What are the best controllers and gamepads? If you game on a console, you have a controller as standard, but for those who play on PC or who often do mobile gaming, it is often useful to consider a controller. Many games have controllers made for controllers, so mouse and keyboard or touch controls can be frustrating. Racing games also benefit from the extra nuance of a joystick. And, of course, gamepads are ideal for local co-ops.
There are many controllers available for PC and mobile devices. That’s why in this guide, we go over the best gamepads to play on PC. We will discuss both known and lesser-known options.
Each controller has been tested for suitability for different gaming genres, ease of use, the available features, and your available budget. Other features such as compatibility with games that do not support controllers, smartphone connection, and more are also discussed.
Best PC controller: Xbox Series X | S Controller
Our overall favorite PC controller is the Xbox Series X and S controller. This gamepad works without needing special drivers immediately with a huge range of PC games, has a good rumble and is also available in many colors. The controller is a bit smaller than the Xbox One controller, but it still fits comfortably in hand and is made of very solid materials. Please note: the standard version runs on AA batteries. While this ensures a very long life, it means you’ll need an Xbox One Play and Charge kit to charge the controller via USB-C cable.
If you can still find Xbox One controllers, it is still worth buying and using as a gamepad on PC and mobile devices. The Xbox One controller is slightly larger but feels even more sturdy and robust. The material of the controller is also slightly different (smoother), which we find very pleasant.
- Supported by most PC games, without the need for third-party software
- Very solid materials, including the best triggers on the market
- Many colors and styles at a very reasonable price
- Works with AA batteries as standard; you have to buy an extra pack to make the controller rechargeable.
Second Choice: Sony DualShock 4 (PS4) Controller
The DualShock 4 controller is our second choice. This PlayStation 4 controller is ideal for those with small to medium-sized hands, and the buttons and triggers have a pleasant ‘feel.’ The joysticks are also very pleasant to use. Another nice bonus with the DualShock 4 is the huge variety of visual choices. There are a lot of different styles available, including some cool limited editions. The God of War DualShock 4, in particular, is highly recommended.
Every PS4 controller works with Bluetooth, which is very useful for connecting to devices easily. The controller also works with a Micro USB port to connect and charge, so you don’t have to buy batteries. While you do need to install third-party software for the controller to work on Windows, the DS4Windows software is free and fairly easy to use.
Also, consider the DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment. It adds two extra bumpers to the controller at the back. That way, you can ‘remap’ controls so that you play even more smoothly. It makes the controller almost a pro controller in a cheap way.
- Often at a discount and available in many different styles
- Always wirelessly usable
- The trackpad is a solid alternative to a mouse
- Needs third-party driver installation to work
- The controller is a little too small for some hands.
Best Premium PC Controller: Xbox One Elite Series 2 Controller
If you’re willing to pay for quality, the Xbox One Elite Series 2 is the very best controller. The symbol buttons are nice and ‘clicky,’ and the material gives you an excellent grip, making this controller wonderfully in hand. You can also go very far in terms of personalization: you can add four bumpers on the back, replace the sticks with alternative options, adjust the stick’s sensitivity, set a circular D-pad, switch between three levels of trigger sensitivity… The options are unimaginably impressive. The Series 2 also has Bluetooth, a headphone jack, and the option of charging via USB-C.
- Incredibly deep hardware and software personalization
- An excellent ‘feel’ thanks to the firm grip and pleasant buttons
- Very high-quality materials
- Bluetooth and USB-C charging provide high ease of use.
- Issues were reported at launch, including stick drift, so be sure to keep your device’s warranty up to date.
- The rechargeable battery cannot be replaced by yourself.
Best Cheap Controller for PC Gaming: Xbox 360 Controller
The Xbox 360 controller has been around for fifteen years now but remains a great gamepad that you can buy at a dirt-cheap price. It fits securely in hand, has solid triggers and sticks, and is compatible with a wide range of devices. The Xbox One and Series X and S controllers and the DualShock 4 feel better in hand and last longer, but if you only use a controller on your PC sporadically, this is certainly a good option that will cost you much less.
- Meanwhile, available dirt cheap
- Almost all PC games support the controller
- Ergonomically not as comfortable as new models
- You need a Wireless Gaming Receiver for wireless connection on PC
Best Third-Party PC Controller: Razer Wolverine Tournament Edition
If you’re not a fan of the options from Sony and Microsoft, there are some great third-party alternatives out there. One of the best options is the Razer Wolverine which gives you a real pro controller experience thanks to its wonderfully clicky face buttons, the four extra programmable buttons, and (on the Ultimate Edition) the four extra paddles on the back. Personalization can be done in the Razer Synapse For Xbox app, available on Xbox One and PC. There you can give buttons other functions, adjust the joysticks’ sensitivity, and change the RGB lighting. The Wolverine is expensive for a wired controller, but you also get a lot in return.
- The best software personalization and custom controls
- Solid and sturdy materials
- High cost for a controller with a wire
- Missing the nice visual finish of the Xbox One Elite controller
Second choice third-party PC controller: Astro C40 TR
Another excellent choice, if you’re going for third-party manufacturers, is the Astro C40 TR. This controller has a semi-modular design to set up both an Xbox and a PlayStation layout. Above all, the controller’s hefty price tag translates into solid materials and a very nice finish. The joysticks are a bit higher than normal, but this gives you a better feeling of control after a short adjustment period. The two buttons at the back are also cleverly implemented and sit very naturally under your fingers. They can also be programmed to other buttons extremely quickly, without the need for software.
If you dive into the software, many options await you, such as adjusting the sticks’ sensitivity and their dead zones. Above all, the interface is very intuitive. Connection is controlled via a 2.4GHz wireless USB dongle, and there is an option for a wireless Micro USB connection. Finally, the battery life is excellent. A great choice as a PC gamepad, if you’re willing to pay for it.
- Very solid materials, with responsive buttons and clicky triggers
- In-depth software that is also easy to use
- Excellent battery life
- The Razer Wolverine feels just a little better in hand.
Most Customizable PC Controller: Steam Controller
Buy Steam Controller
The Steam Controller is a fascinating gamepad, as it allows you to play a much wider range of PC games than with most controllers, such as RTS games. That’s because of the two circular trackpads in the front, which replace the D-pad and right stick and successfully imitate a mouse. There are also other nice features, such as the two extra buttons on the back that you can adjust via the excellent Controller Configuration software. Not everyone likes to use the controller, just because of those trackpads, and Valve also stopped production of the controller in November 2019. Nevertheless, this is a very interesting gamepad to at least tryout.
- Works even for games that don’t support controllers
- The touchpad works well for genres like shooters and strategy, where controllers normally fall short
- Requires a lot of adjustments before the trackpads feel comfortable
- Materials feel cheap, despite the high price
Best controller for PC and iOS: SteelSeries Stratus Duo
The Stratus Duo is also a smart and intriguing controller, which aims to support multiple platforms. In addition to the 2.4GHz USB dongle for PC connection, you can also connect to smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth. Although this eats up the battery life, you can play on both iOS and Android. Keep in mind that not all mobile games support controllers. Also, the layout of the buttons isn’t entirely ideal: in particular, you inevitably hit the joysticks when you go for the center buttons. The extra SteelSeries Status Duo SmartGrip to put your controller on your smartphone also costs another 10 euros.
- Connection via 2.4Ghz wireless (PC) or Bluetooth (mobile)
- Good option if you want to do mobile VR gaming
- SmartGrip accessory costs extra money
- Battery life when using Bluetooth is very short
Best Controller for Android: PowerA MOGA XP5-X+
The PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus is a great controller for mobile gaming thanks to its solid materials, smart shape, and portable built-in 3000mAh charger. The latter, in particular, is a perfect solution for the speed at which mobile gaming drains your battery. A point to pay attention to is whether the Android games you plan to play support wired controllers. This is often not the case, so do your research before purchasing this controller.
- It fits very well in the hand
- Can charge while you game
- Ideal for use with emulators, cloud gaming, and Android games that support wired controllers
- Portable, but a difficult shape to put in a backpack
Even more recommendations: other controllers we’ve tested
In addition to the eight recommendations above, we have tested some other controllers. Here you will find briefly our opinion about these other devices, which can certainly be worthwhile.
PlayStation DualSense PlayStation 5 Controller
- Buy PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller – Midnight Black
- Buy Playstation DualSense Wireless Controller
- Buy PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller – Cosmic Red
The DualSense has been getting a lot of attention since the PlayStation 5 because the controller has very advanced functions such as haptic feedback and ‘adaptive triggers.’ Those functions are certainly worth the effort, although you have to accept that you will usually not notice it when you play on a different platform. Developers have to build in these functions specifically. Still, this is a pleasant controller that feels good in the hand and also looks very good.
PowerA Spectra Enhanced Wired Xbox One Controller
This gamepad is cheaper than the official Xbox One controller, although you lose the wireless connection and quality materials. However, you get lighting in seven colors, two programmable buttons on the back, and trigger locks on three levels. Although the triggers are of dubious quality, we found this to be a decent and, above all, attractive gamepad – especially if you don’t care about wireless play.
Thrustmaster eSwap Pro
This is a decent controller with some minor issues. However, the extreme ease with which you can change parts is exceptional, and in combination with the sturdy ‘feel’ of the gamepad, this model is worth considering. The buttons at the back are a bit more difficult to use than the Astro C40 TR.
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
With the Switch Pro Controller, Nintendo has made a nice gamepad with excellent battery life. If you also like to game on PC and your Switch, you can continue to use the Pro Controller. Please note that this controller does not offer unique features such as customizable elements compared to the competition. It’s also quite a bit more expensive in comparison to the other gamepads on this list. Buying this controller to play on PC, therefore, mainly depends on your personal preference.
Razer Raiju Mobile
This is a decent controller with clicky buttons, a good design, and a built-in clip to mount it on your smartphone. When you play on PC, you will undoubtedly have to reprogram the somewhat strange button commands.
Nacon Pro Controller 3
The Pro Controller 3 does not fully convince, with somewhat weak triggers and the buttons at the back that are too sensitive. As a result, it often happens that you accidentally activate a function. And yet: this controller feels good in the hand and looks good so that you can consider it.