Nintendo didn't have PC gamers in mind when it built the Switch Pro controller, but that won't stop us from using it anyway. It's a fantastic controller with very long battery life, great analog sticks and face buttons much larger than the puny ones on the Switch joy-cons. If you have one around and are ready to upgrade from an ancient Xbox 360 pad, it's a strong contender for your next PC controller.
Thanks to Steam's controller configurator, which has official support for the Nintendo Switch Pro controller, using it for the bulk of your PC games is a breeze. It's basically plug-and-play. But if you want to play games that aren't on Steam, you're going to need this guide.
Here's how to get your Nintendo Switch Pro controller working in Steam or Windows, via a wired connection or Bluetooth. To start, you'll need a Nintendo Switch Pro controller (obviously) and a USB-C cable.
How to use the Switch Pro Controller in Steam
Steam's built-in controller support has included the Switch Pro controller since 2018, which makes using the controller a breeze in Steam games. Enabling it is extremely simple. Start by plugging the controller into your PC.
1. Open Steam and the settings menu. Find the Controller tab and open General Controller Settings. You should see a few configuration support options on the left. Naturally, we want to enable Switch Pro Configuration Support.
If you like your Pro controller with flip-flopped X/Y and A/B buttons, you can also enable the Nintendo button layout so games default to it. If this option is not enabled, your Pro controller will be treated like an Xbox controller. You can also change your controls game-by-game by right-clicking that game in your library, selecting Edit Steam Controller Configuration, and remapping each button.
3. While you're here, take the time to personalize your Switch controller by selecting it under Detected Controllers. If your controller isn't registering properly, start by clicking Identify, then open the controller's preferences. You can change the name, the brightness of the home button's light ring, and whether to use the gyro motion sensor.
From the controller settings page, you can also calibrate your controller's gyro sensor and joysticks by clicking Calibrate, but you should only calibrate your controller if you run into latency issues. If it ain't broke, don't fix it: if you calibrate before trying your controller in-game, you may actually create a latency problem. If you ever feel the need to calibrate your controller, click Calibrate, set it on a flat surface, and follow the button prompts.
So, if everything feels right, just save your profile and voila, you're ready to go. Whenever you want to use your controller, be sure to plug it in before opening Steam or any Steam games to prevent any connection issues.
Setting up the Switch Pro Controller for non-Steam games
Using Steam is the really easy way to get this controller working. If you aren't playing games via Steam, using a Switch Pro controller is still an option but it requires a little extra work, particularly for a Bluetooth connection. But the good news is that it's now natively recognized in Windows, which helps speed things up.
The easiest solution for non-Steam games is to actually bring Steam back into the picture. Steam has an "Add to library" feature for Windows executables that allows you to add other programs to your Steam library, and then make use of the Steam overlay. This even works for the Nintendo GameCube/Wii emulator Dolphin!
As you can see in the image above, click the "Games" menu in Steam, then choose the "Add a Non-Steam game to my library..." option to pull up a list of programs on your PC. In most cases, this should allow you to add a game and use a controller with Steam as an intermediary. Hooray!
How to get Bluetooth working on PC
Here's what you need to start:
- Nintendo Switch Pro controller
- Bluetooth dongle (optional)
- 8Bitdo wireless Bluetooth adapter (optional)
- x360ce (if you don't use the 8Bitdo dongle)
8Bitdo adapter: Easy Bluetooth and XInput support
The $20 8Bitdo Bluetooth adapter helps you bypass most of the finicky setup below by handling the Bluetooth connection and making Windows play nice with the controller without any hobbyist software. It'll make Windows see the controller like it would an Xbox gamepad, and supports the button/joystick inputs and motion controls (but not vibration). As a bonus, this will work on multiple consoles and with tons of other controllers, too, including the Switch Joy Cons, PS4 controller, Wii remotes, and more.
If you don't want to spend the $20, follow the guide below.
The hard way: Windows installation guide
You only need to follow these steps if you're not using the Switch Pro Controller through Steam.
1. Plug your Switch Pro controller into the PC with a USB cable. You should be able to use the USB-A to USB-C cable that came with the controller, or you can use a USB-C to USB-C cable, if your PC has the appropriate port. Within a few seconds, Windows 10 should pop up with a new connected device: Pro Controller.
You're most of the way there! But because this is a DirectInput controller (like most gamepads other than the Xbox's), if you aren't using Steam's built-in controller interface, some games won't recognize the controller without some extra software.
2. Download both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of x360ce and save their .zip files to a fresh folder. I'm running a 64-bit system, and you probably are too, but some games require the 32-bit version, so get them both now to save time later. Thankfully, x360ce will tell you which version you need.
3. You have to install x360ce individually for every new game, and this process can vary slightly between games. Luckily, the first step is always the same: find your game's executable (or application) file. You'll find it in the game's local files—sometimes it's buried in a folder, sometimes it's right up front.
4. Once you've found the correct folder, copy and paste the x360ce .zip file into it. Now extract its contents. This will give you an application file with a little controller icon. Open it. If you need the 32-bit version of x360ce, a prompt will tell you at this time. Otherwise, you'll get a prompt saying you need to create a .dll file. Click Create.
5. After you create your base .dll file, another prompt will ask you to search for controller settings. Click Search automatically for settings and make sure the Search the Internet box is checked. This will pull a button layout for your Switch Pro controller to use, and lucky for us, the default layout is perfect for most games. Click Next and then Finish.
6. Test the buttons and analogue sticks on your controller. If everything went according to plan, they should line up with the virtual Xbox 360 controller displayed in x360ce. If everything looks good, click Save, and close x360ce. It will kick on in the background once you start your game. If your controller still isn't registering, try deleting the default .dll in your game's local files (steam_api.dll), but be sure to save a copy first.
7. You have to repeat these steps for every game you want to play with your Switch Pro controller. So, to reiterate: find local files, paste the x360ce .zip, extract and run, create and save a profile, then save and close x360ce before opening your game.
Using your Switch Pro controller
x360ce works by reading DirectInput commands as XInput commands, which is what most modern games support. Now that it's installed, your Switch Pro controller should behave like an Xbox 360 controller in most games. However, some games flat-out will not work with DirectInput gamepads. The Witcher 3, for example, cannot be played with a Switch Pro controller using this method. With any luck, some whiz will work out a workaround for that in the coming months.
Compared to other controllers, I had to remap my in-game buttons more frequently while using a Switch Pro controller. My x360ce layout was correct, but the game wasn't registering it correctly. However, after remapping the gamepad controls in the in-game settings, it worked perfectly for every game I tried.
You shouldn't need to remap any buttons in x360ce, but if you do need or want to, simply click the drop-down menu on the button you want to remap, click Record, and press the desired button on your controller. Be sure to save your profile after making any changes.
The hard way: Windows Bluetooth setup
You only need to follow these steps if you want to play wirelessly and chose not to buy the 8Bitdo adapter for Bluetooth connectivity.
Note that if you decide to connect via Bluetooth, without using the 8Bitdo adapter method above, you cannot charge the controller while it's connected, so make sure its battery is topped off before you start.
First, disconnect it from your Switch by holding the small circular button on the top of the controller to the left of the USB-C port. (If your Switch is in the same room as your PC, I recommend turning it off, just to keep your Bluetooth environment clear. We also don't want it to know we're two-timin' it. You can easily reconnect your Pro controller to your Switch via cable.)
Pull up your Bluetooth settings and start a search for new devices, then press the same small button on the top of your controller one more time. It should automatically pair after 30 seconds to a minute. Note: the lights on the bottom of the controller will keep flashing even after it's paired.
From this point, follow the same instructions above to use x360ce with your controller. You may have to re-pair your controller each time depending on what Bluetooth dongle you're using and your Bluetooth settings.
WiinUPro and WiinUSoft are also longstanding favorites for using Bluetooth to play Nintendo controllers on PC, and they added Switch Pro controller support as well. However, to use a Switch Pro controller with these programs you have to jump through several more Bluetooth hoops. x360ce is a simpler alternative which can also be used with other DirectInput gamepads. For now, we think it's the best way to use your Switch Pro controller on PC, other than via Steam.