TL; DR – These are the best phone controllers:
1. Razer Kishi
Best phone controller
You can pair many standard controllers with a phone, but few will feel as perfectly designed for mobile gaming and portability as the Razer Kishi. This controller effectively turns your Android phone into a Nintendo Switch-like handheld, as it fixes the controls on either side of your phone’s screen. This controller supports a wide range of Android phones as long as they use USB-C and measure between 145.3mm and 163.7mm high, 68.2mm and 78.1mm wide and 7mm and 8.8 mm thick. There is also an iOS version that supports everything from iPhone XS or newer except iPhone SE 2. Razer also has a model specific to Microsoft xCloud.
The Razer Kishi provides two clickable analog sticks, along with AXBY buttons, triggers, shoulder buttons, a D-pad, and a few navigation buttons. Also, don’t worry if you need to charge your phone while playing games, as the controller can transmit the charging power. And, when you’re not gaming, the sides of the Razer Kishi can squeeze together in a more portable form factor.
2. SteelSeries Stratus Duo
A versatile Android top
Another well-balanced controller, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is absolutely button-laden: two joysticks, a four-way directional pad, four action buttons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers, and three forward-facing buttons.
It’s a superior controller to the Status XL thanks to the new, more comfortable design and rechargeable battery, which the XL doesn’t have. Best for android phone and PC users only – for iPhone, check out the SteelSeries Nimbus below.
3. SteelSeries Nimbus +
A great choice for iPhone users
SteelSeries already had a great controller for iPhone users in the Nimbus Controller, but the company decided to make it even better for the modern gamer. The newer SteelSeries Nimbus + keeps the original design almost intact, but it transformed what was once a battery that could last 20 hours into one that could last over 50 hours of gaming. It will certainly last a lot longer between charges than your iPhone. And, when you need to charge it up, you can use the same Lightning cable that you use for your phone.
The controller will feel natural in the hand for PlayStation fans with its symmetrical analog sticks, and its controls match those found on most game controllers. You’ll get gamepads, triggers, and buttons. clickable shoulder, a full D-Pad and your standard set of buttons for your right thumb. This controller also includes a stand to hold your iPhone. And, if you want to keep using it on larger screens, it will work with iPads and Apple TV systems as well.
4. Sony DualSense
For the Sony team
Sony DualSense (read our review) greatly intensifies the game of the controller. It features a new design that does more than just look pretty. The DualSense offers an ergonomic shape with textured handles (styled after the PlayStation buttons if you look closely).
Inside the DualSense is the heart of the experience: its haptics. The DualSense gets its name from Sony’s impressive haptic feedback, which can give an extra layer of gaming immersion. Sony has also introduced adaptive triggers that can adjust their resistance to go even further by connecting you to in-game action. However, it may be some time before mobile games exploit these controller features.
Ideal for retro appeal
If Nintendo’s SNES is a major feature of your childhood memories, then this one’s for you. The 8BitDo SN30 is both a great mobile controller and a shameless appeal to nostalgia. And sure, you can use it on your Nintendo Switch for the ultimate throwback, but it’s also a great retro accessory for your Android phone (sorry iPhone users, but this one is not compatible ).
Best of all, the controller color options are based on variations of Nintendo’s original Game Boy Pocket. The price is good too.
6. Razer Raiju Mobile
The all package
As another of the more established names on this list, it’s no surprise to see Razer transform into one of the more “elite” mobile controllers on our list. It can connect via Bluetooth or wired via one of the USB-C cables that Razer bundles in the box.
The controller also has a built-in docking station for your phone, which slides upwards and should have no problem handling most Android handsets. Our favorite part is the companion app, which lets you map the buttons and adjust the sensitivity of the analog sticks. Cons: It’s an expensive controller, which we would only recommend to the more avid mobile gamers. Android only.
7. Xbox Core Controller
Best ergonomic phone controller
Microsoft’s new Xbox Core controller (read our review) doesn’t change much from the previous Xbox One controller. It looks slightly different, but otherwise has all of the same knobs and controls, although the D-Pad has been slightly redesigned in a style closer to the concave pad of the Elite controller. This does not mean that there are no improvements.
Microsoft has changed the way the controller will feel in your hands. The shape is unchanged, but the controller features a textured grip in more places, including the triggers, to give you a better grip as you play. There is one key upgrade that makes it a powerful mobile option, namely the upgrade to Bluetooth LE for low power connection with smartphones and tablets.
What you need to know about mobile game controllers
Compatibility: First of all, make sure the controller is working with your mobile device. Many mobile controllers are Android only, but there are also a lot of iPhone options. And pay special attention to version compatibility, especially if you are using an older version of Android or iOS, as some controllers will need newer versions to work.
Games: Some games are better suited to specific types of control, so you need to think about what types of games you tend to. More of a touchscreen puzzle player? A mobile controller might sooner end up in a coin toss collecting dust. But if you play a lot of first person shooter games or crave more precision in your rigs, chances are your gaming experience will improve dramatically with something more tactile.
Mounting: If you’re playing with a mobile controller, you’ll need something to hold your phone or tablet. Some controllers come with a stand, some don’t. You can also get a mount for the phone, which is great if you have a surface to play on, but less useful when trying to cram into a quick game of Fortnite on the bus. A support, integrated or removable, is recommended.
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Hugh Langley is a technical journalist who is fascinated by clothing, health technologies, the smart home and more. You can find him tweeting (often nonsense) to @hughlangley.
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular tweeter on Twitter @ Techn0Mark