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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.
Here are the best mobile gaming controllers to buy online.
1. GameSir X2
Similar to the design of a Nintendo Switch controller, the GameSir X2 is a compact option for on-the-go gaming. Depending on whether you use an iPhone or Android, you can pick the appropriate model and if you want one that works with both, stick to the Bluetooth version.
This controller can fit most smartphones since the cradle itself extends to 6.8 inches in length (for context, most smartphones clock in at about 5.7 inches). It’s also got all the buttons you need, including two twin joysticks, a D-Pad and responsive triggers. There’s even a dedicated screenshot button for easy sharing.
The brand also claims it’s got an incredibly long battery life, lasting about 20 hours on a single charge so you should easily be able to use this pick while traveling, commuting, or even when you’re getting some downtime at home.
Though the Bluetooth version is great for compatibility, we suggest getting the design that sports the USB-C or lightning connector for lower latency times.
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
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.
5. Xbox Core Controller
If you’re an Xbox user, no better option translates to your smartphone than the Xbox Core Wireless controller. This accessory is incredibly easy to pair with your smartphone or even tablet via Bluetooth, making this one of the more reliable options on the list.
It features a textured grip for added comfort and an upgraded directional pad that will help give you momentum during fast-paced action games. There’s also a share button for content sharing.
Battery life lasts about 40 hours according to the brand, which also makes this one of the most powerful controllers on this list. Finally, there’s even a 3.5mm headphone jack making it easy to listen to in-game tunes while you’re out in public.
6. Backbone One
This is a solid controller with a lightning connector that will easily plug into your iPhone allowing for quick response times. This gadget should even work perfectly with the new iPhone 13 with the included adapter.
There’s support for both Xbox and PlayStation remote play as well as a headphone jack so you can completely immerse yourself in your favorite games.
As for the buttons, there’s everything from a share button to clickable thumbsticks and triggers. There’s also a dedicated “Backbone button” that lets you access the Backbone app (included free for a year) which acts as a gaming hub and lets you access your favorite titles easily and quickly. You’ll even be able to chat with other Backbone players through the app.
This is a pretty strong pick, especially if you’re an iPhone user. Unfortunately, there’s no support for Android smartphones right now so make sure to pick another controller on this list.
7. PlayStation DualSense
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about you PlayStation users. Sure the Xbox Core Wireless is a solid option for Xbox users, but PlayStation players will be able to use the new DualSense controller with their smartphones as well.
Similar to the Xbox Wireless this too has a share button (called ‘create’) and there’s a built-in mic made with collaboration in mind. Battery life is about 10 hours before which means it should last you for the better part of the day.
Feel free to download the PS Remote Play app so you can continue to play your PS5 games on your phone. You might not be able to get the advanced haptic feedback on your smartphone, but it’s still worth the investment if you’ve got the PS5 or older PlayStation (bear in mind this doesn’t work with the PS4, but you can use the older DualShock controller with your smartphone as well) and still want to game on your tablet or smartphone.