In 2022, the top PC controller
Although the mouse and keyboard combination is unquestionably the greatest PC controller, there are many games that were made with controllers in mind as well. In some ways, very much so. For the ideal setup, you’ll still need the finest gaming mouse and keyboard (opens in new tab), but when you add a top-notch controller to the mix, you can play the overwhelming majority of games.
Certain games’ control systems, like Elden Ring’s shoddy mouse and keyboard controls, are just better suited to a gamepad (opens in new tab). Driving games are a huge one; most keyboards don’t have pressure-sensitive key switches, so your best chance for precise movement is an analogue stick. Joining the best gamepad club is the way to go for such games since some console-to-PC ports have horrendously complicated control schemes. You may not like it, but there are instances when a controller is just the right tool for the task.
Even for titles regarded as PC classics, this is true. When using the finest PC controller, The Witcher 3(opens in new tab) really offers a far more simple control scheme.
Imagine being able to sit back, unwind, and enjoy a relaxed gaming session instead of hunching over the keyboard and negatively impacting your posture. We examined several of the best console and PC controllers available today to see which ones are worth using in place of your reliable keyboard and mouse.
Best PC controller
1. Series 2 Xbox Elite Wireless Controller
You’ll realise why we put the Microsoft Elite Series 2 controller in the top rank after using it for more than 10 minutes. The Series 2 screams luxury in every way. You have an unequalled amount of control (pun intended) over your gaming thanks to the almost limitless customization possibilities. It is a complete blessing to be able to adjust the controller’s d-pads, shift paddles, and joystick tension.
The Series 2 controller’s new rechargeable battery, which has around 40 hours of battery life, and a cute small carrying bag that also serves as a portable USB Type-C powered charging station are its biggest improvements over the Series 1 controller (which we really adored). Finally, pairing the Series 2 controller with a Bluetooth device is simple thanks to project Xcloud and Apple Arcade, which bring some fantastic games to mobile devices.
Six thumb sticks, two d-pads (cross-shaped and faceted), four rear pedals, and a tool for adjusting thumb stick tension are included in the package of unique parts.
Due to the Series 2’s adoption of Bluetooth, you now have a market-leading PC controller and something that will couple with a phone to play the Apple Arcade games or experiment with Xbox streaming. The Series 1’s unexpected absence of Bluetooth attracted significant criticism. Given the high cost of admittance, it greatly increases the controller’s versatility.
One of my favourite aspects of the Elite are the returning hair-trigger locks. For those who haven’t used them, they regulate how far you need to pull the trigger, eliminating any needless movement or time in millisecond-sensitive competition shooting. The four extra rear paddles are a nice feature as well, and they can create some unique controller setups. Want to never remove your thumbs from the thumb sticks? To get started, just assign the face buttons to the back paddles. In reality, the Series 2’s extraordinary flexibility has the added advantage of making the controller very accessible, allowing more people to utilise it to play PC games.
Since it weighs a few more ounces than the conventional Xbox One controller, some players may find the heavier controller unsettling at first. The cross and faceted alternate d-pads need some getting used to, particularly in fighting games like Mortal Kombat 11 or Dragon Ball FighterZ, even if it’s good to replace the traditional d-pad.
Most people find it difficult to justify spending $160 on a controller since it costs almost four times as much as an Xbox One controller. However, if you’re a committed gamer who values performance and high levels of customization, the Series 2 is a no-brainer and well worth the money.
2. PowerA Infinity Spectra Enhanced
Over the Spectra Enhanced we previously rated in this guide, PowerA’s Spectra Infinity Enhanced wired controller is an improvement. Although the Spectra is a device with an official Xbox licence, the most recent version has more resemblance to the Xbox Series X|S controller, although having much brighter LEDs. Given its low cost, it’s a fairly snazzy controller these days.
While playing all the usual suspects like Call of Duty: Warzone and Mortal Kombat 11, I compared the Spectra with an official Xbox One controller. I discovered that the joysticks have practically the same level of tension and even the face buttons have a comparable feel when you push down on them.
The two additional programmable buttons at the rear of the controller are strategically placed precisely around the grip. The button arrangement is almost similar to that of an Xbox One controller, right down to the same texturized rubber on the joysticks. You can access them while playing without changing your grip since you can use your ring fingers. The 3-way trigger locks are excellent for competitive shooters, but unlike the Series 2, although being a pleasant feature, they didn’t feel all that different no matter where you placed the lock.
In the era of untethered gaming, the Spectra would have received a better grade, but the absence of any wireless connection is disappointing. Instead, a 10-foot snap-lock detachable micro-USB cable is included, which is a little excessive for playing at a desk but ideal for use in the living room.
It’s a bad it isn’t wireless, but at $40, the nice edge lighting and additional customizable buttons could be a good compromise, particularly if you’d prefer avoid dealing with batteries but still need a controller to offer your younger brother.
3. Wireless Xbox Controller
For PC gaming, the original Xbox One Wireless Controller was indispensable. We were all interested to see how the Xbox Series S/X(opens in new tab) updated a controller that was already excellent.
The original controller’s best qualities are mostly carried over into this one. With a highly comfortable overall design and grips made of texturized rubber, you will feel fantastic in your hands. With inspiration from the Xbox One Elite Series controllers, it has a greatly improved d-pad that you won’t fear using in fighting games and platformers, much like the original. You may have noticed a new button in the middle of the controller; the Share button, which was highly desired, now makes it possible to take pictures and gameplay videos without having to spend too much time in the menus.
We emphasise Wireless for a reason—not only because it’s a proper noun per se, but also because Microsoft’s “Xbox Wireless” wireless protocol is now used by the Xbox Wireless controller. You may find comfort in the knowledge that, after 2016, the Xbox Wireless controller finally gives us some much-needed Bluetooth compatibility, even if the name could need some creative reworking. Since the learning curve required for mouse and keyboard gaming is so steep, it has become almost standard fare for console transplants.
4. Sony Wireless DualSense Controller
Sony’s PlayStation 5 (opens in new tab) Thanks to its unique haptic motors and “Adaptive” triggers, which may provide resistance beneath your finger, DualSense has a “you have to touch it to believe it” feel. For instance, shooting a bow may truly feel like shooting a bow. Easily the finest and most subtle rumble we’ve ever seen in a controller. The claims of its excellence are accurate.
The bad news is that because games will need to be built to utilise them, the DualSense’s most sophisticated functions are not currently compatible with PC games. However, Steam already provides complete compatibility for the controller, making it simple to connect and use like any other pad. The Xbox Series X controller is somewhat more comfortable, but this one is the one to purchase if you favour Sony’s analogue stick layout or enjoy gyro aiming. It’s also not as easy to use in non-Steam titles.
Perhaps in the future, PC games will also benefit from the new triggers and haptics.
5. Scuf Instinct Pro
Scuf is serious about its controllers and provides some of the top premium pads that aren’t made by Sony or Microsoft. If you want to avoid the two major console manufacturers, the Instinct Pro is the finest pad controller for Microsoft games. But how can anybody else compete in the enthusiast controller market when the Elite Series 2 is available? (Opens in new tab)
The Instinct Pro offers more customization choices than pretty much any other pad you can think of. From the first page of the shop, Scuf offers a vast array of distinct aesthetic and physical customization choices. The faceplate choices and the rings surrounding the thumbsticks are the most visible, but you may also choose the length and top of the actual thumbsticks (convex or concave).
The D-pad, button facades, as well as the style of the bumpers and triggers, are also customizable. It’s interesting to note that there is also the option to remove the rumble motors from within the controller, which is something you’ll often see professionals remove from their tournament controllers to reduce the hand-natural wobble’s distraction.
Although it would undoubtedly affect the cost, I was able to raise it with my own decisions to slightly under $250. but did manage to produce a stunningly pink pad without the interference of rumble packs.
Scuf has at least admitted that there isn’t much use in attempting to outdo Microsoft with the Instinct Pro’s overall appearance since it is almost similar to an Xbox Series X/S controller. In addition to the faceplate, rings, and mute button on the front, obviously.
During a game session, the thumbsticks are reassuringly responsive and robust. When playing a slower-paced game, hammering the sticks with frequent direction changes hasn’t had an effect on the pad, and they still feel smooth and accurate. Although maybe not quite as deep as the Elite, the triggers nevertheless have a satisfying action and are equally precise.
However, I would remark that the hair-trigger mode is a touch too shallow for my preferences. The rest of the button feel is sturdy and comfortingly clicky as well. However, I can see why other people could enjoy it, so I’m not going to consider it to be anything other than a personal preference or a positive.
While the Elite has a lithium ion battery, the Scuf Instinct Pro needs AA batteries, much like other Xbox pads. Since lithium ion batteries are designed to have a limited shelf life, the option to switch out a new set of batteries in the middle of a competition might be a selling factor. Although I haven’t had this problem with my Elite pad in the recent years of usage.
In any case, it’s a superb controller that fits well in the hand and is quite sensitive. With all of my preferred greebles, it’s just exorbitantly expensive.
6. Razer Wolverine Ultimate
With one major qualification removed, Razer’s Wolverine Ultimate would very well be the greatest gamepad on the market right now: it lacks wireless connectivity. The Xbox-style gamepad has many of the same high-end features as the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller, including a d-pad that can be swapped out and rear paddles that can be adjusted. Why not simply get one of them instead, given that it is almost the same price?
The Wolverine Ultimate does offer a fair amount of distinctive, extremely alluring traits, but it’s not for everyone. To begin with, the A, B, X, and Y buttons on the face click like mouse buttons. This apparently little feature has a huge impact. It would be comparable to switching from just utilising membrane keyboards to mechanical switches overnight. Therefore, tactile button pushes are a worthwhile trade-off, even if the bundled 10-foot braided micro USB cord requires some getting used to.
Naturally, no Razer product would be complete without a hefty portion of Chroma, the three-headed green snake company’s own line of RGB lights. Razer chose to create a separate Xbox One software rather than include it into the Synapse 3 programme already available for Windows. So keep in mind that a separate app will be required if you do intend to use this controller with your PC.
Can a console controller be used on a PC?
Yes, to answer briefly. The somewhat lengthier response is that after the first time you set it up, all you have to do is plug it in. However, the first time you set it up can need some fumbling.
Is using a controller for PC gaming better?
It may sound completely inappropriate to ask this given the history of PC Gamer, but it is true that certain PC games are far more enjoyable when played with a gamepad than with the standard keyboard and mouse setup.
The most apparent ones are sports games, as anybody who has attempted to play FIFA using the odd keyboard/mouse control method will confirm. However, certain games, particularly those that were created exclusively for consoles, have control schemes that are so difficult to use without a pad that using any other method is difficult.
How are controllers tested?
Ignore those who insist that a mouse and keyboard are necessary for every game. It is not recommended to use a keyboard to play Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The greatest way to play Street Fighter 5 is not on a keyboard. Although we play the majority of games using a mouse and keyboard, a solid controller is a need for PC gamers with diverse interests.
Despite some experimenting, I’ve mostly shunned the first-person shooter subgenre. We nearly always utilise WASD for any kind of shooter, even if it could be required for console players. In light of this, the following games are the ones I focused on for testing:
Street Fighter V: I’ve spent a lot of time playing Street Fighter V with fight sticks and controllers, so I know how it should feel. Something isn’t right if Ken and I can’t easily defeat an AI opponent.
Forza Motorsport: I picked this game primarily so I could test the analogue sticks, which in my opinion should have three characteristics: they should be springy enough to quickly snap back to the centre, sensitive and resistant enough to allow for slight steering adjustments, and comfortably contoured. Thus, after a few hours, my thumbs are not bleeding stumps.