You owe it to yourself to play video games on a PC with a gaming controller. Not that there’s anything wrong with using a mouse and keyboard, of course. But, every console comes with a dedicated controller, and millions of people spend hours using them. There’s must be something to it, right? To fully take advantage of distinct features and have the best experience, you shouldn’t pick the cheapest gaming controller you can find. Instead, analyze your gaming habits, playstyle, and the type of games you love playing. Then, scan the list of best gaming controllers for PC below, and select one that ticks the most boxes.
If the price isn’t an issue, Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is the go-to for almost every gamer. It somehow exudes luxury, even though it has a simplistic, yet sleek and modern look. Its best feature is definitely multiple programmable buttons that can be further tweaked for maximum precision. That includes both D-pads, joystick tension, and shift paddle. The controller is also versatile and is suitable for other platforms. The controller supports all main connectivity types – wired, via USB-C, and wireless using either a 2.4 GHz band or Bluetooth. Finally, its rechargeable batteries can last up to 40 hours.
If you are on a strict and slim budget, choose Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller. It’s about 25% lighter Elite Series 2, significantly cheaper, and, with a great reputation since its release in 2013, reliable. It’s resistant to scratches and sweat due to its texturized rubber grips, which also make it comfortable. The controller has a battery life of about 30 hours and supports Wireless and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, there’s no wired connectivity, but also no cable clutter. Its Hybrid D-pad, without a doubt, makes it almost a default choice for a platformer or fighting game.
PowerA Spectra is a budget-oriented wired controller that doesn’t look budget at all. That’s why it’s one of the best PC gaming controllers, after all. It uses a micro USB cable for connection and is almost identical to the one above. That automatically makes it comfortable and reliable, in our opinion. However, PowerA Spectra two unique features too. First is the RGB LED edge-lighting, followed by the 3-way trigger locks, great for shooter games for PC. If it wasn’t significantly heavier than most controllers and had a lack of wireless connectivity, we would recommend it to everyone.
Going back to a newer release (2020) we have a Sony PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller. We’ve put it in 4th place mainly because PC gaming isn’t ready for it yet. Developers are yet to program their games for PC to take advantage of its haptic rumble motors and “adaptive” triggers. Those provide vibration, resistance, and a nuanced feel of in-game activities. In the meantime, you can still use it wirelessly via Bluetooth, or wired via USB. The batteries are rechargeable, but the battery life is underwhelming – around 4 and 6 hours. On the other hand, the controller is very lightweight.
We won’t lie, Logitech F310 looks outdated. But, if you read reviews, you will see that no one has had regrets. Since it’s very affordable, many people initially buy it as a buffer before they get a more expensive model. Instead, they fall in love with its simplicity and huge gaming potential. Logitech F310 just works – plug it into the USB port, and you’re off to the races. It has multiple programmable buttons, a standard button layout, a directional pad, and even a DirectInput switch. The only people who aren’t ideal users are those with large hands and those that need a wireless solution.
Astro has created Astro C40 TR to be an alternative to the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4. However, it has evolved into a strong competitor for PC. Wonder why? First, because of its modular nature, allowing you to not only swap and service parts separately, but also move them around. Next is the Windows software to remap buttons, tweak sensitivity, and create multiple profiles. The third is the connectivity choice between wired via 6ft/1.8m USB cable and wireless via the 2.4 GHz band. The final reason is the headphone jack at the bottom, allowing you to plug a gaming headset directly.
SteelSeries Stratus Duo is primarily used for Android and iOS devices and VR headsets. However, thanks to its 2.4 GHz wireless and 1.8m/6ft wired micro USB connectivity options, it’s also among the top gaming controllers for PC. Especially because its battery lasts up to 20 hours! Additionally, Windows 10 will see it as an Xbox controller, so no button re-mapping necessary. It’s a great gaming controller for PC gamers who are on a budget, need a lightweight solution, and dislike flashy designs. The only compromise you’ll have to make is the lack of haptic feedback e.g. Rumble feature.
Razer Wolverine Ultimate has a similar button layout and features (swappable D-pad and sticks) to the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. It also feels just as comfortable and premium, and they even share a similar price tag. Unlike the aforementioned controller, it’s about 80 grams lighter and relies solely on wired connectivity via USB. Those who hate charging batteries won’t find this as a flaw, since the cable is 10 ft (3 m) long. Plus, you’ll enjoy the loud tactile feedback (think mechanical keyboard switches) of the face buttons (X, A, B, Y). As is custom with Razer, you’re also getting addressable RGB lights around the logo.
GameSir T4 Pro is among the top PC gaming controllers, even though it ships with a detachable bracket for a smartphone/console via Bluetooth. It has a semi-transparent cover and a matte finish, with the LED RGB backlight for face buttons and the right joystick, making it ideal for nocturnal gamers. It’s much cheaper than we expected, considering it also supports USB-C wired and wireless connectivity using a 2.4 GHz band. Even better, its 600 mAh battery lasts between 5 and 6 hours, just like PlayStation DualSense! And that’s with dual-vibrational motors capable of 5 speeds, configurable D-pad buttons, and 4 additional M buttons on the bottom.
10. 8BitDo SN30 Pro
What if you could combine the retro look of old-school Super Nintendo controllers and functionality required for modern PC games? You’d get 8BitDo SN30 Pro, a relatively inexpensive controller. It has directional buttons, two joysticks, 4 buttons on the side, and 2 buttons on the front. It also features Rumble feedback and 2 buttons for taking screenshots and Turbo. Using the latter, you can capture a button and trigger rapid, repeatable button presses instead of actually pressing the buttons yourself. Since its small form factor isn’t best suited for long sessions, your fingers won’t suffer in games with a lot of double-jumping or shooting.