From poorly ported consoles games to action adventures and racing simulators, there are more than a few cases where a gaming keyboard and gaming mouse aren’t necessarily going to be the best input options for PC games. It’s easy to swear by a keyboard and mouse where twitchy response and pixel-perfect aim are concerned, but there’s a huge arena where different gaming controllers can have an edge while playing on a gaming PC.
If you’re playing a fighting game, you may get more satisfaction out of the buttons on a controller, which you can frantically mash. If you’re flying through space in an intense dogfight, holding a thumbstick down to perform a series of loops and turns can be a lot easier than hurriedly throwing your mouse around your desk in an attempt to maneuver smoothly. And, let’s not forget that analog inputs have some advantages over the all-or-nothing, binary controls all over mice and keyboards – just try slowing accelerating in a racing game with a keyboard.
Beyond traditional gaming controllers, there’s also a host of specialized controllers, like joysticks and fight sticks, that are made to excel in specific types of games. We’ve rounded up the best controllers in a variety of categories, so when a game can benefit more from a controller, you can let your keyboard and mouse take a well-earned break – and click here to find them in the UK.
TL;DR – These are the Best PC Controllers:
1. Xbox Core Controller
Best PC Controller
The provides a lot of flexibility in how you use it to game on the PC. The controller can connect over a USB connection to cut down on input lag, or it can connect over Bluetooth for a wireless alternative (something the original Xbox One controller lacked). But there’s yet another option for a low-latency wireless connection if you have a Xbox Wireless adapter for PC.
That versatility comes on top of the exceptionally ergonomic design of the Xbox Core Controller. Much has been carried over from previous iterations from Microsoft, but this latest model will be a lot easier to hold onto thanks to added grip on the sides and rear of the controller. Even the triggers have more grip on them. The D-Pad has been upgraded with a new design like that on the Xbox Elite controller, and it’s more tactile now, too. You can connect headphones using the controller 3.5mm jack to limit the number of wires running between you and your PC. Thankfully one cable you can forget all about with the Xbox Core Controller is micro USB as this model has made the leap to USB-C.
2. PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller
Best Budget PC Controller
For a controller that doesn’t stray too far from the shape and feel of Microsoft’s own Xbox controller, the PowerA Enhanced wired controller is a strong option that ditches wireless connectivity in order to hit a low price point. Since using an Xbox One or Xbox Core controller wirelessly with a PC requires a special adapter anyway (or Bluetooth), many of us probably would opt for a wired connection, and the PowerA Enhanced offers that up at about half the price (bonus: no batteries required).
The controller itself provides a decent bit of heft, aided along by two vibration motors. It’s got all the buttons you need for your games. It even takes a page out of the Xbox Elite Controller’s book: On the underside of the PowerA Enhanced controller, you’ll find two small buttons that can serve as shortcuts to face buttons. This will let you keep your thumbs firmly in place on the analog sticks while still being able to activate abilities mapped to the ABXY controls.
3. Logitech F310
Best Ultra Cheap PC Controller
If you’re a devout keyboard and mouse gamer who only imagines themselves very rarely using a gamepad, the Logitech F310 is a great option. It only costs $15, but it includes everything you need including dual joysticks, bumpers and triggers, four standard face buttons, and even an eight directional D-Pad.
Those short, nubby grips don’t make for great ergonomics, but that shouldn’t matter if you’re only picking up a controller for short bursts to drive vehicles in games like Grand Theft Auto V or Battlefield V.
4. Turtle Beach Recon Controller
Best Wired PC Controller
Gaming on PC, you’ve already got enough wires running from place to place, adding in a wired controller just adds to the mess. But, the Turtle Beach Recon Controller gives you a very capable input device that also helps cut down on the clutter. The Turtle Beach Recon Controller provides a headset connection right on the controller and goes a step further by also including audio controls for volume, game and chat mix, and mic monitoring.
The controller itself delivers everything you’ll need in a Xbox-style layout to quickly get up to speed in games, so you’re all set for Xbox Game Pass games and the wide assortment of titles available on Steam. In addition to textured finishes on many of the controls and rubberized grips for a secure handhold, the Recon Controller includes two back paddle buttons for even more control at your fingertips.
5. Sony DualSense Controller
Best Bluetooth PC Controller
Sony’s DualShock 4 controller was great, and with Bluetooth connectivity, you didn’t have to do a bunch of extra work to get it connected to a PC wireless like you did with the original Xbox One controller. Now, the Sony DualSense Controller delivers an upgrade. The new controller drastically changes the aesthetics of the original, but still has a similar control scheme or those who prefer the symmetrical layout for the analog sticks.
Support for the DualSense controller on PC may also turn out even better than it did for the DualShock 4. There have already been moves by Steam to support the controller, and it’s possible the touchpad, advanced haptics, and adaptive triggers could also receive support on PC in the future. With more PlayStation-exclusive games ending up not so exclusive thanks to PC ports, full DualSense functionality on PC could make for the best way to play those games on PC.
6. Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller
Best High-End PC Controller
If you’re after an Xbox controller that doesn’t hold back, then you’ll want the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. This model upgrades from the original Elite controller by adding wireless charging using a docking base with pogo pins. The charger can fit conveniently in the controller’s carrying case, where it can even be plugged in.
The Xbox Elite Series 2 controller also gets upgraded with support for Bluetooth connections, making it easier than ever to pair with your PC or even smartphones. It also has made the move away from Micro USB to include a USB-C connection instead. Beyond that, it still has swappable analog sticks, multiple D-Pads, and tunable triggers to deliver a gaming experience you can tailor to your own needs.
7. SteelSeries Stratus+
Best PC Controller for Chromebooks
The SteelSeries Stratus+ is a controller made for Chromebooks and Android phones, but it’s a solid option for any gaming PC as well. This upgraded version of SteelSeries Stratus Duo offers an energy-efficient Bluetooth LE connection, which allows the controller an impressive 90 hours of gameplay on just one charge. You’re rarely going to have to worry about juicing up this peripheral. Now, you do lose the 2.4GHz dongle that came with its predecessor, so the only wireless option is through that Bluetooth LE connection. However, a wired option is always available via a USB-C to A.
With a familiar layout blending the stylings of Xbox controllers and Sony’s DualShock, you’ll quickly get the hang of the Stratus+. The Hall effect magnetic sensors provide a great feel on the triggers, ensuring precision and consistency. This gives you a big advantage in shooters. And, the ALPS thumbsticks provide maximum control. And we know, Chrome OS is not the best for gaming, but it’s slowly making improvements, especially when it comes to cloud gaming. Best of all, you can snag the SteelSeries Stratus+ for under $60, and it’ll work great with your budget-friendly Chromebook.
8. 8Bitdo Pro 2
Best PC Controller for Retro Game
Retro looks but modern functionality make the 8BitDo Pro 2 an awesome option for playing classic games on PC (and new games as well). The face of the 8BitDo Pro 2 will give you the sense you’re playing on a classic SNES controller, but you’ll have a much-improved experience thanks to a modern ergonomic design, quality buttons, and a good deal more.
The 8BitDo Pro 2 controller supports a wide range of platforms and can connect to your PC over Bluetooth for 20 hours of wireless play, or you can go with a wired USB-C connection. You’ll find standard Nintendo-style controls, but you can remap the buttons to match in-game controls. Meanwhile, you’ll get PlayStation-style symmetrical analog sticks. The 8BitDo Pro 2 even supports motion controls. Then there’s the customization, which allows you to do any necessary button remapping, swap stick behavior and axes, or even adjust the trigger actuation depth. Plus, there are two back paddles to let you keep your thumbs on the analog sticks.
9. Switch Pro Controller
Let’s a Go with Nintendo’s Controller
The Switch Pro Controller is one of the best controllers ever made, and now you can bring that greatness to the PC. Like the DualShock 4, getting this controller to work the PC is easy with a wired connection, but going wireless requires a few hoops to jump through.
Good news is once you’ve got it paired properly over Bluetooth, Steam will automatically recognize it as an Xbox One controller with all the button mapping done for you. However, if you’re playing games outside of Steam, you’re going to need 8BitDo Wireless USB Adapter to make the Switch Pro Controller act like an Xbox One gamepad.
10. Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma
Best RGB PC Controller
The Razer Wolverine V2 is a slick controller with exceptional capabilities. But, why settle for a wired controller without taking advantage of one of a wired connection’s big perks: a consistent power supply. That’s just what the Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma does. It takes that quality controller and builds in Razer’s signature RGB lighting without bringing any battery-life concerns. The lighting can even be set up to react to information coming in from some games, or you can just use it to express your style.
The controller itself won’t let you down either. It has gripped texture around the handles so you can keep a firm hold on it. You can swap out the thumbstick caps for your desired feel. There are also four buttons on the underside, a pair of extra shoulder buttons, and hair trigger locks for greater flexibility. And, with Razer’s mecha-tactile switches for the action buttons and D-Pad, you won’t get a squishy feel from the controls.
11. Hori Fighting Stick Alpha
Best PC Fight Stick
If you play a lot of arcade or fighting games, you’ve got a good case to pick up a fight stick instead of a standard controller. The quick actuation of fight stick buttons and the precise control over a joystick can give you the advantage you need in your fighting games. And, for PC, the Hori Fighting Stick Alpha is a standout option. This fighting stick should offer no fuss working with your PC as it has all the same buttons as an Xbox controller. With a Key Lock mode, it’s also ready to take to tournaments without the worry of accidentally getting disqualified.
With the Hori Fighting Stick Alpha, you can also minimize the cables running between you and your PC. You can simply connect a gaming headset with the fight stick, and you’ll even get controls to mute your mic and audio on the fight stick itself. Modders also get a lot from this stick, as the case and faceplate are both easily opened to swap out components or artwork. Of course, if you don’t want to mod, you’ll enjoy the high-quality Hori Hayabusa joystick and buttons that come stock.
12. Gran Turismo DD Pro
Best PC Racing Wheel
PCs are the place to experience simulation racing games. Not only does this platform allow you to connect multiple displays and ultrawide screens for the ultimate immersive experience, but PC is also the place for some very serious–and sometimes seriously obscure–racing games. Now, you may not be able to play Gran Turismo 7 on your PC however, you can take advantage of Fanatec’s Gran Turismo DD Pro racing wheel.
This direct drive racing wheel connects a large motor directly to the steering wheel allowing for much better control and force feedback. You get a whopping 5Nm of torque from the Gran Turismo DD Pro, but it can go up to 8Nm with the separate 180 Boost Kit. You’re bound to feel the pull of every turn and the shock of every bump with that kind of force feedback. On the wheel itself is an easy-to-use interface with familiar PlayStation controls, unique 5-way directional sticks, and RevLED, which offers visual information while driving. The included steel two-pedal set completes this ultimate PC racing wheel setup.
Where to Get the Best PC Controller in the UK
It is unsurprising that the Xbox controller tops the list here, but you’ve actually got a couple of options depending on whether your laptop or PC is Bluetooth enabled. If you’ve got Bluetooth to use, you won’t need the PC adapter USB, and can simply pick up an Xbox One controller, or even a PlayStation DualShock 4 to avoid the extra cost. But, if you want to consider all your options, here are the best PC controllers available in the UK. Don’t see the controllers below? Click here.
Enhanced Wired Controller
Best Budget PC Controller
F310 Gamepad (Blue)
Best Budget PC Controller
PlayStation 5 DualSense Wireless Controller
Best Bluetooth PC Controller
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
Best High-End PC Controller
Best PC Controller for FPS Games
Switch Pro Controller
Let’s a Go with Nintendo’s Controller
Why Would You Want a PC Controller
While playing PC games with a controller might seem like sacrilege against everything that is right in the church of keyboard and mouse, you shouldn’t care about what other people think about the way you play PC games.
After all, PC gaming is just as much about playing games that their best possible quality, experience games at ultrawide and super-wide aspect ratios unobtainable on the consoles, or just having the highest, silkiest frame rate possible.
How you get to play that experience is up to you, and if you’re like us, sometimes you rather just sit back with a controller than constantly lean over your desk’s keyboard and mouse. This can be especially true if you happen to be playing games on a big-screen gaming TV on your couch. While there are lapboards to bring the true PC gaming experience to your living room, controllers are great for keeping things casual and comfortable.
Kevin Lee is IGN’s SEO Updates Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam