In addition to the many iOS, Switch, and Steam Deck end of year game features on the site, I wanted to also highlight our favorite controllers of the year for 2023. This past year saw iPhones move to USB-C, the Switch get an updated version of my favorite controller, and also saw a few notable arcade controllers that work on Steam Deck arrive. I could’ve done 10 controllers overall based on how much I played across platforms and how much we all tested, but decided to keep things simple and have one recommendation per platform.
The best iPhone game controller in 2023
Backbone One USB-C (2nd generation)
When Apple announced the iPhone 15 series had moved over to USB-C, Backbone was ready with updates for its existing USB-C controllers. The company even released a new generation version with a magnetic adapter to fit phones with specific cases and more. This is now the best iPhone 15 series controller, and it is available in the ABXY black or PlayStation Edition white variants with a new carrying case. If you have an iPhone 15 series device, this is the controller to get right now from the ones we’ve tried. Keep in mind the subscription locks certain features behind a paywall though. I’m looking forward to checking out the GameSir G8 in the future as well.
The best iPad game controller in 2023
DualSense or Xbox Wireless Controller
This will vary by your own controller preference if you already play on consoles. I prefer the DualSense and the DualSense Edge over the Xbox Wireless controller, but Jared likes the latter more. You can’t go wrong with either option here, and if you are new to using any sort of console controller on iPad, I would recommend the Xbox Wireless Controller since most games show ABXY button prompts on iOS and Apple Arcade games. If you do have a PS5, I can’t recommend the DualSense Edge enough. I love everything about it, and it is worth the price. I don’t recommend getting it solely for iPad play though.
The best Nintendo Switch game controller in 2023 – Docked and Handheld
HORI Nintendo Switch Split Pad Compact – Handheld
The official Joy-Cons are uncomfortable for games like Splatoon 3 or Monster Hunter Rise, and pretty awful if you run into drifting issues like I have across five different Joy-Cons since 2017. I ditched using Joy-Cons for the Hori Split Pad Pro back in 2021. That was a bit bulky, and Hori released an amazing update with the Hori Split Pad Compact this year. It is an essential if you play anything that requires fast analog movement or a functional d-pad, and I’ve not looked back since. You do miss out on HD Rumble, NFC / amiibo, and gyro support though so keep that in mind. I love the turbo functionality for some arcade games, and the paddles for when playing Monster Hunter Rise. There are a few color options or designs available, with more releasing in a month. I got the White and Yellow variant, and want the Dragon Quest model if it ever comes back in stock.
8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller with Charging Dock – Docked
As for the best controller to use when your Switch is docked, having gone through multiple Nintendo Switch Pro Controllers including the limited edition ones like the Monster Hunter and Splatoon variants that also started drifting or failing on me, the best and most reliable controller I’ve used is the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller with Charting Dock. You lose out on NFC / amiibo scanning, but it does have rumble which works well and full gyro support. This released last year, but it still is the best controller for Switch, and it has Hall Effect sticks so you don’t need to worry about drifting.
The best Steam Deck game controller in 2023
Yes, this one is kind of cheating because the Razer Kitsune isn’t a traditional controller, but an arcade controller. The Steam Deck doesn’t actually need an external traditional controller since the system itself is very comfortable, and it offers paddles and more. Instead, I’ve chosen an arcade controller that I’ve been using for fighting games, rhythm games, and arcade games. You can read my review of the Kitsune here.
Bonus: 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller
As the runner-up, I’ve chosen 8BitDo’s NeoGeo Wireless Controller which I’ve been using to play SNK’s older ports and some other classics on the Steam Deck. The click-style joystick is super satisfying to use, and the controller feels excellent for its price. You can use it as a general controller, but I recommend grabbing it if you play Garou, KOF, Metal Slug, and the like on Steam Deck.
There you have it. I hope you end up finding something useful from the controllers featured here. If you ended up liking a specific controller a lot this year, please let me know in the comments. I’m looking forward to seeing what hardware manufacturers end up doing in 2024 across all platforms with potentially getting a new Razer iPhone controller, more Switch third party controllers to replace the mediocre Pro Controller reliability, and more arcade controllers for Steam Deck. Thanks for reading.