Despite what PC gaming purists might say, a mouse and keyboard is not always the best option for every game. There are times when it just doesn’t offer the kind of control you need to win—particularly when it comes to racing games and platformers. For the best experience, you need a controller.
The issue can be finding the best controller for PC gaming. There are great options out there like the Xbox Elite V 2 controller, but it’s a hefty investment at $200 for a single controller. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a solid, reliable controller on a budget, check out the following options.
The standard controller for the Xbox One is one of the best options on the market for a sub-$100 wireless controller for PCs. Think of it as the successor to the wired Xbox 360 controller that was a staple in the PC gaming community for years.
The Xbox Wireless Controller improves upon the wired Xbox 360 controller in a variety of ways, including a significantly improved D-pad. It’s also much more comfortable and fits most hands slightly better with an ergonomic design that prevents wrist fatigue in long gaming sessions.
The Xbox Wireless Controller is officially supported by most games on the market, too. The only downside to using it is that it doesn’t come with as many bells and whistles as higher-priced controllers.
It requires 2 AA batteries and retails for around $60 US.
If you’re looking for an even more affordable controller for PCs than the Xbox Wireless Controller, the PowerA Spectra is a great option. PowerA has made a name for itself in recent years with controllers for a variety of consoles. The Spectra is a wired controller that resembles a Nintendo Pro controller in a lot of ways.
It has a few features that the Xbox Wireless Controller does not, including LED lighting. You can choose from seven different colors, and there are two buttons on the back of the controller that can be used for custom mapping. You can even adjust the trigger tension to reduce travel time and improve your response speed.
If this sounds a lot like some of the features on the Xbox Elite Controller, that’s because they are. Except the PowerA Spectra retails for $40, a fifth of what the Elite Controller goes for. There are a few things to note, though. First of all, it is wired. Second, it uses micro USB as a connector.
Micro USB isn’t the most sturdy of connection types, and the controller offers no wireless option. Still, for the price, it’s hard to find much fault.
Surprised? Not many people think of the PlayStation 4 controller when choosing a controller for PC gaming, but that’s only because it wasn’t compatible without some serious workarounds. Now that Steam fully recognizes the DualShock 4, it’s a great choice for players who may be more familiar with it than an Xbox controller.
One of the major strengths of the DualShock 4 is the accuracy of its sticks. Their tracking is great for precise aiming in games. They also prove themselves as great options for twin-stick shooters.
On the other hand, many people find the layout a bit disorienting, especially if they’re familiar with the offset design of the Xbox controller. The rear triggers also have a significant amount of travel. While playing a competitive shooter on PC with a controller is never recommended, the DualShock 4 may be a particularly poor choice.
The battery life isn’t great, but this can be improved if you turn off the light bar on the back of the controller. The DualShock 4 also isn’t supported by every game, so be aware of that.
The DualShock 4 retails for around $65 and is available in a variety of different color options.
Logitech has a long history of being the go-to company for gamers looking for more affordable mice and keyboard options. The F310 controller is a great option for those on a particularly tight budget.
It resembles a DualShock 4 with symmetrical buttons and four face buttons on the right side. It’s designed to support most modern games out of the box without any complicated setup required. The main selling point, however, is the price.
The Logitech F310 retails for just $18 on Amazon. It’s incredibly affordable for almost any budget, and is a great fallback controller if your main one breaks or if you need a second-player controller.
The downside is that its build quality isn’t the best. Many players report that it feels too plastic-like in their hands, and the color scheme is reminiscent of Mad Katz controllers from the 90s.
Most of the best controllers for PCs on this list are aimed at modern games, but the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro is the best choice for old-school emulation. If you’re looking to dive into another playthrough of Chrono Trigger, it’s hard to go wrong with a gamepad based off the design of the SNES.
While this controller has a classic look, it boasts a lot of modern functions. First of all, it has dual analog sticks in a layout similar to the DualShock 4. It also has rumble vibration to give feedback on compatible games.
You can also activate Turbo mode if you decide to cheese your way through a Street Fighter II match (just pick Chun Lee.) In addition to working on PC, the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro also works on the Nintendo Switch.
The 8Bitdo SN30 Pro can be used for modern games, but it lacks the ergonomic design you’re likely used to. After a long session, it can get a bit uncomfortable. Whether you want to sit down with a modern platformer like Shovel Knight or an older option like Super Mario World, the 8Bitd SN30 Pro is a phenomenal choice.
This gamepad retails for $25 on Amazon.