Last updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2018
PC gaming has always had a large and dedicated fanbase, but today it’s bigger than ever. Once upon a time, the gaming world was dominated by consoles. Nowadays, the PC is a major player, and appears to be gaining steam as more and more fans flock to it everyday. If you’re a fan of computer gaming, you may be wondering how you can improve your gaming experience. One small change you can make to improve your gameplay is to buy a quality PC gaming controller. In this article, we take a look at the best controllers for PC gaming.
Best Controllers for PC Gaming: Our Top 8 Picks
Here are the next best thing after the tried and true keyboard and mouse combo.
The Playstation Dualshock 4 is the standard controller for the Playstation 4 console. It’s not marketed as a PC controller, but it is fully compatible and an excellent choice for PC gaming. We recommend the Dualshock 4 because it’s a great all-around choice. Some controllers are a bit more durable, some are a bit cheaper, some have more customization options, etc. but the Dualshock provides an excellent balance of features and performance at a very reasonable price.
The DS4 is very durable, comfortable in your hands, lightweight, customizable, and bluetooth compatible. The only drawback is that the DS4 is not technically supposed to be used on the PC, and there are NO official Sony drivers for it. However, there are excellent 3rd-party/unofficial drivers that will allow you to use a DS4 with just about any controller-compatible PC game.
Microsoft’s answer to the PS4, the Xbox One, was a commercial flop, but has been well reviewed in the gaming community. The controller is definitely a step up from the Xbox 360 controller, which already made a pretty great PC controller. We recommend the Xbox One controller because it’s easy to use, PC compatible (there’s an official Microsoft driver you can install), comfortable, durable, and sports a very familiar control scheme.
Both the DS4 and the Xbox One controller offer great value, both priced at $60 retail. Both are durable and comfortable, although the Xbox version is significantly bigger and heavier than the DS4. The biggest difference between the two is the design. The DS4 is symmetrical, with both analog sticks in the same position, whereas the Xbox One controller’s analog sticks are offset in the typical Xbox design.
The Razer Sabertooth is another controller developed for consoles but also compatible with PC. It’s designed for use with the Xbox 360, and is very well reviewed. It’s popular with the tournament crowd, and is another great mid-range option. The Sabertooth is a followup to the very popular Onza controller, and many gamers believe that Razer finally fixed all the small issues that plagued the Onza when they designed the Sabertooth.
We recommend the Sabertooth because of the ergonomic design, embedded display with 2 profiles, and 6 customizable buttons. It can definitely take a while to get used to using a customized control scheme, but once you do, it can provide a significant edge, especially in first person shooters. The only downside is that there is no wireless version of the Sabertooth available, which can be an inconvenience.
Logitech has been a leader in the PC hardware industry for a very long time. Their sleek designs, great performance, and affordable pricing structure make them a top choice for a variety of PC needs – and PC gaming is no different. Logitech offers many PC gaming controllers, but one of our favorites is the Logitech F310.
This ultra-affordable controller resembles a mix between a Xbox controller and a Dualshock 3. All 10 buttons on the F310 can be customized to fit your play style, as can the 8-way D-Pad. You can also save profiles/control schemes easily. We recommend the Logitech F310 because it’s a great all-around choice, and it’s less than half the price of any other option on this list. Unfortunately, the F310 lacks vibration feedback, and it’s wired – but other than that it’s an excellent entry-level choice.
Another great product from Logitech is the F710. This product is similar to the F310, but it’s wireless, offers vibration feedback, and is a bit more durable/sturdy. We recommend the F710 because it’s got all the great features you need, it’s reliable, and it’s still more affordable than the Dualshock 4 and other premium options.
One important thing to note is that the F710 is a bit on the smaller side. It fits well in most gamer’s hands, but if you have large hands you might want to go for a larger model like the Xbox One controller.
This little-known controller from Nyko Technologies made our list because of one unique feature: it has built-in fans! If you’ve ever experienced sweaty, clammy hands during a long gaming session, you should give this controller a try!
As far as functionality goes, the Airflow Ex is a pretty standard controller, with the clever addition of cooling fans. Style wise it resembles an old school Dualshock 2, and fits in your hands comfortably. The rubber grips are comfortable and secure, and the design feels very sturdy in general.
If you’d like something different from a basic keyboard and mouse setup, but you’re not ready to migrate over to a console-style controller, you should check out the Razer Orbweaver. This unique product is basically a partial keyboard, equipped with a variety of customizable buttons (20 in total!), unlimited control schemes/profiles, and a very intuitive and comfortable design.
The Orbweaver is a great choice for fans of competitive FPS games, because it still allows the use of a mouse. It’s a one-handed controller, that basically mimics (and improves) the standard WASD keyboard setup that most PC gamers use. In most games, using a mouse provides a significant advantage over using a console style controller.
Our last recommendation is a classic: the Xbox 360 controller. Just about every gamer is familiar with this classic design, but many people are unaware that this iconic console controller also works very well on PC. We recommend this product because it’s an affordable, reliable, and familiar option.
The Xbox 360 controller features a very comfortable and ergonomic design, a very reliable and durable build, and vibration feedback. The D-Pad is a little lacking, which is one way the Xbox One controller really shines above the classic 360 – but other than that, it’s a great choice.
We hope this article gives you the resources and tools you need to find the controller that fits both your gaming style and your budget. Good luck, and happy gaming!
Why Should I Use a Controller?
Gaming controllers for PC are not a necessity since you can just use your keyboard and mouse, but they offer some advantages for certain games. Plus, it can be refreshing to switch to from time-to-time. Many gamers enjoy PC games but prefer the feel of a console controller over that of a keyboard and mouse set up – and with a PC controller, you can have the best of both worlds!
Controllers can also help improve your gameplay in certain game genres, such as racing games. It’s much easier and more organic to use a handheld PC controller than a keyboard when it comes to driving games. Also, if you’re someone who enjoys both PC and console games, using a controller on your PC will feel more familiar and comfortable, and will help to keep your skills sharp for both types of gaming.
Another huge benefit of using a controller is the comfort it offers. Gaming controllers for PC are specifically designed for prolonged gaming, whereas keyboards are designed for typing, web browsing, and casual gaming. The ergonomic design of quality controllers means all the buttons you need are right there where they should be – within reach and at a comfortable distance from each other. You won’t ever need to contort your hands to reach the keys you need, and you won’t suffer from the wrist pain that is so common with a classic WASD keyboard setup.
One major but often overlooked benefit is portability. If you’re a serious gamer you know the importance of having your own setup. Especially when playing competitive online games, it’s vital to have a keyboard/mouse setup that you are familiar with. That won’t be an issue at home, but what about at a friends house, while traveling, at a competition, etc? It’s a huge hassle to pack up and move your entire PC setup, keyboard and mouse included – but it’s quite easy to bring a PC controller with you when you’re on-the-go.
These days, there are more and more console games being ported over to PC. This gives cross-platform gamers one more reason to use a quality PC controller. Also, with the highly anticipated Steam Machines coming up on the release horizon, now is a great time to get familiar with a controller.
How Should I Choose a Controller?
There are hundreds of PC gaming controllers on the market, so it can be hard to select the right one. Later in the article we will go over a list of the best gaming controllers for PC, but first, we’re going to explain how to choose the right one for you.
- Cross-Platform or PC-Dedicated? If you are both a PC gamer and a console gamer, it’s a no-brainer to get a controller with cross-platform compatibility. Controllers for the Xbox 360 (newer generations only), Xbox One, and Playstation 4 can all be used for PC gaming. They are all great choices, and allow you to keep practicing your skills for both PC and console games, no matter what device you’re using currently.
- Wired or Wireless? Obviously wireless is more convenient, but there is the potential for lag. Both the Xbox One and PS4 controllers will connect to your PC using Bluetooth, but some users report difficulties with certain operating systems (Windows 7, in particular, seems to cause a lot of problems). Many PC-dedicated controllers have Wireless capabilities, but many top-rated options, such as the Razer Sabertooth, are wired. If you must have a wireless controller, that will help you eliminate many options right off the bat.
- What Style? To oversimplify, there are two main styles of PC controllers: the typical console-type shape, similar to a PS4 or Xbox One design, and PC-only designs that feature more buttons and even partial keyboards, such as the Razer Orbweaver. The console style is comfortable, ergonomic, and familiar – it’s also beginner-friendly, so if you have friends over to play games this style is a good choice. The designs of PC dedicated controllers vary quite a bit, with some being all-in-one controllers, and others, such as the Orbweaver, still requiring the use of a mouse for many games. The later design style is aimed more at hardcore gamers who want the upper edge and increased comfort over a keyboard.
- Size, Weight, etc? Especially if you’re a daily gamer, it’s important to have a controller that feels good in your hands. Not too heavy, not too light, properly designed, durable, etc. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know for sure until you buy one because the best deals on these controllers are found online. Our advice is to buy from merchants who have good return policies. That way, if you receive the controller and are not happy with it, you can return it and try a different option. All the controllers we recommend in this article are well-reviewed and comfortable for most gamers.
- What Controller Should I Buy? Even with the tips listed above, it can be difficult to choose the right controller for you and your gaming style. To help point you in the right direction, we’ve put together a list of the best PC gaming controllers. Keep in mind that these aren’t necessary in order from best to worst – they are all great options!