We get hands-on with the Bluetooth Retro SNES (Super Nintendo) Controllers from 8Bitdo
There’s a lot of hype about retro gaming consoles at the moment with dedicated out-of-the-box ready machines like the NES Classic Mini, SNES Classic Mini, Sega Megadrive Classic (2014-2017), soon to be released C64 all offering ready-made experiences.
Hang on… don’t we already own devices fully capable of running these classic games already? Your smartphone or laptop is more than capable of running any of the 32bit or below retro gaming machines of yonder year…
…and that’s where the (SN30 & SF30) 8Bitdo SNES controllers come into play!
Everything about these controllers oozes retro, from the cheap plastic feel to the muddy start and select buttons… you can literally feel your childhood memories flooding back. Even the instruction manual looks like it’s been left abandoned in the attic for 20 years…
So you might be thinking… why don’t I just get a pair of retro SNES controllers and save yourself a few bucks. It’s easier than you might think!
So the 8Bitdo SNES retro controllers certainly look the part (minus the cable) and the packaging is excellent, but I want to know how they perform when I load up my favourite SNES classics!
As it’s a low price item, you’ll get the best deals from GearBest… but if you can’t wait they have them available via Prime on Amazon as well!
- Retro packaging
- They look fricking awesome!
- True to original design
- Excellent battery life
- Can be complicated to set up on Android
- On the pricier side
The 8Bitdo SNES Controller Experience
Loading up Retroarch (coming soon – full Retroarch review), having already connected my 8Bitdo controller to Windows 10 via Bluetooth I was ready to tackle some Mario Kart, Donkey Kong & Bomberman.
Huh… my controllers not working properly… quickly adds controller inputs to RetroArch settings. Good to go!
Not having wires is one of the best features of the SNES30 SNES controller and big-time improves your gaming experience. While it may seem nostalgic sitting on the carpet tethered to a SNES Classic Mini wired controller, in reality, I’m a fully grown adult and will cut wires whenever I can to fully enjoy the comfort of my couch.
So far I’ve played for around 5 hours with the (SF30 Super Famicom version) with no noticeable lag or connectivity dropouts. This is exactly what I’d expect from a premium brand like 8Bitdo.
(The controller names are a little confusing. When you connect the original SNES controller (purple buttons) it comes up as SNES30 via Bluetooth and the Super Famicom version comes up as SFC30. They’re all the same controller… so I’ve gone with the code names taken directly from the 8bitdo website.)
Having previously used my Xbox 360 controller to play SNES & Mega Drive games I can vouch that there is a level of button bashing excitement that comes from having the cheaper feeling plasticky SNES gamepad.
So it’s a double-whammy bonus as the pads look fantastic laying around your TV making you smile each time you see it and it really ups the retro level a notch when playing your favourite SNES games.
Hold your horses though as the 8Bitdo SNES controller isn’t just for nerds loading up their old SNES, NES & Mega Drive emulators. While it won’t play newer PC & Mac games very well due to the lack of buttons, it can be used on Android and as a Nintendo Switch controller as well.
Using the Android 8Bitdo App allows you to map the controller physical controls onto touchscreen button areas.
Sounds simple right?
Well… it’s not… I couldn’t get the gamepad to be recognised as an input device. I tried a few classic games from the Play Store and it was hit and miss whether the controls would work. Some games didn’t recognise the controller at all, others had lag and some worked well.
As an Android controller, I’d be hesitant to recommend it as it’s way to complicated and there are no guarantees a game will be compatible.
I’ll play around with it some more and write a guide if I manage to crack it. If you’ve already mastered the 8Bitdo SNES controller on Android let me know how in the comments below : )
Design & Build Quality
I know earlier I said they 8Bitdo SF30 SNES controller is plasticky and cheap and it is… but that’s a good thing, a nice throwback to the original.
The buttons and d-pad rattle when you shake it and the whole pad feels extremely hollow and light… just like the original. It’s easy to forget that with the advent of the iPhone… the idea of premium devices became more solid, more metal, more glass and weightier.
In all honesty, I can’t remember whether my original SNES controller rattled, but it doesn’t matter as I’m naming this style plastic-chic… you heard it here first boys and girls.
The SNES model comes in two variants, the SF30 (or SFC30) with colourful buttons imitating the Super Famicom and the SN30 (or SNES30) which imitates the original Super Nintendo with purple buttons. Get the SF30… it’s way more fun and much easier to see at night.
With that being said, there is a subtle difference between the controllers. Like the original SNES controller, the SNES30 (purple buttons) has two indented buttons at the top while all the Super Famicon buttons curve outwards.
In terms of build quality, I’m going to come back to this review in 6 months and update it. I can’t really tell you how well the SF30 or SN30 8Bitdo controllers will wear until they’ve been put through many… many… many hours of Street Fighter.
What I can say is that there are no sharp edges and the moulding fits together well. It’s also held together by clips and 5 screws meaning you can take it apart to clean easily.
I didn’t get a chance to test the following out, but they might be just what you’re after, especially if you’re already the proud owner of a NES Classic or SNES classic mini.
- Retro NES Receiver – An original Nintendo console receiver that allows you to use the 8Bitdo controllers on the original classic Nintendo console.
- NES Classic Mini Receiver – allows you to use your 8Bitdo controller with the NES Classic Mini console.
- Retro SNES Receiver – Makes your 8Bitdo controller compatible with the original SNES and Famicom consoles wired or wirelessly.
- Mobile Xtander – A clip-on phone holder mount for your 8Bitdo SNES SF30, SNES30 or NES30.
Connectivity & Battery Life
All the 8Bitdo controllers come with both wired & Bluetooth connectivity via a Micro-USB slot. There’s a few adapter above that will also make them compatible with the original SNES / NES consoles as well.
Bluetooth with my laptop and my Android phone worked flawlessly first time as well, so no issues there.
In terms of battery-life, 8Bitdo promises 18 hours of play time and the 480mAh internal battery will charge to full in 2 hours. You can also play and charge at the same time meaning you won’t have to drop everything in the middle of a hectic Bomberman battle.
I had an InstaBatt charger knocking around that fits perfectly for charging and playing at the same time. You can pick something similar up easily.
8Bitdo SNES Controller SN30 – The Verdict
Prices at around £26 / EUR / $ each you can get the full SNES Classic experience for the less than 2 large Dominoes Pizzas… bargain right!
Once you start playing a SNES game the only two focus points are the controller (through touch) and the display (through sight) which makes the little SNES Classic mini box a little obsolete.
Just kidding, the SNES Classic Mini offers an all-in-one easy retro gaming solution. The 8Bitdo SNES controllers need a bit more tinkering but when mastered are more versatile connecting to Windows, Mac, Android & the Nintendo Switch.
If you’re looking to only play SNES, NES, Mega Drive or earlier games then the 8Bitdo SNES SF30 is the perfect match. It does become limited for anything newer though.
Do I recommend the 8Bitdo SF30 + SN30 Retro SNES Controllers? Yes I do! They’re definitely pricey, but really will level-up your next classic SNES gaming session! (Plus they work great for Mega Drive games as well! ; )
Has the 8Bitdo Retro controller tickled your tech buds? Check out the best deals below…
Scroll down for a few more boring technical bits…
Updating the 8Bitdo SN30 + SF30 controllers
Out of the box, the two controllers I received were running out of date software. To make the 8Bitdo gamepads more compatible it’s advised to update them to the latest firmware which is 4.01 at time of writing.
You can download firmware updates for all 8Bitdo devices here – http://support.8bitdo.com/
- Download the required firmware and extract
- Open ‘8Bitdo_Update_Win.exe’ (Mac alternative available)
- Make sure the Gamepad is off
- Hold Start + L + R for 3 seconds
- Connect the Gamepad via a USB cable (included in box)
- Click the ‘USB Update’ button
It’s super easy, simple and works first time.
8Bitdo SNES SF30 Game Modes
As of the latest firmware update the SF30 SNES 8Bitdo controller can be switched between it’s 4 modes using the the following commands.
- Android Mode – This is the default that the controller kicks into by turning it on.
- Windows (X-Input Mode) – You can turn on this mode by holding the Start Button + X for 1 second and the LED will blink twice.
- MacOS – Hold START + A for three LED blinks.
- Nintendo Switch – Hold START + Y and play your favourite retro games on the Nintendo Switch.