Android’s Google Play Store is the biggest app store in the world, so it’s no surprise the Google Play game library is equally huge. From PUBG Mobile to Hearthstone, there are lots of esports titles to dive into. However, not all games are well-equipped for fidgety, cramped, and often inaccurate touch screen controls – that’s where esports controllers come in. They provide tactile buttons, reduce the chances of misclicks, and offer a low-to-no latency experience. Plus, many controllers have ergonomic designs that make long gaming sessions more comfortable.
Truth is, there are heaps of devices out there, each ranging in price, design and quality, accommodating different preferences and play styles. If you just recently invested in a good Android gaming phone, searching for the right controller to pair it with might become challenging if you’re not familiar with all the options out there. This is where we and our list of best Android controllers comes in, so let’s start off with the Razer.
Best Phone Controller: Razer Kishi for Android
The Razer Kishi controller makes gaming on the move an actual smooth ride: its unique design essentially turns your mobile into a portable switch-style system, and weighing 0.36 lbs at 3 x 5 inches, it’s compact and lightweight enough to fit in anywhere. Thanks to the stretchable support band, the controller is fully adjustable and fits on most Android phones. Despite its unique design, the Razer Kishi has kept all the traditional controls, like analog sticks, a D-pad, and trigger buttons. The buttons are spaced comfortably, and the analog sticks are exceptionally tactile. The Razer Kishi even has pass through charging, meaning you can keep your phone fully juiced while you play. The only drawback? You can’t use wired headphones with the Razer Kishi – but it does brag a pretty neat pair of speaker vents that prevent sound from being muffled. The Razer Kishi can be directly connected to your phone via USB-C, which ensures lag-free gameplay. It also supports cloud gaming services like Nvidia’s GeForce NOW.
Best Tablet Controller: iPega 9083B
For those wanting to experience the Razer Kishi controller style with their tablet, the iPega 9083B is a solid choice – it has a similar control layout to the Razer Kishi, but can accommodate tablets up to 10 inches. It can even fit some tablets larger than 10 inches, like the 12.4-inch Tab S7 Plus. The iPega 9083B sports reliable Bluetooth 5.0 connection, a slick cameo design, and custom key mapping. The support band has grooves which helps to keep your tablet securely in place. While the actual controller is lightweight and ergonomically designed, holding your tablet in this way for long periods can bring on some hand fatigue. That said, you should still be able to play comfortably for a few hours, especially if you rest the tablet against a table or your lap.
The Outlier: 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Black
Designed with “retro” in mind, the 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro Black is a small, compact controller that lets you jump back in time to your SNES-filled childhood. Don’t let that feeling fool you, the 8Bitdo Sn30 isn’t trapped in the past. It’s packed with innovative features, from reliable Bluetooth connectivity and rumble vibration, to clickable analog sticks and a long lasting 18-hour battery life. At 0.24 lbs, the controller is exceptionally lightweight, making it easy (and comfortable) to play on-the-go. The buttons have great tactile response, and the D-pad blesses your fingers with non-mushy, satisfyingly clicky heaven. The buttons also have varied textures, which ensures you can “feel” exactly which button you’re pressing. Now, although the controller’s compact shape allows for more portability, the lack of surface area does make it uncomfortable to hold for long periods if you have larger hands.
The Limited Edition: Xbox Wireless Controller Space Jam
Up for more nostalgia? Microsoft have released three limited edition Xbox Wireless Controllers that pay homage to the latest adaptation of Space Jam. Each style has a swanky Looney Tunes-themed design. The “Tune Squad” style is bright and “carrot orange,” while the other two styles – “Goon Squad” and “Serververse” – have an edgier (but still fun) Space Jam aesthetic. All three limited edition controllers sport easy-to-grip triggers, custom button mapping, and a share button that lets you capture and clip all your best in-game moments. The Xbox Wireless Controller also has an intuitive, hybrid D-pad that allows you to perform direction changes faster and more accurately than a standard D-pad. Sadly, the Xbox Wireless Controller lacks an internal battery and instead runs on AA batteries. That said, you will need to fork out extra for a separate rechargeable battery pack, we wrote about them here: Best Rechargeable Battery Packs.
The Budget Choice: Sony DualShock 4
The Sony DualShock 4 gives players a budget-friendly competitive edge in games, with fast response times, an ergonomic build, and precise controls. The DualShock also looks sleek, and a light bar at the front of the controller adds a futuristic “glow.” The light is even functional. It changes color to alert you when the controller is low on juice, and certain games use the light bar as another way to immerse you in the experience – play CoD, and the light bar will turn red if you’re hit with hefty damage. The analog sticks’ ridged design allows you to move them quickly without any fumbling or slippage. The stiffness feels just right, and each button is tactile and ultra-responsive. The triggers are particularly exceptional for FPS games: they have a generous amount of surface area, and the vibration feedback ensures you’ll feel every shot, hit, and punch. The Sony DualShock 4 is also one of the first ever controllers to feature a built-in touchpad. The touchpad essentially lets you interact with compatible games by using swipe actions. While the Sony DualShock 4’s battery life is pretty disappointing – a single charge only gives you 4 to 8 hours of playtime – it is rechargeable, and in our opinion, a worthy tradeoff for all the innovative features you get. Dimming the light bar can help to extend the battery life.
Consider Getting a Mobile Gaming Clip
A mobile gaming clip – a device that lets you mount your phone onto your gaming controller – helps you turn your mobile phone into a portable gaming device, and position your screen at the perfect viewing angle. Plus, a clip holds your phone securely in place, meaning there’s no chance of your screen flopping over just when you’re about to secure a double kill.
Mobile gaming clips can vary in design, size, and adjustability, and usually cost between $10 and $25. Avoid clips selling for under $5. Cheap mobile gaming clips tend to cut corners, especially when it comes to material and build. At best, the harsh material could scratch your phone or controller. At worse, the clip could break while you’re on the go (and inevitably cause your phone to fall and smash). You can check out this article for our exact recommendations: Best Controller Phone Mount.
Gaming Controllers That Are Not Compatible With Android
Most gaming controllers on the market are designed to be compatible with Android. They can be connected via Bluetooth or USB, with the latter offering lower latency. That said, there are some gaming controllers exclusive to the Apple ecosystem, such as the SteelSeries Nimbus+. The Nimbus+ brags a phenomenal 50 hour rechargeable battery and a built-in universal iPhone mount. It’s even compatible with tvOS.
Another gaming controller not compatible (well, technically) with Android is the BackBone One. The controller is similar to the Razer Kishi, but with added features, like a “capture” button and a dedicated app that compiles all your platforms and games together in a single hub.
Now, as I mentioned above, the BackBone One is technically not compatible with Android. You can use it with an Android device, but there’s a catch: you have to fork out for a BackBone Plus subscription, and you’ll need a Lightning to USB cable. Your Android phone also won’t slot into the mount, meaning you’re paying more for less.
In case you’re looking to switch over to the MacOS or iOS, here you can explore our pick of the best gaming controllers for that platform: best controllers for Mac.