8Bitdo N30 Pro Wireless Bluetooth Controller – Unboxing and Review

Read on for Step by Step Instructions on Updating the Firmware on the 8BitDo N30 Pro for Mac / PC.

Having got my RetroPie rig up and running I was thoroughly enjoying some retro arcade action.  I had everything from an Atari to a NeoGeo, with 1000s of games from my youth all ready to go with the push of a button on my TV.

One thing felt wrong though and that was the controller.  I was using a wired xBox / Windows controller.  It worked well, plugged it in and it just worked as it should but it just felt wrong.  Playing Streets of Rage on a modern xBox controller just didn’t capture the feel.  It still played well, it is still an epic retro game, but I’m sure you get what I mean?

Then I decided to change the controller and started looking for an alternative.  One that would work well, feel good and actually capture the feel of these older style games.  I did a lot of reading on Amazon reviews as well as other sites and they all pointed me towards one brand – 8BitDo.

They have a wide range of controllers and accessories – as you can see mostly geared towards the Nintendo feel of things :

8BitDo Range of Controllers

8BitDo Range of Controllers

I opted for the 8BitDo N30 Pro Controller and picked it up from Amazon at £29.  One thing to note though is that their website does not list it as compatible with the Raspberry Pi – once set up through Emulation Station and a little tweak in Retroarch to make ABC (for the Mega Drive) map to YBA on the controller it has worked flawlessly for me.

8BitDo N30 Pro Compatibility

8BitDo N30 Pro Compatibility

Here’s what Amazon has to say about the controller :

The first full buttons portable game controller in the world. Built-in smart CPU, firmware upgradeable for function expansion in the future.

Exclusive support Nintendo Switch Console,Android, Windows, MacOS.

Inherit NES retro design, merge fashion technology elements, Crissaegrim breathing light.

30th anniversary GamePad edition, retro design, same touch, same feeling, Dual-mode support

Classic D-pad and four shoulder-button design

Arriving the next day I have to say I was hugley impressed.  The first and most noticable thing about this controller is the packaging.  It is premium.  Now I get that you are paying a premium price for a retro controller – after all you can get two controllers for £15, never mind one for £29.  I would urge you to read reviews on the cheaper controllers.  Far too many reviews point out dodgy manufacturing, poorly constructed and poor to respond.  Put all those things together and you have a poor controller, very poor in fact.  You will be left with controllers that are really only suitable for the bin, or an experience so poor that you won’t even want to play on your RetroPie.  Honestly consider investing a little more in your controller to ensure your gaming experience gets what you deserve.

8BitDo N30 Pro Packaging

8BitDo N30 Pro Packaging

The box evens feels premium – you know the type of cardboard you associate with a flagship phone, it has a smooth texture, its thick and well printed.

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

When you go to the next layer things continue under the same vain.

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

Then you come to the actual controller, all wrapped up in some soft foam.

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

Underneath the controller is another cardboard box…

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

…full of goodies :

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

So cleary you have your USB Charging Cable (USB to Micro USB) and another box cleverly marked ‘Everything Old is New Again.’

Which inside you will find a cool metal 8BitDo keyring!

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

8BitDo N30 Pro Unboxing

Along with some instruction that basically explain the what the lights mean on the controller.

From there I suggest you update the Firmware through the 8BitDo website.

Then it is time to get playing.  Set up the controller using Emulation Station so it works as you want on your chosen RetroPie front end.  This video explains that process well :

From here try a few games, you may be happy enough with the setup or you may want to tweak it in Retroarch.  I found that when I started using the controller on Mega Drive (my favourite console) games that if you imagine an original Mega Drive controller the buttons are A – B – C.  I found the N30 Pro was mapped to A – B – C being B – A – X.  So I remapped this in Retroarch so ABC was then mapped by Y – B – A.  If you find that confusing here is the button layout on the N30 Pro.

8BitDo N30 Pro Button Layout

8BitDo N30 Pro Button Layout

A couple of other worthwhile notes – To exit and game it is normally mapped (with hot keys) to be Start and Select together.  From this – out of the box I found the exit keys to be L2 + R2.

8BitDo N30 Pro Top Shoulder Button Layout

8BitDo N30 Pro Top Shoulder Button Layout

The power and connection buttons are found at the bottom :

8BitDo N30 Pro Button Power and Connection Button Layout

8BitDo N30 Pro Button Power and Connection Button Layout


How to Update the 8BitDo N30 Pro Firmware :

One very important point here is that to update the firmware the website states push L+R+START for 3 seconds and the lights on the controller will glow yellow.  This is NOT correct.  For the N30 Pro Controller to get it ready for update you must do the following :

  • Turn the power off on the 8BitDo N30 PRO (Push and hold the Power button).
  • Hold front two buttons (PAIR + POWER) for a few seconds until they flash yellow.
  • Start firmware updater as downloaded from http://support.8bitdo.com
  • Connect NES30 Pro over USB to your Mac / PC and Update.
  • The Program will let you know when it is complete.
  • Play some games!
8BitDo Firmware Update Page

8BitDo Firmware Update Page


Controller Review :

Onto the controller itself then.  The quality I have mentioned in the packaging continues throughout.  The controller is well made, feels strong and sturdy and the buttons and joysticks are accurate offering good feedback and responses.  They feel authentic.  The controller feels authentic.  It is how retro games should be played and 8BitDo need commended on putting together such a quality product.

My only gripe is that the controller is quite small, but once you get used to that it works brilliantly and adds a very real retro feeling to those games of yore.

If you aren’t using a retro controller, or are using one that is pretty poor, save yourself £30 and get yourself one of these and start enjoying your RetroPie as it should be.  Now all we need if for them to bring out a Sega inspired range!  Hint Hint!


Retroarch Settings for Mega Drive Games :

I mentioned above that I had to tweak a few setting in Retroarch.  Retroarch can be rather intimidating so I strongly recommend this video :

Once you have watched that and have an idea on how Retroarch works go into a Mega Drive Game (the same works for any system you want to remap) and then into the Retroarch Quick Menu (Normally Select + X – for me I found L2 + Y got me in) and modify the button map.  This is how I found the Mega Drive set up to be most like ABC on the original controllers :

8BitDo N30 Pro Retroarch Settings for Sega Mega Drive (Genesis)

8BitDo N30 Pro Retroarch Settings for Sega Mega Drive (Genesis)

You will then have the option of saving this setup for this one game or every game in that System.  Choose that game, try it and if it works then go for a full system save.

It is all a bit daunting but please stay with it and set it up properly, the little time you will have to invest will be worth it overall as the games will play as they should and you will enjoy them much much more!

Happy retro gaming!

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