PC gamers have for too long been torn between choosing the precision of a mouse and keyboard combo or the familiarity of a controller. Both sides come up with convincing arguments for their preferences. Proponents for mouse and keyboard believe that they get a much better experience playing fighting games, turn-based simulations, and role-playing games.
Other gamers, on the other hand, contend that using the best controller for PC improves their gamesmanship when playing racing games, FPS (first person shooters), and real-time simulation with a controller.
At the risk of sounding biased, I must point out that while it’s easier playing Overwatch or Fortune using the keyboard/mouse combo, almost every other PC game you pick from GOC.com, Blizzard, Humble Bundle, or Steam will feel more practical with analog sticks under your thumbs (no RTSs of course).
There are many choices when it comes to PC gaming controllers. Whether you are looking for a Nintendo, Xbox, PS4, or third-party controller for PC gaming, this guide and review will help you pick the perfect controller that suits your gaming needs.
How to Choose The Best Controller For PC
Choosing the best controller for pc gaming isn’t rocket science. It’s not a walk in the park either. There are many things you have to consider if you want to get the most out of your unit. Other than budget, there are three fundamental things avid pc gamers look for when ordering their controllers.
How your controller looks and feels is critical to comfort, usability, and durability factors. Look at the overall quality of the case and other hardware components like d-pads, bumpers, and triggers. A controller with cheap plasticky buttons and triggers will probably not see the next gaming session after an aggressive run.
You should also get a reasonable amount of comfort from the controller. Ergonomic designs with cool-touch rubberized grips are better for long gaming sessions. Lightweight but sturdy designs keep hand fatigue at bay.
There aren’t many features to look for in standard console-style pc controllers. You get analog sticks, D-pad, ABXY buttons, triggers, bumpers, HOME, SELECT, and START buttons.
Modern controllers, however, come with additional features that give the player tactical/strategic advantage during gameplay. Depending on the type of game you are playing, you may find additional triggers, hair triggers, and trigger locks to come in handy.
You’ll want a controller that is customizable and versatile. Look for controls and layout profile personalization options.
Some of the features that make using a controller more practical for PC gamers include interactive lighting, capacitive buttons, interactive touchpads, share/broadcast buttons, integrated speakers, and audio out jacks.
For a completely realistic and immersive in-game experience, players go for controllers with rumble feedback functionality.
Your PC game controller will have two options for connecting to your pc, wired or wireless. Some connect solely through a cable. However, those that have wireless connectivity usually allow for both wired and wireless connection.
Wireless controllers offer much-needed maneuverability, but you also have to mind how long your charge will last – as well as whether the battery is rechargeable or not. You get two choices for wireless connections, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. The former is known to have some latency issues due to the short distance limit.
1.SN30 Game Controller
If you are into old games, then you don’t really need a modern PlayStation or futuristic Xbox controller with hair-trigger buttons, dual vibration, dual analog sticks, and touch panels. But you’ll appreciate the SN30 to bring back the nostalgia of PS1 and GBC games. It is an amazing classic gaming controller designed to be a replica of the original SNES controller. It comes in a time-tested, simple design for the purest retro gaming experience.
Using this controller is simple. Did you know you can easily hold both shoulder and face buttons while controlling the D-pad simultaneously? I guess not having the grips really comes in handy. Don’t be deceived into thinking that the lack of handle grips makes it uncomfortable during prolonged gaming sessions. You’ll be surprised to learn that you can play comfortably through a 12-hour game session. Because also it is light and fits comfortably in your palms, you don’t get all sweaty; like you would with bigger controllers.
Being a retro game controller, you’d expect this unit not to have too many features, but it does. You can play wirelessly or wired and it connects well on Mac, Windows PC, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Raspberry pi modules. What’s more, you get 20 hours of continuous gaming per full charge.
If you a nostalgic for classic games, this is the best choice. It plays older games like GBC, SNES, and NES like a pro-controller. You can also use this for PS1 games that do not need the controller to feature more than 2 shoulder buttons or dual analog sticks.
- Simple light design
- Works on pc, mobile & Raspberry Pi
- Upgradeable software
- Longer gameplay hours battery
- Not for modern games
2. Razer Wolverine Ultimate
Are you that avid FPS (first person shooter) gaming geek clocking massive hours on online multiplayer competitive games like Battlefield 1, Halo 5, Overwatch, or Titanfall 2, who’s just realized that the stock OEM Xbox gamepad isn’t quite cutting it? You need not amass an arsenal of 3rd party controllers when you can have one unit that gives you everything and more; the Razer Wolverine Ultimate.
The Razer controller was built for precision performance, responsive active play, and comfortable gaming experience. That it comes with a 1-year warranty says a lot about the hardware quality you should expect. There’s nothing more relaxing than knowing that even the producer of a product you are using has confidence in said product.
ABXY buttons for this controller feature responsive mechanical switches with the shortest travel distance and instant actuation time. With this, you are armed and ready for those tense encounters with enemy troops. You also get trigger locks that limit the RT/LT trigger motion to the exact actuation point. This helps reduce the ‘dead’ zone by more than half. Hence, if you are using high precision or self-loading rifles, you are able to get in more shots faster with the Wolverine than with a regular controller.
- Interchangeable thumbsticks & d-Pads
- Customizable chroma lighting effects
- Remappable multi-function buttons
- Super responsive buttons
- Solid plastic construction with crisp matte finish
- Isolated cases of firmware bug issues
3. Steam Controller
The Steam Controller lets you experience quality precision and responsiveness of gaming controllers in a single unit. It’s ingenious how it lets you play a wide selection of games, even those meant to be played with a gaming mouse or gaming keyboard.
It is perhaps the best wireless pc controller for steam games. All you need is the controller and the Steam software installed into your PC. It comes with a wireless USB dongle that you need for the wireless gaming experience.
You can use this for non-steam gaming as well. The experience will be as good, perhaps even better, as with high-tech PC gaming controllers. You will, however, be requested to acquire custom profiles for non-steam games. For instance, you’ll have to load guides and profiles for Star Citizen if you want to play it on Pc with the Steam controller.
- Fully-customizable control schemes
- Resourceful steam community
- Non-steam game controller
- Dual trackpads
- Ergonomic comfort
- Struggling to learn a new controller
4. NVIDIA SHIELD Controller
You’ll love the design of this controller right out of the box. Its cool faceted surface design makes it feel and look ultramodern. It fits comfortably in hand despite having defined edges on the facets. It sure is beefy, but you cannot say it’s uncomfortable. It is not your dreary, typical gamepad.
The current design eliminates the somewhat useless features of the bulky previous model. But even without the chock full of features from its predecessor, no gamer would want to pass the chance to use the new SHIELD.
It features tactile shoulder triggers, well-placed face buttons, and an intuitive d-pad. The Back/Home/Play/Pause buttons are different in the new model. While the older model used capacitive buttons (prone to many miss-pressing), the new buttons are physical and are better positioned at the edge to eliminate unintended pressing.
The Nvidia Shield is completely wireless. It uses cutting edge Bluetooth technology that improves connectivity and minimizes power drainage. The controller charges by USB via a small port located at the top center. There is also a voice search function button (the down-facing triangle with the Nvidia logo located at the face of the controller) that works well.
Gamers have raised concerns over the use of Bluetooth instead of 2.4GHz wireless technology. The belief here is that Bluetooth connectivity is slower and lagged. I guess we have to wait and see if this will translate to more deaths in Fallout: New Vegas, Black Ops, or Dark Souls 3.
Even so, this controller comes highly recommended for Nvidia Shield TV, Nvidia Shield K1, and PC. It stands as the best pc game controller ever since they released support for GeForce-equipped PCs. All you need is to install the latest GeForce Experience.
- Futuristic design with great ergonomics
- Physical buttons for Android OS functions
- Rumble functionality
- Improved D-Pad
- Longer Battery Life
- Increased latency
5. Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller
The Microsoft Xbox wireless controller offers the best PC gaming experience. The box contains your Xbox wireless controller and an improved wireless adaptor gaming on Windows 10. With this unit, you can carry the Xbox games experience to your PC and enjoy enhanced precision controls. With the improved wireless adaptor that’s 66% smaller, you can connect up to 8 controllers simultaneously for the ultimate multiplayer gaming.
The unit is streamlined to enhance comfort play. It features textured grips and a matte surface that looks and feels perfect. With this stay-on-target design, the controller fits perfectly in hand and won’t slip during gameplay nor will it feel greasy when you’re all sweaty during tense situations.
You’ll find that the layout of the joystick, buttons, and d-pads are quite roomy to eliminate the chances of pressing the wrong buttons. What’s more, the controller generally feels neat, sturdy, and durable.
We recommend this for Xbox games enthusiasts looking for something on the mid-range budget, that doesn’t sacrifice on quality nor skimp on the functional features of the Xbox Elite. It is a great controller to enhance your PC gaming experience playing controller compatible Xbox games.
- Improved wireless adaptor
- Adaptor connects up to 8 controllers
- Comfortable textured grips
- Sturdy design with a neat matte surface
- Proprietary 2.4GHZ/ 5 GHz dual band
- Limited customization options
6. Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
The Nintendo Switch Pro is a very comfortable controller. It comes in a traditional Xbox 360 design with some tweaks here and there to enhance gameplay. The easy-to-use controls coupled with a comfortable grip design makes it ideal for extended gaming sessions of demanding games like Ultra Street Fighter II and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The controller has large triggers, bumpers, face buttons, and analog sticks that are unmistakably easy to locate even on highly tense gaming situations. It won’t be lost on you for long that the D-pad looks and feels like a replica of what you have on the Wii U’s controllers.
The price seems on the upside, compared to other controllers on the same caliber. However, when you think of the NFC Amiibo functionality you get with this controller, you immediately appreciate how serious the unit must be. While this might not be the best game controller for pc, it comes with a chock full of practical features you’ll miss on other units for PC gaming.
- Various control schemes
- Sturdy, traditional design
- NFC Amiibo support
- Incredible battery life
- Comfortable grips
- Annoying latency issues
7. DualShock 4 Wireless Controller
If you’ve used PlayStation’s DualShock 3 you must be familiar with the imperfections that enraged avid PS gamers for long. Sticks were squishy and too close together you barely managed a good grip if you had big sweaty hands. But the biggest issue has always been compatibility (or is it incompatibility?) with other gaming systems.
Enter DualShock 4. The sticks are now reasonably distanced. Its revamped, ergonomic design makes for hours of comfortable gaming. It fits well in hand thanks to the semi-concave handle grooves that guide the tips of your thumbs into place. They even addressed the incompatibility issue. The DualShock 4 now plays steam games and is perhaps the best pc controller out there.
Holding this controller, you instantly appreciate the hardware quality. You get lots of features to improve your gameplay. It’s precision triggers and gyroscopic controls give you full control over your gaming. They are a significant improvement from their unreliable DualShock 3 and Sixaxis counterparts.
You will also love the new interactive touchpad that comes with this controller, especially if you are a KillZone: Shadow Fall and Assasin’s Creed nerd. You’ll discover that it offers new ways to play; scrolling through weapons, and using as a mouse substitute.
- Revamped ergonomic design
- General hardware quality
- Responsive controls
- Accurate, comfortable, and tactile D-Pads
- Plenty of new features
- Some features not activated for PC
8. Xbox Elite Wireless Controller
If you are looking for a gamepad that offers enhanced precision and comfort, the Xbox Elite Wireless controller was designed for you. With textured controls, cozy rubberized grips and a cool-touch finish, this controller promises an enhanced comfortable gaming experience.
In terms of performance, this controller easily beats the competition. It appeals to every gamer; from the tier-one COD gamers to casual Forza Horizon players. It allows for customized controls mapping to give you full control over your gaming experience. Whether you are racing, shooting, fighting, or sporting, you can adapt this controller to your play style to achieve better accuracy, more reach, and higher speed for an overall dynamic experience.
If for nothing else, you have to give it to Xbox Elite for being the most versatile controller out there. It features a whole array of interchangeable accessories meant to achieve competitive advantage. Besides the bumpers and face buttons, nearly everything else is interchangeable. You get 4 paddles, 2 d-pads, and 6 thumb sticks to swap as you wish. You can even adjust the triggers to a different distance.
- Comfortable rubberized grips
- Interchangeable gameplay accessories
- Hair triggers
- Limitless customization Apps
- Not rechargeable