Best PC controllers 2023 – The top pads for PC play right now
Only one of the best PC controllers will give you the most for your money while playing games on a computer. While mouse and keyboard traditionally dominate on PC, if you’re a multiplatform player, someone who made the move from console to PC – or just plain prefer having a pad in your hands – the top PC controllers are the ones to aim for.
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And if you’re on the lookout for a new controller or an upgrade, the excellent news is that nowadays it’s easier than ever to play with a controller on PC. Many now support seamless plug-and-play connectivity, and there’s more choice than ever ranging from feature-filled premium pads to value-busting controllers that punch above their weight.
To make your search easier, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites and some of the top contenders for the best PC controller that you can buy right now. Naturally, some of these will also offer compatibility on their ‘mother’ platform which offers some extra versatility, but each of the below has its own attractions for PC too. There are some familiar faces, but also one or two that might prove to be perfect fits for you.
Best PC controllers in 2023
- Xbox Elite Series 2
- Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro controller
- Turtle Beach React-R
- PS5 Dualsense controller
- Xbox Wireless Controller
Xbox Elite Series 2 controller
The best PC controller overall
It’s not necessarily a new model, but boy is it the best PC controller you can get right now. Offering all the features, mappable buttons, design flourishes, and comfort that you could want from a PC controller, the Elite Series 2 is likely to be most PC players’ first pad of choice given any option – and any budget.
From a design perspective, it’s a robust pad formed around Xbox’s familiar asymmetrical layout which is immediately easy to hold and use. While it might be a little heavy for some, the weight gives confidence and reinforces the quality of the build. Every button feels upgraded compared to a normal pad, and this extends to the back paddles too – neatly designed and incorporated in the rear of the controller – which can be mapped to any other controller buttons you like. If you’re after an all-singing, all-dancing PC controller that can offer the most for your money, and enables a wild amount of customisation, then this is it.
- Excellent customisation possibilities
- Brilliant buttons and feature set
- One of the most expensive options
- Quite heavy
Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro controller
The best versatile PC controller
The Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro controller might just revolutionise play for some – and has done so for this writer. The eSwap X Pro’s modular design (for the D-pad and thumbsticks) enables you to change the whole layout and structure of the pad. And it is just as strong away from this headline feature: it’s solid and robust, the face buttons and top shoulders are satisfying to press and lack input lag, the bumpers can be changed from full depth to hairline triggers, and there’s a whole host of onboard memory and presets to engage with, as well as audio controls for a headset. Throw in the aesthetic customisations on offer, allowing you to change the wing panels, the colour of D-Pads and thumbsticks, and the colour of the triggers, and you’ve got an incredible amount of versatility – from functional to aesthetic.
As for other nitpicks, one could say that it might just be too big or heavy for some (though I have small hands and it is still excellent); it’s wired only; the back buttons are not paddles but rather simple circular buttons; and if you want more bits for the controller, you’ll have to shell out separately to get them. However, this also means that the customisation and versatility remains in your hands – and considering a new ‘steering wheel’ thumb stick has recently been released, the options for what you can add to the eSwap X pro’s armoury are bigger than ever. Undoubtedly a top contender for best PC controller.
- Fantastic modular design for versatility
- Every button is responsive and inputs are excellent
- Weighty and solid
- Wired only
- Extra modules have to be bought separately
- Back buttons are very simple
Turtle Beach React-R
The best cheap PC controller
If you’re on a limited budget, then the Turtle Beach Recon-R makes for the best cheap PC controller in our eyes. It punches well above its weight and treads the line between value and quality very well indeed – Turtle Beach knew what to shed or cut corners on for cost saving while retaining a bunch of features that can provide versatility and customisation.
You wouldn’t tell the React-R’s price by holding it in your hands – the build quality is sound, the balance and spacing of buttons and controls are effective, and the pressing of every button or trigger feels responsive and, well, solid. It’s a little lighter than other premium pads, and the bumpers feel a bit cheap, but considering everything you get for the price, the value here is still excellent. You can’t remap loads of buttons – only the two back paddles – the grip of the pad is solid, and it channels that Turtle Beach pedigree – a brilliant, wallet-friendly option for best PC controller.
- Excellent value for money
- Textured grip on paddles and bumpers
- Bumpers feel a bit cheap
- No ‘pro’ features
PS5 Dualsense controller
The best symmetrical PC controller – and for haptics
If you’ve long been a fan of PlayStation consoles, or just like symmetrical pads, then it’s likely to be of no surprise that the DualSense could be the best PC controller for you. The next evolution of the ever-reliable-on-PC DualShock controllers, the DualSense, at its heart, offers superb play, comfort, and build quality in a symmetrical design. It’s strong and sturdy, has reliable buttons, and features USB-C connectivity to bring it neatly into this generation.
There aren’t many downsides to the DualSense against its direct competitors but it, naturally, doesn’t offer much in the way of button remapping and other customisation options that premium controllers do – and if you want the latter from a Sony pad, then the DualSense Edge could be worth a look. Otherwise, the DualSense is easily the best symmetrical PC controller, and with more and more games on PC taking advantage of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, there might not be a better pad for immersion on PC right now.
- Excellent haptics (where supported on PC)
- Superb design and build
- Susceptible to stick drift
- The most expensive ‘standard’ pad
Xbox Wireless Controller
The best asymmetrical PC controller – and still the go-to for PC players
An ‘old’ one but a top one. If you’re looking for a proven, straightforward option that offers decent value for money when it comes to the best PC controller, then the core wireless Xbox pad is likely to be it. It might not have changed that much, in essence, since the 360 days, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – the Xbox wireless controller still has all the best PC controller features, though the latest, and now standard, version does offer the best of this generation too. There’s USB-C connectivity and charging, for example, it works seamlessly via wired or Bluetooth connections on PC, and the newer hybrid D-pad is a top feature. The addition of a share button is most welcome and long overdue, too.
All in all, this is a terrific PC pad, and one that balances value, performance, battery life, and durability. Given you can get a whole host of colours and even design your own via the Xbox Design Lab, you also have a huge range of personalisation options.
- Solid and familiar asymmetrical design
- Decent value for money
- Cross-platform wireless compatibility
- No extra buttons
- Limited button remapping options