Five Best PC Gamepads

Five Best PC Gamepads

A good gamepad for your PC makes gaming far more enjoyable, whether you just favour retroemulation or just prefer the feel of a controller for some games There are so many gamepads to choose from that finding a good one can be tough. This week we're looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.

Photo by Mark van Seeters, Futurilla, and William Hook.

Xbox 360 Controller

Five Best PC Gamepads

The Xbox 360 controller is one of the most comfortable controllers available, and the fact that there are wired and wireless USB versions for PC games brings joy to gamers who prefer to sit in front of their monitors rather than their television screens. The 360 controller was designed with ergonomics in mind, and is comfortable to hold, even for long periods. The controller also sports vibration feedback, a nice long USB cable in the wired model, and the drivers are all but pre-packed with Windows 7 and Windows 8 so installation is a snap. Getting it to work on a Mac requires third party software, but it's not too difficult to do either.

Sony DualShock 3 Controller

Five Best PC Gamepads

Sony's DualShock 3 controller — the same controller that ships with the Playstation 3 — is also one of your favourites. How comfortable it is to use is a source of major debate. Getting it to work in Windows can be a bit of a challenge (one made much easier thanks to third-party tools like Better DS3's offline Motion In Joy configuration tool. (There's also the original Motion In Joy, but most people agree Better DS3 does the job better). On a Mac or Linux machine, it's much easier to configure. The ability to connect via Bluetooth is handy, though you're more likely to need to remap buttons than with the Xbox 360 controller.

Logitech Gaming Controllers (Rumblepad 2/F310/F710)

Five Best PC Gamepads

Logitech's gaming controllers update fairly frequently, but the Rumblepad 2 remains a reader favourite even though it's technically not available anymore. Its spiritual successors are the wired Logitech Gamepad F310 and the wireless Logitech Gamepad F710. Since Logitech's gamepads are designed for PC compatibility, they ship with out-of-the-box compatibility for Windows. Those of you who nominated them praised them for giving you the option to switch button and control layouts among classic game controller layouts, and support for thousands of games.

Razer Sabertooth

The Razer Sabertooth earned a lot of love as a PC and Xbox 360-friendly third party controller, and it's not difficult to see why. It's large and hefty without being bulky and overly heavy, it's ergonomically designed and comfortable in the hand, and packs a lot of useful features. You can adjust the sensitivity of the Sabertooth's backlit buttons and sticks, the buttons have a solid click to them, and the rocker triggers are firm. All of the buttons are completely programmable, and it even dsports a built-in OLED screen at the bottom to help you see what menu or mode the controller is in. If the Rumblepad and its successors emulate the DualShock 3's look and feel, the Sabertooth emulates the Xbox 360's approach. If you've had problems with the Xbox 360 controller's D-pad, the Sabertooth is worth a look, and vastly improves on it.

USB Retro Console Gamepads

Five Best PC Gamepads

Let's be honest, most people who game on their PC use a keyboard and mouse, and are more than happy to do so. If you don't really need an awesome, high-tech, programmable controller for the few games you want a controller for on your computer, a USB version of the retro game controller you love the most may be in order. If emulated games are your thing, and you prefer to play classic titles and old school games (whether it's on your PC or a custom arcade machine, you might to use the controller that the games in question were designed for. Personally, I love the feel of the old SNES controller, and while I have more advanced controllers for my PC, sometimes I plug in my USB SNES controller and fire up MAME.

Have something to say about one of the controllers on the list? Want to make the case for your personal favourite? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.


    Do many games even support vibration on PC??

      I can't think of many pc games that don't. even most games from the late 90s had force feedback for joysticks.

        i played through the walking dead on steam in big picture mode.. a game designed for controller.. no force feedback. It definitely felt like it was missing something.

    The Xbox controller is ace. Too bad you can't get the official wireless USB adapters anymore. I ended up grabbing a wired one and never looked back.

      I've gotten so much use out of my wired xbox 360 controller - pretty much every game that was designed for playing on a console works better with a controller. The only negative is the inexcusably shitty d-pad, which often selects the wrong input. I'm expecting the xbox one controller to be the next one I get for my PC.

        Yeah, those wired controllers are great. Although the benefit of having the USB wireless adapter is that when my XBOX 360 gets shelved I'll be able to take the wireless controllers and their Play and Charge kits and put them on the PC. Knowing I'll still have use for it a year from now made the decision to buy a new XBOX 360 controller last month much easier.

      Mighty ape is your friend - I got one in July (wireless)

        Ah man, I knew they would still be around... somewhere. I didn't want to risk mucking around with a fake one though and the official one on eBay would have ended up costing me more than the controller which I grabbed from JB for $30.

      You are exactly right about no official one, but the knockoff wireless ones

      work with the official drivers and i have had no issue with it

        A quick search of EBAY shows a ton of official "looking" ones, not very clear if they're fakes or not.

    You have to watch out with the USB retro controllers, a lot of them are very cheap and flimsy. I know a lot of people who have/had a lot of trouble with them.

    If you can manage to get one that works for you though, then you're set; I personally love the SNES controller too.

      +1 for this comment... its a pain to distinguish the good from the bad... after a couple of unsuccessful ebay orders, i found an awesome N64 controller at dungeon crawl

      has the same weight and feel as the genuine controller, even the quality is ace... works like a dream too...

      ended up buying an NES one as well... great build quality and software works like a treat...

    I use the XBOX 360 controller. I prefer the XBOX 360 controller in general, but if the PS3 controller was plug and play with proper drivers the ease of Blue Tooth would make it the better option. I find even after I get it working it lacks that smoothness you get from running a wired XBOX 360 controller.

    I bought a Logitech F710 a while back & I just wanted to add my opinions on it - both good & bad.

    I bought this controller as I like having the analog sticks next to eachother like on a PS3 controller. It is great to hold. has a nice weight, the shoulderpads & analog sticks have a perfect amount of resistance, and is almost as comfortable as a 360 controller.
    There is a drawback, but it's more with Logitech itself & not the controller. You see, they advertise that the controller will work with Windows 8 out of the box. It doesn't. In fact, it still doesn't work correctly & so it's now just a glorified 360 controller on my Windows 8 machine (ie. no custom button mapping).

    I got one from Dick Smith a while back that seems to work great. It's based on a PS3 controller with a similar overall shape and button/analogue stick placement. I use it for steam games like Witcher 2 (i'm on a mac so I only have 3 games on there, all other gaming is done on PS3) and emulators such as Genesis, SNES, NES, GBA, MacMame/MameOSX

    EDIT: Just realised it's actually the Logitech Rumble pad 2.

    Last edited 30/09/13 2:54 pm

    I use a wired 360 controller. It has a clear casing so you get to see all the insides and if you press a button it lights up. The wire can be pulled apart so it will fit in the original xbox as well. I took a photo of it

      Afterglow 360 controller. So much cheaper than an official 360 controller. Though I do turn off the funky lights - it's just too bright.

    Urgh. All the Master Race traitors who are willingly spitting on the PURITY and SANCTITY of the holy Keyboard and Mouse! It makes me SICK!

    *finishes ranting then sits quietly in corner pretending not to take notes*
    (Edit: '+whilst guiltily eyeing State of Decay.')

    Last edited 30/09/13 3:23 pm

      To be fair, it's extremely difficult to play Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD with a keyboard, same with Driver San Francisco :P

        Whoa man, I put in some serious hours on the 2min-limited demo of that game. Used it with KB: mapped Space to ollie, C/V/B to the tricks. The precision is insane.

        I went over to friends house with their analogue PS2 controls, and I was all over the place. You can't have your fingers over each trick/ollie button like on the KB.

          I grew up playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1, 2, 3 & 4 on the PlayStation to be fair, it just feels natural to me. Whilst I was sort of able to complete the first 4 or 5 levels upto the mall, it was just getting to the point it was impossible for me to continue lol.

    I use one of these generally, a Saitek P2500:

    It's a pretty good pad all around, and I like having 6 face buttons instead of just 4.

    The only real issue with it is that is has a total of 11 buttons (and only 2 shoulder buttons instead of 4), whereas the PS3 and 360 have 12. It's not an issue with many games, but some games use all 12 buttons and if that's the case I either need to map the final button to a keyboard stroke, or hook up my PS3 controller to use that. But in most cases it gets the job done.

    +1 for anything Logitech.

    Great peripherals with no hyperbole at a reasonable price.

      Yeah, I use an older, PS2 style Logitech (can't recall which at the moment) - shaped in a way I'm familiar with and with x360ce, it plays pretty much everything.

    i'm a massive fan of the original 360 pad w/ wireless reciever... but i bought a couple of razer onza's... didn't mind it but the razer sabertooth is fantastic... highly recommended

    Looks like the Logitech F310 is the cheapest, so I might pick up that one. The Razer one though, $150!?

      you clearly didn't look past RRP/EB Games pricing? $150 is a rip off... i got mine for about $70... shop around ;)

    Less well known but easier DS3 drivers - google "DS3 XInput Wrapper". If your happy with keeping it wired all you need to do is install the standard 360 controller drivers, place the XInput files in a Program Files folder and run the service once. The only downside is that games think it's a 360 controller (so if you're promted to hit "X" ingame, it really means "square") - if anyone knows a way around that I'd like to know.

    Last edited 30/09/13 5:11 pm

    Used to use an F710 but found it to be the most temperamental piece of junk I've ever had the displeasure of using and Logitech's support is worse than useless. Which is a shame because my G400 mouse is great.

    The wired 360 controller had become my new best friend on the PC. Still getting used to it as I usually game on the PS3.

    Knew I'd seen this before......

    I use a wireless 360 controller for the rare game I don't use a keyboard and mouse, but if I'm playing 2d games I get out my trusty official snes pad equipped with a snes to usb converter and run xpadder.
    I'm really hanging for the xbone controller mainly for the dpad. Not sure on my thoughts about the steam pad just yet with the button location and no dpad.

    Last edited 30/09/13 9:32 pm

    I purchased a Ps2 controller USB adaptor for my PC yeeeeears ago (it's a double adaptor so 2 controllers can attach), back when the first Prince of Persia: Sands of Time came out. I was trying to play with a keyboard+mouse, but it just didn't feel right. Best thing I ever purchased. Use my 2 ps2 controllers, so the kids can play games too.
    Also, just a handy tip for those who want it, there's a great little proggy out there called Xpadder. It's a little freeware app that's a self-loaded executable (ie. dont have to install). You can map any button on the keyboard to a button on your controller. Handy for those games where the gamepad support is lacklustre or non-existent. It's a god-send.

    The article didn't mention the biggest benefit to using the Xbox 360 controller: native key mapping and 360-style GUI swapping for games that also came out on 360.

    Basically, when you play a game that also came out on 360 with a 360 controller plugged in, the game will automatically map the controller's buttons to be the same as the 360 version and will even change the GUI to reference the controller's buttons instead of the keyboard. And this works for a LOT of games, any game I wanted to use the controller with in fact.

    This makes using a gamepad on a PC so much easier, since mapping the keys was always such a huge pain in the ass back in the day.

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