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Controller Gauntlet

In the past few months I've been doing a lot of controller gaming. Or past years, really. Aside from Heroes of Might and Magic, Unreal Tournament, and a few others PC games, my gaming has been on some form of controller. And I'm counting handhelds as controllers.

But PC has a wide variety of games that are simply better with a controller. But a controller for PC has always been my biggest hurdle.

Xbox One controller - The Obvious One

Now, some may call the most obvious one, Xbox One controller, and call it a day. And that's fair enough. It's big and it works. And I have one, but I also have a couple of problems with it.

I got my XBC back in its earlier days before the revision. That means no bluetooth and back when I got it, there were no wireless receivers for it either. Whether it worked with PC or not was also a big question. Windows 10 had some freshly made beta drivers for it built-in, so it was a gamble. And it worked and it worked well. However, I was constantly tethered by the USB cable.

However, due to how I'm used to holding a controller, probably due to hours upon hours of Pokemon on Gameboy and such, I never got used to idea of resting middle fingers on triggers. Instead, I grip the controller with my middle fingers as well. Unfortunately for me, XBC is not made with people like me in mind and the bulging plastic right beneath the triggers ended up pushing against my middle finger and cutting off blood circulation. Not a problem if I wear a glove which works as a cushion, but then I just look like a tool.

Unfortunately the damage is done and now if I push down on my middle finger a little, I have the exact same sensation of finger going numb for a moment followed by the tingling of blood circulating again. And after I had already given up on Xbox One controller, Microsoft had finally released a wireless reciver for it. Now XBC is nothing but a piece of Gamer Decor™ in my living room.

Xbox 360 controller - I mean it's an idea, but...

I can't find them new anymore. And I still need wireless receiver for those. And I really don't want to use someone's old worn out controller. That's like wearing second hand underwear. It's probably fine and you can probably wash it, but you'll never get the thought out of your head.

Logitech F310/F710 - I can't belive they still make these

Ah yes. The classic of PC controller gaming. If anything, Logitech understands the meaning of "it ain't broken, don't fix it" and FX10 proves it. However, I'm done with cables. No more. And I'm done with 2.4GHz connections too. I have a bad habit of losing those microscopic Bluetooth USB dongles, but losing something that I can't replace with a generic piece off eBay or AliExpress? Ugh. And I know I sound picky, but that's for a reason.

Gamecube controller - The Best in the World (except if you're not playing Smash)

GCC are nice. They feel good, button size and layout is great. Even the damn triggers have pressure sensitivity. Except that d-pad is utter trash, sticks don't click, and there's only one shoulder button. Companies like PowerA and Hori actually went an extra mile and added the missing buttons to GCC and with Nintendo Switch's recent update that allows button remapping, GCC became a more viable controller for more games. Same, of course, applies to GCC on PC, but since I don't have Hori or PowerA version of GCC, I do not know if they're usable with PC. And whether or not their sticks click.

But my overall experience with GCC is simple: Smash Bros, anything Gamecube, and Mario Kart 8. I would not use it for anything else.

Switch Pro controller - One step from perfect. God damn it, Nintendo.

Now THIS is what I like. The feel of it. The d-pad. The large face buttons. That semi-clear plastic. The gyro aiming in Breath of the Wild. Good god. And it even works with my PC over bluetooth and was easily remapped into Xbox controller using reWASD. (Yes. I'm aware that Steam does this for free without needing to pay for something like reWASD, but I play a bunch of Game Pass games via Xbox app and adding those to Steam is something I never got to work and gave up on pretty quickly). Except here's the issuse...

First and foremost, like pretty much everyone else, I paid 70 (currency here) for it. It's expensive as hell. And Nintendo made a big fat mistake of making its triggers (or ZR/ZL) digital. Not analog. I desperately tried to play Forza Horizon 4 with it, but I really made driving awful. And sometimes the triggers would get stuck too. This, however, is not controller's fault. It doesn't occure when playing on Switch and SPC was never meant to be used for PC anyways.

Joycons - It's like SPC but smaller and stupid

I'll keep this short. It suffers from all the issues SPC does and it's two separate devices that need to be combined to work as one. Pointless hassle.

Wii U Pro controller - Well uh...

Not really worth mentioning, but here it is anyways. I always liked the idea of both thumb sticks on top. Like a reverse dual shock. However, no matter what, I couldn't get it to pair with PC, so that's a miss.

Wii Remote/Wii Motion Plus - HAHAHA

I believe this is one of those moments where Twitch.tv would use their Kappa emote.

DualShock 1/2/3 - Return to tradition

As much as I spent time with DS 1 and 2, that was childhood. My hands are bigger, but the controllers are still the same size and, quite frankly, don't fit my hands anymore. And aside from DualShock 3, there's a severe lack of analog triggers, which I need for racing games. And don't get me started about those horrible d-pads... Unfortunately for me, this has been my only option until two months ago.

DualShock 4 - Return to tradition just a little bit

This one I don't own myself and instead borrowed from my brother. If I did own one, the search would have ended here. It's a controller that really I like. It fits my hands perfectly. Pairs with PC without any issues. Supported by reWASD and I even mapped some function to the touchpad too and after fiddling I managed to turn off the useless ass LED too.

Except that I kept accidentally touching the damn touchpad by every 5 minutes, so that's one piece of hardware that I had to give up on right away. Oh and the d-pad is still PS. (That's short for Pure Shit). Otherwise it was simply great and this is what I would have bought for myself if I didn't take a bit of a leap of faith and got myself...

8BitDo SN30 Pro+ - Winner winner chicken royale

Ok, this will sound almost like I was paid to say this, but hear me out. It's perfect. Analog triggers? Check. Good d-pad? Check. Compatible with PC? Out of the box. Rechargeable battery? Yup, AND it's easily swappable without having to unscrew anything in case it gets worn out. Points to 8BitDo for using common sense. USB Type C? Hell yeah. Controller size? Bueno. Can it be used as a guest controller for Nintendo Switch without having to torture my guests with joycons? Hell yeah. But the best part is that it supports multiple devices. And I don't just mean the Xinput/DirectInput (Sometimes called Android mode by 8BitDo)/Switch/MacMode thing, but how much further it goes.

At first I wasn't sure if I have to reset controller and then manually pair it in the device settings each time I hop from device to another, but turns out each mode registers device separately. 8BitDo doesn't mention this anywhere, but I'm so damn glad it's the way they've made it work. I have several devices that I'm actively using. Xinput mode I paired with my Windows PC and it works out of the box without any additional configuration. DirectInput mode I paired with Raspberry Pi running RetroPie. Switch mode is, well, paired with Nintendo Switch. Holding start button for 5 seconds turns off the controller, and holding one of the face buttons boots it in a specified mode. And since each mode registers separately, it will autoconnect to the device it's configured to. So with shutdown time of 5s, it takes me about 7s to disconnect from one device and connect to another. See you at GamesDoneQuick!

8BitDo also provides a software for configuring the controller with things like macros, adjusting vibration, analog deadzones, etc. and I really can't find anything bad to say this thing. Perhaps 8BitDo could make the modes configurable so that I could replace useless Mac Mode with second Xinput to use with my bedroom Steam Link? (Or maybe Steam Link accepts its Mac Mode. I don't know yet. Haven't tested.)

I guess the worst things about it are the fact that it's still using traditional vibration rather than the haptic feedback that's been adopted by Nintendo Switch and upcoming PlayStation 5, but that's just nitpicking, really.

Summary/TL;DR

I got myself an 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ and, in my opinion, it's simply the best option for anyone looking to buy a nice fully featured (except for lack of mostly useless NFC for Nintendo Switch) bluetooth controller for PC gaming. Especially if you have other devices (that aren't PlayStation and Xbox) that you want to use it on.

However, if I had my own DualShock 4 or if Switch Pro Controller had those analog triggers, I might have passed on it only because I'm a cheapskate and wouldn't want to buy another controller. However, it is MUCH cheaper and doesn't require buying something like reWASD to ensure proper key mapping on games that won't launch through Steam.