Long gone are the days when Tetris clones, Farmville knock-offs, and Pac-Man look-alikes 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. It’s worth noting though that there are some compatibility issues you might encounter — more on that in our frequently asked questions at the end of this article.
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.
The Moga Hero Power controller from PowerA is one of the best controllers out there. 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 by 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. One of this controller’s best features is its two mappable Advanced Gaming buttons on the base, which are great for changing button assignments on the fly. Thealso has a battery level indicator, wireless/wired switch, and power bank switch. We also love the retractable kickstand, which makes it easy to take a break between sessions. This is definitely worth the money.
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, 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.
The retro collection from 8BitDo is highly sought after, and it’s easy to see why. The SN30 Pro 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 (or USB-C) 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. If you love the retro look, then it’s probably worth the money.
Something of a unique design where game controllers are concerned, thegamepad 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 $40, 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.
Theboasts 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. This controller is excellent value for money, in our opinion.
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.
Theboasts 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.
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 that offers up to 23 hours of battery life and feels perfectly balanced. For those reasons, it’s great for extended gaming sessions. It also has an adjustable smartphone clip with a 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, the Raiju Mobile can be used with two Android phones at once. A Mode switch lets you easily swap between paired devices, which comes in handy if you have multiple devices or want to share with friends.
At $50, the Raiju Mobile is definitely worth picking up for its long battery life, additional features, and compatibility with your PC.
This wireless controller design will make you feel like you’re gaming on an old-school handheld console like Sega’s Game Gear. The build quality isn’t exactly flawless, but it’s easy to use. A joystick and directional pad take up the left side, and a secondary joystick and four action buttons sit on the right. The addition of dual shoulder and trigger buttons mean it has everything you really need.
The directional pad, action buttons, and joystick are all highly responsive, but the shoulder and trigger buttons were less impressive. They’re somewhat sticky and over-complicated to navigate when playing in vertical orientations.
At just $40, the Blindspares Wireless Controller is a decent choice for the price.
Which Android devices support game controllers natively?
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.
How do you find out if a controller is going to be compatible with your Android?
Most controllers should work with Android devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (or Android 3.2 Honeycomb) or newer. It’s always worth checking out the reviews on sites like Amazon as if others have encountered compatibility issues you’re likely to see this mentioned there.
What compatibility issues can you encounter with a gaming controller?
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. As we mentioned earlier, controllers are supported natively on devices running Android 4.0 or newer. But 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.
How do you determine what controller features you need for your games?
If you’re mostly playing casual puzzle or platformer games on your Android phone, most of the controllers on this list will suit your needs just fine. However, if you play a lot of FPS games like Call of Duty: Mobile, we’d recommend investing in a controller like the Razer Raiju that has additional features suited to shooters, like hair-trigger mode (for quick-firing) and options to decrease the thumbstick sensitivity, for more accurate shots.
You’ll also want to think about whether the controller has an internal battery or pulls power from your phone. If your Android phone has a smaller battery, you’ll likely be best choosing a controller with its own battery. Other features to look out for include mappable buttons, the ability to connect with a wide variety of devices, not just your smartphone, and a built-in stand.
What are the best Android games to play?
With so many Android games out there to choose from, finding the best ones to play can be challenging. Save yourself some time and check out our roundup of the best Android games to play right now, updated monthly.