8BitDo now makes the best Switch pro controller

Nintendo’s official Pro Controller for the Switch is generally a pretty useful accessory, but it has its problems: the D-pad is unreliable, and it doesn’t really offer any “pro-level” functionality. 8BitDo’s latest controller improves on both of those issues while coming in at a lower price.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 is an upgraded version of the SN30Pro Plus, already a well-regarded Switch controller. It uses Bluetooth and also works with PCs and mobile devices; there’s a physical control for flipping between Switch, X-input, D-input, and Mac. You can use it as a wired controller with a USB-C cable, too. I did try using it with my PC, but I feel like it makes more sense on the Switch due to the Japanese-style button layout with B on the bottom and A on the right. Or maybe I’m just too used to using Xbox controllers on the PC.

Aesthetically, it looks kind of like a cross between a SNES pad and a PlayStation controller, with a lozenge-shaped body, two handles, and symmetrically aligned analog sticks. The unit I have is decked out in a PlayStation-inspired gray colorway, though there’s also an all-black option and a beige model that evokes the original Game Boy.

It’s not a huge controller, but it feels comfortable in my large hands, with easy access to all of the buttons and triggers. Just as importantly for me, the D-pad is good. It feels more or less like a SNES pad, and its placement above the left analog stick makes it more appropriate for games where it’s a primary input option. I’d much rather use the Pro 2 than Nintendo’s Pro Controller for just about any 2D game on the Switch.

The Pro 2’s key feature over its predecessor is the customizable back buttons that you can press with your middle finger. These are a common element of enthusiast-focused controllers today, from Microsoft’s Elite controllers to third-party offerings like the Astro C40 for the PS4. Sony also released an attachment that brings similar functionality to the DualShock 4.

These buttons are useful because they allow you to enter commands without taking your thumbs off the sticks. Most first-person shooters, for example, assign jumping to a face button, which means it can be awkward to activate while aiming at the same time. With controllers like the Pro 2, you can set a back button to work the same way as a given face button, freeing you up to design more flexible control schemes. The Pro 2 makes it much easier to manipulate the camera in the middle of a Monster Hunter Rise battle, which might be worth the asking price alone.

The back buttons on the Pro 2 are responsive and clicky, activating with a slight squeeze. You can assign them through 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software app, which is now available for the Pro 2 on iOS and Android as well as PCs. It’s not quite as simple as some pro controller setups that let you remap the buttons directly on the controller itself, but it does support multiple profiles and works well enough. Beside button assignments, the app can also be used to modify the controller’s vibration strength and stick sensitivity.

You do miss out on some of the Switch Pro Controller’s features with the 8BitDo Pro 2. While the rumble is solid, it doesn’t feel as precise as Nintendo’s HD Rumble in supported games. The Pro 2 also lacks an NFC reader, so it won’t work with Amiibo figurines. And it can’t be used to power the Switch on, which is common to most third-party controllers across various platforms.

For $49.99, though, those omissions are understandable. That’s $20 less than Nintendo’s equivalent option, let alone the pro controllers you’d find for the Xbox or PlayStation in the $180–$200 range. And all things considered, I’d take the 8BitDo Pro 2 over the official Nintendo controller most days of the week.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 will start shipping on April 12th.

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