Long gone are the days when Tetris clones, Farmville knock-offs, and Pac-Man lookalikes populated much of Android’s burgeoning Google Play store. Now, Google’s operating system boasts a diverse games library that rivals that of some home consoles. Call of Duty Mobile, Minecraft, Fortnite, and remastered titles from the Grand Theft Auto collections are the cream of the current mix’s crop — a list that seems to grow longer every day. But if you game on your phone, you may need one of the best Android game controllers.
Not all titles work equally well with touchscreens. Few triple-A Android games actually require third-party peripherals, but there are plenty of remastered titles designed with a controller in mind that respond much better to physical buttons. As anyone who has roamed the streets of Vice City or the hallways of Croft Manor can tell you, analog joysticks, D-pads, buttons, and triggers deliver infinitely more precision than big, meaty fingers on greasy smartphone glass.
Luckily, there is no shortage of third-party Android gaming peripherals to choose from. Depending on your price range and preferences, you can pick up a model that will serve you well for years to come, or one that you will feel perfectly fine stuffing into a backpack or shoulder bag. Here is our list of the best controllers for Android tablets and smartphones. While you’re at it, check out our favorite gaming phones too.
A note about controller compatibility
Before you choose a controller to use with your Android smartphone or tablet, it is important to know about the compatibility issues you might encounter.
Android devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (or Android 3.2 Honeycomb) or newer support game controllers natively. You aren’t necessarily out of luck if you’re stuck on older software — most controllers will pair to older Android devices — but you can expect them to work unpredictably, unreliably, and sometimes not at all.
Even if your device runs a newer version of Android, it’s not always smooth sailing — some games don’t take advantage of Android’s controller API, and so don’t respond properly to gamepads. But luckily, there is a workaround in the form of Tincore Keymapper, a third-party app that lets you remap the functions of keys, buttons, and more. Note: You need a rooted device to take full advantage.
Moga Hero Power
The Moga Hero Power controller from PowerA is one of the best controllers out there right now. Its familiar ergonomic design features injected rubber grips and feels super comfortable in your hands. Choose between a Bluetooth or wired USB connection, great for gaming at home or on the go, and charge your controller with the included Micro USB cable. It’s powered via a 3,000mAh Power Bank which, as an added bonus, charges your phone while you’re gaming or between sessions, and features a detachable, adjustable phone clip that fits devices up to 3.12 inches wide.
With two precision analog sticks, a directional pad, menu button, and four action buttons, you’re pretty well covered whatever game you’re playing, but one of this controller’s best features is its two mappable Advanced Gaming buttons on the base — great for changing button assignments on the fly. There’s also a battery level indicator, wireless/wired switch, and power bank switch. We love the retractable kickstand, which makes it easy to take a break between sessions. For $65, this is a bit more expensive than some other controllers around, but definitely worth the money.
Rotor Riot USB-C Controller
Another controller with a very familiar design, Rotor Riot’s gamepad is a great choice if you’re looking for a wired controller with an optional phone bracket. There’s no Bluetooth connection, as it connects to devices with its USB-C connection. That obviously means there’s no internal battery, a bonus if you don’t want to keep multiple devices charged — but it does mean the controller pulls power from your phone to function, which can impair your battery life. Since it uses the USB-C port, that also means you can’t charge your device while gaming, and if your device lacks a headphone jack, it means you can’t attach headphones either.
Those minor negatives aside, this is a great controller. The plastic build is solid and feels good in the hand, and it isn’t uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time. It also worked instantly when plugged into our Red Magic Phone, and didn’t require any remapping in the games we tested. Unfortunately, the Rotor Riot controller is currently only available as an Amazon Renewed product, but that does mean you get it for $29, which is something of a steal for a controller this good.
8Bitdo SF30 Pro Controller
8BitDo’s retro collection is highly sought after, and it’s easy to see why. The SF30 controller is based on the look and style of the SNES controller, and it invokes strong nostalgic feelings at a glance. But there are some additions for modern gaming, with shoulder buttons and the two joysticks being the most obvious. It’s a versatile piece of kit, and can use Bluetooth to connect to a variety of devices, not just Android smartphones. It’s smaller and less ergonomic than modern controllers though, so you may have issues using it over long gameplay sessions. It’s also quite expensive for what it is at $45. Still, if you love the retro look, then it’s probably worth the money.
iPega PG-9083S Controller
Something of a unique design where game controllers are concerned, the iPega gamepad stretches around your Android smartphone or tablet, giving a Nintendo Switch-like experience for your gaming time. As such, it’s compatible with a wide variety of devices, and is one of the few controllers to work well with tablet gaming. It connects through Bluetooth, and iPega claims the internal 380mAh battery can last for up to 20 hours of gameplay. At $43, you’re getting a lot of controller for your buck, but keep in mind that it might not work with every Android game, and you may need to download a specific app to remap key functionality.
The SteelSeries Stratus boasts a plethora of buttons and features. Here, you find twin joysticks with textured surfaces, a four-way directional pad, four action buttons, a four-LED array, triggers and shoulder buttons, and three front-facing buttons that can be mapped to Android’s home and back buttons. But it’s not perfect. The Stratus doesn’t have a built-in stand — you will have to find a wall to prop your phone against. And it lacks a rechargeable battery. But it does support Bluetooth pairing, and it makes up for the battery gaffe with power efficiency — two AA batteries deliver up to 40 hours of gaming, according to Stratus. At $39, this is excellent value for money.
GameSir T4 Pro Wireless Controller
If you’re the kind of gamer who’s used to backlit keyboards, this controller from GameSir is a great choice with its semi-transparent cover, matte finish, and adjustable colored LED-backlit action buttons and right joystick — although it does look a little strange having just one side of the controller lit up. There are lots of features we love about this controller, from the configurable M1 to M4 buttons on the base, to the six-axis gyroscope that accurately captures movements and reflects these in your game — not to mention the five-speed adjustable dual vibration.
The controller boasts a 600mAh rechargeable Type-C battery. Some gamers have claimed this provides up to 30 hours of gaming time, which is a decent amount of time. Either way, its battery life is impressive, and you can choose from Bluetooth or wired connectivity. The only negative thing we have to say on this one is that the directional pad can sometimes be a little unreliable. Nevertheless, for $36, this is something we’re prepared to overlook.
Razer Raiju Mobile Controller
It’s not too surprising that Razer, the pedigree brand behind high-end RGB keyboards, gaming laptops, and the Razer Phone 2, makes a pretty decent premium Android controller. It’s called the Raiju Mobile, and it has plenty of advanced customization options. If you play FPS games like Call of Duty Mobile or Hitman Sniper regularly, features like hair-trigger mode for quick-firing and sensitivity clutch function, which lets you decrease the thumbstick sensitivity for more accurate aiming, are a boon.
The button layout is fairly standard — situated on the left are a joystick and a directional pad, and on the right-hand side is a secondary joystick and four action buttons. Two shoulder buttons and two trigger buttons occupy the back, along with four remappable multi-function buttons.
The Raiju Mobile has a rechargeable Type-C battery offering up to 23 hours battery life and feels perfectly balanced, making it great for extended gaming sessions. It also has an adjustable smartphone clip offering up to 60-degree tilt, although with some phones the clip blocks access to the volume buttons (or presses down on the power button). Unlike most other Android controllers on our list, it can be used with two Android phones at once, thanks to its Mode switch that lets you easily switch between paired devices.
The Raiju Mobile is the most expensive option on our list at a sky-high $110, but the long battery life and additional features make it worth the price — and you can use it with your PC too.
Blindspares Wireless Controller
A bit different from the other controllers on our list, this is the one to go for if portability is key. The compact design makes it simple to chuck in a bag for impromptu gaming on the go, and the 350mAh battery provides up to 15 hours of gaming time, depending on screen brightness. It’s compatible with Android phones measuring 3.5 inches to 6.5 inches (so, most phones) and snaps firmly into place, holding your phone securely in its telescopic bracket and connecting via Bluetooth out of the box. This feels more like gaming on an old-school handheld console (like Sega’s Game Gear) due to its design, and the build quality is a little underwhelming — nevertheless, it’s easy to use, with a joystick and directional pad on the left, and a secondary joystick and four action buttons on the right, as well as two shoulder buttons and two trigger buttons on each side.
While the directional pad and action buttons are responsive and the joysticks work well, the shoulder and trigger buttons are a little hit and miss — and you’ll struggle to play games requiring vertical orientation. These minor negatives aside, this is a solid choice for the price and will currently set you back $36.