Can you use a game controller as your primary control peripheral on PC? Probably not. If you want to be anywhere near competitive in FPS and MOBA games, you’ll absolutely need the quick response and precision mechanics you can only get from a proper gaming mouse. For many games outside those two categories, though, gamepads can actually work fine, especially if you want to play your games leaning back on a chair, instead of hunching over a mouse-and-keyboard setup on your desk.
Not to mention, there are plenty of games that actually work better with a good, old gamepad. From fighting games and driving games to sports games and PC ports of console originals, some control schemes just flow better with analog sticks, triggers, and action buttons. Do you need a gamepad to enjoy PC gaming? No. If you want to get the most out of every game in your library, though, it’s not a bad idea to keep a gamepad on hand for those games that don’t quite flow smoothly using traditional PC controls.
These are the best gamepads for PC right now.
If you’re not looking to game extensively with a gamepad, maybe a cheap, reliable one that gets the job done is all you need. That description perfectly fits this controller from Logitech, which brings all the modern controls you’ll require, including bumpers, triggers, symmetrical analog sticks, and an 8-way D-pad, with an excellent albeit firm feel on all the controls. Do note, this is strictly for use with PCs, although it does support a long line of Windows versions, down from XP to the current 11, so you can use this to game even on older machines you have in the attic. Surprisingly, it’s even customizable using the outfit’s Profiler software.
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8BitDo Pro 2
8BitDo built an excellent reputation cranking out gamepads for retro gaming fans. With the Pro 2, though, they squarely aim for contemporary gamers, all while retaining the old-school styling of their retro controllers. Despite the retro sensibilities, this is every bit a modern gamepad, with ergonomic grips, a PS-style control layout, and a 20-hour rechargeable battery. While it doesn’t feel as premium as some of the more expensive controllers in this list, the gamepad’s controls do have a sharp and responsive feel – much more than we expected from something in this price range. We don’t know how durable these switches and sticks are, of course, but that’s something you tend to find out after months of use.
It comes with two paddle buttons on the back, which, again, is impressive for a gamepad in this price range. The customization using the outfit’s Ultimate Software is even more impressive, where you can remap every control, adjust sensitivity for the sticks and triggers, and change the vibration intensity. You can also create macros that you can assign to the paddle buttons, allowing you to execute multiple actions with a single press. It can store up to three profiles, too, so you can quickly switch from one mapping to another on the fly.
The gamepad is compatible not just with PCs, but with macOS, Android, and Switch devices. While it comes with a rechargeable battery, it also supports AA batteries, in case you’re playing on the Switch on the go and don’t have a place to plug in for power.
SteelSeries Stratus Duo
This controller is compatible not just with PCs, it also works on Android devices and VR headsets like the Oculus Go. It can connect wirelessly over Bluetooth, as well as through the 2.4GHz dongle receiver if you’re using a non-Bluetooth PC, while a USB-C slot allows you to hook up a cable for wired gameplay. It has a similar action button layout as the Xbox controller, so it should work pretty naturally with PC games, albeit with the analog and D-pad layout of the PS gamepads, if you prefer Sony’s style of putting the analog sticks on opposite sides. The controller uses magnetic hall effect triggers, by the way, which supposedly last longer, as well as a 20-hour battery life, so you should be able to go through an extensive gaming session without recharging.
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Turtle Beach Recon Controller
This wired gamepad mirrors the general design and layout of the Xbox controller, albeit with a quartet of buttons on top that allow you to manipulate various audio settings on the fly. That means, you no longer have to pause your game and go to the settings screen to tweak the volume, adjust the balance between game sound and voice chat, and even switch to one of four different audio presets. There’s also a button that mutes the mic feed instantly, as well as a button that activates Superhuman Hearing, an audio enhancement that raises the volume of in-game effects, such as footsteps, reloads, and more, so you can easily hear audio cues that will better inform your in-game actions. Other notable features include two paddle buttons, four saved mapping profiles, and the ability to fine tune thumb stick sensitivity right from the same center control panel.
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Xbox Core Controller
While the Core is not the best Xbox controller you can use on the PC, it does offer the best balance of features and affordability. This improved version of the Xbox gamepad has improved texture on the grips, triggers, and bumpers, all while bringing all the excellent functionality that’s made it a popular controller among PC gamers. While designed for use over Bluetooth to let you enjoy wireless gameplay, it comes with a USB-C slot if you prefer more responsive tethered controls, which also comes in handy when you run out of fresh batteries (yes, it still uses AAs), as it can draw power through the USB cable instead. There’s also a 3.5mm slot for use with wired headphones.
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Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
We never ever thought about describing a game controller as “luxurious.” However, that’s, pretty much, the best way to describe gaming with this premium Xbox gamepad, which works just as well on Microsoft’s console as it does on the PC. Everything about it just feels elevated compared to the standard controller for Microsoft’s console, from that fancy-looking D-pad and the 40-hour rechargeable battery to the four paddle buttons and the seemingly endless customization. Not only can you map controls, you can fine tune the tension, sensitivity, and other settings, while allowing you to quickly swap different types of thumb sticks and D-pads.
All these features, by the way, make it feel substantially heftier than most PC gamepads you’ll try. If you have issues with heavier controllers, then you may want to go for the non-Elite version of the Xbox gamepad instead. Otherwise, this is arguably the best game controller you can get in the market today.
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Scuf Instinct Pro
If you want something premium, but don’t want to keep throwing your money at Microsoft’s coffers, this top-of-the-line gamepad from Scuf is the way to go. All controls here feel robust, with a really good, responsive feel that inspires confidence during play, while the textured grip feels really good in hand. For aesthetics, it has interchangeable faceplates and colored thumbsticks, although you’ll need to purchase additional components separately.
As with most premium controllers, this gamepad comes with four paddle buttons you can map to any in-game function. You can assign up to 16 functions on the paddles, by the way, with the ability to switch to different mappings at the push of a button, making it easy to quickly switch to new functions in the middle of a game. We also think these have the best paddle button designs of all controllers we’ve tried. The triggers have two settings, as well, namely standard and a high-sensitivity setting that allows it to respond instantaneously similar to a mouse click.
For the life of us, though, we can’t imagine why they decided to ape Microsoft and use AA batteries for this controller. That’s really the biggest downside here, as they could have easily thrown in rechargeable batteries for a better overall experience.