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

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

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)

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

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.


  • You can find a ton of adapters to recycle your classic controllers for the pc, saves buying whole new controllers.

    That being said, I just love using my DS3, so I’m sticking with that. And cheers for mentioning Better DS3, I’d been using classic MotioninJoy for ages and hated it, no offline or automatic setup, so looking forward to trying BDS3 later today 🙂

    • MotioninJoy is ok… but it does have major issues, like at the weekend when I couldn’t use my PS3 controller because my internet wasn’t working. That BDS3 author raises some good points about security as well. I guess I’d just been putting up with MotioninJoy because there was no better solution until now. Will definitely be giving BDS3 a go.

      The MotioninJoy driver itself though (that BDS3 still uses) is flawless as far as I can tell.

      • Yeah, I totally agree. The only reason I used it was because its all there was, but once you get it working MotioninJoy works a charm, it’s just the inbetween parts that make you want to tear your hair out :p

        • It does seem to work a lot easier on my new computer running Windows 8 though than it did on my old XP monster.

  • I love my Logitech F710. It just works. I installed Duck Tales Remastered and the sucker was pre-configured “out of the box”. Slick.

    The only gripe I have is that the D-pad feels a little sloppy.

  • The 360 controller is really the best one for PC. It’s basically the default PC controller now (not inc K/M). DS3 is ok but no real support, fine for emulators but doesn’t work well for PC games. I expect the Xbone controller to be even better than 360.

    • If you play a variety of games there’s really no choice other than an Xbox controller. The driver support in so many titles is a trump card, between the convenience of not having to map buttons and not having to deal with driver conflicts/blue screens it’s just too damn useful. Yes that only applies to Windows but honestly if you play a variety of games your only OS choice is Windows as well.

      I use my 360 controller for my PC regularly and will be grabbing an Xbox One controller whenever they release a windows edition (I don’t plan on getting the console anytime soon). This isn’t fanboyism either I play both PS3 and 360 systems and eventually will have PS4 and XB1 systems (not for quite some time though) it’s simply convenience, MS was obviously in a better position to implement seamless support for their controller and they took advantage of that fact and it worked ^_^

      That all being said one of my housemates can’t use a 360 controller because her hands are too small and she finds it incredibly uncomfortable. Meanwhile I have large hands and find the PS3 controller a bit small (and actually liked the original xbox controller for size). So there are other factors, but when it comes to peripherals I really think support is a trump card.

    • I’ve never had any problem using the DS3, the MotioninJoy driver (the standard way of using a DS3 on PC) actually emulates a 360 controller so anything that works with the 360 pad also works with the DS3.

  • I use the 360 controller, and for some older games that have trouble recognising the 360 analogue sticks or triggers for some strange reason (like GTA3/VC/SA), I have a USB adaptor for a Playstation 2 controller which does the trick.

  • 360 Controller. It’s the most hassle-free option and seems the most supported. The controls are automatically mapped within Steam, and games that support it basically turn into very pretty 360 versions. It’s also a wonderful pad for Dolphin emulator, though you’ll need to put up with the flipped A-B standards of Nintendo/Xbox.

  • 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.

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