You already have the best PC controller the moment you boot up your machine. Yes, the best gaming keyboard and gaming mouse combo means that, as PC gamers, we\’re all set up with most accurate, responsive control system around. That\’s proven every time a developer tries to introduce crossplay between consoles and PCs…
But it\’s still true that a lot of games—such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, FIFA, and Forza Horizon—feel better when played with a game pad. They\’re also useful in the likes of GTA 5 when you jump into a jet or helicopter. Not to mention a controller will give you the freedom to escape to your couch for a more relaxing overall gaming experience.
If you have the cash to spare, the best PC controller right now is the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2. If you\’re used to the shape and layout of an Xbox controller, you\’ll find that this one will feel natural straight away. And while it does come with a seriously hefty price tag, the Series 2 boasts loads of neat extras. If you don\’t want to spend so much, we\’ve included a few budget options that won\’t be such a shock to your wallet as well.
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1. Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
The best wireless gaming controller hands-down
Weight: 0.76 lbs (345g) (+/-15g) | Connectivity: USB-C, Bluetooth, 2.4GHz | Battery: Internal Rechargable Battery (40 Hours)
$179.99View at Microsoft US$179.99View at NeweggPrime$236.50View at Amazon105 Walmart customer reviews
Lots of customization options Detachable Charging Dock via USB-C Bluetooth-enabled (finally) Expensive
If you use the Microsoft Elite Series 2 controller for more than ten minutes, you\’ll understand why we have it at the number one gaming controller for PC. Everything about the Series 2 screams luxury. The near-endless customization options give you an unparalleled level of control (pun intended) over your gameplay. Changing things, like d-pads or shift paddles on the fly, is a godsend, and there\’s a level of freedom to have your thumbstick tension levels set to the exact way you want them. It has a nice weight to it that feels durable enough the handle to most intense sessions of Mortal Kombat 11 or your 9th hour in Forza Horizon.
The most significant changes in the Series 2 over the Series 1 (which we also loved) include a neat little carrying case that doubles as a charging station for the controller\’s new rechargeable battery with 40 hours of juice. Finally, with project Xcloud and Apple Arcade bringing some great games to your mobile device, you can easily pair the Series 2 controller via Bluetooth.
Spending $160 for a controller is a tough sell for most people, that\’s near four times the price of an Xbox One controller, but if you\’re a serious gamer who values performance and extreme levels of customization, the Series 2 is a no brainer and worth every penny.
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2. Razer Wolverine Ultimate
Clicky with a side of Chroma
Weight: 0.6 lbs (272g) | Connectivity: USB wired | Cord length: 10 ft (3m)
Prime$149.19View at Amazon$159.99View at Dell$159.99View at Newegg1 Amazon customer review
Swappable sticks and D-padLoud, satisfying face buttonsCan\’t connect to PC wirelesslyAccompanying app for XBox One only
Razer\’s Wolverine Ultimate could very well be the best gamepad available today, save for one critical disqualifying factor—it can\’t connect to a PC over wireless. The Xbox-style gamepad offers many of the same luxury features as the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller, like a swappable D-pad and customizable back paddles. It\’s also nearly the same price, which begs the question: Why not just buy one of those instead?
Well, it\’s not for everyone, but the Wolverine Ultimate does have its fair share of unique, downright enticing features. For starters, the face buttons—the ones labeled A, B, X, and Y—click in like a mouse. This seemingly minuscule detail, but makes a world of difference. It\’s like using nothing but membrane keyboards your whole life and then making a move to mechanical switches. So while the enclosed 10-foot braided micro USB cable takes some getting used to, tactile button presses are a worthy trade-off.
Of course, no Razer product would be complete without a healthy dose of Chroma, the three-headed green snake company\’s signature brand of RGB lighting. However, rather than integrating it into the existing Synapse 3 app for Windows, Razer decided to develop an app specifically for Xbox One. So if you do plan on using this controller for your PC, bear in mind you\’ll need a separate app to configure it.
3. Sony DualShock 4
The most accurate game pad around
Weight: 0.46 lbs (210g) | Connectivity: micro USB, Bluetooth | Battery: 1000mAH Li-ion (8 hrs)
$59.95View at ApplePrime$64.95View at Amazon$64.99View at Dell998 Amazon customer reviews
Super accurate thumbsticksParallel controlsSteam integration Unexciting battery life
The PlayStation\’s DualShock 4 pad isn\’t necessarily the first controller that comes to mind when thinking PC gaming, but thanks to software such as DS4Windows and lately full Steam integration, the Sony controller is now completely PC-friendly.
Which is great news because, while it doesn\’t quite have the overall build quality of the standard Xbox One pad, and the triggers are a bit polarising, the thumbsticks are still the most accurate I\’ve ever used. And I\’ve got a Series 2 sat on my desk. There\’s also the fact that most PC pads are modeled on the offset Xbox configuration, while many people still prefer the symmetrical PlayStation layout.
The battery life is a bit funky (turn that lightbar off, people) when running on Bluetooth, but the DS4 is still a fantastic PC controller with super-accurate sticks.
Best gaming laptop | Best gaming monitor |Best gaming headset | Best wireless gaming headset| Best computer speakers | Best capture card
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4. Astro C40 TR
Primed for PS4, compatible with PC
Weight: 0.68 lbs (320g) | Connectivity: 2.4GHz wireless, USB wired | Cored length: 6ft (1.8m)
Prime$266.02View at Amazon
Remappable, interchangeable buttonsPromising serviceabilityVery expensive
Positioned as a premium alternative to the DualShock 4, you could say that the Astro C40 TR is to the PS4 what the Xbox Elite wireless controller is to the Xbox One. A third party may make it, but the Astro C40 TR delivers a premium controller experience in that familiar DualShock form factor.
What makes the C40 TR unique is the ability to not only swap parts, but move them around. The modular design will let you swap out the left thumbstick for the D-pad and rock an asymmetrical Xbox One-esque controller if you like. Or you can be a complete anarchist and put two thumbsticks on the left, with the D-pad on the right. (The face buttons can\’t be swapped to a different position.)
For PC players, the Astro C40 TR has its own Windows software. With it, you can remap buttons, create and edit profiles, and adjust stick and trigger sensitivity, among other things. Of those other things, the fact that is has an audio equalizer for the headphone jack on bottom is perhaps the weirdest, most impressive aspect of the whole controller. Like the Elite and its contemporaries, It costs a lot, but after using it ourselves, we don\’t want to go back.
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5. Xbox Wireless Controller
A top-shelf, reasonably priced controller
Weight: 0.62 lbs (281g) | Connectivity: Xbox Wireless; Bluetooth | Battery: 2x AA
$23.99View at Newegg$59.99View at Dell$73.95View at Amazon697 Amazon customer reviews
AffordableComfortableOfficially supported by most gamesNot many features
The Xbox One Wireless Controller has been available for years now and is as much of a classic as the old Xbox 360 pad in PC gaming circles. In addition to being cheaper than it was at launch, it boasts a vastly superior D-pad that you won\’t dread using in fighting games and platformers. In other words, the friendship has ended with Xbox 360 gamepad; the Xbox Wireless controller is now my best friend.
We capitalize Wireless for a reason, not because the word is a proper noun per sé, but because the Xbox Wireless controller of late leverages Microsoft\’s wireless protocol it calls \”Xbox Wireless.\” Though the name itself could benefit from some creative workshopping, you can take solace in the fact that, after 2016, the Xbox Wireless controller graces us with a much-needed helping of Bluetooth compatibility. And now it\’s practically standard fare for console transplants deterred by the learning curve mouse and keyboard gaming presents.
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6. PowerA Spectra
Best budget PC controller
Weight: 0.99 lbs (447g) | Connectivity: micro USB | Features: LED edge-lighting, 3-way trigger locks
Prime$39.99View at Amazon
Great Button Feel Nearly identical design to an Xbox One ControllerGood Price Cool lighting
PowerA\’s Spectra Enhanced Wired controller might be the closest thing to an Xbox One controller from a third party designer, at least in terms of design and feel. According to our the Spectra review this is a budget controller that doesn\’t feel or play like a budget controller.
The lack of any wireless features is the only reason this controller doesn\’t rank higher on the list. The edge lighting gives the Spectra personality and the 3-way trigger locks are only usually seen in high-end PC controllers.
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7. Logitech F310
Lightweight and ultra-affordable
Weight: 0.4 lbs (181g) | Connectivity: USB wired | Cord length: 6.5 ft (1.98m)
$19.99View at Dell$39.64View at Amazon$51.44View at Amazon815 Amazon customer reviews
Very affordableEasy plug-and-play
This controller is my absolute favorite if you\’re on a super-tight budget—say, if you want two controllers for the price of one. At half the cost of an Xbox Wireless Controller, you lose the wireless capability but still get a solidly-constructed gamepad, and it works as soon as you plug it in. The thing is light but feels like a tank, so have no fear of abusing it.
That said, the d-pad is nowhere near the quality of Microsoft\’s; it feels loose, and I had trouble accurately maneuvering in Super Meat Boy. The triggers and bumpers are housed on outcroppings that the knuckles of my middle fingers rub against uncomfortably, and the analog sticks, while pleasantly springy, have a convex shape that isn\’t great for sweaty hands. I also found that the triggers offer too much resistance. In Grid Autosport, my finger got tired from holding down for the gas, which I didn\’t experience with any of our other controllers. But these are worthy sacrifices for such a budget pad.
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8. Steam Controller
The controller for games that don\’t support controllers
Weight: 0.63 lbs (287g) | Connectivity: 2.4GHz wireless | Battery: 500mAh rechargeable or 2x AA
Prime$69.99View at Amazon3 Amazon customer reviews
Easily control mouse-keyboard gamesHighly configurable control mappingNot the most comfortable option
Sure, the Steam Controller can control games, but it still feels like an awkward midpoint between gamepad and keyboard-mouse control.
The grips are enormous, part of an intentional convex design meant to arch your thumbs over the touchpads comfortably. The problem is, they’re too bulbous and jut out a bit too hard into the heel of each hand. My fingers tense up after a few minutes of play, which leads to a few too many accidental back paddle presses and thumb cramps. It’s not possible to outright recommend the Steam Controller, even though with enough tinkering and patience, it’s a just-about-viable way to control a ton of PC games from the couch.
The Steam Controller does ultimately occupy a unique space: it\’s the only gamepad specifically built to let you play games that don\’t support controllers out of the box. For games that do support controllers, we prefer the DualShock and Xbox pads. But if you insist on playing PC games away from your mouse and keyboard and want to replicate their functionality as closely as possible, the Steam Controller is the best in town. It just feels hollow, cheap, and super-flimsy in the hand.
How we test controllers
Ignore those who seem to think every game is best with a mouse and keyboard. Forza Horizon 4 is not best played with a keyboard. Dead Cells is not best played with a keyboard. Mortal Kombat 11 is ridiculous with a keyboard. True, we play most games with a mouse and keyboard, but for PC gamers with ranging tastes, a good controller is a must.
CONTROLLER SETUP GUIDES
(Image credit: Astro)
How to use a:
PS4 controller on PC
PS3 controller on PC
Nintendo Switch Pro controller on PC
Xbox One controller on PC
Microsoft\’s Xbox One controller sets the standards by being the default, first-party option for one of the most popular consoles, while third-party controllers tend to mimic that. In this case, the standard is the best: I haven\’t found a controller better than the Xbox One Elite Controller Series 2 for PC gaming, though the Astro C40 TR controller is very close.
Though I\’ve done some testing with first-person shooters, I\’ve largely ignored the genre. While it may be necessary for console gamers, we\’re almost always going to use WASD for any kind of shooter. That in mind, the games I used mainly for testing are the ones mentioned below:
Dead Cells: A game that requires excellent d-pad control and responsive face buttons.
Mortal Kombat 11: I\’ve put a lot of hours into MK11 with both controllers and fight sticks, so I know how it ought to feel. If I can\’t crush an AI opponent as Sub-Zero, something isn\’t right.
Forza Motorsport: I chose Forza primarily to test the analog sticks, which according to my preferences, need three qualities: springy enough to quickly snap back to center, sensitive and resistant sufficient to make slight steering adjustments, and comfortably contoured. Hence, my thumbs aren\’t bloody stumps at the end of a few hours.