8 Best PC Gaming Controllers of 2023

PC is an incredibly diverse gaming platform and you can find ports of titles from every genre, console and era of gaming. Many games were designed for gamepads, so you’ll need one for the best gaming experience. The best PC gaming controllers should be able to tackle every genre, from fighting games to first-person shooters, with ease.

Gamers who want to stick to PC-only titles should read our round-up of the best gaming keyboards or the best gaming mice. But if you want to skip the keyboard and mouse and are looking for the best PC controller for gaming Forza Horizon 5 Also, read on.

The best PC controllers often have adaptive triggers, textured grips, and sometimes even RGB lighting. If you are looking for the best combination of comfort and features, then Gulkit King Kong 2 Pro (Available on Amazon) It’s the best PC controller you can buy right now. It is durable, rich in features Hall effect Thumbsticks and triggers and built-in macro recording, and extremely comfortable. It can be used with your PC, Mac, mobile devices or Nintendo Switch over Bluetooth and can be paired with up to four devices at a time.

Seeing a black controller with a Nintendo Switch layout on top of an Nvidia graphics card

Credit: Review / Matthew S. Smith

8 Best PC Gaming Controllers of 2023

The Gulkit KingKong 2 Pro is a top-notch wireless controller that doesn’t skimp on features.

PowerA Spectra Wired PC Game Controller on Desk

Credit: Review / Matthew S. Smith

8 Best PC Gaming Controllers of 2023

If you prefer an Xbox controller but don’t want to pay Xbox prices, the PowerA Spectra is a great option.


Other PC gaming controllers we’ve tested

How we test PC gaming controllers

Tester

I am Matthew S. I’m Smith, a technology journalist, reviewer, and geek with fifteen years of experience writing about PC gaming hardware and peripherals. You can find my work on Reviewed, IEEE Spectrum, Wired, PCWorld, Lifewire, IGN, Business Insider, PCMag, Consumer’s Digest, MakeUseOf, The Escapist, and other publications. I was the Editor-in-Chief of Reviews at Digital Trends in 2020, where I had worked as an editor since 2014. I have reviewed and tested thousands of laptops, keyboards, mice, game controllers and monitors.

How we test

We test PC game controllers the usual way: by playing games on them. Every controller considered for this list was tested first-hand with a custom desktop PC over wired and wireless connections (if supported).

The games we used for testing included several Keystone titles that we returned with each gamepad: FINAL FANTASY XIV, Microsoft Flight Simulator, controland simulated version of Super Mario World. They represent a variety of styles and control schemes.

What we see in PC gaming controller layouts

Modern PC game controllers come in two basic layouts: asymmetrical or symmetrical.

The asymmetric layout, similar to the Xbox Wireless Controller, places the left joystick above the D-pad while the right joystick is below the four primary buttons. This asymmetrical design is best for games that use joysticks for 3D movement. The d-pad is often used to provide additional action buttons in these titles, and this layout makes the d-pad easy to access.

The symmetrical layout, championed by Sony, places the joysticks next to each other and pushes the D-pad up. The d-pad is more difficult to access when using the joysticks for movement, but it’s easy to ignore the joysticks when playing a game that uses the d-pad for movement.

We slightly prefer symmetrical layouts when testing PC game controllers. We find that symmetrical layouts are more versatile than asymmetrical layouts. This is because a symmetrical layout is generally preferable for 2D games that play best with a D-pad but is still best in 3D titles. A versatile controller is useful for PC gaming because the platform has access to a wider range of games and genres than consoles.

However, your mileage may vary. Players interested only in modern 3D titles and console ports may lean towards the asymmetrical layout.

Wired vs Wireless

Most modern gamepads support wired and wireless connections. Wireless connection is usually enabled via Bluetooth or via 2.4 GHz on a USB dongle. Microsoft offers a proprietary wireless dongle for the Xbox controller, and cloud gaming controllers like Google Stadia and the Amazon Luna controller use Wi-Fi when connected to their respective services.

Wired connection remains the easiest option. Wired controllers are reliably detected by Windows and require no additional setup to use. No need to worry about latency or drop-outs due to interference from other devices.

Most controllers support a Bluetooth connection which, in theory, should be automatically detected by Windows. This doesn’t always prove true in our testing. Wireless can also suffer from interference from other devices.

Most PC game controllers support wireless connections but also work over USB, providing a backup if the wireless goes bad. However, you pay a bit of a premium for wireless. The PowerA Spectra Enhanced, our Value Pick, is a wired controller that undercuts wireless competitors without compromising quality or layout.

Cloud controllers have real problems

Our testing included the Google Stadia controller and the Amazon Luna controller. Each has a solid, albeit generic, layout that doesn’t offend. However, that doesn’t mean they are the best choice.

Amazon’s Luna controller can connect wirelessly to a PC via Bluetooth. This allows it to function as a normal PC gamepad. We encountered connectivity issues over Bluetooth, however, so we had to revert to a wired connection.

The Google Stadia Controller is technically wireless but only supports Wi-Fi and cannot be used wirelessly outside of the Google Stadia platform. This contributed to its low ranking in our tests and its exclusion from this list. A Stadia controller isn’t the best option unless you intend to play Stadia.

Both Cloud Gaming controllers were the most expensive we tested. That makes it hard to recommend the less expensive, easier to use and more widely compatible PC game controllers that top our list. We recommend staying away from both.

Recharge Vs. Disposable battery

Most wireless controllers use a built-in rechargeable battery. However, Microsoft’s Xbox controller and Amazon’s Luna controller use disposable AA batteries.

A built-in rechargeable battery is best. Disposable AA batteries are cheap, but the cost of replacing batteries will add up over time. Long gaming sessions can easily eat up a pair of non-rechargeable batteries. You’ll end up spending as much on the disposable battery as you did on the controller.

Rechargeable batteries are lighter than disposable batteries and allow for a more compact design on the back of the controller. This makes a controller with a rechargeable battery more comfortable to use.

Controllers that use disposable AA batteries can be upgraded with a rechargeable battery pack or used with rechargeable AA batteries. However, this is an added expense and reduces the value of controllers that use disposable batteries.

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