Esports gaming is intense, fast paced, and highly competitive. You need to gain the upper hand over your opponents in virtually every way possible. Unfortunately, your clunky, fidgety iPhone touchscreen isn’t doing you any favors, and it can actually turn the playing field against you: while your enemies are busy executing their perfectly timed combos, you’re having to deal with misclick after misclick. A dedicated gaming controller – which provides precise, misclick-reducing buttons – will give you greater control over the outcome of your games.
While in the past esports controllers for gaming on Apple devices were scarce, there are now dozens to choose between. Here, we’ve gathered the top 5 controllers for Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
The Outlier: 8bitdo SN30 Pro+ Controller
Sure, the 8bitdo SN30 Pro+ won’t please everyone, but if you’re an old school gamer looking for a trip down nostalgia road? It’s a great pick. The retro design is a total throwback to the 90’s SNES controller, and the buttons have that familiar, super clicky feel. Despite its old-fashioned look, the 8bitdo SN30 Pro+ is packed with innovative features. It’s rechargeable, can be used wired or wireless, and comes with 8bitdo software that allows you to customize every button to your desire. You can reprogram keys, set up macros (that work with the Switch), and even adjust the triggers and vibrations. And for those wanting to truly show off their love for all things retro? There’s a style option inspired by the Game Boy. The 8bitdo SN30 Pro+ feels pretty comfortable to hold. It’s lightweight at around 7.8 ounces, and it isn’t bulky either. Even its price is a throwback to the good ol’ days: it only costs $50, making it one of the cheapest fully customizable iOS and Mac gaming controllers on the market.
The Standard: PS5 DualSense White Controller
The PS5 DualSense White Controller lets you say goodbye to the days of hand strain; the ergonomic design complements the natural shape of your palms and fingers, and the longer handles ensure your hands can rest on the device comfortably. Button placement is fantastic as well – no button feels hard to reach, and there is enough space between each one that you don’t end up misclicking. Besides comfort, the PS5 DualSense boasts tons of other qualities that’ll up your gameplay, from innovative adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, to motion sensing and a built-in mic that can detect and filter out background noise. There’s even a dedicated button for capturing and broadcasting your gameplay. Sadly, you can’t experience all the bells and whistles when playing games on iOS, iPadOS or MacOS – there’s no support for haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers, which makes the controller really only worthwhile for those who game on both Apple platforms and PS5, or those who are after a PS Remote Play experience on their Apple devices. With all that said, the PS5 DualSense is still a solid pick at 70 bucks, especially for multi-platform gamers and those after maximum comfort.
The Redesign: Xbox Core Wireless Controller
The latest version of the Xbox Controller boasts a neat share button to capture all your outplays, improved tactile texture, and an ergonomic, non-bulky design that particularly suits esports gamers with small hands. The D-pad is satisfyingly clicky, and the low-latency Bluetooth connectivity makes the controller exceptionally responsive, no matter what Apple device you use it with. The 40-hour battery life is another huge plus; even if you forget to charge the controller for a few days, the chances of the battery dying on you during a competitive match are close to zilch. The Xbox Core Wireless Control also allows gamers to show off their personality. It comes in several color styles, ranging from Shock Blue to Pulse Red. The controller even features a 3.5mm audio headset jack, meaning you can easily plug in your gaming headset and hear every in-game sound in crisp detail. While the controller allows you to remap several of the buttons and adjust settings like the vibration, the customization isn’t as versatile as the 8bitdo SN30 Pro+ controller. However, for those after an effective, no-frills premium controller? The Xbox Core Wireless delivers on all fronts.
The Limited Edition: Nintendo Pro Ultimate Controller
This Nintendo Pro Controller edition smashes its rivals to smithereens, with a design that pays homage to one of the best console esports games out there: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The game’s iconic logo takes center stage on the controller, and the black and white color scheme looks sleek and also offers a neat contrast against the game’s bright hues when playing. While hard to find – and be warned: there are many knockoffs of this limited edition – it makes the perfect gift for any avid Smash Bros. gamer. But this controller isn’t all looks and no substance: the Nintendo Pro Controller is compatible with MacOS (not iOS as of yet though, sorry mobile gamers!) and packed with motion control, a generous 40-hour battery life, and rumble features. The textured buttons combined with the design of the analog sticks – resistant yet not too stiff – reduces the chances of misclicks and allows for incredible precision. That said, the D-pad can be a little unreliable, so it’s best to avoid this controller if you play esports titles that heavily rely on D-pad control.
The Budget Choice: Sony DualShock 4 Glacier White Controller
Gaming on a budget doesn’t mean you have to deal with clunky buttons and poor connectivity: the Sony DualShock 4 lets you level up your gameplay with lightning-fast response times, reliable wireless connectivity, and seriously sensitive (and accurate!) motion sensors. The main feature that sets the DualShock 4 Glacier apart from its rivals is the touch pad, which allows you to interact with games in new ways via swipe gestures. There’s also an intuitive and stylish light bar that changes color depending on your in-game actions, elevating your in-game immersion by tenfold. Plus, the light conveniently alerts you when you need to charge up the device. Although the controller is lightweight (7.4 oz) and comfortable to hold, some of the buttons, particularly the share button and option ones, are hard to reach without straining your fingers. That said, those with large hands will probably appreciate the roominess. The Sony DualShock 4 is compatible with Mac, iOS and iPadOS, though you will lose some features if you connect to these devices via Bluetooth, including the touch pad, rumble, and motion sensor.
Try a Mobile Gaming Clip, They Are Quite Useful for Phones and Tablets
A mobile gaming clip allows you to attach your tablet or phone directly onto the controller. The benefits are immeasurable: you can keep the screen at a close and comfortable distance at all times, and it makes it super easy to game on the go. Many mobile gaming clips are also adjustable, which allows you to find the perfect angle, no matter the game or your position (meaning you can lie down in bed and still play comfortably).
Just like gaming controllers, there are many mobile gaming clips on the market, each with their own unique qualities. However, the main factors to consider are size and weight. You need to pick a mobile gaming clip that’s compatible with the size of the controller, and you also want something lightweight – unless you’re planning on using the clip as a way to work out your arms while you game. If you have a latest gen Apple iPhone, opt for a gaming clip with MagSafe compatibility. You can check out this article for our exact recommendations: Best Controller Phone Mount.
Gaming Controllers That Are Not Compatible With MacOS and iOS
Unfortunately, many gaming controllers are exclusive to Windows and Android. For example, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo controller – which is steam-enabled, Fortnite-ready, and can pair with VR – doesn’t work with iOS. Gaming controllers also tend to cost more if you want them to be compatible with iOS: the Razer Kishi for iPhone costs $99.99, while the Android compatible version will only set you back $79.99.
It’s possible that we’ll see more affordable, Apple compatible controllers in the near future, though esports controllers that fully work on MacOS will likely remain far and few. Although the iOS store is packed with competitive esports games, MacOS is still yet to catch up: even the emergence of the M1 Pro chip can’t change the fact that Mac computers are still not good for gaming.
In case you’re looking to switch over to Android because of Fortnite, we wrote a dedicated list for that platform as well, you can find it here: Best Android Controllers.