This is the review I made early on when I got the controller. I’ve since used it for months, so I have additional insight, which I will share in this article. That being said, you can entirely skip this video and start reading, and still get the gist.
If your favorite games are designed with halfway stick tilts, the 8BitDo Lite is not for you. But for everything else, it excels in build quality, button/D-Pad quality, and portability. And at $25, it is an affordable controller for PC, and second-player controller for Switch.
The 8BitDo (pronounced /ˌeɪt bɪt ˈduː/ - “eight bit doo”) Lite is a teeny tiny controller for the Nintendo Switch® and PC. Think a Nintendo Wii® Classic Controller but smaller: It’s about as tall and wide as an iPhone® 5, but a bit over twice as thick, and lighter by one third.
Its small size and lack of protruding analog sticks makes this controller astoundingly portable. You could even fit it in your back pocket like a phone if you wanted to!
It natively supports both Nintendo Switch and PC. There is a toggle between the − and + buttons, which toggles the behavior between the Switch and X-input standards, officially referred to as S Mode and X Mode.
It also works as a wired controller, using the included charge cable (or any USB-C data sync cable).
S Mode is compatible with all versions of the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite.
X Mode is compatible with the following:
One of the main defining features of the 8BitDo Lite is that it has 2 D-pads. They map to the analog sticks.
By holding − and ◂ for 3 seconds, you can swap the left D-pad and the direction buttons! So, for example, in Tetris® 99, you can use the D-pad to move pieces, while use the direction buttons to change your targeting strategy.
Its characteristic hardware makes the controller incompatible or hard to use with certain types of games. Nic Vargus from IGN slammed the controller because of this reason. If you, hypothetical Switch owner, want a second player controller for these games, the 8BitDo Lite is NOT for you.
Because these D-pads only give digital output—that is, they’re either at full tilt or no tilt—they are definitely not for games that require precise input from control sticks, like Splatoon® or Overwatch®. I’ve tried playing Biped using this controller, and while it works, it didn’t work work.
Smash Brothers Ultimate works, but the lack of half-tilts means you can’t walk, just run. (But then again, you probably have a GameCube controller for that already.)
In addition, it is very hard to press down on the control sticks; you need to press all 4 directions on the D-pads to register a stick press. So if your game requires stick presses, leave the 8BitDo Lite out of it.
The 8BitDo Lite doesn’t have the budget for an accelerometer and gyroscope, so things like aiming in Doom or some actions in Super Mario Odyssey® are out of the question.
The Switch doesn’t have analog triggers to start with, which is no problem for Switch gamers. But because this controller can be used as an Xbox controller, I thought it would merit a mention. That means games like Forza Horizon 4 won’t have sensitive pedal pushing.
Fine, maybe “need” is too strong of a word for rumble. Regardless, the 8BitDo Lite doesn’t rumble. HD Rumble®? Fuh-geddaboutit!
Despite the above restrictions, a lot of the games I play are actually great fits for the 8BitDo Lite, not despite, but because, of the D-pad sticks. If you, hypothetical Switch owner, want a second player controller for these games, the 8BitDo Lite is for you!
I’ve tried Sonic™ Mania on PC, and it worked really well. The D-pads on this controller are a joy to use, which lives up to the reputation of 8BitDo making really good D-pads. (Though, if you prefer membrane D-pads over clicky D-pads, stick to the SN30 or SN30 Pro.)
And because you can switch the functionality of the direction buttons and the left D-pad (read up for how), you can even use it for games that expect you to use the D-pad instead of the analog stick! It makes the NES and SNES games on Nintendo Switch Online joyous to play.
I’ve also played Rocket League using the controller, and had a great time with it, though that might just be because I’m not good enough at the game to appreciate the importance of subtle stick inputs.
The Lite also pairs well with turn-based RPGs like the Dragon Quest series. Menu navigations are much less painful, especially compared to the atrocious D-pad that the Pro Controller has.
If you want to play the Switch adaptations of, for example, Monopoly, Jeopardy, or Wheel of Fortune, this controller makes them a breeze to navigate; menus are great with the Lite, and these games are pretty much all menus!
Puzzle games like Tetris 99 or Puyo Puyo® absolutely shine with this controller, because of the precision that the clicky, responsive D-pads give you. No longer are you cursed by the ambiguous squishiness and wrong inputs caused by inferior D-pads (or worse, having to use the stick on a sideways Joy-Con).
If a rhythm game works okay with a controller, it works stellarly with the 8BitDo Lite, because of the clicky, responsive, and tactile buttons.
I play Stepmania with the 8BitDo Lite, mapping both D-pads to the 4 panels, corresponding the left one to my left foot, and the right one to my right foot. As far as pad charts go, this is ideal, and gives me a quasi-arcade experience without moving my feet.
Note: The mode switch should be on X for SM5.2 and below, and on S for SM5.3 and above. SM5.3 supports the Nintendo Switch Pro controller standard!
I’ve also tried another rhythm game, DJMax Respect, and the 8BitDo Lite is great for it. The “side track” notes are only mappable to the analog sticks, which would make the game feel asymmetrical on an Xbox layout controller. However, the Lite lets you switch the direction buttons with the left D-pad, so you can get a comfy button position without changing the settings!
You could expect similar results when playing Superbeat Xonic on the Switch!
Okay, this controller is not better than a fightstick for most fighting games. It only has 4 face buttons after all!
But for most fighting games, where you only need digital inputs from the joystick, the 8BitDo Lite is a godsend. I’ve used the official Pokkén controller before, and I still felt like the 8BitDo Lite had the better D-pad!
These sticks are too D-paddy to drift.
The 8BitDo Lite is not for everybody, and definitely not for people who play first person shooters. But 8BitDo as a company doesn’t target those people. 8BitDo found its niche, and knows its niche well.
I wholeheartedly recommend the 8BitDo Lite for anyone who plays the kinds of games I recommend, whether on the PC or on the Nintendo Switch. And with a 25USD retail price (generally), it’s an appealing impulse buy that you won’t regret!