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The best controllers for PC gaming

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Finding the best controller for playing PC games is a more personal journey than it sounds. It should be comfortable to use, with every button, stick and trigger within easy reach. It is also important that you are getting the features you want. For example, they may include easy setup on PC, good battery life, multi-platform compatibility, and accessibility options, such as the ability to remap buttons and adjust stick or trigger sensitivity.

At Play Gamez, we play games across a wide range of consoles and platforms – both new and old. Our staffing preferences and needs are very broad. We’ve come together to share our favorite PC-ready controllers.

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Xbox Series X video game console is photographed against a dark gray background

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Photo: Henry Hargreaves for Play Gamez

microsoft xbox controller

On the Play Gamez team, the Xbox controller received the most endorsements of any controller. This speaks to its comfort and value, and that Microsoft has released enough colors to satisfy varying tastes in design. It also helps that it’s usually around $50 (depending on color), and that it just works As with most PC games. Despite being a Windows PC game client, there are no additional steps to install it.

xbox wireless controller

Prices taken at the time of publication.

Compatible with PC, Steam Deck, Xbox, Mobile (Android / iOS)

The controller is a refined version of Microsoft’s Xbox One Wireless model, with additional textures around its grips, as well as a capture button in the middle. Of course, it can connect to Xbox consoles and PCs with Bluetooth. One universally positive change from the older version is that, in case you want to connect via a cable for Wired Play, its connector port is the more ubiquitous USB-C instead of micro USB. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for listening in private, though this can only be used when your controller is connected to your PC by wire, not wirelessly.

Beyond PC compatibility, the Xbox controller boasts native compatibility on recent versions of Android and iOS. So, whether you have a phone or a tablet, this controller can easily connect via Bluetooth. A growing number of mobile games support it too, and it works like a charm with the Xbox Game Pass game streaming app.

It can work on even more platforms if you buy 8BitDo’s clever $19.99 USB Adapter 2. With it, you can use the Xbox controller on your Nintendo Switch. In addition to Switch support, this USB adapter lets you easily connect your Xbox controller to other devices like Mac, Raspberry Pi, and more.

The biggest downside to the Xbox controller may not bother you: It requires two AA batteries, though on a positive note, battery life is around the 40-hour range, depending on usage. If you don’t want to replace batteries, we recommend this $44.99 8BitDo Dual Controller Charging Dock, which includes two rechargeable battery packs that are good enough for two controllers.

xbox elite wireless controller series 2

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 builds on the excellent foundation of Microsoft’s Xbox controller with features that enthusiast gamers can appreciate. It also includes swappable stick caps and directional pads, adjustable tension for its analog sticks, and customizable back pedals. It also ships in a nice zip-up case. If you want more buttons and tweakable settings in the controller, it might be worth the $178.99 price tag. This model is compatible with Xbox and PC.

Close-up of the analog sticks on the PS5 controller

Photo: Henry Hargreaves for Play Gamez

sony dualsense controller

There’s another slice of our staff that swears by Sony’s DualSense, a modern controller that maintains the symmetrical analog stick arrangement that PlayStation controllers are known for. Compared to a straight Xbox controller, the DualSense has similar levels of compatibility (both are compatible with Android and iOS, and features built-in Bluetooth for support on PCs). However, the DualSense has key differences, as well as some perks that help justify its higher $69.99 price.

In the case of using DualSense on PC, it is possible to do, but it is a bit complicated. It can connect via Bluetooth for a wireless connection, but games that don’t support the DirectInput controller API probably won’t recognize it as a controller. Plugging the controller into your PC can solve that problem, but there are other ways to get around this obstacle if playing wirelessly is important to you.

One is to rely on Steam, which supports DualSense controllers with its SteamInput API. This makes Sony’s controller a first-class citizen in the eyes of Steam right next to the Xbox controller, and plenty of games should offer DualSense support without much fuss.

If you have PC games that you want to play on other services, such as PC Game Pass, the Epic Games Store, and more, you may experience some moderate compatibility issues with DualLicense. However, adding them as “non-Steam games” within Steam may solve for this. To do this, click on the “Add a game” option in the lower left corner of the Steam client, then find the executable file (.exe) in your storage.

To fully use Steam, you can download an app called DS4Windows, along with some drivers, which ensures game compatibility on PC by emulating the DualSense as an Xbox controller. The app gives you a number of settings to customize the DualSense’s button mapping, if you wish. And, if you want to go down the rabbit hole of figuring out which PC games support the DualSense’s haptics and adaptive trigger features (and the steps to get them working), the site PCGamingWiki has you covered.

DualSense is the official controller for PS5. In games that support its features, it can have realistic-feeling feedback and gyroscopic motion controls, and its triggers can provide tension to make certain actions feel more realistic. There is no better controller for PS5 than this one. It’s also a great controller for using PS Remote Play. When it’s connected to an Android device for PS Remote Play sessions, DualSense supports adaptive triggers in games that take advantage of the feature.

8BitDo’s $19.99 USB Adapter 2 also works perfectly with DualSense, so you can play games on your Switch once it’s paired. i like to play shed 3 With my PS5 controller’s analog stick setup. Heck, it even supports gyroscopic camera movement, just like the official Switch controllers.

Showing the contents of the box for the DualSense Edge controller

Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Like Microsoft, Sony also has its own pro-grade controller. It’s the $199.99 DualSense Edge, which is compatible with the PS5. It’s tempting to point out its similarities with the Xbox Elite Series 2, of which there are many, but it’s more helpful to talk about how it differs. For one, its stick module is completely replaceable—a move that makes the DualSense Edge a little more user-repairable. Plus, the PS5’s interface for Edge is intuitive, and that makes remapping controls and setting up plans a breeze that it should be.

While Edge is compatible on PC, Sony and Steam haven’t developed drivers that let gamers take full advantage of its back paddle and swappable control scheme.

nintendo switch pro controller

The Switch Pro Controller is another staff favorite. If it’s a great Nintendo Switch and PC controller, it’s the pinnacle in terms of comfort, durability, battery life, and other Switch-specific extras, but we’ll get to those a little later.

The Switch Pro Controller can be used to play PC games. But like the DualSense, it’s not a plug-and-play affair unless you literally plug it in via USB. To use it wirelessly, running Steam can help you, as it officially supports the Switch Pro controller. Adding non-Steam games to your Steam library is a smart way to ensure compatibility for games that support controllers. Again, you can do this in the Steam client by clicking on the “Add a game” option at the bottom left corner.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use Steam to play your games, relying on DS4Windows and its bevy of drivers is a free but slightly advanced way of getting Windows to recognize your Switch Pro Wireless Controller. Of course, that $19.99 8BitDo USB Adapter 2 that I keep referencing can come in handy here as well. After plugging it into your PC and tethering wirelessly, you’re good to go – no fuss with apps required.

The Switch Pro Controller is, surprisingly, a great Switch controller. Like the Joy-Cons, it supports motion controls, HD rumble for more subtle, precise jolts of haptic feedback in games, and amiibo connectivity for redeeming in-game perks in a number of games, including upcoming games. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,

It may seem small, but it stands out as one of the few wireless Switch controllers in existence that can remotely activate the console by holding down its home button. Many require you to manually turn on the console, which can be a minor annoyance.

8BitDo Ultimate 2.4g controller connected to a laptop, playing the video game Sifu.

Image: 8bitdo

8bitdo ultimate 2.4g controller

8BitDo has released a lot of controllers in recent years, but its last controller is aptly named. It has many of the features from its best gamepad, plus a few extras that may assuage any sticker shock associated with its $49.99 price tag.

For starters, its asymmetric analog stick layout, overall shape, and face button labels should feel right at home for those who love the Xbox controller’s shape. All the buttons, triggers and sticks feel just as good to use as any modern controller from a console maker.

Like many other 8BitDo controllers, it can be fully optimized on mobile devices or on PC with its Ultimate software. From there, you can remap the controls, assign buttons to its two rear paddle buttons, tweak the actuation sensitivity of its triggers, and adjust stick settings. The controller allows for up to three custom control schemes, which you can switch between with its middle “star” button.

The Ultimate Controller ships with a charging dock, and nesting inside that dock is a 2.4GHz transmitter that makes it fast and easy to connect to a PC. The dock makes for a convenient way to charge the controller, and you can switch between DirectInput and XInput using a switch on its back, depending on the needs of each PC game.

8BitDo makes a more expensive version of this controller called the Ultimate Bluetooth with Nintendo-style face buttons. They are virtually identical, and it can even work with PCs via 2.4GHz. However, its biggest advantage is its Gulkit Hall effect analog sticks, which by design are resistant to developing drift over time. By comparison, the potentiometer-based rods used in the Ultimate 2.4g (and all the other controllers mentioned so far) offer no such guarantees. There’s a possibility that you may never experience the problem in the first place, but the anti-drifting stick alone may be reason for some people to consider buying the Ultimate Bluetooth.

The Ultimate Bluetooth is similar in many ways to Nintendo’s Switch Pro controller, with its motion control support, rechargeable battery, and Nintendo-style face button layout. however, it is not All Same features. For example, it doesn’t support NFC, so you can’t tap an amiibo on it, and its haptics aren’t quite up to par with the Nintendo. However, it is one of the few third-party Switch controllers that can wake your console from sleep. If it’s paired, press the Home button, then shake the controller to wake up the Switch.

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