Best iOS Games controllers: our top 4 reviewed and rated

iOS Games controllers
Even with a touchscreen, accelerometer and a gyroscope, there's still scope to make iOS gaming even better with a separate controller

If you're traditionally a console gamer, you probably miss physical buttons when playing games on your iOS device.

Fear not though, for this little bunch of accessories is here to save the day. So whether you're playing on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch there's always a way you can get your physical controls back.

So will these four iOS games controllers leave us gripped for more gaming action, or send us into a red-eyed, button-bashing frenzy? Read on to find out.

1. Gametel


Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Price: £37
Dimensions: 120×67×24mm
Weight: 80g
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Power: Micro-USB (lead not supplied; up to 9 hours)

The Gametel was originally designed for Android. The packaging doesn't mention iOS, and omits the micro-USB lead for charging because the assumption is that you already have one.

Fortunately, the controller is actually iCade-compatible and is easily paired with an iOS device over Bluetooth. Uniquely for the devices on test, it can house a device in landscape in an extendable clip, although this also means it's uglier than the 8-Bitty and SteelSeries Free.

The Gametel D-pad had almost the opposite problem to the 8-Bitty: diagonals weren't hard to find, they were too easy to slip into. The D-pad felt good, but we found it too often lacked precision, causing errors in games that demand tight all-round controls.

For titles such as Gridrunner and Forget-Me-Not, we were often frustrated; with more forgiving games such as Ice Rage, the sloppiness was fine; and for platform games where you merely need left, right and action buttons, the Gametel is a potentially decent bet, with action buttons that are responsive enough.

Sadly, the Gametel falls down in terms of button mapping. Identical to the 8-Bitty, too many titles map important actions to the tiny centre start/select buttons or the shoulder buttons, which rest on the middle of your fingers.

Verdict: 3/5

2. iCade 8-Bitty

iCade 8-Bitty

Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Price: £30
Dimensions: 125×55×20mm
Weight: 75g
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Power: 2×AAA

Being of a certain vintage ourselves, we were instantly drawn to the 8-Bitty. It has the chunky appeal of a classic NES controller, and despite being a cuboid slab of plastic, it's surprisingly comfortable to hold; it feels rugged, if light.

In use, though, two problems become clear: the D-pad is stiff and has longish travel, making diagonals too tricky to reach, and button mapping is, to be polite, sub-optimal. The former issue was stark when playing high-paced shooters such as Gridrunner, where we'd regularly see our ship obliterated through it sticking purely to the horizontal and vertical axes against our wishes. Ice-skating game Ice Rage also proved tiring due to the raised nature of the D-pad.

The mapping issue rendered platformers such as League of Evil, Super Crate Box and Mikey Shorts (along with many of the games in retro compilation Midway Arcade) unplayable, through assigning actions (jump, shoot, slide and so on) to the shoulder or centre buttons. On those games it's more suited to (for example: platformers such as Qwak HD, which has mapping that corresponds to what the 8-Bitty expects; simple overhead racer Retro Racing; Pac-Man-style efforts), the 8-Bitty provides a glimpse of what it could have been.

It's also easy to pair and is reasonably priced (even if the $30 US price-tag has apparently translated to £30 in the UK), but its shortcomings are too overt to allow us to offer a recommendation.

Verdict: 3/5

3. Steelseries Free

SteelSeries Free

Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad
Price: £50
Dimensions: 108×55×20mm
Weight: 54g
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Power: Micro-USB (lead included; 10+ hours)

At first, we thought the SteelSeries Free was ridiculously small, as if someone had left it in a hot wash overnight. We played with the dual sticks, watched our thumbs collide, and grumbled a bit.