The most effective PC controller of 2022

Elden Ring

grab one of the best pc controllers when a keyboard and mouse are insufficient

The best PC controller is most likely a mouse and keyboard, but there are a plethora of games designed specifically for controllers.

Many will disagree, but the fact remains: controllers are occasionally the best tool for the job. This holds true even for PC classic games. In comparison to a mouse and keyboard, The Witcher 3 has a much simpler control scheme when played with the best PC controller.

Consider that, if you have the best PC controller, you no longer need to hunch over your gaming keyboard. As an alternative to compromising your posture, you can engage in a session of relaxed gaming.

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2

If you use the Microsoft Elite Series 2 controller for longer than ten minutes, you'll realize why it's ranked first. The Series 2 is luxurious in every way. The near-infinite customization options provide an unprecedented level of control over the gameplay. The ability to adjust every aspect of the controller, such as the d-pads, shift paddles, and joystick tension, is a godsend.

Significant differences between the Series 2 and the Series 1 (which we also loved) include a carrying case that doubles as a portable USB Type-C charging station for the controller's new rechargeable battery, which has approximately 40 hours of power. With project Xcloud and Apple Arcade bringing great games to mobile devices, the Series 2 controller can be paired via Bluetooth with ease.

You now have a market-leading PC controller and something that is compatible with mobile devices.

Six thumbsticks, two cross-shaped and facetted D-pads, four rear pedals, and a tool for adjusting thumbstick tension are included.

The Series 1's unexpected lack of Bluetooth was a major source of criticism, but with the Series 2's adoption of Bluetooth, you now have a market-leading PC controller and something that can pair with a phone to play Apple Arcade games or mess around with Xbox streaming. It significantly increases the controller's versatility, which is essential given the high cost of entry.

Still one of my favorite aspects of the Elite, the return of the hair-trigger locks is among my favorites. In competitive shooting, where milliseconds matter, they regulate how far the trigger must be pulled, preventing wasted effort and time. In addition, the four additional back paddles are a cool feature that allows for interesting controller configurations. Why would you ever want to remove your thumbs from the thumbsticks? Assign the face buttons to the back paddles, and you're ready to go. In fact, the Series 2's extreme adaptability increases the controller's accessibility, allowing more people to play PC games with it.

A few ounces heavier than the standard Xbox One controller, the heftier controller may initially be jarring for some individuals. And while it's nice to be able to swap out the standard d-pad, both the cross and faceted alternative d-pads require some adjustment, especially in fighting games such as Dragonball FighterZ and Mortal Kombat 11.

The Series 2 is a no-brainer and worth every penny if you are a serious gamer who values performance and extreme levels of customization.

Razer Wolverine Ultimate

The inability to connect wirelessly to a PC disqualifies the Wolverine Ultimate from contention as the best gamepad currently available. The Xbox-style gamepad includes many of the same premium features as the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller, such as an interchangeable d-pad and customizable back paddles. Furthermore, it is nearly the same price, which begs the question: why not just buy one of those instead?

Well, it's not for everyone, but the Wolverine Ultimate does have a number of distinctive, genuinely appealing features. To begin with, the face buttons, labeled A, B, X, and Y, function as mouse buttons. This seemingly insignificant detail makes a substantial difference. It is like switching from membrane keyboards to mechanical switches after using only membrane keyboards your entire life. Consequently, although the included 10-foot braided micro USB cable requires some adjustment, the tactile button presses are a worthwhile trade-off.

Obviously, no Razer product would be complete without Chroma, the company's signature RGB lighting. Instead of integrating it into the existing Synapse 3 app for Windows, Razer opted to develop a dedicated Xbox One app. Consequently, if you intend to use this controller with your PC, you'll need a separate application to configure it.

Xbox Wireless Controller

The original Xbox One Wireless Controller was a PC gaming essential. With the release of the Xbox Series S/X, we were all curious to see how Xbox would improve its already excellent gamepad.

This controller retains many of the qualities we admired in the original. Texturized rubber grips make the overall design extremely pleasant to hold. Taking cues from the Xbox One Elite Series controllers, it features a vastly superior d-pad for fighting games and platformers that you won't dread using. You may have noticed a new button in the middle of the controller; a much-requested Share button allows you to capture screenshots and gameplay footage without having to delve too deeply into the menus.

We capitalize Wireless for a reason, not because it is a proper noun, but because the Xbox Wireless controller leverages Microsoft's "Xbox Wireless" wireless protocol. Despite the fact that the Xbox Wireless controller's moniker could use some creative polishing, you can take solace in the fact that, as of 2016, it now features Bluetooth compatibility, which was long overdue. It is now practically standard fare for console transplants discouraged by the learning curve presented by mouse-and-keyboard gaming.

Sony DualSense Wireless Controller

PS5 DualSense has a "touch it to believe it" quality due to its new haptic motors and "Adaptive" triggers, which can provide resistance under your finger. For example, firing a bow can actually feel like firing a bow. Additionally, the controller's rumble is among the finest and most nuanced we've ever experienced. Indeed, it is as good as people claim.

The bad news is that PC games have not yet been programmed to take advantage of the DualSense's most sophisticated features. But Steam already provides full support for the controller, so plugging it in and using it is as simple as using any other pad. It is slightly less comfortable than the Xbox Series X controller and not as easy to use with non-Steam games, but if you prefer Sony's analog stick layout and gyro aiming, this is the controller for you.

And perhaps one day PC games will also make use of these new triggers and haptics.

Scuf Instinct Pro

Scuf offers some of the finest premium pads outside of Sony and Microsoft with its controllers. And the Instinct Pro is the best Microsoft-centric pad controller if you wish to avoid the console industry's two titans. How can other enthusiast controllers compete with the Elite Series 2?

The Instinct Pro provides more customisation options than almost any other pad. From the initial store page, Scuf offers a vast array of cosmetic and physical customization options. The faceplate options and rings surrounding the thumbsticks are the most obvious, but you can also choose the length and cap of the thumbsticks themselves (convex or concave).

Scuf has conceded there is little point in trying to outdo Microsoft in terms of the Instinct Pro's overall design, as it appears identical to a standard Xbox Series X/S controller.

There are also options for altering the D-pad, button faces, and bumper and trigger designs. Intriguingly, there is also the option to remove the rumble motors from inside the controller. This is a feature that many professionals remove from their tournament controllers in order to reduce hand-wobble.

Despite the fact that this will undoubtedly affect the price, I was able to increase it to just under $250 through my own selections. But did create a pink pad devoid of rumble packs.

Scuf has conceded there is little point in trying to outdo Microsoft in terms of the Instinct Pro's overall design, as it appears identical to a standard Xbox Series X/S controller. Aside from the faceplate, rings, and mute button on the front, the only visible components are the faceplate, the rings, and the mute button.

During a session of gaming, the thumbsticks are reassuringly stable and responsive. In a slower-paced game, hammering the sticks with rapid direction changes has had no effect on the pad, and the controls still feel precise and fluid. The triggers have a pleasing action as well, perhaps not as deep as the Elite's, but still just as precise.

The remainder of the button feel is robust and reassuringly clicky as well, although the hair-trigger mode feels a bit too shallow for my tastes. However, I can see why some individuals might prefer it, so I will not consider this to be anything other than a matter of personal preference and not a drawback.

The Scuf Instinct Pro requires AA batteries, similar to standard Xbox controllers, whereas the Elite is powered by a lithium-ion battery. Lithium ion batteries are designed to have a finite shelf life, so the ability to swap in a new pair of batteries during the middle of a competition could be a selling point. Although I've never experienced this with my Elite pad in the years I've used it.

In either case, it is an excellent controller that feels great in the hand and is as responsive as could be desired. All of my chosen gimcracks make it exorbitantly expensive.

PowerA Spectra Infinity Enhanced

The wired Spectra Infinity Enhanced controller from PowerA is an improvement over the Spectra Enhanced controller we previously rated. The most recent version has more similarities to the Xbox Series X|S controller, which is unsurprising given that the Spectra is an official Xbox license product, but it has significantly brighter lights. Considering its low cost, it's a rather stylish controller today.

I compared the Spectra and an official Xbox One controller while playing all the usual suspects, such as Call of Duty: Warzone and Mortal Kombat 11, and discovered that the joysticks have nearly the same tension and the face buttons have a similar feel when pressed.

The button layout is nearly identical to an Xbox One controller, right down to the same texturized rubber on the joysticks, and the two additional programmable buttons on the back of the controller are positioned optimally around the grip. They are accessible via your ring fingers, so you do not need to alter your playing grip. The 3-way trigger locks are ideal for competitive shooters, but unlike the Series 2, they didn't feel significantly different regardless of where the lock was set.

In this age of untethered gaming, the Spectra's lack of wireless connectivity is a major drawback. Instead, it comes with a 10ft detachable micro-USB cable with a snap-lock connector, which is a bit too long for playing at a desk but ideal for use in the living room.

It's a shame it's not wireless, but the sweet edge lighting and extra programmable buttons could be a decent compromise for $40, particularly if you'd rather not deal with batteries but need a controller to give to your little brother.