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

Included in this guide:

White PC controller on a rustic table
You can have the most immersive experience playing PC games with the best PC controllers. (Image credit: pexels)
PRICE
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

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

Specifications
Connectivity: Wired, Bluetooth
Features: Textured grip, 3.5mm stereo headset, replaceable battery
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
- 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

Specifications
Connectivity: Wired, Wireless (via adapter)
Features: Interchangeable components, haptic rumble, 3.5mm headset, extensive customization
Reasons to buy
+Tons of features and customizability + Fantastic software 
Reasons to avoid
- 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

Specifications
Connectivity: Wired
Features: Programmable buttons, DirectInput switch for use with older and modern games
Reasons to buy
+Very inexpensive +Functionally simple 
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Connectivity: Wireless
Features: 3.5mm headset, touchpad, motion control capabilities
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable, fantastic d-pad +Motion controls 
Reasons to avoid
-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

Specifications
Connectivity: Wired, Bluetooth
Features: Rumble, screenshot button, turbo button
Reasons to buy
+Sturdy +Retro design 
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Sam Desatoff

Sam Desatoff is the Editor-in-Chief at GameDaily.biz, a games news site focused on B2B and industry-side writing. He was a freelancer for several years, and his portfolio includes work for IGN, Kotaku, Variety, PC Gamer, PCGamesN, and more. Sam also have experience covering events, such as GDC in San Francisco, and the Borderlands 3 reveal event in Hollywood. His particular expertise lies with business writing and guide writing.