Today, we’re looking at the 8Bitdo NES30 Pro. It’s a newer controller from 8Bitdo and one that I’m really excited about. It’s an interesting gamepad, with the styling and form factor taking cues from both the classic NES livery, and rounded SNES corners, but with a few extra tricks thrown into the mix. 8Bitdo are known for the faithful revisions of vintage gaming controllers styled on NES and SNES gamepads, which we’ve looked at in some other tutorials, however this time it’s a fresh take on a classic.
This review won't be a how-to guide, so for more info on pairing your 8Bitdo gear, and more, check out some of our other 8Bitdo tutorials.
- Bluetooth and micro USB connectivity
- 158mm x 98mm x 5mm
- 480mAh rechargeable LiPo battery
- 18 hours play time
- 1-2 hours charge time
- Compatible with Windows, Android, macOS, Steam, Nintendo Switch
- X-input, D-input, Mac, and Nintendo Switch controller modes
- D-pad, ABXY buttons, Start/Select, RL1 and RL2 bumpers, RL analog joysticks with click
The most apparent feature is the two small joysticks in the centre of the controller, which promises to open up a whole new field of control vs a standard D-pad. The joysticks themselves are a great addition, however, the biggest issue I have with them is the size. They feel pretty good, but the whole point of analog sticks is to make a wide variety of movements available. It wasn’t too much of a hindrance, but they definitely didn’t have the same feel as a regular gaming controller. Not that you’d expect them to for the size, but any larger and they’d probably make the rest of the controller less useable.
The next addition to the NES30 Pro is the dual left and right bumpers which are split across the top corners as L1/R1 and L2/R2. I wasn’t sure how easy they’d be to press when you’ve got the controller in your hands, but their positioning is actually incredibly well thought out. The idea is to hold the controller so that your index fingers rest on the corners and you can alternate between the first or second bumpers by squeezing your first knuckle, or press with the end of your finger. It’s neat because you can use both bumpers without having to move your fingers at all. They require enough force to avoid accidental clench presses but are easy enough to trigger without cramping your hands.
Everything else is pretty standard on the NES30 Pro with a D-pad, ABXY buttons, and start and select. You will, however, notice that the small LED found on every other 8Bitdo controller is gone, and an epic, glowing ring around the edges of the controller is the new LED indicator. It works exactly the same, it’s just…bigger and cooler.
8Bitdo is known for the excellent build quality and authentic feel, and the NES30 Pro is no exception. Whilst it’s not a ‘classic’ controller exactly, the button action feels fantastic, with a nice tactile response, and no sponginess on the controls. The entire gamepad is rigid, with no signs of warping or bending when pressed, strained, or flexed. It just feels good.
The only niggle that I found when testing it out was the joysticks have a small amount of wiggle on them when in the centered position for each axis. Obviously, any analog thumb stick will exhibit this to some degree, and it doesn’t impede the gameplay experience, however, you can just feel the point at which each axis crosses zero. It’s barely noticeable during regular gameplay, so I didn’t find it that off-putting, but just something to be aware of.
Connecting to your devices is easy. You simply hold the start button in for two seconds to turn the controller on, and the LED on the edges will blink roughly once per second. To pair it with another device, you then hold the select button for two seconds and the LED will rapidly blink. Then you can go to your device’s Bluetooth settings and pair it.
Those steps are taken directly from the 8Bitdo Zero manual, however, when connecting it to my Raspberry Pi running RetroPie, I only had to turn it on with the start button, and I could connect it just from there.
Turning it off can be done by holding the start button in for another two seconds.
LED Status Modes:
The LED located on the bottom of the controller shows the various states of the controller as listed below:
Controller connected (solid)
Controller pairing (blinking rapidly)
Controller not connected (blinking slowly)
Battery charging (blinking slowly)
Battery low (blinking slowly)
The NES30 Pro is the best medium sized gamepad that I’ve used from 8Bitdo. It does everything that the regular NES and SNES style controllers did well and improves on them with superb ergonomics, a fully featured control set, and the sweet glowing LED ring.
As mentioned in the 8Bitdo Zero review, the only downside, which is shared across the 8Bitdo range, is the lack of iOS integration. It’s due to Apple’s strict MFi certifications, and without that, it will only work with a handful of titles from the ‘iCade’ series.