There’s still not a perfect controller for the Switch (even Nintendo’s own Pro controller has its flaws) but 8BitDo’s new Pro 2, an upgrade to its SN30 Pro+, comes about as close as you’re going to get. By addressing some of the more glaring shortcomings of its predecessor, 8BitDo has made the Pro 2 a must-have upgrade for the Switch if you’re tired of battling with those dreaded Joy-Cons.
In its defense, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is a solid option for the portable console, including motion controls that are almost as good as what the Joy-Cons offer—playing games using physical motions just feels easier with those tiny controllers in hand—and definitely better than what 8BitDo’s Pro 2 offers. It also features a built-in Amiibo scanner and the ability to wake the Switch remotely, which are two very convenient features you won’t find on the new 8BitDo Pro 2. However, with so many retro titles now available on the Switch, the critical D-pad on Nintendo’s own Pro controller under-delivers, and customizability and button re-mapping is nonexistent.
That’s where the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ really excelled as an alternative. For whatever reason, when Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was first released for the Switch, it didn’t allow gamers to invert the joystick’s Y-axis for aiming in its settings. It was only by customizing the SN30 Pro+ controller that the game was finally playable for me. But my biggest complaint with that controller was that its customizability, including switching between multiple configurations for different games, all had to be done through an app that was only available for Windows or macOS. If you were bringing your controller to a friend’s house to play and wanted to make any changes to its configuration while there, you’d have to drag along your laptop too.
With the Pro 2, 8BitDo has made the configuration and remapping process far more convenient and mobile with an app version of its Ultimate Software available for iOS and Android. From my testing it appears to offer the exact same functionality as the desktop version, allowing gamers to tweak the sensitivity of the controller’s analog joysticks, invert various axises, adjust the intensity of the rumbling force feedback (it’s already pretty subtle at maximum power), and remap what almost every single button does.
The Pro 2 controller itself can also store three custom profiles which can be toggled between by pressing a new button on the front with an accompanying set of three LEDs to indicate which one is active. With no profile selected, the Pro uses its default out-of-the-box settings, which is a huge improvement over the SN30 Pro+, which could store just one configuration at a time, which would be the only one it could use.
The stored profiles can be created and edited on either the desktop or mobile version of the Ultimate Software apps, and while the mobile version allows the various profiles to be renamed so they’re easier to distinguish, those names aren’t displayed on the desktop app, which feels like a minor oversight that will probably be addressed in a future software update.
There are three versions of the 8BitDo Pro 2 available (Black Edition, G Classic Edition, and Gray Edition). I tested the Gray option, which is the only version to move the action button labels (Y, X, B, A) onto the buttons themselves. It’s a small update, but one that I’ve come to really appreciate, even if it’s just a minor design choice meant to match the aesthetics of the older PlayStation controllers.
The Black Edition and Gray Edition versions of the 8BitDo Pro 2 controller also feature D-pad designs that match the one used on the original Super Nintendo gamepad, with a matte finish and indented triangles that just feel more grippy on my thumb than the D-Pad design included on the G Classic Edition of the SN30 Pro+ and the Pro 2. Long story short, if you’re having a hard time deciding which color to get, functionally the Gray Edition of the Pro 2 is the better choice.
Other very welcome improvements on the 8BitDo Pro 2 include the addition of two new programmable buttons on the back, which is especially nice for custom macros that no longer require you to sacrifice one of the controller’s existing buttons to trigger them during play. They have very minimal travel and are easy to press, but I’ve also found they’re occasionally a little too easy to accidentally press, so you’ll want to be mindful of what function gets assigned to them.
The Pro 2 also introduces a new four-way toggle switch on the back for easily switching between the controller’s different compatibility modes: Switch, macOS, D-input (for Android devices), and X-input (for Windows machines and the Xbox 360). As much as I love being able to reprogram this controller on my iPhone, the addition of this new toggle switch might be a close tie for the best new feature on the Pro 2 controller, because it saves you from having to memorize four different button combos that previously needed to be pressed at power-up to choose which compatibility mode you want to use. This toggle switch feels like something 8BitDo should have been using since day one for all of its controllers.
Unfortunately, while the new 8BitDo Pro 2 can connect to an iOS device to be reprogrammed, it still can’t be used as an actual iOS gamepad, which continues to be one of the biggest downsides of 8BitDo’s controller lineup. It’s a complaint the company is well aware of, and hopefully one that can be eventually resolved without a compromise in functionality or price. But even without iOS support or compatibility with the latest and greatest versions of the Xbox and PlayStation, the $50 8BitDo Pro 2 controller still outshines the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller—and just about every third-party controller out there.