Best PC Gaming Controller

Last Updated on by Nicholas Frost

The Best PC Gaming Controller

Games played on a PC can be controlled either by a combination of keyboard and mouse or by a PC game controller (gamepad). The keyboard and the mouse are the best options for some games played on the PC. Other more physical, immersive games will be more enjoyable with a PC game controller. The best PC controller will improve your game performance by providing a faster response time from the game.

What Do You Want from a PC Controller?

Obviously, only you can truly answer this question as it depends on the style of gaming you prefer. If you prefer Real-Time Strategy (RTS) or First Person Strategy (FPS) games then, frankly you are probably best sticking with the keyboard and mouse.

If you enjoy games where you, run, shoot, fly and drive, then a controller is going to make you feel more instinctively involved. Have you watched someone playing a racing game with a controller in their hands? See how they lean into the bends? A controller connects you in a more physical way than just tapping the keyboard.

What to Look for in a PC Controller

Ergonomics

You can take it that your PC controller will be ergonomically designed to feel good in your hand. All smooth curves and tactile buttons. Easy to move toggles and switches. The controller is your sports kit. Your means of interaction with the game. In the same way, as a badminton player pays attention to their racket and a runner their boots, you need the controller to fit you.

The controller will have been designed to fit the average hand. Your hands may be smaller or larger. If the controller does not fit your hand it is going to mean that you will suffer from hand ache after even a short playing session. The only person who can determine the right fit is you. And the only way you can work it out is by trying them out. If your friends have controllers ask if you can try them out. Just a few minutes to get a feel for what works for you. Can you reach the buttons without complicated hand movements? Is it heavy or light?

Configuration

Most modern controllers are set out to the following standard:

  • Four face buttons
  • Four trigger buttons (shoulder buttons)
  • Two analog sticks.

You can buy a fully customizable game controller with extra buttons and the capacity to assign different actions to each of the buttons. This is known as remapping.

Some controllers also provide for the addition of other types of switches or paddles which is a good customizable feature.

Analog stick

This can also be referred to as a joystick, control stick or a thumbstick. This input device usually translates into movement (or viewpoint) – forwards, backward and side to side.

D-pad

This stands for directional pad or digital pad. This is normally operated by the thumb and is considered to be less sensitive than the analog stick. 4 directions with a button at each corner. This has increased with some d-pads now offering 8 directions.

Haptic Feedback

Haptic refers to the sense of touch. In a PC game controller, it refers to the vibration effect. Console controllers nearly always have this function but not all dedicated PC controllers do. But then a PC game designed to be experienced through a keyboard and a mouse does not really need a vibration effect and the game may not include it.

Types of PC Game Controllers

Console Controllers

If you already have a console in addition to your PC then you can use the controller for your PC. Not necessarily as a plug and go, some extra software may be required. It won’t cost you much extra to try out the console controller to see how it works on your favorite PC games. The advantage is that you are already familiar with how these controls work.

If your game rig is exclusively PC then you might consider buying a wireless console controller as your PC controller. Although not specifically designed for the PC they are very adaptable and readily obtainable.

If you don’t already have a console controller, these can be expensive. Their advantage is that they have been built with gaming in mind.

The Xbox wireless controller is already set up to be used by any Windows 10 PC as a wired or tethered controller. Plug it in using the USB port and you are good to go. You can also effortlessly use over Bluetooth.

The PlayStation DualShock4 will also work with your PC but it will need a little more effort. You can buy a USB adaptor, at about $50. If you are a Steam player then look in controller settings and you will find a PlayStation Configuration setting that will do the job of linking the controller to the game. If that option is not available to you then you need a piece of free software called DS4Windows. And finally, if all else fails get hold of 8Bitdo’s Wireless USB adapter. This will work with lots of other wireless controllers as well as the PlayStation brand.

Third-Party Gamepads

These are a more budget-friendly alternative to the dedicated and branded console controller. There are high-end options that are more expensive. A good range of choices for wireless and tethered version.

Retro Controllers

These hark back to the first game controllers before shoulder buttons and analog sticks were invented. A minimal number of controls and ideal for older games.

Custom Controls

This is a high-end option for those who want a custom-built PC Game controller. You build it from the ground up. You choose all the details – colors, patterns and finishes. Down to exactly what sort of analog sticks and other buttons are available.

Expect to pay well over $100 for one of these. If you just want to play with the finish and color then Xbox Design Lab will let you do this at a fraction of the price. But you don’t get extra functionality.

If you are a professional gamer then you are probably already using the SCUF controller. If you aspire to be a professional player then this fully customizable model is for you. We haven’t reviewed a SCUF controller because each one is unique. You get the game controller configured to let you use it for optimum game performance.

Arcade Sticks

One eight direction joystick and some big buttons on a panel. Good for classic arcade games and fighting games.

Racing Wheels and Flight Sticks

These are for those who are dedicated flyers and racers. They are designed to feel as close to the real-world controls as possible. As well as the controls you can invest in paddles and dials and all the other accessories necessary to outfit your own personalized cockpit. An expensive option but if you only ever play flying and racing games this could be your dream set-up.

How to Choose the Best PC Games Controller

Try Before You Buy

If you can get the opportunity to actually handle the controller then do so. It doesn’t matter how many features a particular model has, if it doesn’t suit you then it is no good for you. If it’s not possible to try before you buy then choose a retailer with a good returns policy. You are going to spend a lot of quality time with your PC games controller. It needs to be comfortable for you.

Budget

The price can really vary but whatever your budget there will be a controller in that range that will do the job. If money is no option then you can have a PC Controller built to your exact specification and finished off in the color and finish of your choice.

Functionality

Concentrate on the features you actually use in your games. How many programmable buttons do you actually need or would make use of? Is wireless important to you – if for example, you need to take your set up from place to place? Once you have a list of your non-negotiable features you should find it relatively easy to narrow down your choice to find the one (or maybe two) PC game controllers that suit you. Then you can get on with smiting your foes, landing that plane or just hanging out with your friends.

And Finally

If you enjoy PC Games you are going to enjoy them even more with a great PC Game Controller. The most expensive is not necessarily the best. Choose your equipment wisely. It is a part of your sports kit and you are going to spend a lot of quality time with it.

We’ve reviewed the types of controllers that are available.

We haven’t ranked the PC game controllers because honestly, the best one is down to personal preference. Does it feel right in your hands? But we tell you about the pros and cons so you can find the one that best meets your needs and your pocket.

Top PC Gaming Controllers

Controller Link Features
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller
  • Bluetooth.
  • 21 buttons.
  • Very customizable.
  • High priced.
  • Console controller.
Xbox Wireless Controller
  • Bluetooth
  • Takes any compatible headset.
  • Compatible with Windows 10 for PC gaming.
  • 10 buttons
  • Reasonably priced.
  • Console controller.
PlayStation DualShock 4
  • Bluetooth
  • 19 buttons
  • Compatible with Microsoft 10 but will need to buy a third party driver,
  • Reasonably priced.
  • Console Controller
Steam Controller
  • 2.4 GHz wireless
  • 16 buttons
  • Very customizable
  • Developed as a controller for traditional PC gaming.
Logitech Gamepad F310
  • Not wireless
  • 10 programmable buttons
  • D-pad also programmable
  • Does not vibrate
  • Budget-Friendly
Logitech F710
  • Wireless
  • Vibration Function
  • All the features of the F710
  • Higher price than the F170
Razer Wolverine Ultimate
  • Tethered
  • 20 buttons
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
Astro C40TR
  • Can be wireless or tethered
  • Ready for PS4 but it is compatible with windows.
  • Remappable interchangeable buttons.
  • Very expensive.
GameSir T4 PC Game Controller
  • Only for PC
  • Bluetooth
  • Built-in rechargeable batteries.
  • Configurable Keys
Thrustmaster T16000M
  • Specialist controller for flight games
Razer Orbweaver
  • Combination of keyboard and controller comprised of three adjustable pieces

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

Designed for the Xbox but it is compatible with PC Games.

The D-pad is well made and responsive. No accidental veering off course. The analog sticks operate easily and there is a low friction ring at the edge of the cup. This makes operating the controls very smooth.

There are slots in the back of the controller to allow the insertion of extra paddles. Particularly useful if you like racing games.

The software allows you to determine the sensitivity and responsiveness of the trigger, stick, and buttons. Every button function can be assigned exactly the way you want it. You can really tailor this controller to your needs.

All this functionality comes with a robust price tag. Almost three times the cost of a standard controller. It’s also heavy. This makes it tiring for prolonged use and smaller hands.

The absolute joy of this controller is that it is already able to be used by your Windows 10 PC.

Xbox Wireless Controller

This does not have all the features of the elite but it is more reasonably priced. A mere 10 buttons compared with the 21 buttons of the elite. If you are not sure if an Xbox style controller would suit your needs then this is a good entry-level controller. Again, you can just plug it in and get started.

PlayStation DualShock 4

This is lighter, smaller and more comfortable than the Xbox equivalent. It is not marketed as a PC game controller but it is compatible with a little extra software. Steam games are already set up to accept this game controller.

The trackpad in the center is the subject of mixed reviews. Some feel it is very responsive but not particularly easy to access and use. Despite this, the controller is well-liked and reasonably priced.

Steam Controller

This has been developed for use with PC games that have not been configured to be played with anything other than a keyboard and a mouse. It will work with every game on your PC.

The dual touchpads are designed as a replacement for the mouse. The buttons can be reconfigured by you AND they can be reconfigured for each game. It has the classic game controller features – analog sticks, D-pad, and buttons. In addition, it does give haptic feedback – the controller will vibrate in your hand if this is part of the game. At the rear of the device, there are dual analog triggers that can be used in racing games for accelerating and braking.

If you are used to a console controller you will probably need to get used to how different this feels and responds.

Logitech F310

In appearance and functionality, this is a blend of the Xbox controller and the PlayStation DualShock 4. It is very budget-friendly. The ten buttons can all be customized to your preferences. In addition, the 8 directions on the D-pad can also be programmed. It is easy to save control schemes. Sadly, there is no haptic feedback with this model.

This is a plug and play device but if you want to make the most of its features you will need to invest in some additional software. This is not a wireless device.

Logitech F710

This has all the features of the Logitech F310 but for the additional cost, you have a wireless controller that will vibrate if the game allows.

Razor Wolverine Ultimate

This is a heavy controller that feels meaty in the hands. The buttons are clear, crisp and responsive with additional shoulder and trigger buttons. There are sliders on the back that allow you to set the activation depth for the shoulder and trigger buttons. The analog sticks and D-pad can be swapped around so you can configure the device to your requirements.

There is no wireless option for this model and it is expensive. It has been styled with bright green accents on the D-pad and the trademark RGB lighting strip to contrast with the matt black finish. It looks expensive. You will need a separate App to configure the controller for the PC as it is not integrated with the Synapse 3 App for windows.

Astro C40TR

This is definitely not a cheap or budget-friendly controller. It can be used wirelessly or with a USB cable. The manufacturers are promoting this as a premium product that could be used instead of the DualShock4. This controller comes ready to use with the PlayStation4. However, it is compatible with the PC. It comes with Windows software that allows you to really customize it. You can adjust the sensitivity of the trigger and stick controls, remap what the buttons do and create and save your profiles.

It has a unique modular design that allows you to swap parts over and move them around to a configuration that suits you. The face buttons are fixed and cannot be moved about, but virtually everything else can.

It has a jack for a set of headphones that has the feature of having an audio equalizer. As there are awards for Game Audio this is an appropriate feature for a high-end controller.

One feature that may or may not be welcome is that LED lights are permanently on.

GameSir T4 PC Game Controller

This controller has been designed specifically for the PC gamer. It is Bluetooth with a comfortable ergonomic design. The built-in battery is rechargeable. It is good for five hours of continuous play even with the dual-motor vibrational feedback switched on. The keys can be configured to your requirements.

Thrustmaster T16000M

This has been developed to be used with flight simulators and space games. This is a standalone flight stick that has been matched with a throttle. These two elements can be bolted in place to achieve maximum control.

The heavy metallic body has been based on real fighter controls for that authentic feeling. The stick only moves where you want it to, no wobble. This control system has been designed so that you have complete control over the game with just this controller and your hands on the stick and throttle.

Razer Orbweaver

This is a combination device with three adjustable sections. The keypad features 20 buttons that can be programmed. There are also extra thumb controls. It’s a step up from just a keyboard and mouse but the configuration is novel.

This unit has adjustments for palm rest and the thumb pad so you can tweak it into a comfortable set up for you. There are no default game profiles so you will have to program each and every one yourself. You will store these profiles on the cloud so the gamepad will need to be connected.

This is a PC Game controller for gamers who are obsessive about playing details and prepared to spend time configuring their controller for optimum performance. If you simply like to get on with your game then you will probably prefer a more console styled model.

Best PC Games Controller

We can’t say it enough. There is no best controller out there. Just the one that is best for you. We hope this brief guide has opened your eyes to all the options out there for you to find the gamepad of your dreams.

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