8BitDo has always made the best non-Nintendo controllers you could get, for the Switch or any other platform. So when the company announced the SN Pro 2, an update to the already very good and very affordable SN Pro 30+, I was naturally going to jump right on board.
I wouldn’t have called the SN Pro 30+ the best Nintendo Switch controller, if only because there were a couple of things that held it back from being truly great. The customisation was nice, the buttons and layout were perfect and, best of all, no controller drift.
The Pro 30+ was also available for a good price most of the time — usually around $20 less than the proper Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. But Nintendo’s OG pad had some advantages: the bumpers were a lot nicer to activate; you could wake the console up from sleep, something the SN Pro 30+ (and Pro 2) couldn’t do; and the semi-translucent look of the Pro Controller is still one of the best things going around. There’s the Xbox-style stick placement as well — some people prefer not to have both sticks towards the middle of the controller, particularly if you’ve got large hands and you end up in a situation where you have to turn both sticks towards each other. (A friend of mine loves pulling out the DualShock 4 as a great example of this, where trying to move right/turn the camera left results in his fingers colliding.)
But the absolute killer with the Pro Controller is that it drifts too. And that’s how I ended up searching for quality third-party controllers, especially ones that were compatible with more platforms like mobiles and PC. And that’s where the 8BitDo Pro 2 comes in.
8BitDo’s Ultimate Software suite has gotten a few upgrades since the Pro 30+ originally launched, but there’s a massive jump in versatility with the Pro 2. The new controller has the ability to store three profiles, but what’s neat is you can adjust those per platform as well. So you can set a reduced amount of rumble or customised mappings for Profile 1 when connected to the Switch, but Profile 1 can have different settings when connected to your phone or PC.
The bumpers, triggers and face buttons have all gotten an update on the Pro 2, as well. The bumpers aren’t quite as stiff as the original controllers, and the face buttons no longer have that slightly concave design. The colours and styling is still pretty similar to that retro Famicom/SNES look, depending on the colour you get, and 8BitDo hasn’t changed the positioning of the main buttons.
But there are some much needed quality of life changes. The SN Pro 30+ had you pressing Start plus a face button to boot the controller up, with the face button changing depending on what platform you wanted to use the Pro 30+ with. That’s gone on the Pro 2 — all you have to do now is flip a switch at the back of the controller.
What they’ve added, though, is two buttons at the rear of the controller. I can’t tell you how much a lifesaver this is when bound correctly. You can use them on the Switch too, although they’re not bound to anything by default.
You’ll have to dig through the software to decide what you want to use the controls for, and it might make sense to have multiple profiles for different genres of games. Something I always enjoyed in Destiny, as an example, was having back buttons bound to run so I didn’t have to push the left stick in all the time. You could map the back buttons to X/A/Y/B, if you wanted to move one of those buttons to something more comfortable.
Another great example, weirdly, is Cricket 19. The game traditionally has you pushing in the left stick or pressing A if you want to leave a delivery, but that can be a hassle if you’re also using the left/right sticks for your player’s movement. Having the back button actually makes it infinitely easier to dodge deliveries that should be left alone.
Something else that’s cool, but not Switch related, is the ability to update the controller through the 8BitDo mobile app. Normally you’d have to wire the controller up to a PC and then make all your modifications there, but the mobile app is good enough that you can make modifications on the fly, while the controller is connected to, say, your Switch.
It’s super neat. It’s the kind of versatility you want from third-party controllers, but the improvements don’t stop there.
A major physical change with the Pro 2 is a textured surface on the rear of the controller. We’ve seen this from other companies, like the PS5’s DualSense which has thousands of tiny PlayStation symbols. It’s more than a cool gimmick. The texturing gives the controller an extra amount of grip, and in climates where it can get really hot, like Australia, the extra texturing makes the controller more pleasing to hold. It fixes the thing I hate most about Nintendo’s Pro Controller: its plastic chassis doesn’t hold up well as soon as the mercury passes 30 degrees, so if you’re unfortunate enough to live in an apartment/unit/house without aircon and you game a lot, that’s something worth considering.
A big update for retro fans, too, is an improvement to the D-Pad. The D-Pad was slightly mushy on the SN Pro 30+, whereas the Pro 2’s D-Pad is a bit tighter and a little crisper. This’ll definitely be a huge win for anyone who plays fighting games or retro collections on the Switch, and it’s definitely better than the base D-Pad on the Pro Controller, and the Joy-Cons. I don’t know that I’d call it the best D-Pad you can get on a controller today — Xbox has done a lot of great work with their Elite 2 controller, but that also costs hundreds of dollars more.
The Pro Controller does still have some advantages, mind you. The Pro 2 only has a standard rumble, instead of Nintendo’s more powerful HD Rumble. But given how many games actually take advantage of the HD Rumble, that might not be a major loss, especially if you’re playing games that are released on multiple platforms (and less likely to use Switch-specific features). And being able to wake up the console from sleep is a nice convenience, especially if you’re playing in bed and you don’t want to get up.
But fundamentally, 8BitDo has taken advantage of the void left behind by Nintendo and other manufacturers. The SN Pro 30+ was already super versatile and incredibly handy as an all-in-one controller. Now it’s been completely superseded by the Pro 2. It would have been perfect if the Pro 2 was priced a little bit less than the Pro Controller, but even when it’s retailing for the same price at $89.95, it’s still a better buy.