Here’s a plot twist we didn’t see coming – Nintendo Switch Online’s exclusive classic controllers can now be used on Steam.
Nintendo Switch Online subscribers are eligible to purchase wireless retro controllers from Nintendo’s store. Until now, they were only usable on Nintendo Switch because they were tailor-made for use with the subscription service’s various retro libraries.
However, in the latest Steam client update notes (opens in new tab), Valve confirms that “support for Nintendo Online classic controllers” has been added. The oddly-worded patch note didn’t remain so for long. A Valve spokesperson confirmed to The Verge (opens in new tab) that all of these pads – NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive – are supported.
Good luck getting these controllers
Unfortunately, buying Nintendo’s classic pads isn’t a walk in the Mushroom Kingdom. To be eligible, you’ll first need to be a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber. This has been the case since the launch of the classic NES pad back in 2018.
Even if you’re already a subscriber, these retro controllers aren’t easy to come by. They’re often out of stock, and restocks typically don’t last long. Though, you’re in luck if you want a NES (opens in new tab) or SNES pad (opens in new tab), at the time of writing, Nintendo has both in stock.
What’s the point in using these pads on Steam?
Sure, Nintendo’s selection of classic controllers is a bit lacking in the button department. You’re probably not going to beat Elden Ring with a SNES pad, for example (though the challenge is there, should you choose to accept it).
Nevertheless, it’s a novel addition to Steam. And could be beneficial if you own any number of classic game compilations. The Mega Man X Legacy Collection comes to mind here. Or the recently released Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium which features a ton of games with simple control layouts.
Classic Nintendo controller support is also a potential win for Steam Deck users. Valve’s portable console has turned out to be quite the emulation powerhouse. You could hook up these classic pads wirelessly, or via USB, and essentially turn your Deck into a portable retro machine.
Granted, support for these classic controllers on Steam likely isn’t going to be embraced by everyone. Not just for their scarce availability, but also in just how impractical they’ll be for the majority of the best Steam games. Still, we won’t knock Valve for expanding its list of compatible controllers, and the novelty factor is always welcome.