Even though mouse and keyboard reign in reliable precision, some games just play better with a controller. Whether it be for Rocket League or Cuphead, having a solid gamepad is always a nice-to-have addition to your set-up. Don’t know where to start? Don’t stress: we’ll introduce you to some great controllers that will work perfectly on any gaming pc.
Although most controllers on the market are “made for” a certain gaming console, the majority of them will work fine on your PC. As long as you plug the right USB connectors into your system, you’re probably good to go. Some console-specific features might go unused, but they’ll get you gaming, alright.
Our list of recommendations will, without a doubt, work on any Windows 10 system over USB. In addition, we will touch on other factors worth considering, as they come along. This could be native support for other consoles, as well as wireless possibilities, should they have any.
The rest is up to you and your taste. Some might prefer a specific layout, others look for the cheapest controller out there. Whatever it is, we tend to keep it broad, so there’ll be at least one gamepad that gets you thinking in the right direction for your needs.
Apart from budgetary limitations, a controller is never “the best” for every kind of gamer. As such, we tend to look mostly for reliability in PC gaming scenarios. This means we prefer a solid wired connection — as cables are faster and more durable and wireless protocols and batteries — as well as straight-to-the-point design. A well-shaped controller can’t be beaten, and some of these shapes have been loved by many, for ages.
Additional luxuries, like a myriad of macro buttons, can come in handy. Your personal need for these is heavily dependent on your gaming preferences. Four extra back paddles might be overkill for laidback Rocket League sessions, but they might come in handy with arcade-like flying simulators. Consider how you want to use a gamepad, before you start browsing.
If you’ve been gaming on PC for some time, you’ll know about Xbox’s long standing friendship with your preferred platform. Ever since the Xbox 360 era, Microsoft’s controllers have proven to be great allies to PC gamers everywhere. That’s not different when Xbox entered their latest generation, with the updated Xbox Core Controller.
The Xbox Core Controller expands upon what the Xbox One model already did great. The solid build has been improved with neat little touches of texturized rubber, while the D-pad provides more tactility than its predecessor did. Additional Bluetooth support is now embedded in all iterations of the controller, as opposed to “a latter part” of the generation. Even the micro-USB connector of old made way for USB-C, future-proofing it further.
If you’re looking for a solid controller for PC — with great (wireless) support for Xbox consoles and smart devices too — the Xbox Core Controller is a great contender. There’s little to not love, and Microsoft made sure that the device is rich in added connectivity. Almost all systems and games will recognize this reliable feller out of the gate..
The Xbox Core Controller will work natively on Windows 10, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Android, and iOS. The gamepad itself can connect through Xbox Wireless, Bluetooth, or USB-C. As for battery life, it runs on AA’s, so there’s no internal degradation on that part.
In addition, it already comes in many different colors and themes. Microsoft will most likely keep expanding the variety of this gamepad throughout the Xbox Series X/S lifecycle.
The Xbox One Elite Controller might’ve had some ups and downs, but it can still prove a mean machine for PC gaming. This gamepad won’t net you Bluetooth connectivity or even USB-C, but if you can get your hands on one for something close to the original retail price, it’s quite the package, even to this day.
This gamepad can be considered a luxurious take on the original Xbox One controller. It’s roughly the same shape, but it’s molded from more durable and flexible components. Xbox introduced their rubberized parts with this controller, while also experimenting with optional (physical) trigger stops, detachable flippers, and the possibility to swap out D-pads and joysticks — either concave or convex shaped. Since its release, this beast has served as a blueprint for “pro controllers”.
That’s not without reason. The Xbox One Elite Controller feels incredibly reliable and offers easy tweakability that other gamepads lack. It’s not about constantly switching paddles, it’s about having that luxury when you need it. Combine that with on-board storage for two custom profiles and a neat carrying cage, and you can see why the original Elite still has a place in many a gamer’s heart.
The Xbox One Elite Controller will work natively on Windows 10, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. The controller can be used either cable-free through Xbox Wireless, or over a wired connection with micro-USB. This specific generation of Xbox controllers does lack the additional Bluetooth capabilities, though. It does take AA batteries for wireless use, which is seen as its edge over the Series II of the Xbox Elite Controller.
Although Nacon is relatively green in the peripheral market, their Revolution line of controllers has already made quite some waves. If you’re looking for an “Elite-like” controller for PlayStation 4, you most likely will be referred to Nacon’s Revolution range, at some point. For PC gamers, that rings true too.
Although it’s been built to mimic a DualShock 4, the Nacon Revolution range opts for the joystick layout that Xbox and Nintendo prefer. In addition to this deviation, Nacon improves on the console’s standards with buttery smooth analog sticks that can be tweaked to perfection through its proprietary PC software. The controller has some built-in storage, that houses a default and “pro” profile for PlayStation, as well as one dedicated to PC usage.
Apart from the silky joysticks, the Revolution Pro Controller 3 also comes with remappable back buttons and (re)distributable weights for both handles. It all feels slightly less luxurious than Xbox’s own Elite controller, but it’s quite a lot more than your regular-old DualShock 4. A carrying case and the possibility to play around with the RGB-esque ring light add some more of that premium feel, if you are so inclined.
The Nacon Revolution Pro Controller 3 works natively on PlayStation 4 and Windows 10, exclusively over a USB-C connection. The controller will also work fine with PlayStation 5, but might lack some of its native tweaking capabilities on there. Do note that the software needed to tweak and remap the controller, only works on Windows 10 and sometimes experiences instability.
Gaming brand Razer has never been shy around controllers, while often opting for the competitive angle. No wireless functionality, all-out performance driven. The Razer Wolverine has seen multiple iterations, but the Tournament Edition is probably your go-to for PC gaming. It might be somewhat more expensive than your regular controller, but it still has an edge over the most premium of gamepads.
The Razer Wolverine stands out from the crowd with its four additional back buttons — two extra bumpers, two back paddles — as well as button feel. Most action buttons feature a mechanical-like tactility that can easily grow on the end user. If you like clicky mechanical keyboards, you’ll probably love how the Wolverine feels and sounds. In addition, Razer’s triggers now also feature physical stops, for faster activation.
As is the norm for Razer and their higher-end peripherals, the Wolverine also features some Razer Chroma RGB. Hate it or love it. For one, this might unnecessarily drive the price up, for others, it’s a great way to incorporate your controller into the rest of your set-up. Do note: You’ll need the Razer Synapse 3 application on PC or Xbox to add your own profiles to the RGB light bar.
The Razer Wolverine Tournament Edition was originally intended for Xbox One and Windows 10, but will also connect to Xbox Series X/S. It connects exclusively through its own proprietary micro-USB connector, which can be detached. The Razer Synapse software, that opens up all kinds of specific settings, is available to all supported devices.
If you’re not into additional buttons or flashy RGB, let’s take a hard left and steer into the opposite side of the spectrum. PDP offers one of the most basic, wired Xbox One controllers out there. It might skimp on some more luxurious features, but even at this price, this controller can still be trusted for some casual rounds of arcade racing.
PDP’s controller is basically a hard-wired Xbox One gamepad, with cheaper components and materials. And still, it doesn’t cut back all that much, considering the price. It even features a vibration motor, although the rumble is less precise than that of Xbox’s own peripherals.
In contrast to some of the Xbox One’s earlier controllers, PDP’s variation does come with an integrated audio jack for headsets. There’s even an extra function button that turns the D-pad into a four-way audio controller.
If you intend to use your controller on the regular, you might want to dodge this one. It’ll work, but PDP lacks the more refined touches of other recommendations on our list.
The PDP Wired Controller is meant mostly for Xbox One use, but will work fine on Windows 10 and Xbox Series X/S as well. It can only connect through a micro-USB cable, which is detachable and replaceable. PDP offers the exact same packages in about ten different colorways.
Staying in the budgetary sphere, PowerA comes in hot with their Enhanced Controller. This too is meant to be an affordable alternative to Xbox’s own controllers — the Series X/S, that is — but it outperforms many of its competitors. For starters, it features texturized handles, as well as two remappable back buttons.
As expected, the buttons and joysticks lack a more premium feel. On the other hand, having two back buttons that can be remapped on-the-fly, isn’t all that bad. If you’re looking for a secondary controller, or something for some easy, casual gaming from time to time, PowerA makes a fine case for their controller. It’s roughly half the cost of a wireless controller, but it still nets you some extra features in exchange.
Do note that even though the controller features volume controls and an audio jack for headsets, the integrated audio card is suboptimal. The controller itself generates a high pitched sidetone, that some users describe as incredibly annoying. Most PC gamers won’t care for the option to begin with, but it’s worth noting.
The PowerA Enhanced Controller will work on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and Windows 10 natively. It connects only through a wired micro-USB connection, but the cable itself is detachable, and can be replaced. The controller itself is available in about ten different colors and themes.
And with that, we end our list of recommended controllers for PC gaming. Whether it’s something quick-and-easy or an all-out luxury gamepad, at least now you know what’s out there. You’re welcome.
Is there anything else you would like to know about controllers for PC gaming? Or perhaps, you have a great suggestion to add to our list? Whatever it is — feel free to let yourself be heard. We would love to help our fellow gamers find the right controllers, so don’t be shy, and hit us up through the comment section down below.