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Using your phone’s touchscreen for your favorite mobile games can quickly become pretty cramped. The on-screen buttons, if there are any, take up valuable space on the small display, plus your fingers end up getting in the way of your own view. Not to mention on bigger phones and tablets, it can be bulky and awkward to hold for long stretches.
In the past, only console and PC gamers had access to a real physical gaming controller, with actual directional pads, analog sticks, buttons, and triggers. Mobile gamers left users to tap out commands on their tiny screens. But the line has become increasingly blurred in the last few years, with consoles like the Switch including its own mobile screen and detachable controllers, and Xbox providing the ability to stream games onto your mobile devices.
What Are the Best Mobile Gaming Controllers?
Whether you’re using cloud-based gaming services like Google Stadia or XCloud, streaming a console to your phone, or going old-school and playing Nineties classics through emulators, a designated gaming controller for your phone or tablet can instantly improve your game.
If latency is what you’re worried about, go for a controller that plugs directly into your phone’s port. Cloud-streaming services can often lag on their own, but so can Bluetooth-based controllers if the connection isn’t strong. That’s not to say Bluetooth is bad for everyone though – games that don’t require much bandwidth usually run smooth over Bluetooth 5.0 and up. And since the controller and phone will be inches away from each other, that cuts down on lag significantly.
You’ll want to make sure your phone gaming controller is comfortable to hold too. Ergonomic layouts and cushioned backings can make a big difference a few hours into an all-night session.
These phone and tablet gaming controllers are pretty compact as-is, but If you’ll be gaming on-the-go, a controller that folds up and expands to hold your phone will fit better in your backpack — or even in your pocket.
Even if you haven’t played a game on your phone in decades, now’s a great time to grab a controller and jump back into mobile gaming. New favorites are accessible, and old classics are easily downloadable – waiting for you to go back and conquer that game from your past you were never able to beat.
1. GameSir X2
The X2’s excellent layout feels more like a Nintendo Switch controller, with a directional pad and smaller buttons than some of the others on the list. That may seem strange to hold at first, but it’s quick to get the hang of if you’re not used to it. Analog thumb-sticks are quick to respond to even slight movements, and this fits perfectly in your palms.
This phone gaming controller has the options for both wired and Bluetooth connection, and can take screen shots with a single click. Cushioning on the back makes it comfortable to hold for hours of gaming. And though it’s 2.2 pounds, it compacts nicely, and then expands to hold even large phones.
2. Razer Kishi Mobile Game Controller
Razer’s compact Kishi controller unfolds and expands to hold your phone on either side. The buttons provide a precision response with no dead-zones, giving a smooth gameplay.
There’s no Bluetooth here, as this connects directly to your phone’s charging port, leaving little to no lag. It may drain your phone’s battery faster (and also requires an AA battery itself), but having no latency can be worth it for competitive games. Plus when compared to others, the battery drain is fairly light, and you can charge your phone up at the same time thanks to the handy cable pass-through.
This is ergonomically-designed to be comfortable to hold for long gaming sessions at only 5.6 ounces, even when palms get sweaty. While this one’s for Android, the company also makes a model for iPhones too.
3. 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro
8BitDo’s controller feels familiar to new and old gamers. The button layout is similar to an Xbox and Super Nintendo controller but with the benefit of added analog sticks.
Your phone clips into the built-in holder, which does a nice job of keeping it steady and secure as you play, though it can feel a bit top-heavy since the controller itself is so light.
It’s compatible with all Android devices, smartphones or tablets. This connects through Bluetooth, and can also be used with console games too. On a full charge, the battery will typically give you around 16 hours of play time.
It’s not as portable as some of the other mobile gaming controllers on our list, but when it comes gameplay, it’s still much easier to use than lugging an entire console around.
4. EMISH Six Finger Controller for Tablets
Designed for all the tablet gamers out there, this one’s a bit different than the other mobile phone controllers on our list.
The EMISH operates offline, giving you a couple extra sets of triggers that tap the screen in an instant. It’s an overall pretty low-tech device, but can really come in handy when playing first person shooters. This provides a proper way to hold your tablet, and a more natural reaction to controlling the game instead of relying on thumbs while the device’s weight is in your hands.
Not only that, it also doubles as a nice tablet stand too, ready for you to watch your favorite streaming shows and movies when you’re done gaming.