Playing games on your PC is one thing, but add a dedicated controller and you got yourself a far more enjoyable experience. Gone are the days we used to associate gamepads solely with video game machines. As to how this was made possible, device drivers available in typical PC hardware were installed in these gizmos. Game controllers have become more user friendly through the years, much to the delight of both casual and advanced players. Some added features are directional pads, multiple buttons, motion detectors, touchscreens and other exciting innovations. Moreover, some are designed to cater one type of game, while others are leaning towards the fulfillment of casual gamers.
If you are a novice to PC gaming or an advanced user looking for good game controllers, here are the best gamepads you can find on the market today.
10. Microsoft Xbox 360 Wired Controller
The combination of a seriously attractive price tag and user convenience makes this stock controller one of the best today. The ease of pairing it with your PC, vibration feedback and intuitive controls are some of its pros, which makes this gadget really attractive. Its design is also a drastic step up from its predecessor, for its ergonomically smart aesthetics. The original Xbox controller received much flak for its bulky design, slippery feel and weirdly placed control buttons. It seems like Microsoft learned from their mistakes and delivered this looker years later. Response time is also excellent, being at par with any other gamepads released on the market. The vibration feedback is strong, which gives a more interactive gaming experience. However, it lacks innovative features, like motion based sensors and other creative quirks. Moreover, it’s design is a bit too long in the tooth, but that does not impede much of your gaming experience with this gizmo. Microsoft Xbox 360 Wired Controller is available right now for $39.95. If you are a beginner and want to choose a relatively safe choice, this is perfect for you.
9. SteelSeries Stratus XL
SteelSeries is a firm that dedicates itself to delivering great gaming gizmos. Their entry to PC gaming controllers, SteelSeries Stratus XL, boasts a premium look which lives up to the company’s name. Not only that it is compatible with Windows 7+, but it also works with Android devices. Stratus XL is also our first hybrid wireless gaming controller in this list, as it uses 2 AA batteries and lasts up to 40 hours of gaming. In case the battery runs out, you can continue playing while having it connected to your PC. The ergonomics is user convenient too, because it has comfortable and intuitive button layout. Stratus XL also has changeable controls and great built quality. Perhaps the alternative D-pad positioning is its edge against other gamepads in this list. Performance-wise, it is also compatible with Android devices and connects via Bluetooth. Game favorite features, like the haptic feedback and vibration, are unfortunately not present. The lack of rechargeable battery for its price range might also be a bit underwhelming, but it is compensated by its long battery life. Lastly, it is currently available for $60, which is a bit expensive for newcomers, but remains cheap for a hybrid wireless controller. If you are searching for a non-Microsoft gamepad that still packs decent specs, SteelSeries definitely has something to offer.
8. Razer Wildcat
The very first thing you will notice on this wired controller is the scaly texture of its thumbsticks and body. This feature is added to this greenish controller for users who love to play long game sessions. Razer Wildcat is mainly intended to work on Xbox One, but is also compatible with PCs. The design looks like a futuristic version of your Xbox Wired Controller. A built-in headset is located at the bottom part and it’s a pretty nice addition. It also houses your standard Xbox buttons, with an added bonus. The bottom portion offers four adjustable keys and an audio controller. You can also remove some of these keys, for your convenience. These aside, the built is solid and makes this controller pretty comfortable to hold. As of the moment, a wireless version has yet to be available for this heftily priced gamepad. We mentioned earlier that this can be customized, but the process is certainly not for beginners. You have to physically configure the buttons for compatibility with the PC. The number of customizations is quite underwhelming too, given how the company poises this gizmo to the high-end market. Meanwhile, the performance is very responsive and lives up to the company’s reputation. Users report they feel playing an interactive arcade game in a store – which is always a good thing. Nonetheless, Razer Wildcat’s price caters towards the affluent market at $150.
7. Logitech Gamepad F310
The F310 is a good gaming controller, if you are an entry level user and still unsure if you need one for your PC. Basically, twenty dollars ($20) is all you need for a basic gaming experience using a gamepad with your PC. Setting this up is really easy and the build is just solid, despite its cheap price tag. The buttons and pads are also customizable through software. Logitech also gave attention to gamers who do not like being too close to their monitor, because it provides a 6-feet long cable wire. The design is fairly nondescript, but it also means you won’t have to relearn the location of these buttons upon purchase. F310 is fairly durable and can withstand daily use without taking major damage to its parts. Performance is also good, because it offers some level of customization to adjust with older games. This is made possible through the use of a software that allows you to create profiles and to map button layouts. Nonetheless, these tweaks are for advanced gamers and you should not expect anything revolutionary either. However, it delivers the bare basics of having a dedicated PC gaming controller for an affordable price of $25.
6. NVIDIA Shield
Originally designed for Android devices, NVIDIA Shield’s excellent build and ergonomics renders it to be a good PC gaming companion. It has a built-in audio jack, rechargeable battery and some nice little controls. The build quality is solid, while having a very light weight. Even though it also works with PCs, you have to install NVIDIA’s software to make it happen. Rest your worries aside though, as the software is free online. This controller is currently available for $60, but using it is advised if you are an intermediate or advanced gamer. That is because setting it up for PC use is not easy to do. Other aspects, such as performance and the ergonomics, are good, but its inaccessibility for PCs is the biggest hurdle a user must overcome to utilize this excellent gamepad.
5. Mad Catz L.Y.N.X 9
The insanely expensive price tag of $293 for LYNX 9 matches with its features. First, this alien-looking gaming controller is perhaps the most visually striking in this list. This wireless gizmo does not only work on PCs, but also on smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. The buttons are your standard Sony DualShock 4, but some of its parts are foldable to save space. The whole body is made from metal, which only proves the company is serious on delivering a premium device. Other selling points of the Catz LYNX 9 are the built-in microphone, customizable controls and a QWERTY keyboard design module. The performance is also quite snappy, with the exception of the triggers which are a bit hard to reach. The battery life works outstanding, lasting over 30 hours on an average use. Perhaps the biggest innovation is its sensors, which eliminate the need of a mouse in selecting options from your PC screen. It certainly is not for everyone, but if you can shell out more cash, this is a worthy investment and a good luxury toy.
4. Thrustmaster GPX Lightback Ferrari F1
This gaming controller specializes on racing games, while sporting a Scuderia Ferrari look. It also has non-slip grips and LED lights which indicate in-game brakes and acceleration. In addition, the gamepad sticks also feature optional backlighting. You will not have to worry as far as the layout in concerned, since it is similar with Xbox 360. Lightback Ferrari F1 is also easy to use and comfortable to hold, meaning that it should sustain gamers for long playing periods. The buttons are also responsive, as they should be in playing games. The thumbstick does its job too, yet it tends to lean towards the right side when not in use. This can be pretty inconvenient when you are in need to pause the game you play. Configuration is also not an issue, as long as Ferrari F1 has DirectInput and XInput. Lastly, this remains relatively affordable, despite its specialized use, at $45.
3. Steam Controller
Another budget-friendly gaming controller in this list is Steam Controller. Steam is fairly a powerhouse in terms of PC gaming, so it’s expected they also release a corresponding gamepad for it. This is also a visually interesting gaming device, because of its futuristic look. It has a duo of precise trackpads, haptic feedback and deep customizable controls. The touchpads, in particular, make a better gameplay for users who want convenience. Steam Controller features gyroscope and accelerometer sensors, which allow you to steer in games. However, it should be noted that no game with of that nature is released at this moment. Perhaps the most drastic change Steam wanted to do is creating an online community, where users can upload their customized controllers, and other users can vote and download, if they like them. This gadget is a bold and innovative step up from your classic gamepads. The unit needs to find a good use for the touchpads, since these are not used in many games, though. The design, while looking futuristic, impedes some users from reaching buttons. Lastly, it works by using two AA batteries. Fortunately, Steam Controller is also compatible on your Mac or Linux computer. You can buy this gizmo for only $50.
2. Logitech Gamepad F710
Logitech Gamepad F710 is the wireless equivalent of F310. It does not work automatically on your PC though, as it needs a 2.4 GHz USB adapter to do so. The buttons’ ergonomics are pretty much the same as those on the wired kin, plus a few added quirks. F710 has two motors which give physical feedback while you are playing a game. This gadget’s control is also customizable via free software through Logitech. Despite its entry-level price tag, it has a lot of buttons and triggers players can choose from. It has XInput and DirectInput support. Other buttons include D-pad, two analog sticks and your obligatory A,B,X,Y buttons. Connectivity is not an issue in this case, as F710 connects pretty easily to a PC. F710 requires 2 AA batteries to work, and this makes it a bit heavier than most entries in this list. Hence, this feels really awkward to hold at first. For only $50, this is among the most affordable wireless gaming controllers, and also packs good features for your money.
1. Xbox One Elite
The word ‘elite’ in its name is not just for show, since this gaming controller is certainly the best one today. Priced at $150, Xbox One Elite has swappable thumbsticks, D-pads and paddles. This breathtaking piece of gamepad is targeted towards serious competitive gamers. Do not be fooled by its generic look, as it packs tons of features under its harmless aesthetics. Its buttons are either reinforced or coated, to ensure they will last for a long time. The interchangeable pads also render this partially modular, so you can simply replace these parts when they get broken, or when upgrades become available. Another sweet accessory included in your purchase is a case, so you can take Xbox One Elite anywhere with ease. It works in dual mode – wired in PC connectivity and wireless via an optional adapter. The paddles can also be removed easily in some instances when you pick your controller. Be careful in keeping them, though, since Microsoft does not sell these individually at the moment. The performance of Xbox Elite is simply phenomenal. Not only is it responsive, but the customization is simply outstanding, as you can do button-mapping and individual adjustment for stick sensitivity. Again, this is a high-end gaming controller, but the price is well justified in this case.
What’s your most favorite controller in this list? Voice your opinion in the comment box!