Best Controllers for PC: Great gamepads for every player

© Natasha Roy Level up.

Every good game console needs a controller, even your gaming PC. Yes, there are many types of games where mouse and keyboard shine: Strategy games, multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), even first-person shooters. But even the best gaming keyboards can’t simulate the feeling of tilting an analog stick and having your character move exactly where you point. (Not to mention that, sometimes, you just want to slouch on the couch with a controller).

Once upon a time, pairing a controller with your PC was a chore that involved installing drivers and tons of troubleshooting. Nowadays, most controllers work automatically when plugged in and connect wirelessly via Bluetooth or a wireless dongle like Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows 10. With that level of ubiquity, PC players have yet another advantage over console players: They can basically choose whatever controller they want! With so many options, let’s go over the best controllers to pair with your PC, so you can skip the picking and go right to playing.

I have a confession to make, everyone: I play a lot of video games. As a former game and tech critic for sites like IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and PCMag, I’ve used and reviewed many, many controllers including the majority of the options on this list. For the recommendation I haven’t personally tested, I’m relying on second-hand accounts from other reviewers and an understanding of the brand based on time spent with its other products.

Best overall: Xbox Wireless Controller (2020)Best Xbox controller: Xbox Elite Series 2Best PlayStation controller: PlayStation DualSenseBest wired: Razer Wolverine V2 ChromaBest Nintendo-Style: 8BitDo Pro 2Best on a budget: PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller

If you’re buying a controller specifically for the PC, there are some things you should know. First and foremost, you want to know what goes into a good controller. Tight, responsive analog sticks and snappy or clicky buttons are a must. The directional pad should also bounce back into position and not feel “squishy.” You should also get a feel for the different kinds of special features a controller offers. A lot of it, frankly, comes down to feel. That obviously makes picking a controller without trying it first very difficult. (That’s why I’m here to help).

© Xbox Best Controllers for PC: Great gamepads for every player

While most controllers will work if you pair with or plug into a Windows PC, compatibility issues can still pop up. Most controllers are made for one of the three dedicated game consoles, so some of their features may not work on PC. For example, the PS5’s DualSense controller features advanced haptics, triggers that generate resistance when pulled, and a central touchpad, but most games–even ones that are also on PS5–don’t support those features on PC.

There are also features that may require an additional purchase or extra work. All of Microsoft’s Xbox controllers work right out of the box on Windows, but if you want to connect them wirelessly using a 2.4GHz connection like an Xbox console, you’ll need to buy an Xbox adapter for PC. Other consoles, like Razer’s Wolverine controllers, require a special app to configure. Depending on what controller you buy and how you plan to use it, these things may not matter. If you’re buying a controller specifically for the PC, it’s important to know what features will work, and how much work it will take to make them fully functional.

If you’re looking at a controller made by any company other than Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo–or Microsoft’s “Elite” controllers–chances are it will have “premium” features that extend beyond the usual 13 buttons, two analog sticks, and D-Pad.

Many third-party controllers (even inexpensive ones) now come with customizable buttons or paddles, which can be mapped to replace any of the standard buttons. These buttons or paddles are often placed on the back grips of the controller, where your middle and/or fingers can easily reach them without overextending.

You may also find that third-party controllers have esports-centric features like trigger locks, which reduce the “travel” of a controller’s triggers to ensure the quickest input, often at the expense of button feel. Many controllers with any of these features will also feature a configuration app, which allows you to set the extra buttons and customize other aspects of the controller’s feel. While there isn’t a one-to-one correlation between these extra features and price, they are almost always part of the package when purchasing something that costs more than $60, so it’s worth keeping them in mind.

© Xbox Best Controllers for PC: Great gamepads for every player

Most people prefer a wireless controller for consoles because of the distance from their TV to their couch. With a PC, however, a wired controller may actually be the most convenient option. If your PC is within arm’s reach, it’s easy to plug and unplug your controller, and it will work instantly.

© Sony It’s like a PlayStation controller from the future.

That said, you can always go wireless, either because you’re plugging your PC into a TV or just because you want to keep your cable management in order. Pairing wirelessly to a PC comes with tradeoffs. Many controllers, including Sony and Microsoft’s, can pair via Bluetooth, which is convenient but introduces input lag that can be a serious problem in precise and/or competitive games. Some controllers support 2.4GHz wireless via a USB receiver dongle, which cuts down on the lag. Aside from Microsoft’s, however, the number of controllers with dedicated receivers is pretty low, as most companies design their controllers to support one of the major consoles.

Picking the best controller for PC comes down to personal taste and, often, your history playing games. I know a lot of people who prefer either Xbox or PlayStation controllers because they grew up with those consoles, so that’s what they’re comfortable with. We’ve done our best to accommodate options for all types of players, so you can pick something great that fits your style.


Buttons: 15Rear buttons: 0Connection types: USB-C wired, Bluetooth, 2.4GHz wireless (with optional wireless adapter)Estimated battery life: 40 hours (requires two AA batteries)

Why it made the cut: Console preferences aside, the Microsoft Wireless Controller is the most comfortable controller out there and feels like the “default” option on PC.

© Razer Best Controllers for PC: Great gamepads for every player

ProsConsVery comfortable ergonomic design No “extra” remappable buttons Pairs easily with PC via wired and wireless Requires AA batteries for wireless, which generates e-wasteOptional 2.4GHz wireless on PC

The Xbox controller has been the “default” gamepad for PC since the Xbox 360 era, before manufacturers cared to streamline their controller’s compatibility on PC. Despite the fact that you can choose any option, the Xbox Wireless Controller still feels like best controller for PC overall. Its well-balanced weight, wide grips, and offset analog sticks guide your hands into a comfortable grip. It’s buttons feel snappy, and its D-Pad has a tactile clickiness to it. For wireless users, the Xbox line of controllers gets 2.4 GHz wireless support via the optional Xbox Wireless Adapter.

But the real secret for the “core” Xbox controller is the price. At $60, the Xbox Series X/S version of the controller is cheaper than most of the other options on this list, including the DualSense. If you go for an Xbox One controller, which is almost identical, you can often shave down the price even more. Between\ the comfort, build quality, and price, the Xbox Wireless Controller sets the standard against which all controllers are judged.

Why it made the cut: Microsoft took an incredible controller and loaded it up with extra customization options and special features. 


Buttons: 19Rear buttons: 4Connection types: USB-C wired, Bluetooth, 2.4GHz wireless (with optional wireless adapter)Estimated battery life: 40 hours

ProsConsFour customizable rear paddles Very expensive Interchangeable analog sticks and D-pad Optional 2.4GHz wireless on PC

The Xbox Elite Series 2—our pick for the best Xbox controller for PC—is the kitchen sink of controllers. Microsoft’s pricey, feature-rich version of the Xbox One gamepad has almost every luxury option you can find in a third-party controller, including four removable paddles that can be mapped to mimic any controller input, alternate analog stick and d-pads that you can pull off and swap on the fly, and a wireless charging dock (because it has an internal battery, which means no more AAs). You can also remap the controller’s buttons and fine tune certain inputs using the Xbox Accessories app. At $179.99, the Elite Series 2 is very expensive, but it’s also the best version of the best controller. It may not be for everyone, given the price, but it’s a worthwhile luxury for players who want the best of the best.

© 8BitDo Best Controllers for PC: Great gamepads for every player

Why it made the cut: If you’re looking to make your PC gaming experience feel more like a PlayStation, the DualSense is the way to go.


Buttons: 14Rear buttons: 0Connection types: USB-C wired, BluetoothEstimated battery life: 10-13 hours

ProsConsGreat grip Short battery life Tight, responsive buttons Most games don’t support DualSense-specific features on PC Adaptive triggers

The Sony DualSense, the controller for the PlayStation 5, is an outstanding evolution of the company’s past DualShock controllers. Its long handles situate your hands perfectly to use its symmetrical analog sticks. The buttons and D-pad both offer a tight response. And it has a host of cool new features, including haptics that mirror tactile effects and resistive triggers that tense up to mimic the feeling of a bow or gun trigger tightening. It’s the best PlayStation controller, and the one I’d use if I wanted a gamepad with PlayStation-style layout for my PC. 

The magic of using the DualSense on PS5 becomes a drawback on PC. Technically, the DualSense is fully functional on PC, but very few games support its special features there, even when they have DualSense features on PS5. The features around wireless connectivity fall short of the Xbox controllers: It only connects wirelessly via Bluetooth, which can lead to lag issues. It’s short 10-13 hour battery life also tends to feel even shorter when you’re in the middle of a long gaming session. The DualSense is a great controller, but it’s best enjoyed with a PS5. On PC, I would only recommend it for players who want symmetrical thumbsticks.

© PowerA Best Controllers for PC: Great gamepads for every player

Why it made the cut: If you’re willing to sacrifice wireless support, the Wolverine V2 has almost all the same great features as the Elite Series 2, and a couple of extra tricks up its sleeve.


Buttons:Rear buttons: 4Connection types: USB-C WiredEstimated battery life: N/A

ProsConsClicky mechanical buttons No wireless Six customizable buttons Expensive Customizable RGB lighting

Razer’s Wolverine line of Xbox controllers has always set a high bar for wired-only controllers. Their signature feature, at least in mind, a mechanical d-pad and face buttons that elicit a tactile click when you press them. Like mechanical keyboard switches, the Wolverines’ clickiness also informs you that the button has actuated, so you know a button’s been pressed. 

The newest Wolverine, the V2 Chroma, is a true successor to the 2012 Wolverine Ultimate and deserving of the title ‘best wired controller for PC.’ Per the name, it also has customizable RGB stripes on top. It features six extra customizable buttons – four triggers on the back and two extra bumpers on top. It also has many of the features from the Xbox Elite Series 2, including replaceable analog sticks and trigger locks. If your PC setup is such that you know you don’t need a wireless connection, the Wolverine V2 Chroma (or even the less expensive Wolverine V2) bring some good features to the table that other controllers don’t.

Why it made the cut The 8Bitdo Pro 2 brings premium features like configuration software and rear buttons to a controller made for Switch and PC


Buttons: 18Rear buttons: 2Connection Options: USB-C wired, BluetoothBattery life: 20 hours

ProsConsGood grip/feel Bluetooth is the only wireless option Affordable Great configuration software

The 8Bitdo Pro 2 is a great controller for the Nintendo faithful. While it features a modern shape and special features Nintendo would never put on a controller, it features the old-school Nintendo button layout, features an NES-style D-pad, and comes in an SNES-style finish. On PC, it features an “ultimate” configuration app that allows you to fine-tune the controller’s feel, remap buttons, and even create macros, custom button combinations, that you can assign to a single button. While it isn’t without flaws, if you’re hunting for a controller to use on Switch and PC, the 8Bitdo Pro 2 offers a lot of customization at a stellar price.

Why it made the cut: The PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller is one of the few budget controllers that lacks obvious flaws and adds extra functionality.


Buttons: 17Rear Buttons: 3Connection Options: USB WiredBattery life: N/A

ProsConsAffordable Wired only Two customizable rear buttons Onboard headset controls

When I was growing up, third-party controllers were (rightfully) treated as inferior knock-offs compared to the official gamepads made by the console manufacturers. In the last ten years, things have changed–there are lots of premium third-party controllers–but the cheap stuff is still around for kids (and parents) who need an extra controller, but don’t want to shell out and pay an extra $60 or more for it. 

Regardless of why, if you’re looking for the best budget controller for PC, the PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller is a good choice. It’s significantly cheaper than the Xbox Wireless Controller. The buttons, sticks, D-Pad, and faceplate all feel like they’re made of a cheaper calibur of plastic than a premium controller. Despite that, though, it’s durable and feels good to play with. Plus, it features a toggle for controlling the audio on a 3.5mm headset if you plug one in, and two customizable rear buttons. It isn’t my favorite controller, but it’s the best you can do at a sub-$50 price point.

Q: What percentage of PC players use a controller? There isn’t a fully comprehensive method for tracking how many PC gamers use a controller on any and all games. Valve, creator of PC game store Steam, released data in March 2021, that said “about 10 percent” of game sessions on Steam on any given day are played with a controller. The percentages fluctuate depending on genre, but overall it’s 1-in-10 players at any given time. Q: What kind of controller should you buy to play games on PC? In general, I think you should go with whatever you’re comfortable with. This list was written with an eye towards being flexible depending on what other game consoles you may have or like, as well as your budget.That said, given the options that are out there, there are a few tips I’d suggest. First, comfort is king. Buy a controller that feels good in your hand and doesn’t force you to stretch your fingers to reach any button or combination of buttons. If you feel pain or weakness in your grip due to a repetitive stress injury, consider a controller with rear buttons, as they require less movement.Second, I generally think that going for a wired controller makes a lot of sense as a PC player: In most cases, Bluetooth adds enough lag that certain games may feel sluggish, which is no fun. Also, many PC setups put the computer close enough to your chair that plugging in doesn’t restrict you in a meaningful way.Third, consider whether a controller’s special features are actually helpful. For example, many controllers have onboard audio controls, but they only work if you plug your headset into the controller: If you use a USB- or wireless headset, that feature is worthless to you. It’s easy to get seduced by shiny extras, but a controller’s real worth comes down to what it does for you specifically. Q: Who’s better: PC or console players? You are going to get me that easily, internet. I wouldn’t touch that one with a ten-foot pole.

When picking the best controller for PC, you’ve got a lot of options. And, honestly, the ratio of good controllers to bad is about as close to even as it’s ever been. The most important thing is that you pick something that fits your preferences and setup, so that the controller meets your specific needs. Even in gaming, you have to pick the right tool for the right task, even if the tool is a gamepad and the task is staying up all night playing “Red Dead Redemption II.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Best laptop for DJs 2021: the best laptops for music production

Buying the best laptop for DJs is more than just getting one of the best laptops you can afford. There are a few specific things you’ll need for music production, ... Read more »

Free Chinese VPN exposed data from over a million users

Cybersecurity researchers have discovered unencrypted data of about a million users of Quickfox, a free virtual private network (VPN) service primarily used to access Chinese sites from outside of mainland ... Read more »

$1,000,000,000,000? Elon Musk could become the world's first trillionaire due to SpaceX

Elon Musk could become the world’s first trillionaire, according to a prediction made by investment firm Morgan Stanley. However, it won’t be from his highly successful electric vehicle company Tesla. ... Read more »

Child, 10, among miracle survivors of Texas plane crash

21 people, including 10-year old child, miraculously survive Texas plane crash – Godofredo A. Vásquez /Houston Chronicle A private plane crashed when taking off in Texas, with all 21 passengers ... Read more »

Best Destiny 2 builds, and how to make your own

© Provided by Windows Central Builds have become more relevant than ever before in Destiny 2. While Destiny 2’s sandbox has traditionally been a simple one that offers more width ... Read more »

Is the Forza Horizon 5 Premium Add-Ons Bundle DLC worth it?

© Provided by Windows Central Best answer: Yes, the Forza Horizon 5 Premium Add-Ons Bundle DLC is worth it for those who want the best experience in FH5, especially if ... Read more »

Google Calendar's 'focus time' can auto-block meeting requests

Excessive meetings were already a problem before the pandemic, and they’re even more of a problem as remote work enters the mainstream. How do you set aside time for your ... Read more »

Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker feud addressed by Candace Bushnell

Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell has offered her take on the feud between actors Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker. Cattrall has not joined Parker, Kristen Davis and ... Read more »

AMD Ryzen 'Rembrandt' APU specs spotted – and it may not top Alder Lake

AMD is hard at work designing its Zen 4 processor architecture, but before it arrives, there is still the matter of its Zen 3+ Rembrandt processors, a 6000-series APU line ... Read more »

ROBERT HARDMAN: Do we ask too much of Her Majesty?

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo The question is not a new one. In fact, it was being asked nearly four decades back: Are we asking too much of ... Read more »

TotalEnergies accused of downplaying climate risks

Total Oil refinery in Antwerp French oil company TotalEnergies knew at least 50 years ago about a link between burning fossil fuels and global warming, researchers have said. An article ... Read more »

Elon Musk's Boring Company gets green light for Las Vegas tunnel system

Elon Musk’s Boring Company just won approval from local officials to move forward with building a network of vehicle tunnels underneath Las Vegas. Dubbed the “Vegas Loop,” the system will ... Read more »

Best Buy Black Friday 2021 is here: Shop the top early buys on Samsung TVs, iPads and more

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission Best Buy’s early Black Friday sale is finally here. Right now, ... Read more »

Tesla posts a wildly profitable Q3 despite difficult car market

Despite a global pandemic and ongoing chip shortage, Tesla continues to make money hand over fist. The company reported on Wednesday that it had a net income of $1.62 billion ... Read more »

FDA clears boosters for Moderna and J&J COVID-19 vaccines

The Food and Drug Administration authorized booster doses for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, following its authorization of a third Pfizer / BioNTech shot in September. © ... Read more »

Egyptian authorities 'detain' robotic artist for 10 days over espionage fears

The robotic artist known as Ai-Da was scheduled to display her artwork alongside the great pyramids of Egypt on Thursday, though the show was nearly called off after both the ... Read more »

Researchers discover termites that evolve into king and queens can GROW their brains before they leave the nest to mate

Some members of the insect can grow the size of their brains when they are about to leave the nestsOnly king and queen dampwood termites can leave the nest and as a result, they grow the optic lobe part of their brain  The increase matched the insect's cognitive demands, but the changes occurred before it was needed This could mean the change happens when the insects develops into 'castes'   Read more »

Google Docs sticks it to Microsoft Word with latest update

With the launch of smart canvas earlier this year, Google made collaborating while working online even simpler in Google Workspace as the feature allows users to bring together all of ... Read more »

Vaccines are 90% effective at preventing deaths from Delta variant, study says

Vaccination is 90% effective at preventing deaths from the Delta variant of Covid-19, according to recent research. The data, released by the University of Edinburgh, was gathered using a Scotland-wide ... Read more »

5 companies to recall over 19,000 vehicles over faulty parts

SEOUL, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) — Ford Sales & Service Korea, Hyundai Motor Co. and three other companies will voluntarily recall more than 19,000 vehicles to fix faulty components, the transport ... Read more »

Amazon Fire TV's news app expands free local coverage to a lot more places

Amazon announced today that it’s doubling the number of local stations it supports through its news app on Fire TV, meaning more users will be able to easily find local ... Read more »

Facebook might rebrand as a 'metaverse' company. What does that even mean?

Tech giant Facebook might be changing the company’s name, according to a Tuesday report from The Verge. The rebrand would cast the Facebook app as just one of many products ... Read more »

Activision Blizzard discrimination case shouldn't halt over agency feud, California argues in new court filing

After Activision Blizzard requested a stay in the discrimination case brought against it by the state of California, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed its ... Read more »

IBM misses Q3 earnings estimates

Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley breaks down the numbers to know from IBM’s Q3 earnings report. Read more »

Pig kidney successfully hooked up to human patient in watershed experiment

In a groundbreaking experiment, scientists hooked up a genetically modified pig kidney to a human patient and watched as the organ successfully filtered waste from the person’s body. © Provided ... Read more »

5 ways to protect your home, car and more from hail damage

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Between strong tropical storms and blazing heat waves, the U.S. has ... Read more »

Elon Musk could become the world's first trillionaire thanks to SpaceX, analysts predict

Elon Musk (AFP via Getty Images) Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk is on course to become the world’s first trillionaire, analysts have predicted. Experts said Mr Musk – who is ... Read more »

Mexico: drug cartels recruiting youths through video games

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Drug cartels in Mexico are recruiting youths through contacts made on multiplayer online video games, officials said Wednesday. Ricardo Mejía, Mexico’s assistant public safety secretary, said ... Read more »

Five bodies have been found since Gabby Petito vanished and thrust missing people into spotlight

The bodies of at least five missing persons have been found amid the intense focus on Gabby Petito’s homicide and the disappearance of fugitive Brian Laundrie. Mr Laundrie has been ... Read more »

Rylan reassures fans 'he's good' after fears for his mental health

Rylan has reassured fans that he’s doing OK after a difficult year (Getty Images) Rylan has assured fans that he’s “doing good” following reports that he was being urged to ... Read more »

“This Is Peak Cricket” – Twitter On Fire As Virat Kohli Bowls Against Australia

Virat Kohli Virat Kohli was seen rolling his arms in the warm-up game against Australia as India’s hunt for the sixth bowling option continues ahead of the T20 World Cup. ... Read more »

Tesla bucks chip shortage woes with another profitable quarter

Tesla’s record third quarter brought its biggest three-month windfall ever, as the company announced Wednesday that it turned a $1.6 billion profit. That’s despite a global semiconductor shortage and delays ... Read more »

28 White Elephant gifts under $30 that won't get thrown away

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. So you decided to participate in Secret Santa this year, but ... Read more »

VR treatment for lazy eye in children gets FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration approved a virtual reality-based treatment for children with the visual disorder amblyopia, or lazy eye, the company behind the therapy announced today. Patients watch modified ... Read more »

Hyper's new 245W USB-C battery pack and charger are here to help charge all your gear at once

Hyper has announced a pair of over-the-top USB-C accessories: HyperJuice 245W USB-C Battery Pack and the HyperJuice 245W USB-C GaN Charger, each of which offers four USB-C ports for charging ... Read more »

Sen. Blumenthal says Zuckerberg needs to testify about Instagram and kids

Senator Richard Blumenthal is again calling on Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s research into Instagram and child safety. “It is urgent and necessary for you or Mr. Adam Mosseri ... Read more »

NASA contest asks K-12 students to create Moon-digging robots

NASA doesn’t just want adults learning how to work with lunar soil. The space agency has launched a Lunabotics Junior contest that tasks K-12 students in the US with designing ... Read more »

At Mass STEM Week kickoff, MIT RAISE announces Day of AI

Artificial intelligence is top-of-mind as Governor Baker, President Reif encourage students to “see yourself in STEM.” Read more »

WD 1TB Xbox Game Drive sees major discount ahead of Black Friday

Black Friday 2021 isn’t here yet, but retailers like Best Buy are already starting to drop some big deals on consumer electronics. One particularly notable deal is for the WD ... Read more »

30 thoughtful gifts teachers actually want in 2021

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Buying gifts for teachers can be tricky. If you’re trying to ... Read more »