The advantages of gaming on PC are obvious — you get a massive library of games compared to console gamers and the power to pump those graphics up to the highest settings. Keyboard and mouse gaming is the default way to play (and has a lot of advantages), but some games just feel better with a controller.
If you're just getting into PC gaming and need a little more controller time, are playing specific titles that operate better with one, or just outright prefer controller gaming, you want to make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck when you pick a PC-compatible gamepad. A high-quality PC controller can make all the difference in the world.
There are quite a few controller options out there for PC gamers, but we've narrowed it down to the best of the best. There's something here for every kind of gamer.
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Scuf Instinct Pro Controller
The best wireless controller
- Advanced button, trigger, and analog stick customization
- Non-slip performance grip
- Instant triggers that function like mouse clicks
The Scuf Instinct Pro controller is absolutely elite when it comes to gaming on PC. Bluetooth connectivity means the controller won't get tangled up in your PC setup, the four remappable paddles on the back give you extra control options in-game, and the grip is out of this world.
The Instinct Pro features three built-in customizable profiles that allow you to quickly swap your settings for specific games on the fly — so no more scrambling to change your button mapping when jumping into drastically different titles.
Some might say controller players are a step behind when it comes to PC gaming, but the Instinct Pro is right on par with a full keyboard and mouse setup.
Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma Controller
The best wired controller
- Six remappable multi-function buttons
- Hair Trigger Mode with trigger stops
- Really comfortable design
- Wired only
- A bit pricey
If you aren't worried about going wireless, the Wolverine V2 Chroma Controller from Razer is the best PC gaming controller on the market. It has arguably superior sticks and buttons than any other controller on the market, is ultra-responsive, and has a great design for comfort during extended gaming sessions.
This model features six extra remappable buttons (four on the back similar to paddles and two extra small shoulder buttons. These bonus buttons come in clutch when you're going up against keyboard-and-mouse players in your favorite shooter. The Wolverine V2 Chroma looks similar to the standard Xbox controller these days, but two slick RGB light strips cut down the sides of the controller for a really cool vibe while you're playing.
The only downside here is that there's no wireless option.
Xbox Elite Controller Series 2
- Tremendous buttons and triggers
- Fully-customizable rear paddles
- Adjustable analog sticks
The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 is everything players could want in a PC gaming controller, with tremendous build quality and customization options to make it exactly what they need for games of all genres. A revised version of the earlier Xbox Elite Controller, the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 features removable analog sticks with adjustable tension, a removable directional pad that can be replaced with a circular design, hair-trigger stops, and four back paddles that can be programmed to perform any button’s function.
Aside from the customization options letting players tailor the controller to fit their specific needs, it feels wonderful. The analog sticks’ three levels of tension all feel distinct enough to serve different players, and the shoulder buttons have a sturdier feel than the ones on the standard Xbox One controller. Still, the biggest upgrade is the directional pad, which provides the perfect amount of clickiness without being difficult to press, so there is little guesswork when performing big combo attacks in fighting games.
Even the case the controller comes in is impressive. It contains slots for all accessories, which include four additional analog sticks, an extra directional pad, and the stick adjustment key, as well as a charging cradle so that players can charge the controller without even removing it from the case. It's certainly pricey, but it will be tough to go back to using anything else after spending time with the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2.
PS5 DualSense controller
The best option for Playstation fans
- Perfect for PlayStation owners switching to PC
- Comfortable design
- Overall super responsive controller
- No customizable extra buttons
Not much needs to be said about the quality of Sony's PS5 DualSense gamepad — it's a huge step-up from its predecessor and it's a lightning-fast controller. A lot of PC gaming controllers cater to Xbox players because of the obvious Microsoft connection, but Sony's go-to controller is just as valid of a choice for PC gaming.
Xbox Core Wireless Controller
The most versatile option
- Ergonomic, common design
- Works well across multiple games, platforms
- No customizable extra buttons
One of the most common controllers used for PC gaming today, the Xbox core controller is proof that refining a design can be better than radical change. Sporting a similar form factor to the Xbox 360 controller but with more ergonomic angles and a much better directional pad, the Xbox standard controller works well across nearly every PC game, including first-person shooters for those who don’t want to use a mouse and keyboard.
The Xbox One core controller supports wireless play through Bluetooth on newer models, and it can switch to wired play by attaching a Micro USB cable. It’s easy to set up in Steam, as there is already a preset configuration in the software, and it runs on AA batteries without eating through them at a ridiculous rate. Should players prefer a rechargeable option, there is also a Play and Charge Kit, and it supports rechargeable AA batteries.
SteelSeries Stratus Duo Controller
The best budget option
- Works well across multiple platforms
- Relatively inexpensive choice
- Surprisingly great grip
- No rumble
- Kind of awkward, elongated design
An inexpensive controller that has a remarkably different feel than competitors, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is a jack-of-all-trades gamepad that can serve as a primary controller for nearly every genre. It functions across Windows, Android, and certain VR devices. On PC, setting it up is as simple as plugging in the included USB dongle and turning it on via a switch on top. From there, it’s recognized like any other controller and also functions in Blizzard’s Battle.net service.
The analog sticks on the Stratus Duo are a little deeper than other controllers we tested, which gives players great grip when playing intense games, and the triggers and shoulder buttons feel similar to the excellent Switch Pro Controller. Though it uses a one-piece design and is a tad chunky, the directional pad is also responsive and easy to use.
The Stratus Duo is fairly light, partially because it lacks a rumble function. This cuts down on price and can be nice for competitive gaming. It also helps extend the charge to around 20 hours. However, players who will be playing first-person shooters may need the haptic feedback that more expensive options offer.
8BitDo Pro 2 Controller
The best controller for retro gaming
- Lots of programmable buttons
- Also works with Switch
- Retro feel with modern quality
- Not the best for modern games
If you're playing retro games on your PC, the 8BitDo Pro 2 controller is an absolute must-have. An update to 8BitDo's successful SN30 Pro+controller, the Pro 2 adds a handful of buttons, feels a bit more natural to hold in your hand, and has an overall sleeker design.
8BitDo's bundled software gives you complete control over how the controller buttons are mapped, bringing advanced customization only found in the most expensive gaming controllers to a cheap, retro gamepad.
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