PC gamers win as classic Nintendo controller support comes to Steam

Nintendo Switch Online NES controllers
(Image credit: Nintendo)

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, 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 that all of these pads – NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive – are supported.

N64 controller

(Image credit: Future)

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. Right now, you're in luck. Nintendo has the NES controller in stockS and the SNES pad is also available at the time of writing. 

If you want an N64 or Genesis controller, however, you'll have to wait for more stock to come in. But you can bookmark the controller page to keep tabs on them. 

SNES controller being held by a gamer

(Image credit: Nintendo)

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.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.