We picked the gamepads for our buying guide based on their compatibility with PCs and the most popular gaming consoles. We didn't include mobile gamepads in our buying guide because they don't really compare to full-size consoles and PC game controllers and they essentially turn your mobile device into a handheld game console.
The gamepads we selected for our lineup represent good value, offer high quality and are designed to optimize gaming performance. If you're looking to make the switch from PC to console gaming, or just looking for a new game system, check out our game console reviews.
Best Alternative Gamepad Manufacturer for PlayStation
HORI is our choice for the best alternative gamepad manufacturer for PlayStation. While this company makes several third-party gaming accessories for consoles, PCs and mobile devices, its officially licensed PlayStation accessories offer a solid mix of value and quality.
HORI's gamepads are, for the most part, compatible with multiple PlayStation consoles; however, many aren't suitable for older or handheld models, like the original PlayStation, the PS2 and the PS Vita. Because the gamepads and joysticks are officially licensed by Sony, you won't experience glitches or incompatibility issues with updates to your game console.
The inclusion of two extra face buttons on HORI's controllers let you program specific functions or combos. They are designed to be comfortable to hold, even for intense button-mashing sessions.
HORI offer wireless and USB gamepads for PCs, mobile devices, and some consoles, including Xbox and PlayStation models. Generally more affordable than OEM controllers, these third-party models offer many of the same functions as on-brand gamepads with a lower price tag. Some units have a breakaway cable, allowing you to switch easily between wired or wireless gameplay.
Best Alternative Gamepad Manufacturer for Xbox
Razer is renowned for its high-end gaming peripherals, particularly for PC gaming, including keyboards, lapboards and gaming mice. But they also produce gamepads for Xbox consoles that work with PCs.
Although this company doesn't manufacture budget models, it earns our recommendation because of its outstanding quality and versatility. These USB gamepads feature up to six programmable buttons and an ergonomic design to give you the best possible Xbox or PC gaming experience. Some models feature a built-in audio control panel.
Even for the roughest, toughest button mashers, Razer gamepads are robust, resilient and durable. With an OLED screen right on the gamepads, you can easily program the customizable buttons, change stick sensitivity and create profiles. You can also choose a Razer arcade stick with eight tournament-grade Sanwa buttons.
Razer is a respected gaming peripheral manufacturer and has a long-standing tradition of producing high-quality mice and keyboards well-suited to hardcore and professional gamers. Their gamepads continue this tradition, being aimed at serious gamers and offering high-end features. The cost, however, reflects the professional-grade construction of these peripherals, making them not the best option if you're on a budget.
Best Alternative Gamepad Manufacturer for Wii
Afterglow offers controllers for all kinds of gaming devices, from consoles to mobile devices and PCs. This company gets our vote for the best alternative gamepad manufacturer for the Wii because of its range of controller options, including alternatives to the Wii U Pro controller and the Wiimote, and the attractive prices.
You can choose a few different options for Afterglow's wireless gamepads: There's the Wii and Wii U controller in your standard colors (black, white, pink), or there's a clear controller with LED lights that light up. Afterglow's gamepads come with rechargeable lithium polymer batteries for hours of uninterrupted gameplay. Just in case the batteries run low while you're playing, the 8-foot mini-USB cable lets you continue playing while the batteries recharge. Some controllers feature dual rumble motors and precise, easily accessible trigger buttons.
Afterglow offers adapters that allow you to connect your original Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and GameCube controllers to your Wii or Wii U console for a truly retro gaming experience.
Afterglow make a range of gamepads and other peripherals for PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, and PC. Gamepads from Afterglow have a distinct appearance and a solid, durable construction. You'll find budget, middle-of-the-road and high-end models available to suit your gaming preferences and your budget.
Best Alternative Gamepad Manufacturer for the PC
Logitech has been making gaming peripherals for decades, and the durability and versatility of their PC gamepads, along with their history of high-quality products, is why this company is our pick for the best PC gamepad manufacturer.
Logitech's PC game controllers aren't overly expensive, but in spite of their attractive price tag, they don't compromise on quality. Wired and wireless options are available with programmable buttons and a familiar face and trigger-button layout. Wired models have a 1.8-meter cord, so you've got enough range to play at a comfortable distance from the screen.
These gamepads are designed to ensure your hands remain comfortable, even during intense gaming sessions. Some of Logitech's more advanced PC gamepads are compatible with Steam Big Picture, so you can navigate Steam, play games, access your entire Steam library and browse the internet from your TV.
Logitech is well known for its affordable third-party gaming peripherals, including gamepads for PC. Although it makes a variety of accessories for multiple platforms, like steering wheels and microphones for PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii, gamepads are only available for PC setups. These third-party controllers are reasonably priced but still offer reliable quality as well as some advanced features. You can choose between wired or wireless models, with wired ones having a 6-foot cable. You won't find audio passthroughs on these controllers, however.
What to Look for When Buying Gamepads
Whether you're a console gamer looking for a new controller for your favorite system or a PC gamer who wants to forego the mouse and keyboard, when seeking out a new gamepad, it needs to be the right fit.
When it comes to consoles, some gamers only choose gamepads and peripherals from the manufacturer. Others use a third-party controller as a backup, while others choose a third-party device as their main controller for a variety of reasons, including price, feel and functionality. Here are some considerations when shopping for gamepads:
Not every gamepad is compatible with every system, so make sure you choose a model that's compatible with your gaming system. If you play on different consoles, or on both a console and PC, consider a gamepad with dual compatibility. This can save you money and improve gaming performance (or button speed and precision, due to muscle memory), even if you switch between your two gaming setups regularly.
You can choose between USB, plug-and-play wired gamepads or wireless models. Wired controllers are often favored by pro and semi-pro gamers because they tend to be more reliable, responsive, and they don't suffer from data loss or signal interference. However, the difference isn't really noticeable to most of us.
With wired gamepads, while there's no signal disruption, you are tethered to within a few feet of your console or PC tower. Therefore, it's important to choose a wired model with a long enough cable so you can sit far enough away from your setup and play comfortably. If you prefer wired headsets over wireless ones, look for gamepads with an audio passthrough, as well as ones with audio controls.
As long as the gamepad has the right buttons for all the basic commands required by the games you're playing, it's adequate. However, to get the most out of your gaming session, consider a controller with an extra programmable face and shoulder buttons and triggers. And, if you go for a gamepad with savable profiles, you'll be able to program the extra keys to perform additional commands or combos and save each profile for playing specific games.
The shape and design of a gamepad is crucial. It should be shaped to fit comfortably in the hands and remain comfortable even for long gaming sessions. Your hands should remain in a healthy position, and your fingers should be able to reach all the buttons and triggers without contorting or overextending. Opt for models with comfort grips, well-spaced buttons and gently curved construction.