The NES Classic Is So Much Better With a Wireless Controller

By Christina Warren on at

Several months after its release, it’s still difficult to track down Nintendo’s amazing NES Classic Edition. The tiny console is everything you want it to be, but it does have one tiny flaw that isn’t related to limited retail availability: incredibly short controller cords.

The cord on the single controller that comes with the NES Classic Edition is only 2.5 feet long, which makes playing far away from the TV a bit of a chore. You can buy extension cables, but everyone knows going wireless is more convenient.

Right now there are two primary wireless controller options for the NES Classic Edition: the £20 Nyko Miniboss and the £36 NES30 Classic Edition Wireless Controller Set from 8Bitdo. Both cut the cord and let you sit back on the couch, but which one is actually worth the Andrew Jackson or two you’ll need to spend to own them?

Pairing

Like the NES Classic Edition itself, both controllers are easy to setup. I plugged a wireless dongle into the front of the console and hit a button on the controller to start the pairing process.

While the Nyko Miniboss never missed a beat and always paired immediately, the 8Bitdo was more annnoying, demanding that I press a button on the receiver itself. It also requires re-pairing after restarting the console, which kind of defeats the purpose of going wireless.

Winner: Nyko Miniboss

Battery Life

I wasn’t able to exhaust the battery of either controller in my testing—though some customer reviews indicate that the Nyko Miniboss starts to lag a bit when its battery gets low. Nyko promises that you’ll still get 15 hours on a charge while 8Bitdo claims the NES30 will last 20 hours.

Both units also charge over micro-USB, but the budget Miniboss doesn’t come with a cable. I could have hunted for one of my own, but instead I just charged it with the power cable for the console itself — which forced me into a gaming time out for a little while.

Winner: 8Bitdo NES30

Versatility

The nice thing about the 8Bitdo NES 30, and one of the reasons it costs twice as much as the Nyko Miniboss, is that its “Retro Receiver” wireless dongle works with more than just the NES30 controller. It should pair with all 8Bitdo controllers and arcade sticks. It also lets you use a PS3, PS4, WiiMote, or Wii U Pro controller with the NES, which is useful if you’ve got huge hands that might cramp holding the tiny NES 30 controller.

But best of all, the NES30 controller can also be used as a standard Bluetooth controller, which makes playing a game on your computer or home-built emulation station much more satisfying.

In contrast, the Nyko Miniboss dongle works with the controller it comes with. That’s it. Though you can plug the dongle into a Wii or Wii U and use it to play all the NES games on the Virtual Console that were never packed into the NES Classic Edition. Like River City Ransom, a key brawler absent from Nintendo’s tiny console.

Winner: 8Bitdo NES30

Gameplay

Notice the extra two buttons on the 8Bitdo controller (right) and the smaller control pad on the Miniboss (left).

Wireless performance and nice battery life are all well and good, but it means nothing if the controller doesn’t feel right. Neither one is an exact replica of the classic sharp cornered NES controller. For one thing, buttons on both are offset, diagonally, SNES style, rather than being side-by-side like on the classic NES controller.

In fact, the 8Bitdo NES30 controller is actually very akin to a Super Nintendo controller—with an A, B, X, and Y button on the front and two shoulder buttons on top. It’s just in a rectangular NES housing. The Nyko Miniboss just sticks with two buttons and a control pad for gameplay.

Neither had any problems keeping up in Punch-Out!! or Super Mario Bros 3. But the Miniboss’s smaller directional pad just didn’t feel as good under my thumb. The NES30, strikingly similar to an original NES gamepad, felt happily familiar despite those extra buttons.

The NES30 also squeezes in a real game changer that fixes a major problem with the NES Classic Edition. It has a built-in shortcut for accessing the home screen on the console, fulfilling its promise of true wireless NES gameplay. I never had to leave the couch to to switch games.

Winner: 8Bitdo NES30

Bottom Line

It costs twice as much, but this is the best wireless controller for your Mini NES

Both controllers bring the NES Classic Edition further into modern times and out of 1985. Yet the £36 8Bitdo controller is better in almost every way—even if it also costs twice as much. It you’re just there to squeak out a quick game of Dr. Mario, I don’t necessarily think that extra £16 is worth it. Instead you could get a two-pack of Miniboss’s to get your Dr. Mario on with that housemate that keeps begging to know when it’s their turn.

But you’re going to be more satisfied in the long run with the 8Bitdo NES30. It is more comfortable to use, has longer battery life, and it won’t make you get up from the couch to return to the game screen.

Winner: 8Bitdo NES30