Best PC controllers 2021: the best game controllers for PC gaming

You haven’t truly experienced gaming at its most immersive if you haven’t tried one of the best controllers for PC. And, while there’s certainly a place for the traditional gaming mouse and gaming keyboard combination, there’s something unique about using a gamepad when digging into the best PC games

Because of their more streamlined, simpler design, these excellent controllers for PC feel like an extension of yourself, giving you a more intuitive as well as faster and more efficient interface. It’s why they’re often the more appropriate choice for a lot of games, especially fighting games and RPGs. And, if you’re worried about compatibility, most PC games, including free ones, are able to make use of one. It’s actually fairly easy connecting a controller to PC.

Expand your horizons by adding one of the best PC game controllers available. Whether you want something basic to get you started or a feature-packed gamepad, you’ll find something below that will keep up with your gaming needs.

Xbox Wireless Controller at an angle on a white background

The Xbox Wireless Controller is as universal as they come. (Image credit: Microsoft)

1. Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller

The gold standard

Connectivity: Wired, Bluetooth | Features: Textured grip, 3.5mm stereo headset, replaceable battery

 Not very many features 

Microsoft’s Xbox controller has been the ruler by which other PC game controllers are measured since the Xbox 360 days, and for good reason. It’s comfortable and weighty with a button layout that feels natural. The most recent version – designed for the Xbox One console – iterates on everything that made last generation’s model so great by adding clickier shoulder bumpers and a vastly improved directional pad.

The built-in Bluetooth wireless makes pairing it with your desktop a breeze, and the price point is very attractive for consumers on a budget. It also comes in a variety of colors and patterns, meaning you’re likely to find something that matches your rig. And, even if there isn’t a color scheme you’re into, Microsoft will let you customize it through the Xbox Design Lab. This controller is as universal as they come, making it a fantastic choice for just about any setup and one of the best PC controllers of 2021. 

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller at an angle on a white background

If you’re looking for the most feature-packed controller available for your PC, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is your best bet (Image credit: Microsoft)

2. Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

The king of luxury

Connectivity: Wired, Wireless (via adapter) | Features: Interchangeable components, haptic rumble, 3.5mm headset, extensive customization

Tons of features and customizability 
 Fantastic software 
 Very expensive 

A premium version of the Xbox One controller, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller certainly earns its moniker. It features an enormous number of upgrades over the standard Xbox controller, such as an interchangeable component layout and paddle buttons on the reverse side. There’s also a trigger governor that you can toggle for more sensitive trigger pulls. It’s more than double the price, though, so this is a product aimed squarely at those among us who truly want to take advantage of keyboard levels of customizability. 

The Elite controller includes some truly impressive software functionality, which lets you tweak and fine-tune nearly every aspect of play. Here, you can customize many different profiles, of which the controller can hold two at any time, letting you change between them with the flick of a switch. If you’re looking for the most feature-packed controller available for your PC, this is your best bet, provided you’re willing to shell out the cash.

Read the full review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller 

Logitech F310 at an angle on a white background

The Logitech F310 is a fine choice for an inexpensive alternative to a mouse and keyboard. (Image credit: Logitech)

3. Logitech F310

The ultimate budget solution

Connectivity: Wired | Features: Programmable buttons, DirectInput switch for use with older and modern games

Very inexpensive 
Functionally simple 
A bit small 

If you’re in the market for the best PC controller that won’t break the bank, it’s tough to beat Logitech’s F310. It may be basic in its execution and functionality, but there’s something to be said about the no-frills nature of this cheap option. Just plug it in via USB and you’re ready to go. Considering the glut of customization options and features of all the premium controllers out there, the F310 is oddly refreshing. It also boasts an admirable directional pad and a great button layout.

As might be expected, the price point comes with a number of tradeoffs. First, the controller is rather lightweight, which lends an unfortunately flimsy quality to the experience of gaming with it. Also, with no wireless functionality, the cord interface may be less than ideal for some. It’s also a tad small and larger hands are likely to struggle a bit. Still, given these caveats, the F310 is a fine choice for an inexpensive alternative to a mouse and keyboard.

Sony DualShock 4 at an angle on a white background

The Sony DualShock 4 boasts tactile analog sticks with just enough resistance. (Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony DualShock 4

The motion controller

Connectivity: Wireless | Features: 3.5mm headset, touchpad, motion control capabilities

Comfortable, fantastic d-pad 
Motion controls 
Exposed shoulder buttons 

The DualShock 4 is Sony’s best controller to date, and lucky for us it’s compatible with Steam’s entire library of games. Very comfortable in the hands, the DualShock 4 boasts tactile analog sticks with just enough resistance, and perhaps the best directional pad ever. It also features motion technology that’s compatible with with a surprising number of games, allowing you to steer in racing games or aim in shooters by moving the controller around.

There are a couple issues, though. Most notably, the exposed shoulder buttons make it easy to accidentally bump them on the desk. The rubber on the analog sticks also tends to rub off after extended use. Still, Sony’s controller ranks up there among the best options for controller-based PC gaming.

Read the full review: Dualshock 4 Controller 

8BitDo SN30 Pro at an angle on a white background

The craftsmanship on the 8BitDo SN30 Pro is surprisingly sturdy, especially considering its budget pricing. (Image credit: 8BitDo)

5. 8BitDo SN30 Pro

The retro champ

Connectivity: Wired, Bluetooth | Features: Rumble, screenshot button, turbo button

Retro design 
Small and slightly uncomfortable 

Peripheral manufacturer 8BitDo has made its name on retro designs that lean heavily on nostalgia, and the SN30 Pro wears its inspiration on its sleeve. Modeled after old-school Super Nintendo controllers, it’s ideal for the PC’s ever-growing library of retro-inspired games, even if it doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone. The button layout will be instantly familiar to anyone who grew up with 2D platformers and JRPGs.

The craftsmanship on the SN30 Pro is surprisingly sturdy, especially considering its budget pricing. It also sports a pair of analog sticks should you want to use it for modern shooters or action games, though we wouldn’t recommend that. Its small form factor makes it uncomfortable in the hand during extended sessions and more twitch-based games. Regardless, there are a number of games that would benefit from the authentically retro touch that the SN30 brings to the desk. That alone makes this one of the best PC controllers right now.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller against a white background

(Image credit: Turtle Beach )

6. Turtle Beach Recon Controller

Feature-rich wired option

Connectivity: Wired | Features: Remappable buttons, audio enhancements, 3.5mm headset

Sturdy build
No wireless connectivity

The Turtle Beach Recon Controller would bear a striking resemblance to the Xbox controller if it weren’t for the control panel of features that’s been added at the top of the gamepad. Its layout is similar, otherwise, but it comes with some extra feature functionality all its own. Not only can you control volume and chat mix right on the controller but you can take advantage of mic and audio enhancements to take your gaming to the next level.

You can also adjust your right-stick sensitivity and remap two buttons that have been added on the underside of the controller for some more versatility in your gameplay. And, it costs about the same as a standard issue Xbox controller. It’s only the lack of any kind of wireless connectivity with the Turtle Beach Recon that keeps it from being the perfect controller. But, if you’re ok being wired to your Xbox or PC, you should give this gamepad a go.

Wolverine V2 Chroma against a white background

(Image credit: Razer)

7. Wolverine V2 Chroma

Highly customizable

Connectivity: Wired | Features: RGB, swappable thumbsticks, remappable buttons

Short actuation time
Lots of customizability via remapping

The Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma is a beast of a gamepad. Razer has used its expertise in making top-notch peripherals and applied it to an Xbox-style controller for something that is quicker and more customizable than others out there. The switches on the Wolverine come with an incredibly short actuation time of 0.65mm for an incredibly quick response so you can feel like you’re up to speed no matter how fast your game is. 

It also comes with 6 remappable buttons, four triggers and two bumpers, so that you have an easier time accessing special skills or creating a preferred layout in your games. You can also swap out the thumbstick caps between shorter and longer ones. And, you can use two sliding locks to limit the travel on your main triggers for even speedier play. All those features, unfortunately do come at a price and the build quality is a little lacking.

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