8bitdo SNES Controller Review (SN30 Pro / SF30 Pro Review)

This week, I’m checking out a wireless replica SNES controller that can be used with a PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Android phone or a real Super Nintendo console. Can you make an almost perfect controller even better?

A few weeks ago I reviewed 8bitdo’s Retro Receiver, a small device that plugs into your Super Nintendo, allowing multiple types of Bluetooth controller to be used with Nintendo’s 16-bit system. Since I got that device, I’ve been completely unshackled from wired controllers on my Super Nintendo and it. Has. been. Wonderful.

However, it’s not exactly an authentic experience playing video games like Super Metroid and Street Fighter II on a Wii U Pro Controller or PlayStation Dualshock 4. I want something a little more traditional when I play SNES games, and that is where 8bitdo’s SF30 Pro controller comes in.

The perfect accompaniment to the Retro Receiver, the SF30 Pro is a wireless Bluetooth controller that was designed to look and feel like the Super Nintendo’s pad – A design which I think is one of the best console pads ever made. And while its design is clearly with Super Nintendo use in mind, here is a control pad that also works with PC, Mac and Android devices, which is perfect for those who like to emulate their SNES games, but it also works with the more recent Nintendo Switch console. It comes in two different versions, the SF30 Pro, which is based on the multi-coloured Super Famicom and PAL Super Nintendo consoles, while there’s also an SN30 Pro which is based on the North American Super Nintendo system, and also retains the concave X and Y buttons of that original pad. Meanwhile, the SF30 Pro keeps the uniform convex buttons of its original incarnation.

Crack open the packaging and its all simply put together – Just the pad itself, a USB-C to standard USB cable for charging and pairing, a sheet of instructions and like the Retro Receiver, another random keyring that doesn’t have anything to do with the product.

Before you do anything, you’re going to want to update the pad’s internal firmware to ensure the best compatibility, and luckily it works just like the Retro Receiver. You download the firmware updater from 8bitdo’s Support site, hold L1, R1 and Start on the controller to put it in firmware update mode, which will be indicated by a red blinking LED. Load the firmware updater on your PC or Mac, plug your controller in via the supplied USB cable, click USB Upgrade, select the supplied firmware .dat file, and away you go.

Now that the SF30 Pro is ready to use, there are multiple modes that require different key presses depending on what system you want to use your controller with. Unfortunately, it does require you to remember what the key presses are, which can make things a little fiddly, but you do get used to it and it’s a small price to pay for this level of compatibility.

From then on, you need to go into the Bluetooth or controller settings of your device, find your SF30 Pro and connect to it. I found the Nintendo Switch pairing to be a little fiddly, as I had to pair the controller every time I turned the system on, but that could just be something I’m doing wrong or a quirk with the Nintendo Switch itself.

So, how does it compare to the controller it’s mimicking? Very well, as it happens. Third party SNES controllers have a habit of feeling cheap and unresponsive, but this one surprisingly doesn’t. Even with the addition of extra shoulder buttons and analogue sticks, it feels just as comfortable as the original Super Nintendo controller – Possibly more comfortable.

But with that all said, it’s the D-pad where most third-party pads fail, so the best way to put that through its paces is with a little play of Street Fighter II, and it just so happens that the Nintendo Switch has its own version in the form of Ultra Street Fighter II Turbo. The game’s special moves are the perfect test of a Dpad’s accuracy and sturdiness, especially when performing Hadoukens and Dragon Punches. I’m pleased to say that the SF30 Pro’s Dpad passes this test with flying colours, and the analogue sticks aren’t too bad either – They feel loose like the Nintendo Switch’s sticks, but not too loose.

And if it works well for Street Fighter II, you can be damn sure that it works great for Super Nintendo games. If you’ve got a Retro Receiver like I recently reviewed – You can pair the SF30 Pro by switching on the SNES with the Retro Receiver plugged in and press the pairing button on the device. Then, on the SF30 Pro, hold Start & B to turn the controller on into the correct mode and it should pair.

Going back to the Nintendo Switch, I also gave this pad a good thrashing via the frantic action of Bayonetta and it didn’t disappoint. Given the emphasis on quick reactions in Platinum’s manic classic, the SF30 Pro holds up very well. The analogue sticks have just the right amount of give to them, and in terms of buttons, everything is placed where it needs to be and just feels right. For a game like this, the Switch Pro Controller might be preferable as its larger hand grips make hitting the shoulder buttons a little more comfortable, but as a relatively cheap alternative, it’s not a bad choice.

It’s safe to say that the SF30 Pro’s versatility is a pretty big selling point. We’re so used to having one controller for each system, so it’s great for a product to come around that can be used for multiple systems. I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of using the SF30 Pro with Android devices or computers for emulation purposes. If you have more than one of the systems that the pad supports, I don’t think you can go wrong with picking this pad up.

It’s a design classic remastered for the modern era that both works as a throwback piece of hardware as well as an excellent controller for modern games too. I’m incredibly pleased with my purchase of the SF30 Pro, and I think you will be as well – It’s another great 8bitdo product that defies expectations.

If you’re thinking of getting a SF30 Pro and already own a NES or Super NES system, I’d say it’s definitely worth picking up a 8bitdo Retro Receiver, and you can check out my review of that product by clicking right here. I’ll be back next week with another slice of gaming goodness, so until next time – Happy gaming.