Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: 8Bitdo hit a home run with the SN30 Pro. This controller is perfect for retro games, along with working great for modern games. Plus, it works with just about any device you could imagine, including your phone, PC, or Nintendo Switch.
Everything looks and feels like a classic SNES controller
Perfect for side-scrollers
Connects to gaming phones, computers, and the Switch
Long-lasting battery life
Battery is not removable
You cannot remap buttons
Uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time
You'll need a controller mount for gaming on the go
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At this point, if you're playing the best Android games and you're not using a controller, then you're probably doing it wrong. There are so many fantastic options out there, you're certain to find something that works for your needs. And let's be honest, dealing with on-screen touch controls is just flat-out annoying, even if you have a phone as massive as the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
8Bitdo helped lead the mobile controller revolution, along with Razer and a few smaller companies. But for me, the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro really put the company on the map with its Bluetooth capabilities, modern features, and nostalgic design. So let's jump into why this is one of the best gaming controllers for Android (and any platform).
8Bitdo SN30 Pro: Price and availability
The 8Bitdo SN30 Pro was originally released all the way back at the end of 2017. It has remained the same price over the years, coming in at around $45. While the controller used to be available from Best Buy, it seems the only places you can get it now are Amazon and Micro Center.
8Bitdo SN30 Pro: What's good
Before you even go through the initial pairing process, you're likely to get hit with a nice batch of nostalgia. The SN30 Pro looks almost identical to the original SNES controller, especially if you managed to get one of the models without the labeled buttons. It's for this reason that it became an insta-buy for retro gamers, such as those who want to play games on one of the best Android emulators, or those who are using RetroPie with a Raspberry Pi.
But the SN30 Pro has a few other tricks up its sleeve, as it can also be used with your PC, Mac, and even the Nintendo Switch. The SN30 Pro's popularity helped skyrocket 8Bitdo into relevancy and remain popular today despite newer 8Bitdo controllers released since then. Equipped with Bluetooth, rumble vibration, clickable joysticks, and a classic design, there's not much you won't like with the SN30 Pro.
No matter what you're looking for in the best game controller in terms of features, one concern is always battery life. Unlike the 8Bitdo Pro 2, you won't find a replaceable battery, but the SN30 Pro does have a rechargeable battery and a USB-C charging port at the top. Even after owning this controller for more than a year, battery life is still top-notch. Admittedly, the SN30 Pro doesn't reach its advertised peak of 18 hours anymore, but that's to be expected after owning it for as long as I have.
The design itself is just immaculate. It looks stunning and throws me right back to my days playing my parents' old SNES while sitting on the living room floor. The buttons offer a nice tactile response with a varied feel: the X and Y buttons are concave, while the A and B buttons are convex.
In my year with the controller, I never ran into any joy-stick drift, and the d-pad is fantastic. Some controllers have mushy d-pads, leaving you feeling like you're pushing something into a bowl of mashed potatoes. That's not a problem with the SN30 Pro, as 8Bitdo seems to have nailed down this part of the controller.
8Bitdo SN30 Pro: What's not good
Given that the SN30 Pro was released in 2017, some concessions do have to be made. One of the great things about the 8Bitdo Pro 2 is the ability to remap buttons through the Ultimate Software app on Android or PC. Unfortunately, the older SN30 Pro isn't compatible. I would have liked 8Bitdo to make the app backwards compatible, but this is a minor gripe more than anything else.
Something to keep in mind, at least if you're like me and have larger hands, is the ergonomics. Using the SN30 Pro reminded me of why my current wrist issues likely started back in the NES and SNES days. Truthfully, the controller is uncomfortable to hold for more than maybe 30 minutes at a time.
8Bitdo remedied this with the SN30 Pro+ and the Pro 2, both of which have modern controller grips. So if you plan on playing games for a long time with an 8Bitdo controller and have large hands, you may want to consider upgrading.
Our final minor gripe comes down to portability. It's not that the SN30 Pro is overly large or anything. Instead, it's that you'll need a phone clip if you really want to play games on the go. Unlike the GameSir X2 and Razer Kishi — both designed to hold your gaming phone — the SN30 Pro doesn't have any tools to attach a phone, so you will need a phone clip or desk stand.
8Bitdo SN30 Pro: Competition
So how does 8Bitdo differentiate itself from the pack? Turning retro controllers from your childhood into something modern. The SN30 Pro takes more of a traditional approach for a controller, as you do need a phone mount, which is just something else that you'll need to buy. It also adds something else that will be taking up space in your bag when you're on the go.
Meanwhile, the GameSir X2 and Razer Kishi ditch this idea and feature a built-in USB-C connector to turn your phone into an Android-powered Switch. But there are limitations on that front, too, as you can't use those controllers with all of your devices. Instead, you're limited to just using a phone or tablet in order to play your games.
As for 8Bitdo's own line of controllers, the SN30 Pro and Pro 2 are here to serve different needs. The SN30 Pro is the more compact option of the two, which is great for traveling. But if you plan on playing games for a few hours, your hands might end up getting cramped. Button-wise, they are practically the same, so you won't miss anything with either of these.
The Pro 2 gets the upper hand for two basic reasons — ergonomics and customization. The larger controller is simply more comfortable, which makes it a bit more versatile. It's a better option if you want to play games on your PC or Nintendo Switch, but also if you plan on putting a bunch of hours into Call of Duty Mobile. The other benefit over the SN30 Pro is the customization, as you can remap the buttons thanks to 8Bitdo's Ultimate Software app on Android.
8Bitdo SN30 Pro: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want a modern controller that looks like the SNES controller
- You want to use one of the best d-pads we've ever felt on a controller
- You are looking for a controller that works with all of your devices
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want to be able to remap the buttons with 8Bitdo's software.
- You are looking for something that's comfortable to use for long periods of time.
8Bitdo hit the mark almost perfectly with the SN30, as it combines a nostalgic love for old hardware with modern features. It's a bit uncomfortable to hold, but it works with most gaming devices, and you won't have to worry about mushy buttons.
4 out of 5
Although I prefer to use the 8Bitdo Pro 2 over the SN30 Pro, there are times where I just slap my phone in a mount and use the SN30 Pro instead. It's a great controller for playing my favorite games through an emulator or firing up some Dead Cells and all of its side-scrolling glory.
The SN30 Pro has been around for years, but different versions and iterations have been released since its launch. This includes a partnership with Microsoft on a version designed specifically for Xbox Cloud Gaming. There's a reason why the SN30 Pro hasn't been properly replaced, and that's because it's just an incredible controller.
8Bitdo SN30 Pro
Bottom line: The 8Bitdo SN30 Pro combines all of the benefits of the original SNES controller with modern features to make using it a wonderful experience.
Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.