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The best PC controller is not always the keyboard and mouse. There are many titles that are best enjoyed with a gamepad. PC controllers can give you more freedom of movement and allow you to assume a more relaxed and comfortable position and more precise control in certain games.
While the keyboard and mouse are perfect for shooters, there’s definitely room for a PC controller in your gaming arsenal as well. They are incredibly simple to connect to your PC and offer a more immediate and immersive gaming experience. There are titles, in fact, especially those designed mainly for gaming consoles that are not meant for a keyboard and mouse. It’s easy to incorporate the keyboard and mouse into games where the accuracy of movement and precise aiming are key factors (shooters, strategy games, MOBAs, MMORPGs), but there is a wide range of titles where a controller can give you a competitive edge during the game.
Why do you want a PC controller?
Think of combat and action RPG games where you have to press the buttons in frenetic sequence or flight and racing simulators where the binary keyboard and mouse controls cannot compete with the gamepad’s analog sticks and triggers.
Another huge advantage of using a controller is the overall comfort it offers. Gamepads are explicitly designed for extended gaming, while keyboards are designed primarily for typing. The ergonomic design of the controllers means that all buttons are at the finger’s length and at a convenient distance from each other. You no longer have to contort your hand to reach the various keys and you will not strain your wrists, something that is common with the use of a keyboard and mouse.
How to choose the right PC controller for you
There are hundreds of PC controllers on the market. Moreover, the preference is highly personal and may differ depending on hand size, gaming style, and operating system. Therefore it can be difficult to choose the right one. To make your choice easier, we have outlined the main considerations to make in order to find the perfect device.
PC or cross-platform?
If you play both on your gaming console and PC then you need to get a cross-platform controller. Controllers for the Xbox One, Xbox S, and X Series and PlayStation 4 and 5 can be easily used with a PC.
Wired or wireless?
While wireless models are more convenient to use, there is always the question of input lag and battery duration. Opt for a wireless controller that can also easily connect to a USB port if you intend to play competitive titles (where the response time is paramount) or when it runs out of juice or in case of interference in the wireless signal (Bluetooth or 2.4 GHz).
A gamer must have a controller that feels good in their hands. Not too heavy, not too light, cleverly designed, durable, etc. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to try one out before buying, since the best deals are found online. Our advice is to buy from stores that have a solid return policy. This way, if you buy a controller that doesn’t satisfy you, you can always return it and buy a different one. All the controllers we recommend are of proven quality and have scored excellent marks in the following categories that we evaluate:
Comfort: regardless of hand size, you need to be able to hold the controller for a couple of hours without cramping up and the device should not slip from your hands even when you are sweating. The gamepad must feel sturdy but not be so heavy as to cause fatigue in your arms and wrists.
Buttons: each button, trigger and stick on the controller must respond instantly to your commands. All of them must be easy to reach and there must be enough space between the buttons to be able to pinpoint them by touch and not accidentally press more than one at a time.
Compatibility: a controller must require minimal configuration, especially on Windows. But compatibility with macOS and iOS (Apple Arcade) is a plus, and the same goes for Steam.
Price: price is also an important consideration. A good wireless controller costs around $60 while a quality wired one costs about half that.
Other features, such as a touchpad, rechargeable battery, or customizable additional buttons, are good to have, but not essential.
Which controller should I buy?
In the end, whether it’s a wired or wireless gamepad, an official or third-party device, having a well-built and comfortable controller can really make a difference when gaming. Thus it is important that you make the right choice. Unfortunately, even with our tips, it can be difficult to choose the right controller for you among the myriad of PC-compatible gamepads. In order to point you in the right direction, we have prepared this list of the best PC controllers.
These are the best PC controllers you can buy right now.
Microsoft Xbox Elite Series 2: the best
If you have (Check on Amazon) to spend on a premium controller, then we can only recommend the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2, a gamepad with paramount build quality, ideal for those who play both online and in single-player.
The second series introduced a series of new features related to the number of additional profiles, a better rubber coating, new customization options, and an integrated battery that allows you to play for over 40 hours.
This pro controller also allows you to completely customize it as you like, includes additional paddles in the back, and offers dedicated settings for limiting trigger travel.
Microsoft Xbox One Elite: a valid alternative
Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite (Check on Amazon) is the dream of every pro gamer. This is a better, cozier and, above all, sturdier version of the standard Xbox One controller. It gives you the option of sweeping out individual parts and thus adapting the gamepad not only to your own taste but also to your personal style of play.
The Elite has several analog sticks with different heights and shapes. In addition, the activation travel of the trigger buttons can be significantly shortened, which allows you to shoot much faster in first-person shooters, and therefore gain a competitive advantage over your opponents.
But the icing on the cake is the programmable paddles on the back. They let you do things like mirror the jump button to the back, in order to jump without removing your thumb from the stick.
So, if you’re looking for the ultimate PC controller, that will make your gameplay easier, and your opponent’s life a living hell, the Xbox One Elite Controller is the one for you.
Astro Gaming C40 TR: a modular alternative
Considered a “premium” controller, the Astro Gaming C40 TR (Check on Amazon) is intended for hardcore gamers that want to invest heavily in a unique peripheral that is considered to be among the very best controllers for PC.
With a spectacular design, this controller is clearly inspired by Sony’s DualShock 4 gamepad. However, this is a more advanced “version” that sports impeccable build quality and looks way more attractive.
The user experience is also unique; Astro uses proprietary software that allows for complete customization of the buttons and fine adjustments of the various sticks and triggers.
All in all, this is a signature product from a company that has already created some of the best cutting-edge gaming accessories in the world.
Sony DualSense: best PlayStation controller for PC
The Sony DualShock 4 (Check on Amazon) controller is great, and with Bluetooth connectivity, you don’t have to tinker much to be able to connect it to a PC wirelessly – as you have to do with the Microsoft Xbox One controller (Check on Amazon). Now, Sony offers its updated version, the DualSense (Check on Amazon). The new controller drastically changes the aesthetics of the original – it is bigger and more futuristic – but maintains the same symmetrical arrangement of its analog sticks and includes features that you can’t find elsewhere.
The Sony DualSense has a feeling that “you have to try to believe” thanks to its new haptic motors — three-dimensional rumble is easily the best we’ve tried in a controller since it offers haptic feedback in a variety of places on the controller based on what is happening in the game – and adaptive resistance triggers – tactility is adjusted according to the action; using a bow, for example, makes you really feel like shooting an arrow.
In addition, PC support is even better now. Sadly, the advanced features (the ones we talked about before) still don’t work in PC games. Fortunately, Steam already offers full support for the controller, and there are plans to support the touchpad and adaptive triggers on Windows 10. With so many “exclusive” PlayStation games that end up being “ported” on PC, full support for DualSense is the best way to play those titles.
It is somewhat less comfortable (due to its size) than the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller (Check on Amazon), but if you prefer Sony’s symmetrical layout, or aim using the built-in gyroscope (for games and platforms that support it), this is the controller you need to get (Check on Amazon).
Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller: best Xbox controller for PC
The Microsoft Xbox One controller (Check on Amazon) is still the gold standard for PC games. With the launch of the Xbox Series S/X consoles, we were all curious to see how Microsoft would improve this almost perfect gamepad.
The Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller (Check on Amazon) retains much of what we like about the original. It still features textured rubber grips – on the back the texturized surface has been extended to include the triggers for added grip and precision – which are very comfortable for long gaming sessions, and similar to the original it boasts perhaps the best hybrid domed D-pad in existence – it is similar to the one we find on the Xbox Elite Series controllers (Check on Amazon) – perfect for use in fighting games. Unfortunately, it has been shifted towards the center of the controller, so it’s a tad less comfortable to use than the D-pad we find on Sony’s controllers.
The new button in the center of the controller (which differentiates it from the previous model) is the Share button which allows you to capture screenshots and clips without having to juggle with menus.
In addition, the shape of the controller has been optimized so that it fits a wider range of hand dimensions and sizes. Being a Microsoft product, there’s native compatibility with Windows 10 — all you need is Bluetooth connectivity or a USB-C port — and even recent versions of macOS and iOS have added support for it!
About wireless connectivity: this controller takes full advantage of Microsoft’s wireless protocol (called Xbox Wireless) which works wonders for Bluetooth compatibility.
The only downside is that you’ll need two AA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack (sold separately) if you want to game wirelessly – most other wireless controllers include a built-in rechargeable battery nowadays.
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller: different from the others
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller (Check on Amazon) features an Xbox-style layout, has an ergonomic shape, and has an anti-slip coating on the handles. It even sports an NFC sensor to use with your Amiibos. It has wireless connectivity, a rechargeable battery, and a USB-C port.
It is unlikely it will ever be your first choice for a PC controller, but if you already have one – or are considering purchasing one for your Nintendo Switch – it will serve you well.
The Pro Controller connects via Bluetooth thus it will work with your Windows, Android, or iOS devices.
Sadly it uses DirectInput instead of Xinput, so there are some compatibility issues and for some reason, the Bluetooth connection does not work if the USB-C cable is connected so you cannot use the controller while charging.
Also keep in mind that the Switch Pro gamepad doesn’t have analog triggers, so it makes no sense in racing games or for anything else that uses pressure-sensitive triggers.
What you do get is a comfortable, well-made controller that will elevate your Switch gaming, and offers an impressive 40-hour battery life. For (Check on Amazon) it is a good choice for Switch owners who want to kill two birds with one stone.
Razer Wolverine V2: best PC controller for competitive games
Although Microsoft and Sony’s long experience with gaming consoles means that their controllers are the default option for most of us, there are some great third-party alternatives to consider.
The Razer Wolverine V2 (Check on Amazon) is one of these options, mainly thanks to the use of mechanical switches, Hair Trigger Mode, and two extra bumper buttons. It doesn’t have the 4 additional triggers that we find on the back of the Wolverine Tournament Edition, but its shape is more comfortable while the rubber side grips will anchor your hands firmly in place even in the most fierce fights. And, with a wired connection, it ensures minimal input lag.
If you want serious performance, the Wolverine V2 is the controller you want to buy. Its four face buttons and D-pad use Razer’s “mecha-tactile” switches, which means that they have an actuation distance of just 0.65 mm (35% less) and offer tactile feedback that none of the other controllers can match — the only problem is that you’ll be unable to go back to using a standard gamepad!
This controller can be customized in the Razer Controller Setup app available for Xbox and PC, where you can remap the buttons and adjust the sensitivity of the analog sticks and the amount of vibration.
At (Check on Amazon), the Razer Wolverine V2 is an upgrade over the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller (Check on Amazon), and it’s worth considering if you play competitive games that are compatible with a gamepad.
8Bitdo SN30 Pro: the retro PC controller
If you play a lot of retrò games the 8BitDo SN30 Pro (Check on Amazon) is a wonderful and the most authentic way to enjoy them. This PC controller looks like the original Super Nintendo gamepad, with the addition of dual analog sticks, Rumble vibration, and trigger buttons for modern titles.
Although not the most comfortable PC controller on this list, the nostalgia factor, its versatility, and its price make it a solid addition to this list. It is also compatible with the Nintendo Switch.
Logitech F310: best cheap PC controller
Of course, I was going to include Logitech’s immortal gamepad, and while I choose the F310, my finding fit several Logitech products. This is the budget option that unlike most cheap gamepads from lesser-known brands will work for more than a month and will give you fewer headaches.
These lines of products from Logitech are mostly Dualshock replicas. The F310 costs (Check on Amazon). Is it as good as the rest? No, but it will always get the job done and unless you can afford a better one it is good to have at least one lying around.
Razer Wolverine Ultimate: best wired PC controller
While admittedly we prefer to game with a wireless gamepad, the Wolverine Ultimate (Check on Amazon) gives Razer the edge in competitive games. The controller works with both the PC and Xbox One and reminds us of Microsoft’s Elite Controller.
The Wolverine also offers numerous, unique, and above all useful additional buttons. The buttons are clicky and remind us of a mouse’s left and right clicks when pressed. Although this may not sound like much, it makes a huge difference. It is like swapping a membrane keyboard for a mechanical one. And while the included 3m (10ft) USB cable is a bit annoying, the tactile buttons make up for it.
Turtle Beach Recon Controller: a valid alternative
For a cheaper alternative consider the Turtle Beach Recon Controller (Check on Amazon).
It is very similar to the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller (Check on Amazon) (it has the same button layout) and works out of the box with a wide range of PC games such as Xbox Game Pass titles and the vast assortment of games available on Steam.
It also boasts numerous and surprising additional features for a (Check on Amazon) controller, including two remappable quick-action rear buttons (four profiles), multiple modes that adjust the sensitivity of the analog sticks (such as Focus Pro-Aim Mode), as well as ergonomic rubberized grips.
On top of all this, the Turtle Beach Recon also provides a headphone connection (3.5mm) directly on the controller and goes a step further by also including an audio control panel (volume and microphone) at the top of the gamepad.
These buttons allow you to choose between different equalizer presets to ensure that the game sound is ideal for your needs. It also has a “Superhuman Hearing” auditory mode which aims to reduce the volume of certain parts of the audio so that you can more accurately hear softer sounds such as footsteps.
If this mix of features seems essential to you, we recommend it over the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller (Check on Amazon), even at the expense of wireless connectivity!
PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller: a cheaper alternative
If you want a PC controller that doesn’t stray too far from the shape and feel of Microsoft’s Xbox gamepad (Check on Amazon), the PowerA Enhanced (Check on Amazon) is a worthy option that ditches wireless connectivity for a lower price. And since using the Xbox controller wirelessly with your PC still requires a special adapter (or Bluetooth connectivity), many of us would probably opt for a wired connection, and PowerA Enhanced offers it for around half the price.
The controller itself is a clone (officially licensed) of the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller: it has decent weight, its vibration motor is stronger than those of other budget controllers and it connects to the PC via a Micro-USB cable that is easily replaceable if it gets damaged or if you prefer a longer one. Its headphone jack sounds decent and even includes a handy volume switch (another feature you won’t find on stock Xbox controllers).
The D-pad, the analog sticks, the triggers, and the face and shoulder buttons are all precise, responsive, and comfortable enough for long gaming sessions. In addition, this gamepad also includes two extra buttons on the underside that can act as shortcuts. This allows you to keep your thumbs in place on the analog sticks while still being able to activate the abilities mapped to two of the A, B, X, and Y buttons.
Compared to the official Microsoft controller, you lose a modicum of build quality while the textured grips on the back are also less grippy. That said if its extra features are useful to you and you’re not interested in wireless connectivity anyhow, then the PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller (Check on Amazon) is a solid deal.
SCUF Instinct Pro: best wireless PC controller
SCUF makes some of the best gamepads outside of Sony and Microsoft, and the Instinct Pro (Check on Amazon) is the best wireless PC controller right now.
It offers more customization options than any other controller out there – except for the Microsoft Xbox Elite Series 2 (Check on Amazon). The different faceplates and rings around the analog sticks are the most obvious options, but you can also choose between different analog sticks in terms of length and type of head (convex or concave).
There are also options for customizing the D-pad, face and shoulder buttons, as well as the triggers. It’s even possible to remove the vibration motors from inside the controller – which professional gamers do for a lighter gamepad and to eliminate unnecessary distractions.
Otherwise, the SCUF Instinct Pro is physically identical to the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller (Check on Amazon), but with the addition of four programmable rear paddles which can prove to be very useful for high-level gaming.
It also has three built-in customizable profiles that allow you to change the button mapping on the fly via a button on the back.
It also boasts the same printed circuit board as Microsoft’s controllers and pairs in the same way, thus on a PC, you can use it wired via the USB-C cable, or wirelessly via Bluetooth or Xbox Wireless – via an Xbox Wireless Adapter dongle (Check on Amazon). This means that the SCUF Instinct Pro benefits from Microsoft’s low-latency wireless connection improvements and can even be updated with new firmware as soon as it is released.
And it also uses two AA batteries similar to the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller.
All things considered, the SCUF Instinct Pro is a fantastic controller, which feels great in hand and has excellent performance – on par with the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller – but what really sets it apart is its build quality; it’s the toughest gamepad we’ve ever tested, which helps justify its price (Check on Amazon).
Microsoft Xbox One Controller: the best for most people
The Microsoft Xbox One controller (Check on Amazon) is undoubtedly the gold standard for PC gamepads and it’s easy to see why. This gamepad is comfortable, well-built, and reliable and it works with any PC game (that supports a controller) just out of the box.
The D-pad (directional pad) is way better than the one on the 360 and ensures better accuracy. The shoulder buttons are slightly arched so that the controller fits better in the hands and also allows for a much safer grip. The sticks are also slightly curved inwards, which makes it very difficult for the thumb to slip off.
Another improvement over the 360 controller is the repositioning of the Menu button. This is set further upwards to avoid accidental inputs.
And since the price is also lower, the Microsoft Xbox One Controller deserves the title of the best gamepad for most people.
Sony Dualshock 4: a symmetrical alternative
The sales of the Sony Playstation 4 have long overshadowed those of the Microsoft Xbox One console. Accordingly, most console players use Sony’s DualShock 4 controller (Check on Amazon). The good news is that this gamepad can also be connected to a PC. The bad is it’s a bit more complicated than plug-and-play.
The DualShock 4 comes with a small premium in price, and as great as the Xbox One controller may be, Sony has somehow managed to surpass it both in comfort and quality. The sticks are a bit larger and therefore have better handling. The grip also feels a bit more comfortable. In addition, the DualShock 4 boasts a rechargeable battery. Once you try it, it will feel like this feature should be a standard.
One benefit of using the DualShock 4 as a PC controller for games via Remote Play or PlayStation Now is that you do not need to worry about which button does what.
On the other hand, if a PC game doesn’t have innate support for Sony’s controller, it will be far more complicated to make it work. You will need some third-party software like InputMapper that tricks the game into “thinking” that you are using an Xbox Controller.
Apart from that, the DualShock 4 is a fantastic gamepad. If you already have a PS4, you can definitely use its controller with your PC. But if you are browsing for a new PC controller, there are definitely better solutions.
SteelSeries Stratus Duo: the most versatile
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo looks like a controller created for mobile devices and VR headsets, but it’s also a good choice for the PC. For (Check on Amazon) this wireless gamepad can connect to your PC via the 2.4GHz USB dongle and can also connect to your Bluetooth devices, such as phones and tablets.
Its analog sticks are a little deeper than the other controllers on this list, which gives players an excellent grip. The directional pad, despite a one-piece design, is very responsive and easy to use. The triggers and shoulder buttons, on the other hand, look a lot like the excellent buttons of the Nintendo Switch Pro.
The Stratus Duo is fairly light, partly because it lacks a rumble function. This reduces the price and can be a bonus for competitive gamers. It also helps extend the autonomy of the built-in battery to about 20 hours.
Windows registers it as an Xbox controller. It also works on both iOS and Android. We were disappointed by the fact that the SmartGrip accessory (Check on Amazon) – to mount your phone – is sold separately. For (Check on Amazon), it should have been included in the box.
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo is a great PC controller and is ideal for cross-platform gamers who want an all-in-one solution. Its price is a bit high, but this is one of the best controllers we’ve ever tried.