Best PC Game Controllers 2018

Andrew Melcon ·
Updated

A mouse and keyboard will get the job done for most PC games, but some titles are simply meant to be played with a controller. We tested over a dozen of the most popular PC-friendly gamepads out there in a variety of genres to help you find the perfect fit for your playstyle. Our top overall pick is Microsoft's Xbox One controller, thanks to its comfortable design, impressive build quality and instant compatibility with pretty much every PC game out there.

Latest News and Updates (September 2018)

  • We reviewed PowerA's Enhanced Xbox One controller, which is an affordable and versatile alternative to Microsoft's pad that falls flat to the real thing in terms of build quality.
  • The Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller, our top high-end pick, now comes in a slick white special edition. You can pick up the new pad starting on Oct. 16.

Best Overall
Microsoft Xbox One Controller
Microsoft's Xbox One controller is the gold standard for PC gaming, thanks to its ergonomic design and intuitive button layout. It's plug-and-play with nearly all modern PC games, and sports Bluetooth for easy wireless use.
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Best Under $30
Logitech F310
The Logitech F310 is a great option for gamers on a budget, offering a solid d-pad, responsive buttons and support for a wide range of titles, all for less than $30.
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Best for Serious Gamers
Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller
Looking to go pro? The Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller is a premium version of the traditional Xbox pad, sporting a heftier, soft-touch design, tweakable triggers and a variety of swappable components.
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Best Overall

Microsoft Xbox One Controller

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.

Pros
  • Comfortable, ergonomic design
  • Instant compatibility with most PC games
  • Snappy buttons
  • Solid build quality
Cons
  • Older models lack Bluetooth support
$12.49ThatHomeStuff

Logitech F310

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.


Even if a game does not natively support a controller, you can use the disc that comes with the F310 to install a profiler program that assigns any keyboard or mouse input to a button of your choice on the controller. It's a great alternative to using third-party controller wrapper programs that reconfigure buttons on other controllers, and it includes several options for saving preset profiles for repeated use, or for use with multiple titles that might require different setups.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Familiar, easy-to-use design
  • Works with most modern PC games
Cons
  • Cheap build quality
$15.11Amazon

Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller

The Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller is a pro gamer's dream.

This premium gamepad is a cozier, sleeker and more durable version of the standard Xbox One controller, complete with a wealth of swappable parts that allow you to tailor the pad toward your personal style of play.


The Elite offers multiple thumbsticks with different heights and grips, as well as an optional disc-like d-pad that lets you better feel each point of articulation. The pad's triggers can be locked for faster firing in shooting games, and its optional rear-facing paddles let you execute an abundance of actions without taking your thumbs off the stick.


You can customize the Elite even further with component kits (like this Halo one), while the Scuf Elite collection provides similar features with crazier color schemes.

Pros
  • Sturdy, comfortable design
  • Highly customizable
  • Paddles and trigger locks are game changers
  • Robust companion app
Cons
  • No rechargeable battery
  • A few lackluster parts
$149BH Photo Video

Sony DualShock 4

Dating back to the original Sony PlayStation, the DualShock's design is largely responsible for some of the layout standards enjoyed by gamers today. The PlayStation 4-based DualShock 4 makes some major departures from its predecessors, and they mostly translate well to the PC space.

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.

Pros
  • Incredibly comfortable
  • Customizable touchbar, lightbar and gyroscope
  • Full Steam customization
Cons
  • Not as natively supported as Xbox One controller
$51.25Amazon Marketplace

8BitDo SN30 Pro

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.

Pros
  • Well-built, nostalgic design
  • Great d-pad
  • Lots of functionality for the price
Cons
  • Gets uncomfortable after long stretches
  • Not ideal for intense modern games
$42.8Amazon Marketplace

Why Trust Us?

Tom's Guide has been reviewing PC controllers since 2015, and has rigorously tested all types of PC gaming gear for much longer than that. As devout gamers ourselves, we know what feels right and what doesn't and what is and isn't worth your money. Testing controllers isn't a matter of performing a few quick checks in our lab; we make every controller we review a regular part of our daily gaming life to ensure that it'll hold up in the real world.


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.


Quick Tips

  • Xbox and native PC controllers are generally plug-and-play on Windows, and it's gotten pretty easy to use a PS4 controller on PC. You can even use the Nintendo Switch's Joy-Cons on your PC to control your favorite games.

  • If you're having issues with your gamepad of choice, emulators such as X360CE will trick your PC into thinking that just about any USB controller is an Xbox 360 one. For more on compatibility, check out our guide to using any controller on PC.

Additional Buying Advice

A decent controller for PC gaming can be found for as low as $20, if you're willing to settle for simpler budget models. The Xbox One and PS4 controllers, both of which are considered the gold standard for most games, retail for $60, but can frequently be found for less than that.

Premium controllers such as Microsoft's Xbox One Elite and Razer's Wolverine Ultimate start at $150, largely due to their high-end construction and interchangeable parts. There are also Scuf's customizable pro gaming pads, which start around $130 but can end up much more expensive than that depending on which parts you outfit them with.

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.