To play games on the Xbox One, you’ll need a controller, and it’s worth having the right controller. Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 wireless controller is the best gamepad for the company’s console. You can customize it to your needs, replace various components, and even remap buttons through an app for console and PC.
Best overall – Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
The Xbox One controller is incredibly comfortable to use for long periods. It’s sturdy, and it generally feels great to hold and use. However, like all things, it has a lifespan, and more serious gamers can wear them out fairly quickly.
Then comes the Elite Series 2, the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s professional-grade controller. It essentially keeps the same great design but improves just about everything else. The sticks are removable and more durable, as is the D-pad. There are paddles on the rear which can be mapped to any button on the controller using the companion app for Xbox One and Windows 10. The whole thing is covered with a soft-touch finish. There are hand-grips, and there are trigger stops.
Some may look at the price tag and declare that no controller is worth that much, and that’s fine. To the people willing to pay top dollar, the Elite Controller is the very best around. It’ll last many years longer than a regular controller and is packed with serious features. The Series 2 also adds Bluetooth into the mix for easy wireless pairing with your Windows 10 PC.
- Excellent design
- Great build quality
- Custom button and paddle mapping
- Changeable sticks and D-Pad
- Heavier than a standard controller
Xbox Elite Controller Series 2
Likely the best controller ever made.
The Xbox Elite Controller 2 is the best Xbox controller ever made.
Best Bluetooth – New Xbox Wireless Controller
You honestly can’t go wrong with the controller Microsoft designed itself. Since the Xbox One S debut, Microsoft included Bluetooth capabilities on the official controller, a feature that has never been utilized properly on the console. It does open up to using the controller with a PC and an Xbox console, though. Especially useful if you’re a Game Pass Ultimate subscriber with access to all the included PC games.
The new Xbox Wireless Controller controller design is a continuation of arguably the best there has ever been on any platform, with its offset analog sticks and perfect size leading to many, many hours of comfortable gaming. The latest update adds a dedicated share button, which is more convenient for snapping clips and screenshots than the older controller’s method and works just the same with the Xbox One as on the new Xbox Series X.
It works seamlessly with the PC, too, either wired over USB-C or over Bluetooth. If you’re not a fan of dumping batteries inside it, there’s also a play and charge kit available that transforms it into a rechargeable controller.
- Excellent design
- Dedicated share button
- Bluetooth for easy PC use
- Ergonomic and comfortable to use
- Not rechargeable without extra purchase
- Won’t last as long as an Elite
New Xbox Wireless Controller
The Xbox One controller gets refined for the new generation, keeping the superb design and adding some bonus features like a dedicated share button.
Best for retro fans – Hyperkin Duke
Hyperkin and Xbox teamed up to revive the classic Xbox controller, known affectionately as the “Duke.” If you weren’t gaming on the first Xbox console, you’re in for a real treat, even if it’s massive by today’s standards, hence the name.
It’s still extremely well made and sports several modernizing refinements across the board, including 3.5mm audio and shoulder buttons. There’s also a gorgeous OLED display in the center, which showcases the OG Xbox boot animation on every press. This controller is a stunner and well worth a place in any Xbox fan’s home. It feels as though it came straight out of Microsoft’s own labs.
It’s a piece of gaming history brought back to life for modern gaming, and while it’s absolutely beastly, long-time Xbox fans will adore it. It’s impossible not to! And what better way to play those first-gen Xbox games on backward compatibility?
- Faithful design to the original
- OLED display is a nice touch
- Modernized with headset jack
- It’s the Duke!
- Very large
- Only comes wired
- Can be hard to get hold of at times
Best for retro fans
An icon is reborn for the modern era
The Duke was an absolute unit then, and it still is today.
Best wired – Razer Wolverine Ultimate
The Wolverine is a fully customizable, wired (that’s important for a lot of gamers who still prefer this over wireless) controller that’s a variation on the standard design. You’ve got built-in hardware audio controls down the bottom, paddles on the rear, and RGB lighting around the Xbox button.
The Wolverine, as with the Xbox Elite, is targeted at the competitive scene — those who need a controller that not only has added durability but additional features such as those paddles, which can all be mapped to your own customized layout. Wired is also a better option for competitive play since the connection will be more reliable.
The included cable is long enough to allow you to sit far away from the screen if you wish, and it also means you’re never going to run out of power when the going gets tough. The Wolverine also closely resembles Microsoft’s controller design, so it’s comfortable to use for long periods.
- Excellent design
- Best for competitive players
- Long, braided cable
- Customizable paddles and buttons
- Integrated audio controls
- Paddle design is unusual
- Fairly expensive
- No option to use wirelessly with PC
Razer Wolverine Ultimate
They call it ultimate for nothing
Razer brings chroma, features, and swappable parts in its extraordinary controller.
Best budget – PowerA Spectra
If you just want a robust controller that costs as little as possible, you can’t do much better than this nifty controller from PowerA. It’s inexpensive but well made and enjoyable to use, and since Xbox One controllers are forwards compatible, it’s an ideal second controller for the times you want some local multiplayer.
It’s not exactly the same size and shape as the regular Xbox controller, but it’s fairly close. All the buttons are in the right place, and the headset jack is on the bottom. You also have a little flair in the form of illuminated strips around the edges, buttons, and sticks.
It only comes wired, but for something so affordable, the killer feature is the rear paddles and two-stage trigger stops. This controller offers some of the experience you get from a Series 2 Elite but at a much, much lower price. And it’s hard to argue with that.
- Solid construction
- Great price
- Design close to official controller
- Trigger stops and rear paddles
- Only comes wired
- Soft-touch coating gets very grubby
No frills, but still good quality
Basic, affordable, but still a well made and reliable performing controller.
Best arcade stick – Hori Real Arcade Pro.V Kai Fighting Stick
If you’re into fighting games, you will want an arcade stick to take your performance to the next level. The combination of button presses and direction changes are best served by something like this excellent stick from Hori.
It’s packing an original Hayabusa stick and KURO buttons but also allows for some modding. It’s pretty easy to do with this stick. There’s ample cable storage, and it looks pretty sharp, too.
It is a little pricey, but if you play a ton of fighting games, it’s a price worth paying to up your game to the next level.
- Solid construction
- Popular and well-regarded Hayabusa stick
- Easily modified
- Quite pricey
- One of the larger arcade sticks
Best arcade stick
Hori Real Arcade Pro.V Kai Fighting Stick
The stick to up your Fighting game performance
The ultimate input for Xbox fighters with a quality stick and button combo.
Best racing wheel – Thrustmaster TS-XW
For the serious virtual racer on Xbox One, you can’t do better right now than this wheel. Thanks to Sparco’s partnership, the TS-XW is based on an actual racing wheel, trimmed in Alcantara, constructed entirely from metal, and with two large paddle shifters.
It’s not for the faint at heart, and driving with this wheel gives you a bit of a workout. The pedals are lifelike and adjustable, and thanks to Thrustmaster’s system, you can even swap out the wheel itself for a different design to use on the same base.
The rotation goes through a full 1,080 degrees, and if you hook it up to your PC, the Thrustmaster app will allow you to alter that to a custom value, so it applies to all your games. If you want realism, you’ll find it right here.
- Realistic design
- Amazing force feedback
- 1,080-degree rotation
- Quite pricey
- Very heavy
Best racing wheel
As close as you can get to the real thing without a helmet
Based on a real wheel, this is the pinnacle of sim racing hardware on Xbox.
There are so many excellent Xbox One controllers out there right now, including the one you get in the box with the console. Even better, there’s a good choice for virtually any type of gamer.
The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 is the top dog, though, mixing the brilliant design of the standard controller with additional features and swappable parts, as well as a more durable, longer-lasting build.
But whether you’re into racing games, fighting games, or want something a little more unique looking, there’s something out there for you. It’s a great time to be an Xbox One gamer.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you’ll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming.
Jez Corden is a full-time writer for Windows Central, focusing on Xbox, Surface, and Windows PC. He spends the vast majority of his time gaming or writing about gaming, with a mission to provide gamers in the Microsoft ecosystem the best and most up-to-date info possible.