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The best PC game controllers in 2020

Best PC game controllers
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best PC game controllers can enhance excellent titles like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Mortal Kombat 11 — even though first-person shooter and MOBA purists might swear by the mouse and keyboard. That's why we tested the most popular PC-friendly gamepads to help you find the perfect fit for your playstyle. 

Our top overall pick for the best PC controller is Microsoft's Xbox Wireless Controller, thanks to its comfortable design, impressive build quality and instant compatibility with pretty much every PC game out there.

But there are plenty of other great options available. The Xbox One Elite Controller Series 2 offers an incredibly comfortable, sturdy design with tons of customization options, while the 8BitDo SN30 is a great pick for retro gamers.

Astro's $199 C40 TR is a solid alternative to the Xbox Elite controller, offer a finer degree of physical customization and an impressively solid build quality. Sony's DualShock 4 is also becoming an increasingly solid PC controller option, thanks to its Steam integration and growing list of compatible games.

No matter your needs, here are the best PC controllers to buy now.

What are the best PC game controllers?

The best PC game controllers range from inexpensive wired accessories to premium wireless models, chock full of bells and whistles. For most people, though, we'd recommend a standard Xbox One controller, which represents a reasonable middle ground. These controllers generally go for around $50 apiece, and pairing them with a PC is trivially simple. Newer models have Bluetooth; older ones require a dongle. Either way, you turn them on, pair them, and most games recognize them straight way. Using them on a PC is identical to using them on an Xbox One, which means that many gamers will already be familiar with their operation.

If you can live without wireless functionality, the Logitech F310 is a comfortable, no-nonsense controller that usually costs $25 or less. This wired controller has all the buttons and functionality you'd expect from a modern peripheral, just without the high price tag. Since it's from a major manufacturer, you can also count on it working for years and years to come. Many other cheap controllers can simply give out after a year or two.

If you have a lot of money to spend, though, the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is the way to go. This supremely comfortable wireless controller offers a highly sensitive D-pad, optional paddles in the back to replace the shoulder buttons and a variety of analog sticks, to let you find the one that's most comfortable for your playstyle.

New controllers are also on the way for the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, which will debut alongside the consoles in mid-November. The Xbox Series X controller will be almost identical to the Xbox One controller, but the PS5's DualSense will be quite different than the PS4's DualShock 4. We'll evaluate them and see if they earn a spot on the list once they come out.

For other selections, read on to find a variety of other controller styles, prices and feature sets.

The best PC game controllers you can buy today

Best PC game controllers: Xbox One controller

(Image credit: Microsoft)

1. Microsoft Xbox One Controller

The best overall PC controller

Comfortable, ergonomic design
Instant compatibility with most PC games
Snappy buttons 
Solid build quality
Older models lack Bluetooth support

Microsoft's Xbox One controller takes the impressive build quality and ergonomics of the Xbox 360 pad and improves upon them, making it the best all-around controller for any type of game.

The controller D-pad has moved away from the 360's disc style to a more traditional four-way cross style, which allows for better accuracy.

The shoulder buttons are as comfortable to press as they are to rest your fingers on, and the triggers rumble, which provides improved force feedback. The sticks are topped with a smooth center and rasped edge to reduce slipping, and the Xbox Guide button has been moved up and away from the center menu buttons to avoid accidental inputs.

The Xbox One Controller forgoes fancy extra features, instead focusing on being the best-built and most comfortable option for gaming across all genres. Since the device has the same instant plug-and-play support as the 360 pad, it will work natively with just about any modern PC game with controller support. The latest version of the Xbox One Wireless Controller sports textured rear grips as well as Bluetooth support, which promises better range as well as wireless support on Windows PCs without a dongle.

Best PC game controllers: Logitech F310

(Image credit: Logitech)

2. Logitech F310

A great budget pick

Affordable
Familiar, easy-to-use design
Works with most modern PC games
Cheap build quality

Logitech has long offered PC users a wide range of quality accessories, both economical and high-end, and the F310 matches that pedigree well.

The button layout is similar to that of a PlayStation controller, with symmetrical, bottom-aligned control sticks. The F310's D-pad, which is sometimes an afterthought on other controllers, features a responsive design that lends itself well to platformers such as Shovel Knight and the simple menu surfing and button combos in Final Fantasy XIV.

By including support for as many games as possible, Logitech aims to make the F310 the only PC gamepad you'll ever need. The controller installs and operates instantly out of the box with most modern PC titles, but it has other pack-ins to allow for use with other games. If you're looking to game with older PC titles that existed before current input standards, such as DirectInput, you can toggle a physical switch to swap the device into that mode.

Best PC game controllers: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller Series 2

Premium, satisfying design
Tons of customization options
Support for three onboard profiles
USB-C support and charging case
Front grips can be slippery
Expensive

The Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller was already the best high-end PC gamepad, and the Series 2 makes it even better. The latest version of Microsoft's pro-grade controller features improved grips, more trigger lock options for faster firing, improved swappable components and even finer software customization.

The incredible robust Xbox Accessories app lets you fully remap every button on the controller while tweaking the stick and trigger sensitivities to your liking, and you can store up to three profiles on the controller so that you're always ready for your favorite games. The Elite Series 2 also has a rechargeable battery (finally!) and USB-C port (also finally!), and can even charge up while in its included carrying case. If you take your Gears, Fortnite or Forza seriously, this is the controller to own.

Read our full Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 review.

Best PC game controllers Astro C40 TR

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Astro C40 TR

Killer customization

Premium, satisfying design
Tons of customization options
Works both wired and wirelessly
Not ideal for smaller hands
Slightly stiff D-pad
Expensive

The Astro C40 TR is one of the most premium, feature-rich PC controllers available, and a solid alternative to Microsoft's popular Elite Wireless Controller. Like other high-end gamepads, the C40 TR sports fully remappable buttons and trigger/stick sensitivities, as well as hair-triggers for faster fire and swappable components. While Astro is better known for its headsets, the C40 TR demonstrates that the company can make other peripherals just as well.

But the C40 doesn't stop there -- you can also fully rearrange the pad's stick and d-pad layout, allowing you to opt for Xbox-style offset sticks or PS4-style parallel sticks. The C40 is a bit hefty and one of the more expensive high-end options out there. but it's an excellent choice for those willing to pay up for a ton of customization tools. 

Read our full Astro C40 TR review.

Best PC game controllers: Sony DualShock 4

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Sony DualShock 4

Incredibly comfortable
Customizable touchbar, lightbar and gyroscope
Full Steam customization
Not as natively supported as Xbox One controller

The DualShock 4's layout and grip are more comfortable than ever, with triggers and sticks that are particularly well-designed compared with their PS3 counterparts. There's also a front-facing touchpad, which brings some interesting possibilities to the familiar design. The DualShock 4 works well with titles such as Shovel Knight and Final Fantasy XIV, and more and more modern games are including native support for Sony's controller.

In fact, the DualShock 4 is now fully supported in Steam, meaning you can tweak the touchpad, light bar and enjoy the robust remapping and sensitivity options found on Valve's Steam Controller. You can even tap into the DualShock 4's gyroscope, allowing you to, say, aim your gun in a shooter by using motion controls. Oddly enough, however, if you want to use the DualShock 4 for PS4 Remote Play on a PC, perhaps for the best split screen PS4 games, you'll need to connect it via USB cable, or use one of Sony's old, hard-to-find wireless adapters.

Best PC game controllers: 8BitDo SN30 Pro

(Image credit: WeChip)

6. 8BitDo SN30 Pro

Well-built, nostalgic design
Great d-pad
Lots of functionality for the price
Gets uncomfortable after long stretches
Not ideal for intense modern games

If your Steam library consists of pixelated platformers and old-school action games, 8Bitdo's SN30 Pro provides a wonderfully authentic way to enjoy them.

This gamepad faithfully replicates nearly every detail of the original Super Nintendo controllers, while adding extras such as dual analog sticks, rumble functionality and rear triggers to make it play nice with more modern titles.

Thanks to its tight d-pad and clicky buttons, the SN30 Pro is an excellent companion for titles like Sonic Mania, Cuphead, the Mega Man Legacy Collection and the trove of indie fighting games available for PC. Just keep in mind that while its thumbsticks feel great, the controller’s ergonomics aren't exactly ideal for playing, say, an intense online shooter at a competitive level.

Still, the SN30 Pro (and its Super Famicom-inspired counterpart, the SF30 Pro) is an excellent and versatile retro pad for a great price. It'll also work with your Switch, Android device, and even that Raspberry Pi you've rigged up to imitate the SNES Classic. 

If you want the SN30 Pro's old-school feel but with proper triggers, grips and a ton of customization options, we recommend checking out the $50 SN30 Pro+.

How to choose the best PC game controller for you

The most important thing to consider when you purchase one of the best PC game controllers is what kind of physical configuration you'd like. If you want something that looks and feels just like a traditional console controller, get an Xbox One controller, or a DualShock 4. If you'd like something that looks and feels more or less the same, but don't mind dealing with a wired configuration, the Logitech F310 is fine.

On the other hand, if you want something premium, the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 or the Astro C40 TR is the way to go. These controllers look a lot like standard console controllers, but you can customize them to a considerable degree. These options come at a price, however — somewhere between $100 and $150 more than a standard controller, to be precise.

Price is also a consideration. Generally speaking, fancier controllers cost more money; wireless controllers are also more expensive than their wired counterparts.

How we test PC controllers

We run every controller we test through the latest and greatest PC games in a variety of genres. We typically test at least one shooter, one fighting game, one action/adventure game and one driving game, which gives us a good idea of how a gamepad performs in different play scenarios. We also factor in battery life for wireless controllers, and if a controller offers swappable components and multiple modes, we test all of them. We use all controllers we review for days on end as our primary gamepad both in our labs and at home.

How well a controller works in-game is the primary review criterion, but other factors come into play: comfort, price and versatility, for example. All other things being equal, we like controllers that work with a variety of different games and platforms, and anything that can function with both a PC and a console gets a special nod.

Fight sticks, racing wheels and more

Need something more niche? Driving-game aficionados seeking total immersion can check out dedicated racing wheels. Driving wheels such as Thrustmaster's Ferrari 458 ($89) are just that — a wheel — while others, like Logitech's G920 Driving Force ($399), include pedals and stick shifts for the full experience.

Fighting-game fanatics looking for a more authentic way to play games like Tekken 7 and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite should consider fight sticks, which feature the kind of joysticks and extra-large buttons you'd find on a classic arcade cabinet. Be sure to check out our roundup of the best fight sticks for PC, PS4 and Xbox One to find the right fit for your style and budget.

  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2627442/game-controllers-2015.html
    Reply
  • norah2016
    what if I want to buy dualshock4 but I do not have the ps4 it self?
    Reply
  • Chris_167
    This is incorrect , theyve had a wireless adapter for xbox one controller for months now. I was using already one at time of article
    Reply
  • keith2468
    It is like reading a review of gloves or jeans that are only made in one size, whatever size the manufacturer picked, and no mention in the review of what size hands the controllers fit.

    Reviews of mice, phones, controllers should always, always, ALWAYS include size information.

    It doesn't matter what color, what features, what the battery life is, nothing matters if the controller is so small you get cramps after an hour of playing. Size is an essential. Everything else is a nice-to-have.

    Go find a person who takes women's XS gloves, a person who takes M gloves and a person who takes men's XL gloves. Let them try the controllers on for size. Then redo the article with the results.
    Reply
  • Ajwork
    I guess the Steam controller doesn’t exist anymore, which is a shame considering how revolutionary it was and still is.
    Reply
  • c45p3r2
    Dual Shock 4 is not the Best Design, it has rather poor design as over time the USB charge port is damaged if set down while charging as it puts pressure on it.
    Reply