8Bitdo’s small, portable control pads are perfect for those times when...look, let’s be real, for when you’re playing emulated Nintendo games on a mobile device.
WHAT THEY’RE FOR: Most 8Bitdo controllers are not frontline control pads, designed to replace stuff like a DualShock 4 or Switch Pro. These are small, light controllers designed primarily for use with stuff like phones (both Android and iOS), tablets, laptops and gaming boxes (Raspberry Pi, etc). They also work on the Nintendo Switch after a recent firmware update, and are also compatible with Windows, SteamOS and MacOS.
HOW THEY FEEL: So don’t expect big, heavy, premium pads. These feel light, almost like they’re empty, so it’s easy to initially associate that with them being cheap. That disappears soon after you start using them though; the d-pads and buttons are great, with a nice click to them, and even the shoulder buttons feel nice and solid.
But they can also, depending on which model you’re using, feel small: the replica NES/SNES pads are fine, but the more complex ones that include dual thumbsticks can get a bit cramped thanks to their small (compared to an Xbox or PlayStation pad) silhouette, even if the thumbsticks themselves are surprisingly smooth for a controller this small.
HOW THEY WORK: The pads are wireless, and sync via bluetooth. They’re charged/powered by micro USB ports, and sync with your device as easily as any other bluetooth peripheral would. I’ve tested these on both my Pixel XL and an Nvidia Shield and never once had any dropouts. If for whatever reason you want to play tethered, though, you can connect them to your device via USB cable.
HOW THEY LOOK: This might be the biggest selling point for these controllers. Most are modelled after famous Nintendo pads of the past, from the Famicom to the NES to the N64 to the Super Famicom, and where the paint/colour scheme sticks close to the design of the controller, they look fantastic. The pads where they take the Famicom or NES colours and stick them on a generic two-thumbstick pad are a little less pleasing on the eye.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH: I had a lot of success testing these on my Android devices, but since they’ve just become compatible with the Switch—and because these are tiny little replica Nintendo controllers—I wanted to try them out there as well.
After a firmware update out of the box, I found that...they work. That’s about all I can say. There’s absolutely no way I would use one of these over my Switch Pro controller (which is as much praise for that pad’s quality as it is a knock against the size and comfort of these), or even detached Joy-Con, but these will be handy for emergency multiplayer sessions, and even more perfect for when the Virtual Console rolls out and I feel like playing old games with more appropriate hardware.
LAST WORD: I liked these! The only controllers I’d used with a phone or tablet previously were either cheap and terrible, or large and expensive (like a DualShock 4). The former are just trash in general, and the latter were never going to just get thrown in my backpack and taken with me on a day out. These controllers, being small, light but also good, will now be making it into that bag.
I don’t know about using these on a desktop or as a primary controller with the Switch, I’m sure you’ve already got better options for that, but as something you can have tucked away for emergency use these are perfect for the job.
NOTE: I actually reviewed six of these, constituting most of 8Bitdo’s existing range. I used the NES30, FC30, SNES30, SFC30, NES30 Pro and FC30 Pro (pictured below).