These days, you can buy just one controller and use it across many of your devices, be they smartphones, PCs or game consoles. That’s very convenient. But the options out there for third-party Bluetooth gamepads can make finding the right one a bit overwhelming.
To help you cut through all that noise, your friends at Tom’s Guide have hand-picked a selection of Bluetooth controllers that combine pinpoint accuracy, comfort and wide cross-compatibility among platforms. Depending on what you play and which systems you own, one of these is bound to be the perfect fit.
1. Xbox One Bluetooth Controller
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The gold standard
The Xbox One controller is popular for its attractive design, pinpoint control, immersive Impulse Triggers and super-premium materials. And while the original iteration didn’t support Bluetooth, Microsoft changed that in 2016. This design decision instantly turned the pad into an excellent choice for PC and Android gamers, in addition to Xbox users.
The Xbox One controller is available in a range of colors, and can even be fully customized to your liking via the Xbox Design Lab. Just be sure when you’re buying yours that you’re getting a newer one with Bluetooth built-in. An easy way to tell is by the design on top of the controller. If there’s glossy plastic surrounding the Xbox emblem rather than matte, you’re looking at one of the earlier, non-Bluetooth models.
2. SteelSeries Stratus Duo
The ultimate in mobile control
The just-released SteelSeries Stratus Duo might be a little pricey, but if you do the majority of your gaming on PC and Android, it’s an excellent premium choice. The latest addition to SteelSeries’ line of controllers sports a sleek all-black motif, quality plastic, comfortable grips and precise inputs, making it feel like a serious step up from the cheap-feeling and awkwardly narrow Stratus XL.
The Duo is also dead simple to use, thanks to clear status LEDs for battery life and player order, dedicated power switches and pairing buttons, and support for both Bluetooth and 2.4GHz via an included USB-A dongle. Unfortunately, it’s not built to work with Macs — in fact, you’ll need the SteelSeries Nimbus for that. However, that’s the lone downside to this otherwise fine and versatile pad.
3. SteelSeries Nimbus
The best for Apple devices
The SteelSeries Nimbus is the Stratus Duo’s counterpart for iOS and Mac products. Because it’s designed first and foremost to work with Apple devices, SteelSeries can’t guarantee compatibility with other platforms. That said, the Nimbus is so sleek and feels so solid in your hands, it seems like the Apple TV should come with one of these controllers right in the box.
4. 8BitDo SN30
The best cross-platform retro pad
8BitDo started out producing modern reproductions of Nintendo’s timeless NES and SNES pads with few frills. However, the company has really come into its own in recent years, developing a sense of style while adding functionality to its controllers. Our favorite, particularly for retro gamers, is the SN30 — an almost exact replica of the Super Nintendo controller you know and love, available in an array of bold colors, with just the right amount of tactile feedback that you need to enjoy even the most punishing of retro side-scrollers.
The SN30 is compatible with PC, Mac and Switch right out of the box.8BitDo also sells adapters for Nintendo’s Classic console series, as well as the original systems’ controller ports. As for Sega fans, hold tight — a Genesis version, designed to complement the upcoming Analogue Mega Sg, is on its way.
5. 8BitDo M30
For the retro gamer that does what Nintendon't
Sega fans rejoice — you finally have a high-quality, retro-style Bluetooth controller you can call your own. 8BitDo’s M30 is a modern spin on the six-button variant of the Genesis/Mega Drive pad, and just like the company’s other offerings, it bears support for practically every platform under the sun. That makes the M30 perfect for Sega Ages classics on the Switch, like Out Run or Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as titles like Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection that really make the most of its arcade-inspired layout.
The M30 is comfortable and elegant, with quality plastics, a pleasant design, the added bonus of triggers and a classic Sega feel to its 8-way D-pad and buttons. And the pad isn’t just ideal for current hardware, either; pick up 8BitDo’s Retro Receiver, and you can use the M30 wirelessly with one of Sega’s original 16-bit machines.
6. 8BitDo SN30 Pro
For the retro gamer that dabbles in the here and now
The SN30 really is the perfect retro pad. But let’s say you occasionally need the range of motion that only a pair of analog sticks can provide. If you decide to play something made in this century, you’re going to want the SN30 Pro. This model sports four shoulder buttons, as well as additional keys that you can map to things like the Switch’s screenshot function and home menu.
The SN30 Pro is familiar enough for retro gamers and compact enough for those on the go, but it won’t be completely out of its element when playing more complex modern titles, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For what it’s worth, 8BitDo also produces a version of this particular controller with handles, called the SN30 Pro+.
Honorable Mentions: DualShock 4 and Switch Pro Controller
The best Bluetooth pad might be one you already own
The DualShock 4 and Switch Pro Controller don’t quite make the list here, because they’re not as widely supported as the previous examples. That said, they’re both moderately compatible with PC games. The DualShock 4 can be registered as a Bluetooth gamepad with any computer (Sony used to offer a wireless USB adapter for it, too), while Steam recently added support for the Switch Pro Controller.
Additionally, these controllers work with some Android games. Many gamers have also discovered and built software workarounds to expand the peripherals' repertoire of platforms beyond what Sony and Nintendo probably intended. So if you happen to have either one of these pads lying around, you might just be able to get by without having to shell out cash for a whole new controller.
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Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.