The best PC controller will almost always come down to preference. Stick placement, ease of use, and your own budget can all be determining factors. We’ve gathered our recommendations from across the controller-scape.
There are some incredible controllers for the PC available, with the choices outside of the main two – PlayStation and Xbox – no longer being the default best choices. Whether you need more buttons than the traditional controller typically carries or even need something that’s a bit more universal, there’s a tonne of options to choose from.
Even on PC, with the much more intuitive control schemes available via mouse and keyboard, there’s always a need for a controller to be close by. Platform games or smaller indie titles like Cult of Lamb or Stray might fare better when being played with a controller.
Having a controller also just allows you to sink deep into a chair, getting lost in a session of Monster Hunter. It prevents you from hunching over at all times like an office worker, or a writer tapping out an article on the best PC controllers.
- The best overall PC controller
- The best wireless PC controller
- The best wired PC controller
- The best budget wireless PC controller
- The best budget wired PC controller
- Should you use a controller for PC gaming?
Look, you don’t really have to think too hard outside of the box if you want to get the best PC controller, the Xbox Elite Controller series 2 has pretty much everything that you could want out of a game controller, and then some. Sure, it’s expensive, but it also has oodles of customizable functions like a robust trigger-stop function, paddles, a replaceable D-pad, and sticks, and all come with a USB-C charging dock, in addition to actually being wireless, with a built-in battery.
It will natively work, so you don’t have to mess around, and the build quality is remarkable. For someone who wants just about every feature under the sun, this is definitely the controller you should go for.
- Connectivity: USB-C, Wireless (Bluetooth & 2.4 Ghz)
- Battery life: 40-hour
- Weight: 345g (+/- 15g) when using paddles and default D-pad
- Features: Four paddles, two D-Pads, Thumbstick adjustment tool, trigger stop function, remappable buttons, 3.5mm audio jack, charging dock
- Price: $179.99 / £159.99
- Premium designs and quality
- Three onboard profiles
- Unparalleled customization
- Very expensive
- Users have reported that build-quality deteriorates over time
Now, you might be wondering who the hell Gulikit actually is, or why the King Kong Pro is ranked highly on this list while being a relatively unassuming pad that looks a lot like an Xbox controller. Well, Gulikit actually has patents for groundbreaking technology in the form of hall-sensing analog sticks, in addition to tactile face buttons.
In practice, the hall-sensing technology means that this controller blows everything else out of the market in terms of reliability, and accuracy on the analog sticks themselves. Most of the controllers on this list will use an ALPS analog stick, which is prone to degradation and stick drift. However, Gulikit’s King Kong Pro 2 controller uses its own tech, which makes for an unbelievably accurate stick, that will never, ever drift. On top of that, the accuracy of the sticks is unparalleled.
The buttons are also tactile and feel great, with a nice rubberized grip, wireless capabilities, and native X-Input support, this is the best basic PC controller. Really, we would have put this at the top of the list if it had a couple of more features like paddles or trigger stop functionality. Also, you can use it on Nintendo Switch without a hitch.
- Connectivity: USB-C, Wireless (Bluetooth)
- Battery life: 25-hour
- Weight: 233g
- Features: Hall-sensing analog sticks, tactile buttons, adjustable analog sensitivity, gyro, NFC (amiibo support), programmable macro button.
- Price: $69.99 / £59.99
- Hall-sensing analog sticks mean no drift, ever
- Quality construction
- Multi-platform support (Nintendo Switch)
- Can be fiddly to set up
- Generic-looking design
If you are looking for a controller that has exceptional features for a budget price, and don’t want the hassle of having to recharge your battery all the time, then the PowerA Fusion Pro 2 is the pick for you. It has many of the features that are boasted on the Elite Series 2 controller while having a much more competitive price point. It isn’t without its caveats, however.
But, if you are after a fully-featured controller that ticks all of the boxes for functionality while also coming in at a budget price, and wired up for tournament use, you could do much worse than the PowerA Fusion Pro 2.
- Connectivity: USB-C
- Weight: 370g
- Features: Four paddles, replaceable sticks, magnetic faceplate, trigger lock
- Price: $89.99 / £79.99
- Comes with tonnes of optional extras
- Build quality could be better
- Extremely heavy for a wired controller
Look, you really can’t go wrong with the Xbox Series controller for use on the PC, it can connect via Bluetooth or 2.4Ghz if you have a wireless receiver. Alternatively, you can also use it wired. Unfortunately, the big kicker for this is that Microsoft sells a rechargeable battery for the controller separately. But, that also means that you won’t throw it into a pile of waste when the batteries inevitably wear out from use.
This is the default controller, it works well, feels even nicer than the Xbox One controller, and you’ll be able to make it work with just about everything. It’s a no-frills, straightforward experience.
- Connectivity: USB-C
- Weight: 280g
- Features: Textured grip, dedicated share button
- Price: $59.99 / £54.99
- Feels great in use
- No-frills, straightforward experience
- No included wireless battery
The PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller might look basic on appearances, but has a few handy features not seen on Microsoft’s default option, including two remappable paddles which may come in handy for all manner of games, like Elden Ring, where you’d be able to bind your run button over to a paddle so you’re not doing some weird claw grip.
Additionally, while the controller might be wired, there’s a detachable cable, where you’re not going to have to worry about frayed wires later down the line. The included wire appears to be fairly standard, but for this price, you really can’t ask for much more than what you get.
- Connectivity: USB-C to USB-A
- Weight: 208g
- Features: Two remappable paddles, detachable wired cable
- Price: $37.99 / £34.99
- Remappable paddles are a boon
- Fun colorways
- Build quality can be hit or miss
While keyboard and mouse are more than enough for most PC games, some more console-focussed ports and titles simply feel much better while using a controller. Older ports of console titles might also require a controller, so you should definitely use a controller for PC gaming in some titles.
All you have to do is address this by picking up a controller of your choice. It really is a game-changer, and with native Xinput support on Windows, controller support has come a long way since the days of Games for Windows Live.
What makes a good game controller?
The main elements to look for when getting yourself a brand-new PC controller are the quality of the buttons, triggers, and sticks. They should be the main things that you look for ahead of anything else. A controller is no good is the buttons are mushy, the triggers don’t feel good and the sticks wobble all over the shop.
You should also look at the controller’s features, does it support X-Input? Does it have support for multiple consoles? Does it have features like additional paddles or macros? These are all important factors that you need to take into consideration when you pick up a brand-new game controller.
Why is my controller drifting?
Usually, most manufacturers use a stick from a company named ALPS. These sticks use something named a potentiometer, which measures and reports a position to your controller.
There is a physical element inside a potentiometer named a wiper that reads the voltage and therefore the position of your stick. The issue arises when these physical elements break down, thus creating the issue of drift. The wiper can alter the voltage readings if damaged, and therefore the reporting becomes inconsistent, making your controller drift. Additionally, other elements like dust or other elements can cause the stick to drift.
The only way around this is to use something named a hall-sensing stick, which relies on magnetism, instead of a physical potentiometer that wears over time, causing drift issues. Every controller, except for the Gulikit King Kong Pro 2 controller, and the Dreamcast controller from twenty years ago can suffer from stick drift.
The only way around this is to replace the stick itself. No amount of software solutions, as we saw in the Nacon Revolution X Pro, will manage to fix it.
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