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You have a lot of options when it comes to picking up a quality controller for PC or Switch. Peripheral manufacturer 8BitDo has a line of products that show how far the accessory space has come. And the company’s latest gamepad, the 8BitDo Lite, is more evidence of that. But the Lite is different. It’s not trying to replace your Pro controller. Instead, it’s trying to fill a specific need for people who primarily play 2D games like platformers or Metroidvanias. Or anyone who would rather use a D-pad than sticks.

The 8BitDo Lite is available now for $25. It has all of the buttons you need to play any modern game — except it doesn’t have any analog sticks. In their place, the controller has two classic-style directional pads. But this doesn’t mean the Lite doesn’t work in modern, dual-stick games. The D-pads act as analog sticks. So it works with shooters or any 3D action game.

But I wouldn’t get the Lite for Splatoon 2 or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Those games are still better with analog sticks. What the Lite is best at is 2D games. 8BitDo put a lot of obvious work into getting the D-pads to feel great on this gamepad. And they are a delight.

The D-pads have a nice amount of resistance. Pressing them has a deliberate quality to it. And the actuation creates a satisfying click.

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As a result, I have loved playing games like Super Mario Maker 2 with this controller.

The 8BitDo Lite is wonderful, but it shouldn’t be your first choice

I would still, however, recommend 8BitDo’s SN30 Pro+ gamepad as the best Nintendo Switch controller overall. And that’s even still the case for 2D games.

The SN30 Pro+ also has an excellent D-pad, but it also has nice handles and full-sized shoulder buttons. By design, the Lite is a thin slab of plastic. The idea is that you take it with you with your Nintendo Switch Lite. And it is good for that. But that means you are settling for something less comfortable and for tiny shoulder buttons.

You may also run into issues with the controller using D-pads to emulate analog sticks. I didn’t have any problems, but I also expect that not every game will feel right. Again, I would point to the SN30 Pro+ and its dedicated D-pad if you are serious about 2D games.

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