No matter how big smartphone manufacturers make the screens for their latest devices, we’re always going to prefer a physical controller to fiddly on-screen buttons and cramped fingers.
Until recently it didn’t really matter because mobile games weren’t all that advanced and we were happy using our fingers to operate simple titles. However, with huge advances in mobile processors and games that we can play on the move we’ve become more and more inclined to want a physical gamepad to sit back and play with – after all, our phone screens are getting big enough to act as standalone monitors!
You might not know it but there are quite a few gamepad controllers out there that hook up wirelessly to your Android smartphone or tablet, and in our eyes these are the top 5;
Steelseries Free – £63.99
Steelseries have been experts in the gaming accessory industry for some time, producing some seriously high grade mice, headsets and controllers for those serious about their gaming. Although the priciest around, the Free controller is perhaps the best designed and well-made out there.
Sporting a very PlayStation-style layout, this controller can do between 10 and 20 hours of gaming from a single charge, connects wirelessly via Bluetooth and will play nicely with Android, Mac, Windows and iOS. The SteelSeries Engine software allows you to program all 12 buttons to suit almost any game, too.
Gametel Portable Games Controller – £43.32
Whereas the Steelseries controller offers a standalone solution, Gametel’s controller features an adjustable grip to accommodate your smartphone to make an all-in-one portable gaming machine. As with the others it connects to your Android smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth for simple set up and has a rechargeable battery that will see you through 9 hours of gaming from a single charge.
MOGA - $49.99 (~£45 with shipping to UK)
This gamepad works with a similar principle to the Gametel pad, featuring an adjustable clip to take any smartphone up to 3.2-inches wide in landscape orientation to make a Project SHIELD-style portable console. Rubberised dual analog sticks and a whopping 18 hours gameplay make this a great option; although on the downside it runs on AAA batteries rather than having a rechargeable battery tucked away inside. Compatible games include the gore-fest Dead Trigger, street racer Asphalt Heat 7 and the classic Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, to name but a few.
MOGA’s Pivot app will also bring you a feed of the latest compatible games, which is useful as not every app from the Play Store has compatibility with gamepad accessories.
Nyko PlayPad Pro – £30
Closely resembling the layout of the Xbox 360 controller, the Nyko PlayPad Pro is aimed at the more serious mobile gamer. Nvidia lent a hand in the development, so we know its top notch and has compatibility with Tegra-compatible games, which tend to be some of the best games out there. Connectivity comes in the form of Bluetooth, while Nyko’s Playground app helps the controller to work even with older titles that weren’t design with gamepads in mind.
You’ll need an Android 3.0 or higher on your device in order to use this gamepad.
Snakebyte iDroid:con – £30
Looking very much like one of those dodgy third party PS2 controllers that’d frequent the likes of Pink Planet, the iDroid:con sports a PlayStation-button layout for familiarity, including two rubberised analog sticks, shoulder buttons and a D-pad. You can also switch between gamepad, mouse and keyboard modes to give better compatibility with all types of games.
Snakebyte prides itself in not needing to offer an app with this controller, as the others do, with a simple Bluetooth connection being all that’s needed to get this baby up and running. It’s got a rechargeable Li-Ion battery, compatibility with games such as Shadowgun and Riptide GP, and a turbo button. That last one sold it for us, too.
It’s worth noting that you won’t get perfect compatibility with every game on the Play Store with any of these controllers – some will work smoothly, some will have niggly issues and some might not even work at all. The good thing is that the best titles tend to be the ones designed to work nicely with these gamepads.