PC gaming is all about freedom of choice. We are not tethered to any single way to play a game; I can use a keyboard and mouse to play a game or a PlayStation controller if I want to. But with such a massive amount of options available to PC gamers comes the tyranny of choice. Which controllers would be the best for PC gaming?
To help you out, I have done all the leg work with extensive use of each of these controllers on PC. Here are the top 5 controllers you should consider to make your PC gaming experience a comfortable and enjoyable one.
PlayStation’s brand new DualSense controller is a revolution for Sony’s long-standing DualShock line of controllers. The DualSense has a fantastic weight, is much bulkier, and feels like a premium product compared to the DualShock. Not to mention, it looks like a proper next-gen controller. DualSense’s next-gen promise is with its excellent adaptive trigger and haptic motors that you have to experience to become a true believer in this tech.
Unfortunately for us PC gamers, no official DualSense drivers exist on Windows 10. At least not yet. However, thanks to Steam’s fantastic controller support, the DualSense is supported as long as you play through Steam. The biggest drawback to using a DualSense on PC is that many games have yet to take full advantage of the adaptive triggers and haptic motors that are the DualSense’s biggest selling point. At the time of writing this article, only Deathloop, Metro Exodus, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla have support for these next-gen features. Lack of feature support and a high price point of $70 hold back this otherwise great controller from being higher on the list.
Surprisingly, Nintendo’s own first-party Pro controller is an excellent choice for PC gaming. This controller can be connected via USB-C or Bluetooth and has controller support via Steam. The Pro Controller is a bit smaller than other controllers on this list but doesn’t feel cheap. It even has some grippy handles for a premium feeling finish. Nintendo took some notes from Xbox’s playbook and created an asymmetric joystick layout, popular among most gamers. Add in a behemoth 40-hour battery life, and the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is a winner.
However, we do have to talk about some shortcomings. What holds this Pro controller back is the lack of analog triggers and subpar d-pad. The triggers are very short and don’t feel as tactile to press as almost every other controller on this list, and the d-pad feels mushy and overly sensitive.
Any fighting game where you need to rock the d-pad in a circular motion for a combo will be a lot more challenging to play. Otherwise, this is a good choice for a daily use controller and is excellent for emulation given the Nintendo format face buttons.
The 8BitDo Pro 2 falls right in the middle of the pack as the jack of all trades on this list. This controller mixes an SNES controller with a PS2 controller, with added paddles on the back. As someone that grew up with Playstation 2 as my primary console, I love this controller. I do believe that it is truly one of the best controllers for PC gaming, especially if you’re big into emulating classic games on PC. The centered joysticks and handle design retain that PS2 feel while the face button layout resembles the SNES. Paddles on the back are great for modern games that require more functionality.
The 8BitDo Pro 2 is compatible with Windows and the Nintendo Switch and has custom profiles so that you can switch between both on the fly. Featuring an excellent 20-hour long rechargeable battery, which is also swappable if you would like to use AA batteries or a separate battery pack, there are not many negatives to this nifty controller.
The biggest complaint is that some might find it a little ugly looking, and, much like the Switch Pro Controller, there are no analog triggers on this controller. Otherwise, for $50, this is a great all-arounder with plenty of customizability and is perfect for emulation.
This controller is quite the enigma and challenging to place on here. When using the Elite Series 2, it feels like an absolutely perfect piece of tech. The Elite Series 2 has some serious weight to it, which I love; I don’t feel like I’m going to break it when I hold it.
The handles have a premium grip to them, and the triggers are nicely textured. Everything about Series 2 screams “quality”. The level of customization possible with the Series 2 is unreal; you can swap joysticks, change d-pads, and switch between three different trigger actuation points. Not to mention all the software level customization possible for all the buttons, including the four paddles on the back.
You could also run through the entire Halo series before needing to charge, thanks to its great 40-hour battery life. So it all sounds great, but there are some serious considerations to take into account when purchasing a controller for $180.
First and foremost, the Xbox Elite Series 2 has some quality control issues. While everything feels premium, these controllers tend to break a lot. There are whole threads across the internet with customers reporting broken A buttons, joystick drift, and faulty bumpers. Microsoft does offer a year warranty for the Elite Series 2, but plenty of customers are already on their 3rd or 4th return of the Elite Series 2. It’s a great controller but getting one that won’t break on you is more or less a roll of the dice.
Also, the Elite Series 2 is a very niche controller. Unless you’re a hardcore first-person shooter or third-person shooter competitive gamer, I would say that the Elite Series 2 is a product you can skip. And for fighting game fans that are looking for a good d-pad with the Elite Series 2, at $180, you can just buy a fight stick for cheaper and get a better competitive edge.
The Elite Series 2 is really held back by the fact that you could purchase three controllers on this list for the same price as one Elite Series 2 and not miss out on much unless you desperately need paddles and a taller joystick. And you’ll also have three new controllers!
With regards to being the absolute best controller for PC gaming, I have to go with the fresh yet familiar Xbox Core controller. This is the newest iteration of the Xbox controller that doesn’t stray too far from the original Xbox One controller design. Microsoft knows they have a winning formula with their controllers, so why mess with a good thing?
The Core controller has minor changes like the textured handles and trigger buttons; it also features a hybrid d-pad inspired by the Elite Series 2. Most notably, this iteration of the Xbox controller features the newest wireless low latency tech from Xbox, currently exclusive to the Core controller. On a technical level, this controller outperforms everything else on this list regarding input latency and response time, even the Elite Series 2.
The standard Xbox controller, Core or otherwise, is the default on PC for just about every game released on this platform, so you can rest easy knowing that every game will always be compatible with it.
Some fun things are exclusive to the Xbox Core controller, like the revamped Xbox Design Lab, where you can create custom-colored controllers, complete with engravings. The Xbox Core controller is the most widely supported controller for PC games, has an almost perfect button and joystick layout, and is the best feeling controller for all types of hands. Lastly, its low latency tech and strong price point of $50 make this a must-have for every PC gamer.
Keep in mind that these five controllers are the absolute best that you can get for your PC. These controllers are head and shoulders above some of the more generic third-party offerings currently flooding the market. Sometimes how much you enjoy using a controller can be very specific to a person.
Someone with smaller hands might like the Nintendo Switch controller more, while those with larger hands might need to stick with Xbox controllers. Hopefully, this guide helped you understand what to look out for when buying a new controller for your PC and what to expect out of these stellar controllers.