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If you're keen to play some of the best PC games, getting your hands on the best PC controller is virtually mandatory. A ton of action-oriented genres, particularly platformers or twin-stick shooters, benefit greatly from having a controller in hand, and gamepads are fantastic for eliminating the massive footprint of a mouse and keyboard. Want to hook your PC up to one of the best 4K TVs and play Steam/Epic games from the comfort of your couch or recliner? An awesome controller is essential.
In fact, one of the best features of a great controller is how untethered it is. Even a wired controller is easier to grab and use or move from machine to machine (or room to room) than a mouse and keyboard setup, which requires a big, flat surface on top of the real estate the devices themselves take up. And some of the controllers on our list are dual-purpose: they can work on both a console and a PC, so it's practically like you're getting a pair of controllers for a single price.
Premium design and feel
Additional rear paddles and trigger toggles
Compatible with PC and Xbox
The Xbox One Wireless Controller might be a fine pick, but if you want to go with the Xbox One controller style and need more flexibility with how your controls work, then the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is ready to offer that. It includes all the usual buttons, sticks, and triggers, but adds onto them with a set of paddles underneath the controller, and toggles for the triggers.
The paddles underneath copy the controls of the ABXY buttons, allowing you to press them without having to take your thumb off the right analog stick. The Hair Trigger Locks will make the triggers depress a shorter distance in use, so when you need to shoot quickly, you’ll be able to.
The Xbox Elite Wireless controller has premium hand-grips and includes standard, tall, and domed thumbsticks, as well as faceted and standard D-Pads. If you expect to travel much with the controller, it also comes with a convenient carrying case that can store the controller, paddles, cable, extra thumbsticks, and D-Pad. And, of course, this one works on Xbox One consoles as well as PC. However, for wireless use with a PC, you’ll need a special adapter. In his review, our tester Zach loved the premium design and features, and called it the ultimate device for console or PC.
"When it comes to a premium controller experience, the Elite stands in a world of its own." — Zach Sweat, product tester
Small and easy to grip
Connects via USB or Bluetooth
Slightly complicated to connect
Choosing between Sony’s DualShock 4 controller and Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Controller largely comes down to your ergonomic preference — which feels more comfortable in your hand. The DualShock 4 controller has large, rounded hand-grips, and it mirrors the positions of the two analog thumbsticks. If you also own a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Pro, this one is an easy choice.
The DualShock 4 controller supports wireless connections over Bluetooth and can connect over USB as well. However, it may take a little extra work to make a DualShock 4 controller work on a PC at first. But, once you’ve got everything set up, you’ll be able to game with the DualShock 4 just as easily as you would with Microsoft’s controllers.
The DualShock 4 controller has a 3.5mm headphone jack, similar to the Xbox Controller. And, it also has a built-in speaker and touchpad, though few games, if any, are likely to take advantage of those features on PC. One feature you can occasionally use though is the built-in gyroscope, which can allow you to tweak your in-game aim using the controllers positioning in addition to the thumbsticks.
Solid and durable
Easy to pair with PC
Slightly too large for smaller hands
If you want something simple that will be plug-and-play with your PC and support most of the controller-friendly games you come across, then there’s no easier option than the Xbox Wireless Controller. Since it’s designed by Microsoft, it’s not too much of surprise that it plays nice with gaming PCs that run Windows 10. It’ll also work with Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X consoles.
The Xbox Wireless Controller uses Bluetooth for its wireless connection, so you should have an easy time pairing it with a gaming laptop, a tablet, or a desktop if it supports Bluetooth as well. Of course, you also have the option of connecting the controller to your computer via USB cable.
The Xbox Wireless Controller has a simple design, with dual analog sticks, a D-pad, and all the standard buttons and triggers you’d expect to find on a current-gen controller. Plus, it has a 3.5mm jack so you can plug headphones directly into the controller. While the standard is white with black accents, Microsoft offers a wide variety of color customization options. Our reviewer Zach called the Xbox One S controller the best wireless controller for anyone not willing to shell out for the Elite.
"The new and improved Xbox One S controller is the optimal choice for Xbox One and PC owners looking to upgrade their old worn out controllers or those that want built-in Bluetooth." — Zach Sweat, product tester
Easily and broadly customizable
Rear paddle options
If you like the shape and feel of an Xbox One controller but want something that’s more advanced and far more customizable, you should look at the Scuf Infinity1 controller. These controllers take the Xbox One controller’s design and level it up in a similar way to what the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller.
The Scuf Infinity1 gives you plenty of visual design options, but what really makes this one special are all the options and performance perks you get with hand grips, thumbsticks, the D-Pad, buttons, paddles, and triggers. You can shorten the trigger travel distance, change out the hand grips, choose your thumbstick height and cap type, and take advantage of the rear paddles so your thumbs don’t have to leave the analog sticks.
Much of the customization available to the Scuf Inifinity1 is also made to be easy to use. The analog sticks can be swapped quickly using the controller’s ring and lock system. The rear paddles can be reassigned on the fly without jumping into the software. And a simple key allows you to adjust the hair triggers quickly to suit your needs from game to game.
Premium industrial design
Tons of potential button layouts
3.5mm jack for headphones
High price tag
With a reputation in gaming like Razer’s, it’s no surprise the company has a serious gaming controller to offer. The Razer Wolverine Ultimate takes design cues from the Xbox One controller, but adds in some of the upgraded features seen in Scuf controllers and the Xbox Elite Wireless controller.
The Razer Wolverine has textured grips for a secure hold. In addition to the standard controls, it packs on four paddles to the rear side along with two extra bumpers next to the standard triggers and shoulder buttons. This gives you a lot of options for gaming. The main triggers also have trigger stops to help you shoot quicker in shooting games. And, of course, this premium controller has Razer’s signature Chroma lighting.
If you need a lot of button options for your PC gaming, then this may be the controller for you. You’ll also be able to swap out D-Pads, choose your height and style of analog sticks, and adjust the vibration intensity. A 3.5mm jack will let you plug headphones directly into the controller, and the USB cable slides snugly into a slot, so you won’t have to worry about bending the port out of shape, as can happen with some other controllers.
Amazing accessibility options
Designed to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility, the Xbox Adaptive Controller is all about customization and accessibility. The controller features large, user-friendly buttons, and offers a wide range of inputs and jacks, allowing you to connect a plethora of external devices (switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks) to create an entirely personalized controller. The Adaptive Controller is also part of the Xbox family, meaning it is compatible with the Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 software, and includes features such as Xbox Wireless, Copilot, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. In addition to the controller’s physical functions, it connects to the Xbox Accessories app and allows you to further tailor your controls with the “button remapping” function. You can even create multiple profiles to save custom settings for up to three individuals.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller was a collaborative effort with The AbleGamers Foundation, Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Warfighter Engaged, and SpecialEffect. Consultations from these community members helped create the controller’s design, functionality, and packaging. By emphasizing the importance of customizable features, the Adaptive Controller helps to make gaming a more accessible hobby.
If you're looking for the absolute best PC controller bar none, with the best premium touches, feel, and build quality, the Xbox Elite is the king of the hill. But if you want something really functional (and slightly smaller) and don't want to spend a ton of cash, Sony's Dualshock 4 is a great substitution.
Mark Thomas Knapp has been a tech journalist since back in 2012, and has lead coverage of a huge variety of topics, including gaming, PCs, breaking news, and more. His byline has appeared in several top tech media publications.
Zach Sweat is an experienced tech writer, editor, and photographer, specializing in video games, consoles, and PC hardware. He's written extensively about a variety of gaming platforms for Lifewire, including the PC.
Design - Far from just an aesthetic consideration, design is crucial in a very practical way for controllers. How does it fit your hand, how heavy is it, how durable are the materials if you drop it on a hardwood floor? How easy are the buttons, triggers and analog sticks? Design also plays into familiarity; if you have a layout you prefer, you want a PC controller that mirrors it as closely as possible.
Connectivity - How a controller connects to devices, and whether its wired or wireless, can be a make or break feature for a lot of gamers. USB is mandatory for some, while others will want to take advantage of their PCs built in Bluetooth support and live that fully wireless lifestyle.
Customizability - A lot of modern controllers now offer various features to extensively customize them, whether that means remappable buttons, additional paddles, interchangeable D-pads or analog sticks, trigger stops, or a host of other options. Customization is key to making a gamepad feel comfortable and like its truly yours, and also allows you to alter functionality on the fly for different titles (or platforms).
Our testers haven't had a chance to try out any of the controllers listed here yet. But once they do, they'll be exploring a variety of factors to put these controllers through their paces. They'll be testing these controllers with a variety of games from their respective steam libraries, paying attention to how easy it is to connect to a particular system, as well as how consistent that connection is. Besides the usability of a particular controller, we'll be looking at the customization options and whether that controller is comfortable to use over a period of time as well as how long a controller can last on a single charge if it happens to be wireless.