The Steam Deck is a monster in every sense of the word. Brutish power meets a beastly screen in what is one of the best handhelds on the market.
But let’s be real here, its size is a bit of a loveable monstrosity. It’s a little bit heavy, and sometimes you just want to put it down and use a controller to play. Not all of us have Popeye arms.
Whether you’re looking to make handheld mode a little more comfortable or want something for when the Deck is hooked up to a TV in docked mode, these are the best Steam Deck controllers you want to consider.
And yes, much like with the best Nintendo Switch controllers, these controllers have been checked and confirmed to work on the Steam Deck.
Just put the controller in pairing mode, head into the Steam Deck’s settings, and the controller will appear as a device under the Bluetooth tab. Connecting these babies is super simple.
Table of Contents
1. 8BITDO Ultimate Controller
The 8BitDo Ultimate controller takes the number 1 spot on this list for many reasons. It’s an all-round reliable and comfortable handheld that not only works with the Steam Deck, but the Nintendo Switch, your PC and even iOS/Android smartphones too.
You can configure the buttons to be mapped as you like, the analogue sticks and shoulder buttons sensitivity can changed depending on how fast you want them to “activate” and it also comes with a charging dock so that you never forget to charge it!
On our 10th Anniversary edition the controller design matches the dock which is quite nice!
But what I love about this controller the most is its comfortability, it’s designed for adult hands and all the buttons are nicely located, large and of high quality.
This is a controller that will last for many years to come, if only it had hall joysticks and replaceable face plates, that would make it perfect!
2. PS4 Controller
The go-to for many Steam Deck owners is the original PS4 controller. It’s as close to perfection as you can get. The shape fits snug, the button-to-stick placement is top-notch, and that touchpad suddenly has a whole new lease of life.
As you may know, Steam Deck games have varying levels of compatibility. For those that aren’t verified by Valve, you may need a way to invoke the mouse cursor to click on things.
Normally you’d need to hit the Steam button and the right stick, but this often results in a cursor that gives Sonic a run for his money.
With the PS4 controller, the touchpad works as a mouse, making clicking and navigating normally non-compatible menus all the more easier.
The sticks are perhaps too close – press right on the left stick and left on the right stick and your thumbs will meet – but it’s manageable. It’s also not ideal for those with larger hands due to the smaller design.
Still, if you’re after one of the best Steam Deck controllers, you won’t go wrong with the original PS4 controller, it’s cheaper than a new PS5 controller too!
3. Xbox Series X|S Controller
What’s the difference between an Xbox and PlayStation controller? It all comes down to the games you play. There’s obviously personal preference and what you’re used to, but for me, I prefer different controllers for different genres.
The matte finish and the extra grips on the back of the Xbox controller make it perfect for shooters, as do the longer thumbsticks. When you need to nudge your aim but a fraction, that’s when the extra length really shines.
With PlayStation controllers, which feature shorter sticks, aiming isn’t quite as accurate when it comes to smaller movements.
While the PlayStation controller is better suited to RPGs and action games, the Xbox controller makes its case in games like Call of Duty and Fortnite. That and the Xbox controller’s play-and-charge kit battery eclipses the PlayStation controller’s battery life at up to 30 hours versus a less-than-ideal five to eight.
4. PS5 Dualsense Controller
The PS5 controller, the Dualsense, is a weird offering. Battery life is awful at five to eight hours and the D-pad isn’t great for fighting games. But despite these flaws, it’s one of the most comfortable controllers out there.
Sony upped the size somewhat when designing the Dualsense and the extra surface area and weight really help to let it fit comfortably when held.
Then there’s the trigger resistance, which offers up enough force to let the player know exactly how far down the trigger is. In driving games, that’s the difference between cruising at 10 MPH, 30 MPH, and accidentally flooring it.
The Dualsense design also stops your thumbs from touching when you crank both sticks inward. A small design change for sure, but it’s one that’s greatly appreciated and makes gaming all the more smoother.
Plus, thanks to the extra size, you’ve now got a larger trackpad to use as a mouse on the Steam Deck. What’s not to love?
The only real downside here is the adaptive triggers often won’t work in non-Sony games. It’s trademarked tech so it does make sense, but it’s still a shame.
5. GuliKit Kingkong Pro Controller
You’ll be forgiven for thinking the GuliKit is an Xbox controller. While it definitely takes its cues from the Microsoft device, there’s a lot going on under the hood that’s worth getting excited about.
For a start, the GuliKit features hall sensor technology. That’s essentially a fancy way of saying no matter what you throw at it, the sticks will never drift. Can’t say the same about the Dualsense now, can we?
It turns out GuliKit was the first company to make use of the tech as well, so they’re definitely trendsetters in that regard. Nowadays every company from AYANEO to NYXI is using hall effect tech, simply because of how reliable it is.
What’s more, the electromagnetic stick also means the controller won’t ever suffer from dead zones. If you’re into first-person shooters, this is a very compelling feature.
Alongside the killer tech is another really cool function. If you’re a Minecraft player, strap in. Players can manually record button presses over a 10-minute period. Why would you want to do that? Imagine you’re mining for hundreds of blocks. With this setting, you can tell the controller to keep pressing the button inputs without you physically needing to press anything.
That means you can literally teach the game to play itself without you there. How cool (and time-saving) is that?
6. 8BitDo Pro Controller 2
The 8BitDo Pro Controller 2 is a must for those who plan to use their Steam Deck to play older, retro titles.
The design here is a mix of old and new: Imagine a SNES controller that’s been dragged into the 21st century. That’s the main hook.
The overall shape of the main grips garners comparisons with the PlayStation range of controllers, as does the stick placement and button layout.
Something else that’s cool about this controller is the 1000mAh Li-on battery means it can run for up to 20 hours before needing to plug it in. That’s less than the Xbox controller, but nearly four times longer than the Dualsense. Not bad, eh?
While the 8BitDo may not be the first choice for first-person shooters due to its more compact design, the button layout makes it a strong contender for those looking to play SNES, Genesis, or PS1 titles.
If you’re after an authentic-but-modern controller for retro gaming, the 8BitDo Pro Controller 2 comes easy to recommend.
7. Wireless Mini Keyboard
Is a keyboard a controller? Normally no, but this is one device that has genuinely shocked me.
This mass-produced mini keyboard, complete with RBG lighting, has made accessing keyboard functionality on the Steam Deck so much simpler. For controlling games, it ain’t it. But for navigating menus, and being able to actually enter text when you need to do, it works well at a price that’s wallet-friendly.
At some point, there will come a time when you need a physical keyboard. The on-screen keyboard is great, but it’s limiting. Want to enter console commands on Skyrim?
You can’t without a keyboard. How about entering a 200-character string of code in Konsole to get some new Steam Deck apps? You could do it with the on-screen keyboard, but it’s going to take forever.
Now, you could get a keyboard and hook it up to the Steam Deck, but if you’re on your couch chilling, a long keyboard isn’t exactly comfortable, is it? With this mini keyboard, you could keep it in your pocket if you wanted it’s that portable.
Plus it comes with a dedicated dongle, so setting it up is as simple as plugging the dongle into your dock of choice and turning it on. That’s it!
8. Giotek PS4 Controller
Giotek isn’t the first name most think of when it comes to third-party controllers. But I’ll tell you something, my basic Giotek PS4 controller has been a life-saver on the Steam Deck.
If you’re into dual-booting – I.e. Switching between SteamOS and Windows – having a second controller saves you a lot of bother.
You see, if you sync a controller to SteamOS, you then need to resync it to Windows. Then you need to resync it back to SteamOS when you load that back up. Annoying, right? It’s just a constant circle of needing to resync controllers.
The Giotek PS4 controller is a budget option, sure, but having a main controller for SteamOS and the Giotek for Windows really makes the dual experience less of a hassle.
So why the GioTek PS4 controller over other budget options?
This one has a working touchpad. If you’re using Windows, you abso-freaking-lutely want a controller with a touchpad. Trust me, without one you’ll need to hook up a mouse, meaning you’ll be constantly tied to the Steam Deck via a cable. Not fun.
Granted the buttons and overall feel aren’t as slick as Sony or Microsoft offerings, but they get the job done.
For those after a second controller for friends, family, or different operating systems, and one that won’t break the bank, you really can’t go wrong for the price.
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Wesley Copeland is an expert retro gamer with an expansive knowledge of the handheld niche. He has tested hundreds of products and written for a wide number of popular gaming websites in the past, he is now helping the Retro Dodo community by offering his wisdom in written form!