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: 8Bitdo SN30 Pro
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 exactly 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 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Bluetooth 4.0 is onboard, which is a bit outdated by this point, but that shouldn’t cause any connection issues.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 make sure 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.
- Classic and familiar design
- Compatible with more than just Android
- Well-built with tactile D-pad and buttons
- Bluetooth 4.0 is outdated
- No dedicated buttons for power or switching between devices
Best Game Controller to Use with Android Emulators Overall
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: Flydigi Wee2T
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 newer 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.
- Can use phone both vertically and horizontally
- Built-in gyroscope
- Flashplay automatically remaps buttons
- Telescopic design for easy transport
- Must use third-party app to update firmware
- Only using Bluetooth 4.0
Allows for vertical or horizontal gaming.
There aren’t very many controllers that allow for both horizontal or vertical mounting, but then there’s the Flydigi Wee2T.
Upgrade Pick: Razer Kishi
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. In an effort to keep the Kishi lightweight and compact, Razer opted to not 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.
- Fits almost every phone
- Doesn’t need to be recharged
- Compact and lightweight
- Two versions available
- Inner rubber pads may need to be removed for larger phones
- USB-C port only offers passthrough charging
- Cannot use wirelessly
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 Versatility: GameSir X2
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 important to have one of the best game controllers for Android emulators that’s 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 actually pivots. Plus, the design is such that even the widest of phones, such as the Galaxy Z Fold 2, can be used. 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. With the GameSir X2, the USB-C port is actually on the left side, which could be a bit 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.
- Sleek design
- Wide-enough to work with the widest of phones
- Doesn’t need to be recharged
- Plug-and-play functionality removes latency issues
- Not the most ergonomic design
- Left-mounted USB-C port may be awkward
Best for Versatility
Ergonomics aside, this is one sleek and versatile controller.
The ergonomics prevent the GameSir X2 from being a top pick, but the company makes up for it with its flexible USB-C port.
Best Game Controller with Built-in Power Bank PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus
When Microsoft made the announcement that Project xCloud was becoming Cloud Gaming with Xbox Game Pass, there were a few companies that jumped on board for unique controllers. There are Xbox-branded options from the likes of 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 Note 20 Ultra, 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, there were some disappointing aspects of this new controller. 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.
- Built-in battery bank
- Includes detachable gaming clip
- Can be used wired or wirelessly
- Features two mappable gaming buttons
- Relies on microUSB for charging
- No pass-through audio options
Best Game Controller with Built-in Power Bank
PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus
Game for hours on end with the Moga XP5-X Plus.
Despite making use of 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
Instead of playing it safe with the PS5, Sony opted to bring a redesign to everything it was releasing 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 along with 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. In fact, even the spacious trackpad in the middle can act as a button without much extra tinkering.
For those who want to use certain emulators, such as Dolphin, there seems to be some hiccups if you want to automatically configure the controller. In many instances, folks have found that attempting to remap the left analaog stick will result in the emulator not recognizing the movement at all. One other potential problem with the Dualsense is the increasing number of users who are starting to experience the dreaded joystick drift issues.
- Fantastic and ergonomic design
- Touchpad works as a button
- Works with all of your devices
- May require button re-mapping for certain emulators
- Potential joystick drift problems
Best for Sony Fans
Ergonomics are king
Sony’s DualSense might just be the best controller we’ve ever seen due to the attention to detail and ergnomic design.
Best for Xbox Fans: Xbox Core Controller
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 that was added to the controller and the triggers that aims 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 had on a PC or Xbox Series S/X, but having a controller that works with everything is pretty great. Microsoft also opted to add in hybrid D-pad similar to the one found on the Xbox Elite Controller, which makes for a great option if you’re planning on emulating 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 arcahic 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 great for many emulators, there are others that require a bit of button remapping in order to get things in working order.
- 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
- Does not include rechargeable batteries
- May require button re-mapping for certain emulators
Best for Xbox Fans
Xbox Core Controller
Slight improvements make a big difference.
Not much as changed with the Xbox Core Controller, but the hybrid D-Pad makes playing side-scrollers a breeze.
Best for Samsung Phones: Glap Play p/1
If you’re a proud owner of one of the best Samsung phones, then you might have heard about the Glap Play controller. This controller is one of the few officially licensed by Samsung, so it makes sense that it works perfectly with all of Samsung’s devices, including the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 2. Considering these phones offer some of the biggest screens, it’s actually a relief to see Samsung officially license a compatible controller for its devices.
Although the Glap is a bit heftier than other options on this list, the design is such for a good reason. The handles are great for ergonomics, with the joysticks and buttons being placed in a manner that is comfortable for long-gaming sessions. But even if you want to use the Glap for gaming outside of emulators, this controller is also confirmed to be compatible with Steam Link, so you can play your favorite PC games on your smartphone. There’s also a built-in battery which will provide up to 10 hours before needing to be recharged.
Not everything is perfect when it comes to the Glap, which is one of the more expensive controllers on the market. Another potential frustration is that although there’s a built-in battery with the Glap, it doesn’t double as a power bank for your smartphone. Instead, you’ll need to rely on one of the best portable chargers if you need to keep your phone topped off on juice.
- Best paired with Samsung phones
- Wide-enough to work with the Galaxy Z Fold 2
- Up to 10 hours of battery life
- Compatible with other apps like Steam Link
- A little heavier than other options
- Cannot be used to charge your phone
Best for Samsung Phones
Glap Play p/1
Officially licensed by Samsung
Instead of making its own controller, Samsung has licensed the Glap Play to be one of the best options for Galaxy phone owners.
What is the best game controller for Android emulators?
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 are looking for something that sparks some nostalgia, you can’t go wrong with the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro. 8Bitdo has been leading the way when it comes to third-party controllers, especially for those who want a classic and familiar design that doesn’t break the bank.
With the SN30 Pro, there are a couple of color schemes to choose from, including one that looks just like the old SNES controller. It makes for the perfect option for those looking to play some classic games with emulators on their new-age smartphones. Plus, 8Bitdo has even made it so that you can use the SN30 Pro with the Nintendo Switch, and makes for one of the best Raspberry Pi controllers.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
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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