Choosing the right gamepad can be a hassle. Not only is there a whole universe out there of first and third-party controllers to choose from, they’re usually not cheap. These aren’t gaming mouses we’re talking about. These are specialized, highly specific devices faced with a wide array of challenges to solve.

Some designs are zany, some subdued, a few are brilliant, and many, many are nothing more than cheap, overpriced junk. To help you sort through the mess, we dove into the world of gamepads and controllers and highlighted some top picks for each use case. 

Related: Best controllers for mobile gaming

Best Gamepads in 2021

Down below is our curated list of the best gamepads and controllers for each scenario. Remember to leave us any questions or comments you have down below, and let us know what your favorite controller is and why. We’re all ears.

Best Gamepad for PC 2021 Xbox Controller

  • Price: $59.99
  • Brand: Microsoft

Overall, it’s pretty hard to outdo the creators of the very OS you’re looking to play on in terms of compatibility and efficiency. Throw on top of that the fact that the Xbox controller is considered by many to the benchmark of a great, ergonomic controller (a claim born to spark flamewars on internet forums, of course) and that many games design their control setups and key-mapping to this very controller, and you have a clear frontrunner. 

Best Gamepad for Oculus Quest 2 SteelSeries Stratus Duo

  • Price: $59.99
  • Brand: SteelSeries

While not as universally celebrated as its predecessor, the SteelSeries Stratus XL, the Duo is one of the most versatile controllers on the market. Steam-enabled and with both Bluetooth and 2.4GHz connectivity, the Duo is not only ready for the full-blown VR experience, it can be used with pretty much all of your gaming platforms but pairs especially well with both the Oculus Go and the Quest 2. Just be aware that some anecdotal reports suggest the hard edges can be a bit taxing on the hands for marathon sessions. 

Best Gamepad for Android 2021 Razer Kishi

  • Price: $79.99
  • Brand: Razer

The Razer Kishi is, hands-down, one of the highest-quality mobile gaming accessories money can buy — which goes part of the way to explaining why it costs more than a standard console controller. What makes the Rishi superior to most Bluetooth and wireless controllers is the fact that the Kishi isn’t wireless — it connects directly to the charging point, providing zero-latency gameplay and pass-through charging for completely uninterrupted gaming sessions.

When you’re overcome with sadness at the general state of mobile MMOs, you can switch over to any of the major cloud streaming services. But the best thing about the Kishi might just be how much PSP-era nostalgia it induces once hooked up. 

Best Gamepad for Mac Dualshock 4

  • Price: $59.99
  • Brand: Sony

With native support for the Dualshock 4, it’s hard to argue against one of the most beloved controllers of all time when looking to emulate the console experience on your Mac. If you prefer the parallel joysticks and overall design of the Dualshock 4, you can also carry it over a number of Android and mobile devices that support it as well — but when it comes to the dependability, build quality, and familiarity of a trustworthy control for your Mac gaming needs, you’d be hard-pressed to find a worthy competitor. 

Best Gamepad for Linux Xbox One Controller

  • Price: $59.99 
  • Brand: Microsoft

Similar to the DS4, the classic Xbox Controller is hard to beat when it comes to dependability. For Linux gamers, the Xbox Controller reports the fewest issues and the best overall compatibility with the platform. On top of that, the superior ergonomic considerations made in this OG design make it an inarguably solid choice for Linux users. Just note that you will want to opt for an Xbox Wireless Controller with a USB cable.

Best Gamepad for Fighting Games Hori Fighting Commander

  • Price: $59.99
  • Brand: HORI

The HORI Fighting Commander is a bit of a specialist. The fact that it was designed specifically with side-scrolling fighting games ala Tekken and Mortal Kombat in mind makes it a pretty salient choice for fans of the genre looking for a purpose-built controller.

But the Fighting Commander has substance to accompany its show; with a six-button layout on the front for more ergonomic gameplay, a top-tier D-pad and a built-in turbo mode, the merits of the HORI Fighting Commander quickly reveal themselves in-game. There’s a reason these things are selling like hotcakes.

Best Gamepad for iPhone SteelSeries Nimbus+

  • Price: $69.99
  • Brand: SteelSeries

The Nimbus+ is an Apple-licensed, gold-standard controller for all iOS/macOS devices that provides excellent usability with the top-tier build quality. The best thing about the Nimbus+ is its overall quality; with 50-hour battery life, seamless compatibility across Apple devices, and responsive, sturdy-feeling inputs, the Nimbus+ is solid enough as a controller alone. Throw on top of that the included phone mount and lightning cable, and you have a one-stop-shop for iOS gaming needs.

Alternative for iPhone: Razer Kishi (iOS)

Best Gamepad for iPhone Razer Kishi

  • Price: $99.99
  • Brand: Razer

The Razer Kishi for iOS will cost you a pretty penny but is worth it for all the same reasons we recommend its Android counterpart. With a modern design that fuels completely uninterrupted gameplay, zero latency and enhanced security for your phone, the only reason we present this as an alternative to the Nimbus+ is the hefty price tag.

But, if you’re willing to shell out, the Razer Kishi is the best choice if you’re determined to use your iPhone as your sole gaming platform — otherwise, the Nimbus+ remains a solid choice for your cross-iOS needs and is easier on the wallet. 

Best Gamepad for iPad: Dualshock 4

Best Gamepad for iPad Dualshock 4

  • Price: $59.99
  • Brand: Sony

While the Razer Kishi (iOS) is the true top dog for iPhones in particular, and the Nimbus+ is perfectly compatible with the iPad, if you are going to detach your iOS device and look to emulate the true console experience, the Dualshock 4 feels better than the Nimbus+. Its softer design is much easier on the hands than the hard-edge rims of the Nimbus+ and, with native support, is just as compatible — and it’s cheaper. 

Best Gamepad for CoD Mobile: Dualshock 4

Best Gamepad for CoD Mobile Dualshock 4

  • Price: $59.99
  • Brand: Best Buy

Finally, we recommend the Dualshock 4 yet again for CoD gamers for the simple reason that it can be paired with any platform that can run CoD Mobile and provides its users with everything they need for CoD gameplay. The textured, non-sticky joysticks and ergonomic design make it comfortable for long sessions and won’t lead to any unintended in-game mishaps due to shoddy build quality. Plus there’s always a good chance you played CoD on the PS4 already. 

Let us know what your favorite gamepad is for your own platform — we’re always excited to hear from our readers and ready to help out with any questions you might have. 

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