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The best gaming controller for most systems: The 8BitDo Pro 2

The one controller to rule them all?

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The 8BitDo Pro 2 controller among other controllers Photo: Jeff Ramos/Polygon

The best controller is the one you’re the most comfortable with. It’s the reason why one of the best fighting game players in the world can win modern championships with a PlayStation 1 controller. When using a gamepad becomes second nature, playing becomes easier.

However, finding familiarity between multiple controllers can be a problem if you’re playing games on different systems like your Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, and mobile devices. You could go with two or three controllers — or just one.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 is a Bluetooth controller that works just as well on consoles like the Switch as it does on PC, Mac, and even mobile. It’s become one of my favorite third-party controllers, and it’s even helped me declutter a bit.

Here’s why it might be your new favorite controller.

The quest for controller parity

If you’re someone like me who is lucky enough to have plenty of games to play on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PC, macOS, and a smartphone, then your home is also probably littered with controllers. Regardless of how large your home is, having gamepads strewn across the house can be a bit of a nuisance.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 controller among other controllers
It can do (most of) it all!
Photo: Jeff Ramos/Polygon

I’ve managed to declutter my home by attempting to create the greatest amount of controller parity between all the devices I play games on. I’ve whittled down my extensive library of controllers for each platform down to two controllers for all of them: PS5 DualSense and the 8BitDo Pro 2.

Since the PS5’s DualSense controllers are one of the few that can make use of the system’s advanced features, there’s really no substitute for it. For everything else, the 8BitDo Pro 2 is what I grab when I want to play something.

8BitDo Pro 2 features

The 8BitDo Pro 2’s layout feels like a mix between the classic PlayStation controller and a SNES gamepad — especially its gray color. It makes the controller feel familiar while still establishing its own identity.

The face button arrangement as well as the shoulder buttons are exactly where you’d expect them to be. The thumbsticks run along the bottom of the controller, like a PlayStation gamepad, and unlike the diagonal orientation of the Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series X controllers.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 and other controllers Photo: Jeff Ramos/Polygon

The 8BitDo Pro 2 differentiates itself from other controllers by having a pair of buttons on its backside that I can map to various functions and even macros using an app. That same software lets me tweak the sensitivity of the thumbstick, triggers, and even the entire controller’s button mapping. These device tweaks are great because I can carry over these settings to any device I play them on since the changes are saved onto the controller, not a console.

The main reason why the 8BitDo Pro 2 is my controller of choice for everything but the PS5 is that I can instantly switch what system it controls. On the back of the controller is a toggle that instantly makes it compatible with Nintendo’s hardware, my mobile devices, or the input standards for a Windows or Mac environment.

The back of the 8BitDo Pro 2
Flip to one of these four toggles to change modes
Photo: Jeff Ramos/Polygon

Switching profiles is painless. I can go from a multiplayer session of Pokémon Unite on my Switch in the living room, to a bit of Halo Infinite on my gaming PC in my office, and to some Genshin Impact on my iPhone (with the controller’s optional phone clip) in bed with ease. I even put in a few runs of Exit the Gungeon on my MacBook while writing this.

One controller to rule them all (mostly)

In an ideal world, we could have one controller for all of our gaming systems. In the meantime, the 8BitDo Pro 2 can do most of the work.

Its familiar design leans into a retro aesthetic, while its modern internal hardware makes it work with most gaming devices. Unlike controllers whose settings are tethered to the systems they were designed for, the 8BitDo Pro 2 can be tweaked to your liking, and those settings will carry over to whatever it's connected to.

If I had to start over and had the choice between bespoke controllers for each platform I game on or a single gamepad that could work with all of them, the 8BitDo Pro 2 would be my choice. It has most of what I need to enjoy all the games I play with additional features that further amplify its capabilities.

Maybe one day we’ll have an 8BitDo controller that truly does it all. In the meantime, the Pro 2 will remain the controller that I literally bring all over my home to play with.

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