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Best game controllers 2022: 5 of the greatest pads across all platforms

Looking to take your gaming experience to the next level? Well, having the best game controller to suit your needs is going to be integral so you be comfortable and perform well.

The problem is, there are a lot of controllers out there, and finding which one will be best for you is a little fiddly. Well, to help you out, our team of experts has tested a vast range of controllers from across different platforms and price ranges and assembled this list of the very best.

We’ve taken into account their key features – the way they look, feel and perform are vital, as well as compatibility if they can be used with more than one platform, and used them as our main controllers for at least a week to get some real world results.

If you can’t find a controller you like at the moment, then it’s worth bookmarking this page as we’ll be updating it frequently as more excellent candidates make their way into the Trusted Labs. While these controllers can be used with either console or PC, if you want a more traditional experience with the latter, then opting for the best gaming mouse and best gaming keyboard may be a better bet.

Best games controller at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test games controllers

We use every controller we test for at least a week. During that time, we’ll check it for ease of use and put it through its paces by playing a variety of different genres and on whichever platforms the controllers are stated to work on.

If there’s any additional software, we’ll also be sure to test its functions and ease of use. We”ll also test out the controller’s battery life if it’s a wireless option.

Xbox Elite Controller 2

Best Xbox and PC controller
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Pros

  • Xbox Elite Controller 2
  • Attachments provide endless amounts of customisation
  • Comfortable to play for extended play sessions
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Works on a number of platforms and devices

Cons

  • Small parts of the device lack a premium feel
  • D-pad still isn’t the best in the business

For the Xbox and PC fans in the audience, the Xbox Elite Controller 2 is a great choice.

Its design picks up where the original Elite Controller left off, with a handful of changes involving small alterations to the controller’s colour scheme, attachments, and button layout. For instance, the strip of plastic nearest the home button is now consistently black as opposed to being a blend of black and silver, while the button layout has been changed ever so slightly so there’s just one profile switch to allow you to flick between different options. As for the attachments, the Elite Controller 2 offers six thumbsticks which now omit the pair of tall options and instead provide just one. What’s more, there’s only a pair of D-Pads to pick from, and the paddles on offer add even more functionality and inputs if you need them.

The Elite Controller 2 also comes with triggers that feature adjustable actuation points, like some properly premium gaming keyboards, to allow you to adjust the point at which an input is recognised and therefore decrease/increase the distance needed before it’s inputted. For FPS games where speed is everything, you’ll be able to fire faster with a shorter travel distance. We also found charging the controller to be a breeze, mainly thanks to the option to use the bundled charging dock the Elite 2 comes with, which also enables you to leave it in the case while it recuperates. The fact there’s also 40 hours of battery life is also simply stunning.

During testing, the Elite Controller 2 proved excellent in virtually every scenario, whether we were playing Forza Horizon 4 or Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Especially in the former, the controller’s revamped vibration motors shined with a level of feedback we hadn’t previously experienced in a controller. Every input felt sharp and precise, while the rubberised grip on the back of the controller also meant it was especially comfortable during extended play sessions. Its Bluetooth connectivity also allowed for more flexibility, given that it meant we could use the Elite 2 with not only Xbox and PC, but also phones and tablets, too – handy if you want to use this controller with Xbox Cloud Gaming on the go.

Reviewer: Jade King

Full review: Xbox Elite Controller 2 review

PS5 DualSense controller

Best PS5 controller
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Pros

  • A bold departure from previous designs that really pays off
  • Solid and weighty build quality gives off a premium feel
  • Haptic feedback and improved vibration motors are feel truly next-gen
  • Improved battery life compared to the DualShock 4

Cons

  • White colour scheme leads will lead to scuffs and marks

If you’ve got a PS5, Sony’s own PS5 DualSense Controller is undoubtedly the best choice.

The DualSense is quite a hefty controller that feels impactful in your hands, suggesting it’s going to be an excellent option even before you’ve pressed a button. The white and black colour scheme echoes the console itself, with black soft plastic around the bottom and a raised smooth white plastic around the rest of the controller. Its back is slightly textured, making it a comfortable option to grip, although the sheer whiteness of the body means it is susceptible to scars and scratching when mishandled. As for connectivity, the DualSense features a headphone jack for connecting headsets and a USB-C port for speedy charging. The buttons remain the same as previous Sony controllers with the classic shape icons, triggers and a pair of thumbsticks.

We found the inputs here to feel responsive, while the textured thumbsticks with their high-quality rubber coating also felt rather good. It’s on the front of triggers where the DualSense shines though, as these are what Sony calls ‘Adaptive Triggers’, which match the input to whichever situation or game you’re playing, offering a more immersive experience. There’s also haptic feedback here to offer rumbles which mimic the on-screen action and inputs needed. All of these new bits of tech came together wonderfully in a bout of Astro’s Playroom, which showcases the DualSense’s new tech brilliantly.

The controller comes with a microphone, which seems to offer limited functionality at the moment on a system level, but can be used for extra functions in games. Compared to previous gens, the DualSense’s battery life is also much improved – 13 hours 11 minutes on a single charge provides a lot of gaming fun, and the fact it charges via USB-C also means you’ll be back up and running a lot quicker, too.

Reviewer: Jade King

Full review: PS5 DualSense Controller review

Nacon Pro Compact Controller

Best budget controller
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Pros

  • Compact design
  • Decent build quality
  • Software customisation is cool

Cons

  • Lack of rubberised support
  • Shorter shoulder buttons

The Nacon Pro Compact Controller is our top pick for the best budget games controller.

At 203g, it is noticeably lighter than the standard Xbox Series X controller and this results in a controller that feels quite narrow in hand, at least in our view. It comes dressed with a black hard plastic construction, like other more affordable controllers, but with a textured back, this aids in making the Pro Compact a decently comfortable option. As this is a smaller controller, some of inputs feel a little more compact compared to the standard Xbox Series controller from Microsoft, such as the dinkier D-Pad, as well as smaller triggers and shoulder buttons.

Even if they were smaller, we felt their button presses felt satisfying with decent tactility. This is a wired controller, and its super-long 3-metre USB-A-ended cable will be particularly handy if you’re a fair distance away from your Xbox.

In testing, the Pro Compact felt good to use, with responsive buttons and triggers that, once you get used to them, don’t feel small. Its vibration is plentiful and responsive, although in our experience offered a load of volume to go with it, which felt a little jarring at first. To go with the responsive and satisfying inputs, the Pro Compact is also programmable with Nacon’s own software. Here you can remap buttons and change the trajectory and sensitivity of analogue sticks to suit which genre or game you’re playing. In testing, this particular function proved to be more than a marketing gimmick, offering a markedly different experience whether you’re indulging in a racing game or FPS title. The trigger inputs can also be adjusted so there can be a shorter degree of travel before input is registered – this is a feature usually present on more premium controllers, which just highlights how much bang for the buck the Pro Compact provides.

Reviewer: Reece Bithrey

Full review: Nacon Pro Compact Controller review

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Best Switch controller
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Pros

  • Great for twitch movements
  • Makes portable gaming feel like console gaming
  • Excellent D-Pad

Cons

  • Connectivity issues
  • Dated trigger buttons

Don’t worry Nintendo Switch fans, we haven’t forgotten about you – the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is just for you.

It offers a more conventional controller as opposed to the rectangular Joy Cons that come with the Switch itself, and borrows some aspects of its design from the comfortable Xbox One Controller. There’s the same stick placement, which provides a degree of familiarity. However, when you pick the Pro Controller up, there are some notable differences. For instance, the triggers are the same size as the normal Joy Cons, and don’t offer much in the way of tactility. On a more positive note, the analogue sticks offered smooth rotation while the action buttons have a satisfying feel to them, and the return of a proper D-Pad on a Nintendo controller brought with it plenty of nostalgia.

During testing, the Pro Controller offered a user experience that takes things up a gear compared to the standard Joy Cons. Our inputs felt a lot more precise and sharp, whether that be for drifting in Mario Kart or for better aiming in Splatoon. It’s worth noting at this juncture though the gains were less apparent in games that were designed to work especially well with Joy Cons such as ARMS. The vibrations offer decent feedback that sits between the HD rumble of the Joy Cons and the now antiquated feel of older controllers. With all this in mind though, our user experience was marred by persistent connectivity issues that came and went as they pleased, causing functions such as the controller’s vibrate function to not work as they should. A simple restart of the Switch solved the issue, but it’s just a pain that such issues were present anyway.

Reviewer: Thomas Deehan

Full review: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller review

Scuf Instinct Pro Controller

Best customisable controller
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Pros

  • Incredibly comfortable
  • Highly customisable
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Fun to use

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavier than a normal controller

If it’s extensive customisation you want from a controller, the Scuf Instinct Pro Controller should be right up your alley.

We found it to offer the complete package when it comes to design, providing a generally comfortable experience, especially thanks to the rubberised back that felt great to hold. The real appeal of the Instinct Pro centres around how customisable it is, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to suggest that you can make it totally unique. Our sample was customised in a fetching purple and orange combination with a customised faceplate and orange buttons to match. You get a myriad of different features to customise, with regards to the faceplate, buttons, triggers, and thumbsticks. Having such a vast set of customisation aids in making the controller feel personable and unique, which not only makes it look good, but also makes it feel like it’s your own.

During testing, the Instinct Pro offered a fantastic experience overall, with a familiar button layout, responsive triggers and paddles and some especially strong vibrations with the rumbles inside.

The paddles unlock all manner of customisation and can be set to have up to 16 functions at the same time. In racing games for instance, they can be remapped to work as a paddle shift, which proved especially responsive. It’s with extra functionality like this where the Instinct Pro wins against a standard controller.

To go with its extensive button functionality, the Instinct Pro also offers two means of connectivity – Xbox Wireless and Bluetooth. Both of these felt responsive with no noticeable latency between my Xbox and the Instinct Pro. In addition, we also found the battery life here to be pretty good. While it isn’t able to match the 40 hours outputted by the Xbox Elite 2, the Instinct Pro still provides great endurance – it’s 30 hours in total – which should be enough to last for a few days’ worth of gaming.

Reviewer: Reece Bithrey

Full review: Scuf Instinct Pro Controller review

FAQs

Which joystick is better for PC?

In our view, the best games controller for PC is the Xbox Wireless Controller given how easy it is to connect to PC (as well as Xbox too), as well as how comfortable it is to use and with decent battery life.

Which controller has the best design?

This is arguably down to personal preference. For instance, the PS5 offers a sleek design with its two tone white and black frame, but if you’re used to an Xbox or Switch controller, you may well find that more comfortable.

Is a controller or keyboard better?

If you’re a hardened PC gamer, then you may well find that a keyboard suits you better than a controller. However, for true precision, a controller’s analogue stick and triggers may be better, but this is all down to personal preference.

Comparison specs

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