If you’ve been looking for a game controller for PC software, well, you’re in the right place!
There are roughly one splillion different articles and videos online that talk about what are supposedly the best controllers ever made.
Our take on the situation is that there is never a single best controller for any particular system because everyone has their own set of preferences when it comes to the controllers they use.
Comfort and accessibility are huge factors that should be considered when choosing a controller for console or PC, and even though we’ll be giving some of our own recommendations later on in the article, we strongly suggest trying out several different controller types and designs before spending between $50 and $80 on one of your own.
But before we get to our picks, we’re going to talk about why it’s so great to have a game controller that you can use on your computer, and we’ll also bust a few myths about which controllers you can use with your PC.
Why Using a Controller on PC is Great
Ok, so if you’re still relatively new to PC gaming, for one thing, we recommend checking out our beginner’s guide to PC gaming.
But for many new gamers, especially on PC, it can be hard to parse different video game systems, games, and accessories and the ways in which these products are marketed online.
Specifically when it comes to looking for controllers on ecommerce sites like Amazon and eBay, it can be hard to tell which systems each controller is actually compatible with.
And on top of that, if you’re trying to buy a used controller to save some money, you’ll have to trust that the seller’s description is accurate. Otherwise, you might end up with a less-than-functional controller that you have to try to return or sell to someone else.
The fact is, most video game controllers on the market today are technically compatible with most PCs, even if they were originally designed to be used with consoles, such as the XBox Series X/S, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch.
If the controller comes with a USB cable (or can work with one of these cables), then it can “talk” to your computer, as long as your computer has standard USB-A drives. If you’re wondering which USB type that is, it’s the most common one by far, though USB type-C is becoming more popular.
The first-party controllers for current gaming consoles don’t require the USB cable to connect to their specific consoles, but they use this cable for charging.
When using one of these controllers with your PC, connecting it with this USB cable is the easiest and most reliable way to establish and maintain a connection.
With that said, there’s never a true guarantee that a controller originally designed for a specific gaming console will work 100% on your PC.
But at least if you’re wanting to use a controller to play games through your Steam library, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all.
There are community-created configurations for many controllers and games and combinations of the two.
With that stuff out of the way, let’s talk about some specific controller recommendations we have for you.
Some of the Best Controllers to Use with PC
For many video game players and video game developers alike, official XBox controllers have basically come to be synonymous with what a controller is.
The XBox Controllers for XBox 360 and onward to the current iteration for the XBox Series X/S are a pretty good representation of what a modern game controller is like.
It has two bumper buttons, two triggers, a D-Pad, four face buttons, pause and select buttons, and, of course, the two all-important analog sticks.
More importantly, the locations of all these inputs are exactly where a modern gamer would expect them to be.
These controllers are more ergonomic than their Sony counterparts, and they feel pretty good to hold, even for long periods of time.
The build quality of these controllers is about industry standard. These controllers won’t last for the rest of your life, but they’re not likely to start falling apart on you over the course of a few years.
Also, regarding both XBox and PlayStation controllers that you can find online, NOT EVERY CONTROLLER IS A FIRST-PARTY CONTROLLER.
This is pretty important. You’ll find all kinds of third-party controllers that do indeed work with their respective consoles, and with your PC as well, but many of these, especially at lower price points, are not well made or well-designed, and we don’t think it’s worth spending money on controllers that won’t last very long.
So when you’re shopping around, specifically look for “Official” controllers. Generally speaking, they’ll be more expensive brand new compared to the competition.
After mentioning XBox controllers, we basically had to include official PlayStation controllers as well.
But it’s not just for the sake of being fair: first-party PlayStation controllers are pretty darn impressive, especially in their build quality.
This is some good gear, and if the somewhat strange shape doesn’t bother you, then these controllers are a great choice, as long as you’re willing to pay a premium, as these controllers are also pretty expensive at list price.
If you’d prefer to look for a used PlayStation controller, our only word of warning would be to look out for stick drift.
Almost all modern analog sticks start to drift after a while, making inputs inaccurate and frustrating. Some sticks drift more than others, and while PlayStation controller analog sticks are far from the worst out there (we’re looking at you, Nintendo), there is still a risk of drift.
In other words, paying for a brand new controller might give you some peace of mind.
Also, and this is very important if you want to play games through Steam, the PS4 first-party controller includes a gyro, which was rarely used for actual PlayStation games.
But in Steam, you can assign the gyro to various functions for specific games, though all you’ll really want to use it for is aiming in FPS games and the like.
Our first third-party controller recommendation is actually a whole line of controllers from a company called 8BitDo.
It’s not the greatest company name in the world, but their controllers, basically all of which will work with your PC no problem, are definitely worth checking out.
Some of their most popular controllers mimic the designs of classic controllers of bygone decades, but each one still feels comfortable to use.
One of the reasons these controllers have become so darn popular with gamers is that specific models feature downright excellent D-pads, so if you like to use a D-pad for certain games, these controllers are probably your best option.
And best of all, 8BitDo controllers, even at full price, are slightly less expensive than first-party console controllers, and when purchased used, they’re significantly less expensive.
You get quality at a good price, and compatibility won’t be an option. There are even desktop utilities that allow you to customize certain aspects of your controller.
We DO NOT Recommend: PowerA Controllers Designed for Nintendo Switch and PC
Rounding things off here at the end, we specifically wanted to un-recommend third-party controllers from a company called PowerA.
PowerA makes a very large line of various controllers, and some are definitely built better than others.
But we here at the site have had personal experience with PowerA controllers, specifically models that were designed for the Nintendo Switch and PC.
In multiple instances, we experienced stick drift on these controllers after only about a month’s worth of standard play.
PowerA did offer a warranty for the failing controllers, but for one of them, the replacement took almost an entire year to arrive, and only seemed to get shipped after we emailed to ask about its status.
We’re not saying that every controller from PowerA is of poor quality, or that you won’t enjoy your own PowerA controller, but based on our experience, it’s a much better choice to buy a controller from just about any other company.