Best game controllers to use with Android emulators 2021


Best Android Emulators 2021 Lifestyle AltSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Best
game controllers to use with Android emulators
Android Central
2021

If you’re looking for the best game controllers to use with Android emulators, then you might be a bit frustrated because of the sheer number of options available. Android emulators are the best way to play those classic games that aren’t found on the next-gen consoles, and make it so you can play games from wherever you are. Regardless of what games you’re playing, we’ve rounded up the best controllers for you to consider.

Best game controller to use with Android emulators overall: GameSir X2

M64plus Fz Emulator Z Fold 3 Lifestyle Alt

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

Chances are that you aren’t limiting yourself to just one type of game when it comes to emulation on Android. That’s why it’s essential to have one of the best game controllers for Android emulators that are as versatile as you are. The GameSir X2 fits the bill quite nicely with its compatibility with all of the best cloud gaming services, along with a plug-and-play design.

Instead of having a fixed-in-place USB-C port, the GameSir X2’s USB-C connection pivots. Plus, the design is such that even the widest of phones can be used, such as the Galaxy Z Fold 3. There are two versions available, one with a button layout similar to that of the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite, along with another that matches up with the Xbox Controller button layout.

With many of these plug-and-play controllers, you’ll usually find the USB-C port on the right side for one reason or another. However, with the GameSir X2, the USB-C port is on the left side, which could be awkward and could take some getting used to. The other problem comes down to ergonomics, as the X2 is only slightly curved in the handles, which may not be comfortable for some.

Pros:

  • Sleek design
  • Wide-enough to work with the widest of phones
  • Doesn’t need to be recharged
  • Plug-and-play functionality removes latency issues

Cons:

  • Not the most ergonomic design
  • Left-mounted USB-C port may be awkward

Best overall


GameSir X2 Type-C Render

GameSir X2

Simply one of the best controllers

The GameSir X2 may not have the best ergonomics, but GameSir makes up for it with the flexible USB-C connector.

Best game controller for nostalgia: 8Bitdo SN30 Pro

8bitdo Sn30 Pro Review

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

When you think of emulators, you think of the classics from your childhood and consoles like the NES or SNES. Unfortunately, those old controllers don’t precisely include the technology needed to work with an emulator on the best Android phones. That’s where 8Bitdo comes in its lineup of controllers headlined by the SN30 Pro.

This specific controller is a remake of those iconic SNES controllers, but there are other colorways available. The 8Bitdo SN30 Pro is an inexpensive controller, making the barrier of entry easy to overcome when it comes to finding the best controller for your emulators. And while it’s great that this works with your Android phone via Bluetooth, the best part is that you can even use this with other devices like the Nintendo Switch or your PC.

Bluetooth 4.0 is onboard, which is a bit outdated by this point, but that shouldn’t cause any connection issues. You’ll just want to ensure that the controller remains within 10-15 feet of your Android phone. Another frustration is that there aren’t any built-in buttons to switch between devices, so you’ll have to unpair it with your phone if you end up using it with your computer or Switch.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Classic and familiar design
  • Compatible with more than just Android
  • Well-built with tactile D-pad and buttons

Cons:

  • Bluetooth 4.0 is outdated
  • No dedicated buttons for power or switching between devices

Best game controller for nostalgia


8Bitdo SN30 Pro Render

8Bitdo SN30 Pro

The combination of nostalgia and modern technology makes for a wonderful controller.

The SN30 Pro from 8Bitdo makes you feel like you’re a kid again with its retro design and Android capabilities.

Best value: ipega PG-9167

Ipega Ip 9167 Lifestyle

Source: Ipega

Sometimes you don’t really want to get a controller that breaks the bank, especially if you’re only planning on playing games sporadically. The ipega PG-9167 is a great option if that’s the case, as it won’t cost an arm and a leg, while also providing a great experience while playing your favorite Android emulators.

The PG-9167 is compatible with iOS and Android and works with many of the best Android games if you decide to take a break from your emulators. With the accompanying app, you’ll also be able to remap and customize the button layout to fit the needs of whatever games you’re playing. You can even detach the right handle if you only need to play a game using one of the handles, which you won’t find anywhere else.

The biggest catch here is that the PG-9167 still relies on Bluetooth 4.0, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue for many, but it’s just something to be aware of. And the included headphone module is a nice touch if you want to avoid any latency concerns. But it will only work if you have a device that still sports a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Pros:

  • Can be used with just one handle or two
  • Buttons can be remapped with accompanying software
  • Built-in headphone module allows for connecting wired headphones
  • Telescopic design for easy transport

Cons:

  • Only using Bluetooth 4.0
  • Headphone module only works if your phone has a 3.5mm jack

Best value


Ipega Pg 9167 Controller Render

ipega PG-9167

Allows for vertical or horizontal gaming.

There aren’t many controllers that allow for horizontal or vertical mounting, but then there’s the Flydigi Wee2T.

Upgrade pick: Razer Kishi

Razer Kishi Side

Source: Jennifer Locke / Android Central

Bluetooth controllers are all fine and dandy, but you might end up dealing with latency issues. You don’t want to be in the middle of a boss battle only to miss your chance for a counter because your phone and controller didn’t communicate properly. The Razer Kishi solves those latency problems. It expands, allowing you to plug your phone right into the built-in USB-C port.

Since the Kishi easily folds up, this is the perfect candidate for someone looking for a controller to throw in their bag. Unlocking and expanding the Kishi is easy, and it’s even large enough to hold the massive Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. However, you may end up needing to remove one of the built-in rubber pads if you intend to use a larger phone.

There are a few limitations to the Kishi, like how you can only use the outer USB-C port for passthrough charging only. You’ll need to rely on some Bluetooth headphones or one of the best Bluetooth speakers for your audio needs. To keep the Kishi lightweight and compact, Razer opted not to include a built-in battery. This is both good and bad, as it offers plug-and-play functionality, but it does mean that you won’t be able to use it with your PC or one of the best Android tablets.

Pros:

  • Fits almost every phone
  • Doesn’t need to be recharged
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Two versions available

Cons:

  • Inner rubber pads may need to be removed for larger phones
  • USB-C port only offers passthrough charging
  • Cannot use wirelessly

Upgrade pick


Razer Kishi Android Render

Razer Kishi

Portability is key, and it works with most phones

The Razer Kishi expands to fit almost every phone and doesn’t need to be recharged as it plugs right into your phone.

Best for ergnomics: 8Bitdo Pro 2

8bitdo Pro 2 Review Up Close

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

For many, the default emulation controller has become the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro. However, that controller has the same problem that the beloved SNES controller had. Ergonomics play a significant role in how much you find yourself wanting to play games, as an uncomfortable controller can lead to you just not picking up a game for a while. Thankfully, that’s not a problem with the 8Bitdo Pro 2. This controller offers all of the features of the SN30 Pro in a more comfortable package.

Although you’ll likely want to pick up a phone mount for the Pro 2, this controller is one of our favorites that we’ve ever tested. There’s a rechargeable battery pack hidden in the back and plenty of remappable buttons to match up with any of the game systems you are emulating. There’s even a hardware switch on the back that makes it easy to go from playing games on the best Android phones to jumping into a game on the Nintendo Switch.

Admittedly, the Pro 2 isn’t the best controller to take with you on a trip, as it’s bigger and bulkier than many of the other options on this list. And you might find yourself trying (and failing) to avoid the rear paddle buttons, but at least you can disable them entirely so pressing them won’t force you to exit a game unexpectedly.

Pros:

  • 8bitdo Ultimate Software offers custom button configurations and customization.
  • Nostalgic design
  • Can quickly toggle between gaming modes.
  • Extremely comfortable to hold even for long gaming sessions

Cons:

  • Best portability requires additional phone mount
  • Back buttons can take time to get used to

Best for ergnomics


GameSir X2 Type-C Render

8Bitdo Pro 2

Ergonomics aside, this is one sleek and versatile controller.

Cross-device compatibility, customizable software, and excellent ergonomics help the Pro 2 pack a powerful punch.

Best game controller with built-in power bank PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus

PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Tablet Lifestyle

Source: PowerA

When Microsoft announced that Project xCloud was becoming Cloud Gaming with Xbox Game Pass, a few companies jumped on board for unique controllers. First, there are Xbox-branded options from Razer and 8Bitdo, and now, we have one from PowerA. The Moga XP5-X Plus may be a mouthful to say, but it’s a controller with a familiar design along with a detachable phone clip and built-in battery.

The battery won’t be enough to charge those heftier phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra or OnePlus 9 Pro, but it will at least make sure your phone doesn’t die at the wrong time. PowerA made the XP5-X Plus capable of being used both wired and wirelessly, and you can even plug it into your desktop PC or laptop. Two programmable buttons can be found on the back, and these can be reprogrammed to match any of the other buttons on the controller.

Even when the XP5-X Plus was announced last year, this new controller had some disappointing aspects. Namely, the inclusion of Micro-USB in 2020 (and now 2021) is just frustrating, as USB-C is the new norm, and we wished PowerA had gotten the memo. There’s also no pass-through audio available, so you’ll have to rely on your phone’s 3.5mm headphone jack or the best Bluetooth headphones.

Pros:

  • Built-in battery bank
  • Includes detachable gaming clip
  • Can be used wired or wirelessly
  • Features two mappable gaming buttons

Cons:

  • Relies on microUSB for charging
  • No pass-through audio options

Best game controller with built-in power bank


PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus Render

PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus

Game for hours on end with the Moga XP5-X Plus.

Despite using micro-USB instead of USB-C, the PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus is a fantastic option for most emulators.

Best for Sony fans: Sony DualSense

Ps5 Hero With Dualsense

Source: Jennifer Locke / Android Central

Instead of playing it safe with the PS5, Sony opted to bring a redesign to everything it released last year, including the introduction of the Sony Dualsense controller. This is the successor to the ultra-popular DualShock 4, which launched alongside the PS4. In the hands, the Dualsense feels like a combination of the DS4 and the Xbox Series X controller.

We’ve used the Dualsense for everything from playing the best PS5 games to firing up Cyberpunk 2077, and we can tell you that ergonomics are a dream. But the Dualsense is also a fantastic companion for game emulators, and the best part is that you don’t have to worry about trying to remap buttons if you don’t want to. In fact, even the spacious trackpad in the middle can act as a button without much extra tinkering.

There seem to be some hiccups for those who want to use certain emulators, such as Dolphin, if you wish to configure the controller automatically. For example, in many instances, folks have found that attempting to remap the left analog stick will result in the emulator not recognizing the movement at all. Another potential problem with the Dualsense is the increasing number of users who are starting to experience the dreaded joystick drift issues.

Pros:

  • Fantastic and ergonomic design
  • Touchpad works as a button
  • Works with all of your devices

Cons:

  • May require button re-mapping for certain emulators
  • Potential joystick drift problems

Best for Sony fans


Dualsense Ps5 Transparent Render Large

Sony DualSense

Ergonomics are king

Sony’s DualSense might just be the best controller we’ve ever seen due to its attention to detail and ergonomic design.

Best for Xbox fans: Xbox Wireless Controller

Xbox Series X

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

While Sony took a more drastic approach with the release of the PS5, Microsoft took a more conservative one with the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S. The Xbox Core Controller has been slightly changed to provide a bit of a better grip for the sake of ergonomics. There’s also a new texture added to the controller, and the triggers aim to offer plenty of comfort while playing games for hours on end.

As expected, the Core Controller is compatible with just about every device you may own, ranging from the older Xbox One, to your smartphones and tablets, along with your PC or Mac. Of course, the best experience will be on a PC or Xbox Series S/X, but having a controller that works with everything is pretty great. Microsoft also opted to add a hybrid D-pad similar to the one found on the Xbox Elite Controller, which makes for a great option if you’re planning to emulate some side-scrollers.

We’re grateful to see the USB-C port available for connecting to devices if we need to, but the inclusion of AA batteries for power is just so archaic at this point. We’d really like to see a built-in battery like the DualSense and other controllers, but it’s doubtful it’ll happen anytime soon. And while the Core Controller works excellent for many emulators, others require a bit of button remapping to get things in working order.

Pros:

  • Recognizable and comfortable design
  • Textured finish helps with grip and hand sweat
  • Works with all of your devices
  • Hybrid D-Pad allows for more fine-tuned control

Cons:

  • Does not include rechargeable batteries
  • May require button re-mapping for certain emulators

Best for Xbox fans


Xbox Series X Controller Transparent Render

Xbox Wireless Controller

Slight improvements make a big difference.

Not much has changed with the Xbox Core Controller, but the hybrid D-Pad makes playing side-scrollers a breeze.

Best telescopic alternative: Flydigi Wee2T

Flydigi Wee2T Lifestyle

Source: Flydigi

The name of this controller doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, nor is Flydigi a household name like some of the other options on this list. However, if you start looking around for some of the best controllers for Android emulators, the Flydigi Wee2T is regularly recommended. This controller hits just about all of the checkboxes one could want, including a telescopic design for a low footprint when not in use.

All of the buttons can be remapped via the company’s application, and there’s even a built-in gyroscope to have some more fun with those racing games. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Wee2T is how you can use this with your phone either vertically or horizontally. That’s not something that can be said about many controllers, let alone one that is a fan-favorite for Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 owners.

The Wee2T has been available for a little while now, so the inclusion of Bluetooth 4.0 comes as no surprise. Instead, we’re just a bit disappointed that a newer version isn’t available with a more recent version of Bluetooth for solid connectivity. Additionally, there is firmware built into the Wee2T, but it can only be updated using Flydigi’s own application, which can be a bit frustrating to get the update loaded properly.

Pros:

  • Can use phone both vertically and horizontally
  • Built-in gyroscope
  • Flashplay automatically remaps buttons
  • Telescopic design for easy transport

Cons:

  • Must use third-party app to update firmware
  • Only using Bluetooth 4.0

Best Telescopic Alternative


Flydigi Wee2t Render

Flydigi Wee2T

Allows for vertical or horizontal gaming.

There aren’t many controllers that allow for horizontal or vertical mounting, but then there’s the Flydigi Wee2T.

What is the best game controller for Android emulators?

Android Game Controllers Roundup

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

The truth of the matter is that the best controller you can use for Android emulators is likely already hiding somewhere in your home. But if you want something that takes things to the next level or don’t want to worry about needing to use a controller clip, your best bet is the GameSir X2.

You can remap the buttons to fit the needs of any of your favorite emulators, while also using even the largest of phones. Also, since there are two different versions available, with a Bluetooth and USB-C model, you have a bit of versatility with what kind of controllers you want to use.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author:

Andrew Myrick is a regular freelancer at Android Central. He has been a tech enthusiast ever since the original iPhone was released and continues to flip-flop between devices. You might as well hook him up to an IV filled with coffee to get him through the day. If you have any questions, you can find him on Twitter, and he’ll get back to you.

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