The Best Controllers To Get Analog With While PC Gaming
From poorly ported consoles games to action adventures and racing simulators, there are more than a few cases where a gaming keyboard and gaming mouse aren’t necessarily going to be the best input options. It’s easy to swear by a keyboard and mouse where twitchy response and pixel-perfect aim are concerned, but there’s a huge arena where different gaming controllers can have an edge while playing on a gaming PC.If you’re playing a fighting game, you may get more satisfaction out of the buttons on a controller, which you can frantically mash. If you’re flying through space in an intense dogfight, holding a thumbstick down to perform a series of loops and turns can be a lot easier than hurriedly throwing your mouse around your desk in an attempt to maneuver smoothly. And, let’s not forget that analog inputs have some advantages over the all-or-nothing, binary controls all over mice and keyboards – just try slowing accelerating in a racing game with a keyboard.
Beyond traditional gaming controllers, there’s also a host of specialized controllers, like joysticks and fight sticks, that are made to excel in specific types of games. We’ve rounded up the best controllers in a variety of categories, so when a game can benefit more from a controller, you can let your keyboard and mouse take a well-earned break.If you’re browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can go to find the best PC controllers.
TL;DR – These are the Best PC Controllers:
1. Xbox Core Controller
Best PC Controller
Microsoft wasn’t going to rest on its laurels with the Xbox One controller that already stood out as the best PC controller. With the new Xbox Series X and Series S came the new Xbox Core Controller (read our review). The new controller actually leaves most of its predecessors designed unchanged. It’s got the same face buttons, same analog sticks, same battery port, and same pairing button. There’s still chatpad port and a 3.5mm audio jack for headsets on the front edge of the contoller.
Microsoft has updated the feel, though, adding more texture to the grips and triggers. There’s also a new D-Pad that’s more akin to the concave version found on the Xbox Elite controller, and it’s fairly tactile. Microsoft has also added a share button between the Menu and View buttons. And, since this is a device that launched in 2020, there’s thankfully a modern USB-C port. Bluetooth connectivity also remains available on this model.
2. PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller
Best Budget PC Controller
For a controller that doesn’t stray too far from the shape and feel of Microsoft’s own Xbox controller, the PowerA Enhanced (read our review) wired controller is a strong option that ditches wireless connectivity in order to hit a low price point. Since using an Xbox One or Xbox Core controller wirelessly with a PC requires a special adapter anyway (or Bluetooth), many of us probably would opt for a wired connection, and the PowerA Enhanced offers that up at about half the price (bonus: no batteries required).
The controller itself provides a decent bit of heft, aided along by two vibration motors. It’s got all the buttons you need for your games. It even takes a page out of the Xbox Elite Controller’s book: On the underside of the PowerA Enhanced controller, you’ll find two small buttons that can serve as shortcuts to face buttons. This will let you keep your thumbs firmly in place on the analog sticks while still being able to activate abilities mapped to the ABXY controls.
3. Logitech F310
Best Ultra Cheap PC Controller
If you’re a devout keyboard and mouse gamer who only imagines themselves very rarely using a gamepad, the Logitech F310 is a great option. It only costs $15, but it includes everything you need including dual joysticks, bumpers and triggers, four standard face buttons, and even an eight directional D-Pad.
Those short, nubby grips don’t make for great ergonomics, but that shouldn’t matter if you’re only picking up a controller for short bursts to drive vehicles in games like Grand Theft Auto V or Battlefield V.
4. Sony DualSense Controller
Best Bluetooth PC Controller
Sony’s DualShock 4 controller was great, and with Bluetooth connectivity, you didn’t have to do a bunch of extra work to get it connected to a PC wireless like you did with the original Xbox One controller. Now, the Sony DualSense Controller (read our review) delivers an upgrade. The new controller drastically changes the aesthetics of the original, but still has a similar control scheme or those who prefer the symmetrical layout for the analog sticks.
Support for the DualSense controller on PC may also turn out even better than it did for the DualShock 4. There have already been moves by Steam to support the controller, and it’s possible the touchpad, advanced haptics, and adaptive triggers could also receive support on PC in the future. With more PlayStation-exclusive games ending up not so exclusive thanks to PC ports, full DualSense functionality on PC could make for the best way to play those games on PC.
5. Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller
Best High-End PC Controller
If you’re after an Xbox controller that doesn’t hold back, then you’ll want the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller (read our review). This model upgrades from the original Elite controller by adding wireless charging using a docking base with pogo pins. The charger can fit conveniently in the controller’s carrying case, where it can even be plugged in.
The Xbox Elite Series 2 controller also gets upgraded with support for Bluetooth connections, making it easier than ever to pair with your PC or even smartphones. It also has made the move away from Micro USB to include a USB-C connection instead. Beyond that, it still has swappable analog sticks, multiple D-Pads, and tunable triggers to deliver a gaming experience you can tailor to your own needs.
6. Razer Wolverine V2
Best Wired PC Controller
If you want serious performance for your PC gaming, the Razer Wolverine V2 (read our review) is the controller you’ll want to pick up. It has a premium design with rubber side grips that will keep your hands firmly in place even in the fiercest combat. The controller is larger than the new Xbox Core controller, giving it a special place for larger handed gamers as well. And, with a wired connection, it will ensure minimal input lag.
The Razer Wolverine V2 offers highly capable buttons, as it uses Razer’s “mecha-tactile” buttons, which actuate quickly and have a clicky feel – none of the mushiness of typical controllers. You can remap the controls to your liking, and there are extra shoulder buttons to give you even more control. Razer also includes trigger locks for any games that require rapid trigger presses.
7. SteelSeries Stratus Duo
Ready to Go Out of the Box
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo (read our review) might seem like a controller made specifically for mobile and VR headsets, but it’s also a solid option for gaming PCs. For $60 this wireless gamepad comes with its own 2.4GHz dongle included and it even has a built-in battery that’s rated for 20 hours of gameplay.
WIndows 10 also automatically recognizes the Stratus Duo as an Xbox controller, which means you don’t need to remap any buttons. The only thing this controller lacks is rumble, but if you don’t mind the missing haptic feedback, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is a great controller you can use with a lot of other devices.
8. 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro
Best PC Controller for Retro Games
Playing retro games basically demands an old-school controller and 8Bitdo is one of the best companies making them these days. The 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro is the company’s best and most well-rounded controller that takes after both the classic SNES and Wii Classic controller. Between the cross-shaped D-Pad and four traditional face buttons, you should feel right at home playing Secret of Mana or any retro game available legally on the PC. Meanwhile, the 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro’s pair of joysticks and triggers will let you play any games from the PlayStation-N64 era as well.
9. Switch Pro Controller
Let’s a Go with Nintendo’s Controller
The Switch Pro Controller (read our review) is one of the best controllers ever made, and now you can bring that greatness to the PC. Like the DualShock 4, getting this controller to work the PC is easy with a wired connection, but going wireless requires a few hoops to jump through.
Good news is once you’ve got it paired properly over Bluetooth, Steam will automatically recognize it as an Xbox One controller with all the button mapping done for you. However, if you’re playing games outside of Steam, you’re going to need 8BitDo Wireless USB Adapter to make the Switch Pro Controller act like an Xbox One gamepad.
10. PowerA Spectra Enhanced
Best RGB Controller
PowerA may be known more for its budget controllers, but that doesn’t mean you should write them off as cheap and low quality. The PowerA Spectra Enhanced (read our review) has checked all the right boxes for a PC controller. This is an Xbox-style controller, but in some ways it’s even better than the original Xbox One controller that it manages to cost less than.
It has a solid design with a soft-touch finish and offers RBG lighting around almost all the main front buttons as well as along the edge. There’s no fussing around with needless software either, as the LEDs can be controlled with a button on the back. Better still, the PowerA Spectra Enhanced offers a pro feature in the form of two mappable buttons on the bottom that give your middle fingers something to do beyond holding the controller. This gives the controller an advantage over the standard Xbox One controller while it’s cost undercuts the Xbox Elite controllers.
The Spectra Enhanced has a wired connection, which ensures you’ll get the lowest latency and never have to worry about whether the batteries are charged. The braided cable is lengthy, has a robust connection with the controller, and has an inline release to make sure you don’t accidentally pull your laptop or computer off your desk or media center.
11. Hori Fighting Stick Alpha
Best PC Fight Stick
If you play a lot of arcade or fighting games, you’ve got a good case to pick up a fight stick instead of a standard controller. The quick actuation of fight stick buttons and the precise control over a joystick can give you the advantage you need in your fighting games. And, for PC, the Hori Fighting Stick Alpha is a standout option. This fighting stick should offer no fuss working with your PC as it has all the same buttons as an Xbox controller. With a Key Lock mode, it’s also ready to take to tournaments without the worry of accidentally getting disqualified.
With the Hori Fighting Stick Alpha, you can also minimize the cables running between you and your PC. You can simply connect a gaming headset with the fight stick, and you’ll even get controls to mute your mic and audio on the fight stick itself. Modders also get a lot from this stick, as the case and faceplate are both easily opened to swap out components or artwork. Of course, if you don’t want to mod, you’ll enjoy the high-quality Hori Hayabusa joystick and buttons that come stock.
12. Thrustmaster TS-PC Racer
Best PC Racing Wheel
PC is pretty much the place to experience simulation racing games. Not only does this platform allow you to connect multiple displays and ultrawide displays for the ultimate immersive experience, but PC is also the place for some very serious (and sometimes seriously obscure) racing games.
Of course, you’re going to want a racing wheel to complete your sim racing setup and look no further than the Thrustmaster TS-PC Racer. It looks and feels like a real wheel attached to an actual race car, especially when this peripheral’s 40-watt brushless motor turns on. Force feedback on this racing wheel as you’ll feel the pull of every turn and the shock of every bump with up to 6nm of torque.
Where to Get the Best PC Controller in the UK
It is unsurprising that the Xbox controller tops the list here, but you’ve actually got a couple of options depending on whether your laptop or PC is Bluetooth enabled. If you’ve got Bluetooth to use, you won’t need the PC adapter USB, and can simply pick up an Xbox One controller, or even a PlayStation DualShock 4 to avoid the extra cost. But, if you want to consider all your options, here are the best PC controllers available in the UK. Don’t see the controllers below? Click here.
Why Would You Want a PC Controller
While playing PC games with a controller might seem like sacrilege against everything that is right in the church of keyboard and mouse, you shouldn’t care about what other people think about the way you play PC games.
After all, PC gaming is just as much about playing games that their best possible quality, experience games at ultrawide and super-wide aspect ratios unobtainable on the consoles, or just having the highest, silkiest frame rate possible.
How you get to play that experience is up to you, and if you’re like us, sometimes you rather just sit back with a controller than constantly lean over your desk’s keyboard and mouse. This can be especially true if you happen to be playing games on a big-screen gaming TV on your couch. While there are lapboards to bring the true PC gaming experience to your living room, controllers are great for keeping things casual and comfortable.
More Expert Tech Roundups
Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark
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