Sometimes you just want to play with a controller rather than the standard mouse and keyboard. Some games feel like they are made for console and a PC controller allows you to play on your PC in a much more relaxed manner.
Major brands have picked up on this, and over the past few years, we have seen the release of some exceptional controllers for PC gaming. This list contains the very best.
1. Razer Wolverine Ultimate
Xbox / PC / 6 Multi-Function buttons / Razer Chroma Lighting
- Premium quality feel
- Highly customizable
- Additional M buttons is a great addition
- Made for both Xbox and PC gaming
The Razer Wolverine is a luxury PC and Xbox controller with an excellent layout and extensive customization options. Once you sit down and play with the Wolverine, it becomes clear that this is not an ordinary controller as the quality build and high-level of design brings a whole new joy to gaming on a controller.
Its layout is very intuitive, and it is even equipped with six additional buttons that make you wonder how you ever played without em. Four of the M buttons are located underneath the controller and positioned to be very easy to use with your ring fingers. While the other two are placed beside the L and R buttons. Controller gaming has always been somewhat limited due to the number of buttons available, but having six additional and fully customizable buttons increase the number of games that can be confidently played with a controller. The buttons underneath, in particular, were an incredible addition to the controller experience and something that will make it hard to go back to a regular controller.
Lastly, the Wolverine is also highly customizable with an in-depth customization page in Razer Synapse that works for both PC and Xbox. This allows you to adjust vibrations, sensitivity, lighting, and even reassign buttons to your preference.
2. SteelSeries Stratus Duo
PC / Android / Steam-enabled / 20 hour battery
- A lot of value-for-money
- Flawless wireless connection
- Seemless transition between PC & mobile gaming
- Design feels a bit ”stiff”
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo is a more budget-friendly option that is finely tuned for PC and mobile gaming. Its 2.4Ghz wireless connection is flawless and effective for PC gaming and with its 20 hours battery life, you will be able to use it to your heart’s content.
It is also able to easily connect to any Android phone via Bluetooth connection, which is great if you play more demanding games on your smartphone, such as Fortnite or action games.
Despite its cheap price tag, it feels very durable and lives up to the SteelSeries quality standard. The design is my biggest issue. Even though the buttons are all very intuitive, and it’s effective to play on, I do feel like it lacks comfort compared to some of the other options on the market. That is not to say that it is not comfortable, it just isn’t on the same level of ergonomics as the Astro C40 or Razer Wolverine.
3. Astro C40 TR
PC / PS4 / Swappable Modules / Tournament Ready
- Unparralleled quality
- Swappable modules
- Incredibly comfortable to play with
- Additional, intuitive rear buttons
The Astro C40 is the most luxurious and comfortable controller on the market today. It’s premium build of aluminum, steel, and hardened plastic makes it by far the most durable controller on the list and gives it an unparalleled premium-feel. However, it is worth noting that this also makes it much heavier than other controllers, weighing in at 310g.
The materials, design, and button overlay of the Astro C40 made me fall completely in love. It is hard to put the finger on it, but playing on the C40 made every game more enjoyable simply due to how it felt to hold in my hands. On top of the regular PS4 Dualshock layout, it is equipped with two additional triggers underneath that feels very natural to use and was a welcome addition to my arsenal when playing more demanding games.
The C40 is also highly customizable, both physically and in the Astro software. You can move the layout around to as you see fit, and it comes with a ton of additional analog sticks, stick caps, and D-pad. You simply have to screw up the module, and you can replace or move anything you want. I preferred the standard layout, and while you have the option to customize a lot of things, I still think it’s one of the best plug-and-play gaming controllers on the market.
4. Dualshock 4
PS4 / PC
- Lightweight & comfortable
- Excellent layout
- Requires a little work to get it working on PC
Talk about a good upgrade the DS4 doesn’t just beat the DS3 it humiliates it. Featuring Bluetooth wireless, & wired capability along with a multitude of other features the DS4 still the best standard gaming controller. You might be surprised to see it on this list of best PC controllers but the Dualshock 4 can actually be used on your PC. See this guide to see how.
It’s an excellent option that is durable & highly functional. Sticky triggers & and analogs are always annoying, and you will not have these issues if you decide to go with the DS4. The design, although in some ways similar to the Logitech F310, it’s vastly superior regarding performance & tactile feedback. The dissimilarities, as such, arise mainly concerning the size of the triggers. The shorter flatter triggers are pretty easy to use. They even feel springier, which is always a good thing.
We liked the D-pad as well, and it will be a smooth transition for you if you are upgrading from an F310, for instance, with similar positioning. Users did report to like the X-box one controller’s d-pad design more as it’ offers a harder feel. We can relate to that as you register the press better as opposed to the silky smooth d-pad on the DS4. You can customize the LED lights to your liking, and the touchpad functionality was very smooth too.
Some users did mention having some issues with the sticky keys over time, however. Another thing worth pointing out is the positioning of the less important share & option buttons were too close to the d-pad & the main buttons, which were more of an inconvenience rather than a con. Compatibility is an avenue where the Xbox (a Microsoft product) naturally one-ups the DS4. There were instances where we had to either restart our PC or disconnect and reconfigure the controller for it to work smoothly on some games. This was only in a few rare cases, though. There is software out there like the DS4windows for those running 8.1 or Windows 7 still. It facilitates a smooth transition, and you don’t have to play around with a complicated emulator.
5. Xbox Wireless Controller
PC / Xbox
- Very comfortable
- Ideal plug-and-play controller
- Lacking in customization options & features
The new Xbox one controller or S controller offers another dimension to PC gamers that is definitely worth the price. The design at first glance is fairly similar to previous Xbox one controllers, and not much has changed in terms of positioning. What’s nice about the Xbox controller compared to the Dualshock is that it’s a lot easier to connect it to your PC. You just need a wireless adapter, and you are good to go. You can also connect through the standard wire, in which case you just connect it like any other peripheral.
The triggers & buttons have the same feeling, with the notable differences being about the feel of the D-pad & the horns. This controller has Bluetooth wireless capability, which is a welcome change to the old cable or adapter variant that uses 2.4 GHz connectivity. The range is quite good as well and much better than previous variants.
The D-pad feel is harder, it’s always been stiffer than the DS4, but the added stiffness is most welcome, in our opinion. PC compatibility is excellent with the proprietary wireless connection. Setting up your controller will be a piece of cake. The grips of the controllers are patterned, which enables you to have a better experience, especially if your hands get sweaty very often. It’s also compatible with tablets & phones, too, if you are into the habit of gaming on those.
Some users did report the rubberize heads of the analog triggers wearing out over time, but during our tests, the analogs remained pretty stiff, which made them easy to use.
You can, of course, map your buttons through the Xbox accessories app. It’s quite light but has a very sturdy, durable feel to it, which you can tell as soon as you grip the controller for the 1st time. The response when gaming is fast and quite comparable to that of the DS4, we couldn’t separate the two on that front. It can also handle multiple falls, so if you have a habit of tossing your controller about, then the new Xbox One wireless controller would be a good pick.
6. Xbox Elite Series 2
PC / Xbox
- Excellent battery life(40 hours)
- Great plug-and-play controller
The Xbox Elite controller is pretty much in a league of its own and offers amazing customizability to users. While its customizability does have its strong points, it can divide opinion too, and we will explain why.
First up, the significant difference between an ordinary Xbox One controller and the Elite is that the analogs triggers can be adjusted and locked in with a switch at the back. These give the triggers a snapper feel & halves the activation distance. If you want the default feel, then just leave em unlocked. The trigger feels pretty similar to any Xbox one controller.
The Elite comes with 2 D-pads, three sets of analog sticks, and four metal paddles too. You can swap the D-pads out by simply pulling them out seven magnets to keep them together. You don’t need a tool or anything to remove the analog triggers, and they can be swapped without too much hassle, which can’t be said about most of the other E-sports controllers in the market. The different analog sticks offer different textures & height, and you can use whichever ones you find convenient. The trade-off with the analog sticks is essentially grip for comfort or vice versa.
The paddle buttons are pretty easy to use at the back & much better positioned when compared to other high-end controllers in the market. Setup on Windows is pretty much plugged and play, and you can remap the buttons if needed. The rough textured grip is perfect for those whose hands tend to get sweaty quickly.
If you are wondering why this isn’t our overall pick, well, first up, it is quite pricey. Secondly, as reported by other users, the various customizations come at the cost of durability with the analog triggers losing their sharpness over time. It also comes with just a 90-day warranty, and many users, including us, felt this was too short a period for such an expensive controller. Despite all these as far as luxury controllers go, the Elite is a force to be reckoned with. The wired variant comes with a braided cable, and the wireless performs well with no lag as such.
7. Steam Controller
- Not the most intuitive layout(especially if you are used to PS4 controllers)
Instead of the D-pads & right analog, it employs two touchpads that provide haptic feedback. The haptic feedback is quite sharp, which was to our liking. This worked well when we tried it out on games like Dying light, 7 days to die, etc. You can easily customize these to function like a standard D-pad too.
The positioning of the X, Y, A, B keys is hard to get to, plus they feel a bit cluttered. If you have marginally larger hands, it can be a pain to use this controller. The buttons & the touchpads sound more clicky than even the Logitech F310, which is our budget pick. So overall, while it does have its place, it just wasn’t as fun to play on as the others.
We subjected all our controllers to some rough treatment. During gaming, it’s natural that emotions run high, and a controller that can withstand or understand our behavior better is something highly desirable. We dropped them down from about 3 feet at different angles (nope we didn’t toss one at the TV!) to see if there was any significant damage to the analogs sticks & if there was any disruption in how the keys feel.
Don’t try this at home.
Prolonged & intense gaming sessions
A good controller is one that is durable over an extended period, as well as being comfortable on the hands. Especially if you are in the habit of finishing an entire campaign and like to play for 5+ hours at a stretch, the controller should be comfortable in the hands. We found the controllers with the offset analogs performed better in general during prolonged gaming sessions.
When playing games like NBA 2K, FIFA 18 combos are pretty standard, and we tested the controllers to see if there were any dead patches or if violent movements affected the overall performance over time. The DS4 was our favorite by far during the tests offering good tactile feedback & comfort.
We made sure to utilize the D-pad to the fullest extent whenever possible. The D-pad styling varied across brands, but we’d like to point out that we found none to be too uncomfortable as such. We tested these controllers on a variety of games like Gears of War, Overwatch, Dying Light, Crysis 3, etc. it was necessary to survey the strengths of different designs across different genres of games.
During our gaming sessions, we passed the controller around to different members to see which controllers felt comfortable in different palm sizes. Most manufacturers tend to adopt offset analog stick design when developing their controllers; the offset helps negate hand size issues. The Xbox one was undoubtedly comfy across the board during our tests, with the steam controller being the most uncomfortable to use, especially if you have small hands.
As you know, when dealing with anything in the gaming space, wired is always better, be it routers or controllers. Wireless controllers do have a marginal lag that doesn’t entirely affect the average gamer. We were keen to test the distances at which the wireless functionality held up. Despite a controller having a specified range, we wanted to see the level of lag at different distances. It’s not at all uncommon to see someone having a gaming laptop plugged into a TV or someone just wanting to sit a few feet away when gaming on their desktop.
Razer wildcat esports Xbox one controller
Razer’s Xbox one variant is aesthetically stunning, as is the case with any Razer product. The four extra programmable buttons are well placed, and the controller is pretty light overall. This helps especially if you like to game for a prolonged period. The wear on your hands is a lot less when compared to the heftier Elite controller we touched on earlier. Mapping and programming the different buttons are straightforward. The D-pad isn’t the best in the world and can be a pain to use when executing combos, for instance. The analog triggers were the opposite and pretty comfortable and easy to use. The buttons felt smooth, and a clicky sound did not develop over time.
Its performance during FPS tests was quite good, though. Another aspect where the Elite has one over the Wildcat for the paddles, which we thought was better placed on the former. The build quality concerning the grips we felt could have been better for the price. Another criticism is that the optional grips were challenging to apply, and you need a tool to swap out the analog triggers when you decide to change. It isn’t as smooth as the Xbox one Elite. There is also no wireless functionality, but considering it is mainly an E-sports variant, wired is still good. The optional palm grips make the whole experience a lot better, though. Overall, if you are seeking the middle ground between a DS4 and an elite, for instance, the Razer Wildcat isn’t one to be ignored.
Xbox 360 controller
Even now, it’s hard to ignore the good old Xbox 360 controller. It’s an option for those on a budget. The D-pad might not be the greatest, but the ease of use transcends most other cons. It is still definitely compatible with most games, and its plug and plays functionality makes it a practical, simple solution for the average gamer just looking to have a good time. So why isn’t this listed as our budget pick? The Xbox 360 controller is still more than double the price of the F310 at the time of writing, and the F710, the wireless variant from Logitech, is also cheaper if you decide to go that route.
Performance is the 360 controller’s main selling point. The response is instantaneous, and the feedback is quite high too. The 9 feet cord comes with is pretty thin and doesn’t give you the feel of chunky wires being around. Where it lacks in comparison to the others is concerning motion sensing features that came with the PS3’s controller. The number of Xbox one games that are backward compatible is limited, so when the user focus shifts towards PC games. The 360 controller is still definitely one of the best out there for PC gaming.
It’s not often people game on a Mac, but if you happen to be one of them, then the SteelSeries nimbus is a surprisingly solid option. It’s similar in a lot of ways to the Xbox 360 controllers, and it works well on all Apple devices. The battery life is pretty impressive, and the controller itself is exceptionally light. You can very quickly play games on steam too. The Bluetooth wireless is good, but its range doesn’t come close to the mainstream controllers. It has a pretty ordinary feel and finishes design-wise also.