8BitDo’s Pro 2 Is Closer Than Ever to Being the Perfect Nintendo Switch Controller

8BitDo’s Pro 2 Is Closer Than Ever to Being the Perfect Nintendo Switch Controller
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo
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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 defence, 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.

8BitDo Pro 2 Controller

WHAT IS IT?

An update to the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ controller that adds extra programmable buttons, three swappable profiles stored on the controller itself, and programmability through an iOS and Android mobile app.

PRICE

$US50 ($66)

LIKE

Customising the controller through a smartphone is wonderfully convenient, and the D-pad feels much improved with a matte finish and design that more closely matches the Super Nintendo's perfect gamepad.

DISLIKE

Can't be used to wake the Switch like Nintendo's own Pro Controller can. Still can't be used as an iOS gamepad.

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 customising 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 analogue 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.

Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, In-House Art

8BitDo's Ultimate Software is finally available as a mobile app for iOS and Android.

Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Nearly every button can be remapped to function as another button using the Ultimate Software.

Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, In-House Art

You can even adjust the intensity of the 8BitDo Pro 2's haptic feedback, although it's not very intense even at its strongest setting.

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.

Three configuration profiles can be stored on the Pro 2 controller and switched using a new button, in addition to the controller's default settings, which can be applied at any time. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) Three configuration profiles can be stored on the Pro 2 controller and switched using a new button, in addition to the controller's default settings, which can be applied at any time. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

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.

If you can't decide which of the three colorways to get, the Grey Edition features action button labels on the actual buttons in a large, easy to read font. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) If you can't decide which of the three colorways to get, the Grey Edition features action button labels on the actual buttons in a large, easy to read font. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

There are three versions of the 8BitDo Pro 2 available (Black Edition, G Classic Edition, and Grey Edition). I tested the Grey 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 Grey Edition and Black Edition versions of the Pro 2 controller also feature an improved directional pad with a grippy matte finish and a design that copies the D-pad on the original SNES' gamepad. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) The Grey Edition and Black Edition versions of the Pro 2 controller also feature an improved directional pad with a grippy matte finish and a design that copies the D-pad on the original SNES' gamepad. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

The Black Edition and Grey 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 colour to get, functionally the Grey Edition of the Pro 2 is the better choice.

A new four-way toggle switch makes switching compatibility modes much easier on the Pro 2, while a pair of additional trigger buttons on the back let you activate custom macro shortcuts without having to sacrifice other gameplay buttons. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) A new four-way toggle switch makes switching compatibility modes much easier on the Pro 2, while a pair of additional trigger buttons on the back let you activate custom macro shortcuts without having to sacrifice other gameplay buttons. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

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 memorise 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.

At $US50 ($66), the new 8BitDo Pro 2 is priced exactly the same as its predecessor. But even if you find the SN30 Pro+ discounted as a result, don't buy it — the upgraded functionality of the Pro 2 is worth the extra cost. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) At $US50 ($66), the new 8BitDo Pro 2 is priced exactly the same as its predecessor. But even if you find the SN30 Pro+ discounted as a result, don't buy it — the upgraded functionality of the Pro 2 is worth the extra cost. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

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 $US50 ($66) 8BitDo Pro 2 controller still outshines the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller — and just about every third-party controller out there.