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Gaming on a touchscreen can be difficult and frustrating. While being able to whip out your Android phone and sneak in a little Final Fantasy on your lunch break is great, having no tactile feedback or physical buttons can degrade the experience. Thankfully, there are a bevy of controllers that can easily connect with your Android device and have you gaming in no time.
Many Android games found in the Play Store are compatible with these Bluetooth controllers, and you can even use them with all your favorite emulators. Of course, you could connect your Wiimote, Xbox 360 controller, or PS3 controller to your Android device, but what if you don’t have one of those just lying around? (And, really, who wants to game on a Wiimote?) These controllers come with a level of simplicity and other advantages that make them worth your while.
What’s the best controller to satisfy your gaming needs on an Android device? Read on to find out.
I’m not sure why this thing is named after a color, a class of medieval Japanese military nobility, and a German rocket developed during World War 2, but it sure is a good gaming controller at a low price.
It looks like a PS3 controller, overlaid on an Xbox 360 controller and given a paint job. According to user reviews, it is very comfortable to hold, with a rubberized grip on the sides and very clickable buttons. Connecting it to your Android device is as simple as clicking the glowing button in the center and pairing it in the Bluetooth settings menu of your device. GameStop even claims that you can hook up two controllers to a single Android device for some multiplayer gaming. Super Smash Bros., anyone?
For a hands-on look at it, see the video on setting it up below.
The best part about this controller, though, is the price: $25 from. That’s easily one of the cheapest controller on this list, and it’s surprising that it’s such a high-quality device. GameStop claims 8 hours of battery life, and it charges via an included mini-USB cable. It’s only compatible with Android 3.x and up, so all you Gingerbread-touting readers should look elsewhere (or just buy a new phone).
MOGA Pro Controller ($50)
The major advantage you’re getting with the MOGA Pro by PowerA is that it can hold your phone. There’s a strip of plastic down the center of the controller that flips open to an adjustable grip for Android phones up to 82mm. Users have stated the phone grip is very sturdy and won’t have any problems keeping your device in place. If you’re gaming on a tablet, the MOGA Pro also comes with a tablet stand.
The downside? Well, you’d be hard pressed to find one. The controller can play “MOGA enhanced” games available through the MOGA Pivot app, but its also HID-compatible, meaning it can be used just like any other Bluetooth controller. HID (Human Interface Device) compatibility allows for the individual keys to be mapped for things like emulators, and it allows the controller to be supported as a native gamepad, giving you some extra functionality like the ability to navigate your homescreen with the controller. For a little hands-on demonstration with this Xbox 360-style controller, see the video review below from SlashGear.
While I’ve never used the MOGA Pro, I have used its compact little sibling, the MOGA Pocket. The smaller MOGA controller has flimsy, unclickable analog sticks, no d-pad, and requires a third-party app called MOGA Universal Driver to play non-MOGA games since it is not HID-compatible, but it worked pretty well for my basic gaming needs. Plus, it’s a lot easier to throw in a backpack or a pocket than the MOGA Pro.
The MOGA Pro Controller is $50 direct from their website or on Amazon, which is twice the price of the Red Samurai V2, but the ability to dock your phone on the controller is unique to the MOGA. This controller also supports any devices running Android 2.3 and up, so if you’re still stuck on Gingerbread for some reason, this controller is for you.
One thing you might want to take note of, however, is that the next series of MOGA controllers, dubbed the Power Series, will be available sometime this fall. You can read their full press release. The most notable feature of these redesigned controllers is called MOGA Boost, which will charge your device via a USB port on the back of the controller and an included 6-inch USB to micro-USB cable. In my opinion, it’d be well worth the wait to hang on until the fall for this feature alone.
Nyko PlayPad Pro ($40)
Designed in conjunction with NVIDIA, Nyko says that this device is optimized for Tegra-powered devices. It’s layout is similar to that of an Xbox 360 controller, but with much more angular, hard edges.
The controller itself received favorable reviews, but the same can’t be said of its Android app: Nyko Playground. The app has an overall 2-star rating in the Play Store with an overwhelming majority of individual 1-star reviews. Nyko Playground is supposed to provide backwards compatibility for games not optimized for gamepads by allowing you to map the PlayPad’s buttons, but countless reviews of the app have stated that the app either doesn’t work properly or doesn’t work at all. To be fair, Nyko does still say that the app is in beta.
But if you can steer clear of the Playground app (or if it magically works for you), connecting the PlayPad Pro to your Android device and gaming is just as easy and simple as any other Bluetooth controller. See the PlayPad Pro in action below.
The PlayPad Pro, just like the MOGA Pro, has a smaller, more compact sibling confusingly called the PlayPad. The basic PlayPad is the same price as the Pro model at $40, but it’s much smaller and less comfortable to hold. The analog sticks definitely aren’t as nice as those found on the Pro, but it does offer a d-pad, unlike the MOGA Pocket. The PlayPad (not the Pro) also comes with a tablet stand.
At $40, I can’t see a whole lot of reasons to pick the PlayPad Pro over the very similar $25 Red Samurai V2 unless you have a Tegra-powered device, really prefer the Xbox 360 controller layout to the Playstation controller layout, or just hate the color red. But you should also be wary that Nyko is releasing a brand new PlayPad Pro 2 this fall, and while it doesn’t have a phone-charging feature like the MOGA Power Series, it does look like a significant upgrade with ruggedized handles to fight sweaty palms.
The MOGA Pro is clearly your best option because of the ability to dock your phone on the controller and the included tablet stand; however, I would suggest holding out until the fall for the Power Series.
For the budget conscious, the Red Samurai V2 offers incredible value for a PS3-like controller at only $25, but you will have to buy a separate docking station or stand for your phone or tablet. Of course, you could just hook up your Android device to your TV.
What’s your favorite controller for Android gaming? What do you think of these controllers? Let us know in the comments.
Image credit: Johan Larsson/Flickr