gods for 8bitdo then, as they’ve given me an option I hadn’t considered.

The 8bitdo SNES30 Gamepad is styled exactly like a SNES controller – offering a traditional D-pad, Select, Start, the standard Nintendo face buttons (ABX, & Y), and a pair of shoulder (& R) buttons. The apparent difference between it and an official controller is the lack of a cord, the presence of a USB-micro port, and the two LEDs that surround said port. Wireless by design, it includes Switch compatibility out of the box if you’ve snagged one with firmware 4.0 or later (as I did).

Sportin’ a port instead of a cord, but still classy.

Pressing Start and Y will power on the controller in Nintendo Switch mode, and you can use D-pad Down and Select together to emulate the home button. Aside from the button combination aspect, it emulates the home button much as you’d expect in general use.

So how does it work?

Once paired with the Switch using the controller’s discovery mode (hold Select for three seconds) and the Switch’s controller menu, you can then use it just like a regular controller. Obviously you’re missing a few buttons, but there are games that don’t use them (or can reassign buttons to compensate). As such, playing titles like Pokkén Tournament DX or Puyo Puyo Tetris can be done flawlessly out of the box, while your mileage may vary on other games in your library. It’s not perfect compatibility, but it sure does have its uses.

Personally, I used it for about half my Pokkén Tournament DX play, and found it to be a much better option than the Joy-Con in any form. It kind of sucks that there’s no screenshot ability since it’s low on buttons, but the usage for game-based moves was beyond what I expected and very much responsive.

Using the SNES30 felt just like playing with a SNES controller, and I quickly fell in love with it. It seems a bit odd to me to be using a classic style controller on a new system from that brand (even if it’s not an actual SNES controller), but it really works well. I’m thankful that Nintendo have been pretty standard with most of their button ideas, as it lends itself to call-backs like these.

That said, one of the biggest caveats with this new controller comes in the way of waking the system – which it cannot do. There’s no way to get the system out of standby with this controller as it simply lacks the ability to connect to a non-active system, and doesn’t include a proper home button. You’ll have to wake the Switch via the power button or another controller in order to get the SNES30 connected (even once paired), though once it’s awake you can connect the controller even at the lock screen. It’s a caveat for sure, but I don’t think it takes away from the controller’s qualities much. It’s important to note that it wasn’t designed for the Switch either, so there’s definitely reason why such functionality is missing.

All said, would I recommend it? Absolutely.

The SNES30 offers up to 18 hours of battery life, an easy way to charge, wireless connectivity, a proper D-Pad, and a good set of buttons. It’s sturdy, stylish (looks pretty much exactly like a SNES controller), and cheaper than grabbing any of Nintendo’s official bits while still feeling somewhat Nintendo-y. Plus, 8bitdo is supporting it quite well with firmware updates – issuing 4.01 just recently to fix a lag issue in Switch mode.

While obviously not a perfect replacement for an official controller (nothing ever will be), it’s quite honestly a great option for those on a budget or looking simply for a good secondary controller. It may even be the perfect controller for many compatible games, and it’s absolutely going to be my go-to Pokkén pad for the foreseeable future.

Just be aware if you’re interested as it doesn’t include all the buttons (or bells and whistles), and therefore isn’t likely to work for you in all cases. It’s the price you pay for going outside the box, but it’s one I can manage just fine when considering the benefits in other areas.

Plus, that D-pad – right, guys?