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While the vast majority of Android games are designed with the touchscreen in mind, the reality is that there are certain times when using a traditional controller just makes more sense. This applies particularly to games that were ported from a console over to Android, as well as to emulators. It also rings true for games where using the touchscreen just isn’t possible, such as VR games where your phone is strapped to your face. There are many different Android game controllers to choose from on the market today, with all different sizes and layouts.

 For this list, I wanted to focus on the five controllers we think are the very best, regardless of the price or form factor. My goal was to have a healthy mix of different sizes, shapes, and layouts. Upon digging in, however, I found that most of the “ultra portable” Bluetooth controllers just aren’t that great.

That means that the vast majority of the controllers here look almost identical in size and shape, with nearly all the best controllers taking on an almost Xbox-esque design. However, there is one big exception to this rule. So without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Steel Series Stratus XL

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The Stratus XL has been on the market for a few years now, but don’t let that fool you — for most users this is absolutely the controller you should buy. The Stratus XL is without a doubt the most impressive looking and feeling of the Bluetooth gamepads available on the market right now. With a nice black design with orange and gray accent colors, this is a great looking controller. And it feels equally great in the hand, with a nice heft to it (without being too heavy) that makes me feel like it should be pretty durable.

The Sttratus XL looks like an Xbox controller at first glance, but with a button layout that is actually a bit more similar to a Playstation controller. That includes two joysticks that are near the bottom and lined up directly across from one another, and a d-pad to the upper left. Otherwise, you get four main action buttons (A,B, X, Y) on the face, alongside three unique buttons in the center, and at the top you’ll find two triggers and two shoulder buttons.

The SteelSeries Stratus XL is compatible with both PC and Android, and while I spent most of my time using it with Android, I can confirm it plays nicely with my PC, as I used it to run through Fallout 4 for a bit without any issues. When using with Android, it’s equally flawless and should work in every game that supports controllers — including your favorite emulators.

I can’t speak for how long the battery lasts, but after eight to 10 hours of usage, I still haven’t come close to needing to change out the AA batteries. In other words, this shouldn’t be any worse than any other typical AA-powered controller like the Xbox 360 and Xbox One gamepad.

Unfortunately, this Android game controller is really geared more at tablet users, VR users, and those that want to also use it on the PC, due to the fact that there is no phone holder option. You can certainly get a phone case with a kickstand to pair with this, but that certainly limits its portability. That said, if you want a beautiful looking controller that feels high-quality as hell, you can’t go wrong with the SteelSeries Stratus XL.


GameVice game controllers for Samsung Galaxy phones

We mentioned that most of these Android game controllers have similar form factors. The biggest exception is the controllers that are available from GameVice. Originally released for iPhone devices, the company has now released versions of its gamepad-like controller for a select number of Samsung phones, including the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S8, S8 Plus, S9, S9 Plus and the Note 8.

As you can see from the image above, the GameVice controller comes in two parts, each of which connects to the ends of the Samsung phone, with an flexible back that connects the two parts together. Basically, it turns the smartphone into something resembling a portable game console, like a Sony PlayStation Vita. The part that goes on the bottom of the phone (the right side when in landscape mode) has an a analog joysticks, along with A, B, X, and Y buttons. The part that goes on top of the phone (the left side in landscape mode) has the other analog stick, along with a D-pad button. Both parts of the controller have two trigger buttons on top.

The right section of the GameVice controller also includes a USB-C connection inside, so that the gamepad can connect directly to the phone with no wireless pairing needed (no latency, either) There’s also a USB-C connection on the outside of the controller, to power it up, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack (The version made for the older Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge has microUSB inputs and outputs). There’s no battery in the GameVice controllers, but since you are connecting it directly to your phone, it will drain your handset’s battery a bit faster. The controller does have four LED buttons to indicate just how much battery life your phone has left.

The list of games that are compatible with the GameVice controllers is getting longer every day, but not all Android games are supported. If you are OK with that, and own one of the Samsung Galaxy phones that work with the GameVice, this is well worth checking out.

 

PowerA Moga Hero Power

 

 

It’s one of the older Android game controllers on this list, but the PowerA Moga Hero Power is still easily one of the best controllers offered by anyone.  The Hero Power offers two clickable analog sticks, a D-Pad, four action buttons, start and select buttons, two triggers, and two shoulder buttons. The layout and shape is  very reminiscent of the Xbox 360/One controllers and the design is mostly black with a little bit of orange as an accent.

The molded plastic sides here make this Bluetooth controller for Android easy to grip, and there’s enough heft to make it feel pretty good in the hands. Sure, it’s not as nice looking or feeling as the Stratus XL, but it’s not too far off from that mark. The controller also comes with what the company calles its S.M.R.T. Lock Arm, which lets you attach the phone directly to the controller, so you can play on it like you might with a true portable game console.

The controller comes with its own 1,800mAh battery. It should be good for several hours on a single charge, and if your battery life does run low, just attach the controller to a microUSB slot and you can charge the gamepad back up without needing to replace the battery. The Moga Pro Power also has the unique ability to charge your phone from its built-in battery, if it also has a mircroUSB connection, though doing so will obviously cut back the controller’s battery life significantly.

One word of caution, don’t bother with the Moga app. You can use this as a standard Android Bluetooth game controller and bypass the software completely. That’s really the best way to do it. For those interested in using your Android Bluetooth gamepad with your PC, keep in mind that the Pro Power isn’t designed with this functionality in mind — so you’ll want to look elsewhere if that’s important to you.


8BITDO Zero Wireless Game Controller

How would you like to own a fully functional game controller for your Android phone that’s so small you can put it on your keychain? You can with the 8BITDO Zero Wireless Game Controller. This impressive device weighs just 50 grams, but includes four action buttons, a select button, a start button, a four-way D-pad and two shoulder trigger buttons.

Since this controller has Bluetooth technology, you can use it on any gaming device with compatible hardware, such as a PC, Mac, iPhone, or iPad in addition to Android phones and tablets. It’s 73 mm wide, 35 mm tall and 13.7 mm thick, and is powered by a 180 mAh rechargeable battery that is supposed to last up to 18 hours on a single charge. If your phone or tablet still has a micro USB port, you can charge the controller up with its included micro USB connection. It reportedly takes about an hour to charge.

While gamers with big hands could have some issues using the 8BITDO Zero Wireless Game Controller, everyone else should not have any problems playing Android games with controller support with this device. Its small size is easily the best thing about it, but that’s a pretty big deal. Amazon is currently selling it for $16.99.

 

8BITDO SNES30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller Dual Classic Joystick

Here’s another product from the Japan-based 8BITDO that we think is pretty cool, especially if you are a long-time gamer, or just one who appreciates some history. The 8BITDO SNES30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller Dual Classic Joystick closely resembles the controller included with the classic Super Nintendo console.

That means you should be able to play ports of these and many other retro games on Android with a familiar control scheme. It includes four action buttons, a select button, a start button, a four-way D-pad and two shoulder trigger buttons, all set in the double circle design of the original Super Nintendo gamepad. It has Bluetooth support for wirelessly connecting to your Android phone or gamepad, along with support for PC, Mac, iOS and even the new Nintendo Switch console.

The controller also comes with a micro USB port for charging up its 480 mAh battery. It is supposed to last up to 18 hours on a single charge. You can get this trip back in time for your Android device at Amazon for the price of $34.99.


So that’s a look at just five of the best Android game controllers on the market. What do you think of our list? Any others you’d recommend? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments.