Free NES/SNES Controllers (Review)

In early June I ran across an ad on Facebook for free USB NES controllers. The offer was posted by Epictronics, who said all one had to do to qualify for the offer was “Like” their company on either Facebook or Instagram and cover shipping costs. Not a bad advertising gimmick in my book.

I don’t need another USB game pad, but they’re handy to have around, especially when setting up and playing with Raspberry Pis. Besides, Epictronics had me at “free.” Two minutes after seeing the ad I had already Liked their Facebook page and was busy filling out my order. Along with an NES game pad, I noticed the company also offers a free SNES game pad! Cover the additional shipping and you can add that to your cart, too!

(Note that the URL works whether or not you have liked Epictronics on Facebook or Instagram. Your morals are your own.)

It didn’t take me long to figure out how Epictronics can afford to offer “free” (there’s those quotes again…) game pads in exchange for Facebook and Instagram likes. Shipping for one free controller is $10; for two, it’s $16. Conveniently, Epictronics accepts PayPal for their free game pads. The website was optimistic in predicting the controllers will take 2-3 weeks to arrive to the US. My package from Wang Shang took 5 weeks.

The controllers arrived inside an unpadded plastic bag, wrapped in a thin sheet of foam. Each controller came in its own baggie. The USB cord attached to the SNES pad was neatly coiled and tied with a bread tie, while the NES controller had no tie and the cord was just coiled up inside its bag.

When placed next to authentic NES controllers, you can see that the mold for the new controller is essentially identical. The color is a lighter shade of gray and the word “Nintendo” is missing from the label, but from five-feet away it would fool anyone who hasn’t seen on since the console’s original heyday.

Once you actually pick up the controller, all bets are off. The first thing you’ll notice is that the controllers are so light that you would swear they’re empty inside. The NES controller in particular feels about half as heavy as an originally controller. My thumbs instantly noticed that the A and B buttons were convex instead of concave, which doesn’t feel right. None of the buttons, including the d-pad, feel like the original. On the USB controller, all of the buttons have a poppy feel to them, where the originals felt more mushy. I do have to say the almost 5′ long cord was nice.

Installation could not have been simpler. Windows 10 recognized the controller as a “usb gamepad” almost immediately, and that was that. Ten seconds later, I fired up MAME and played a quick round of Donkey Kong using the NES pad. The buttons felt a little “punchy,” and I suspect they might require breaking in.

Bottom line? You get what you pay for. There are much better USB game pads on the market for just a few dollars more, and if you’re a stickler for authenticity, companies like RetroUSB sell USB adapters for most vintage controllers.

I can only recommend these “free” controllers if, like me, you have half a dozen Raspberry Pi systems that you’re constantly reloading and testing. They’re okay for testing purposes or for letting the kids play with, but real gamers will want a real game pad pretty quickly after using one of these.

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3 comments to Free NES/SNES Controllers (Review)

  • I’m just glad that, between China and the U.S. Postal Service, someone figured out where “Yukonok, Oklahoma” is.

  • Paul in AZ

    Rob – Your digits are showing. – Paul

  • Jimmy

    Haha, I saw the same add and got a free one also. It actually worked on my macbook pro right out of the box. I’ve been using it with my NES and Stella emulators and I can say it’s been working very well.

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