The Perfect Gaming Controller Came Out in 2021, Here's Why I Still Love It (2024)

Quick Links

  • A Controller That James Bond Would Use

  • All the Buttons You Might Need (and a Few More)

  • It Pairs With (Almost) Everything

  • A Rechargeable Battery That Can Be Replaced With AAs

  • Make the Controller Your Own

Key Takeaways

  • The 8BitDo Pro 2 controller looks great and is comfortable to hold during any style of game.
  • This one controller is compatible with various devices, including Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, and PCs. There's also a wired Xbox version available.
  • The Pro 2 comes with a rechargeable battery but provides the option to swap in AA batteries in a pinch.

Sure, you can play games using only your phone or a keyboard and mouse, but you'll get the most out of your games with a dedicated controller. The question is, which one do you choose? I'm here to tell you that the 8BitDo Pro 2 controller is, hands down, the best controller you can buy.

A Controller That James Bond Would Use

Let's get the most important bit out of the way first. Is the Pro 2 controller comfortable to hold? Yes. It feels like the PlayStation and Super Nintendo controllers had a baby.

Making modern controllers that are compatible with classic Nintendo consoles is how 8BitDo made its name, after all, which is why the company makes several of the best retro gamepads and a mechanical keyboard for the Commodore 64. The Pro 2 has modern comforts like joysticks, trigger buttons, and grips. It's a follow-up to 8BitDo's SN30 Pro+ from 2019, which is nearly identical if you can still find one of those on sale instead.

The build quality is rock solid. I'm confident it could survive being chucked out a window just fine (granted, at my house, that means it would land on grass). Button clicks are satisfying. While holding the controller, I haven't once wished that I were holding a different one.

The design is subdued and, dare I say, elegant. It's timeless. The black finish looks great paired with anything you want to connect it to. You aren't left with the garish mismatch of trying to hook up an Xbox or PlayStation-branded controller to a PC or phone. Maybe that sort of thing doesn't bother you, but it bothers me.

All the Buttons You Might Need (and a Few More)

The Perfect Gaming Controller Came Out in 2021, Here's Why I Still Love It (1)

A controller first modeled after the Super Nintendo gamepad is going to work very well for 2D retro games. Whether you're emulating older titles or playing modern games like Coromon or Dead Cells, the controller will serve you just fine.

But you aren't limited. The joysticks are positioned nicely for 3D titles, too. The triggers are perfectly accessible and do not feel like afterthoughts. There are four of them, plus two paddles on the back. In addition to the Start and Select buttons, you have dedicated Home and Screenshot buttons as well.

If you can game on a PlayStation, you can game with this. You may take issue if you strongly prefer the Xbox joystick layout and don't feel comfortable with anything else, which would be the biggest reason I can think of to give the Pro 2 a pass. That, ultimately, is a matter of preference.

But if you want to choose a controller layout that suits the widest range of games, this is the way to go.

It Pairs With (Almost) Everything

The Perfect Gaming Controller Came Out in 2021, Here's Why I Still Love It (2)

You would be forgiven for thinking that any Bluetooth controller pairs with any Bluetooth-compatible device. That's not the case. Connecting either an Xbox or PlayStation controller to a Nintendo Switch requires an adapter. Some newer controllers don't work with older mobile games. It can be an exercise in trial and error.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 controller comes with four inputs (S, A, D, and X), which you can swap using a switch on the back.

  • S: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo's top-selling console dominating the world since 2017.
  • A: Android
  • D: DirectInput, a controller API released for Microsoft Windows in 1995. This is the input many older PC games expect.
  • X: XInput, released in 2005 to connect Xbox 360 controllers to PCs. Newer Xbox controllers use the same input.

The Pro 2 uses Apple's MFi protocol and is compatible with iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Plus, there's a mobile clip for holding your phone. The Pro 2 also works just fine with Linux PCs. I use mine in conjunction with an Android phone, AR glasses, and NVIDIA GeForceNOW to create a hybrid gaming rig.

The regular Pro 2 controller doesn't connect to Microsoft's game console, but there is a separate wired Pro 2 made specifically for the Xbox. Unfortunately, there isn't any type of PlayStation compatibility.

A Rechargeable Battery That Can Be Replaced With AAs

The Perfect Gaming Controller Came Out in 2021, Here's Why I Still Love It (3)

Early wireless controllers used disposable batteries. This meant you needed to have a stockpile handy, and your gaming session could come to an abrupt end if you didn't.

Replacing disposables with rechargeable lithium-ion packs solved that issue. You can now charge your controller like you do your phone. Unfortunately, that gives controllers the same fate as many modern electronics. If the battery needs a charge, you have to put your game on hold while you pump juice back in. When the battery no longer accepts a charge at all, you're out of luck. Time to buy a new one.

The Pro 2 offers the best of both worlds. This is a controller that you can pop AAs into, so you don't have to stop your game in order to recharge your controller. This sets it apart from 8BitDo's more expensive Ultimate controller, which does not take AAs. But if you don't want to fuss about with AA batteries, you don't need to.

The Pro 2 comes with a rechargeable pack (that looks like two AAs strapped together) which you can recharge simply by plugging a charger into the controller's USB-C port. You never have to pop off the battery cover if you don't want to, but the option is there for people who want it or to extend the controller's life when the battery pack eventually dies. Like an old WiiMote, the Pro 2 is a controller you can expect to stand the test of time.

Make the Controller Your Own

8BitDo offers companion software that can configure a number of its controllers, including the Pro 2. You can change the button mapping so that pressing the controller's A button activates B, and vice versa, to swap the controller's default Nintendo layout for the Xbox's. You can set up the two paddles on the back to keep your pointer fingers on the back of the controller instead of the top.

You can adjust the sensitivity of the two Hall Effect joysticks, altering how far you need to push down on each stick before it picks up input. You can do the same with the shoulder buttons, in case you want a hair trigger while playing shooters. You can tweak the vibration intensity if you prefer more or less rumble. You can also set up your own macros.

Download 8BitDo Ultimate Software for free to start customizing your controller.

Are there other good controllers out there? Absolutely. But this one gets you the most bang for your buck without sacrificing quality, will last you a long time, and suits any kind of game. If you're looking for a single controller to use with your PC, tablet, phone, AR glasses, and Nintendo Switch, look no further than the 8BitDo Pro 2.

If you like the look of the controller and you use an Xbox, check out the 8BitDo Pro 2 Wired Controller for Xbox instead.

  • Video Games
  • Hardware
  • Controllers

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The Perfect Gaming Controller Came Out in 2021, Here's Why I Still Love It (2024)
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