Gaming on the iPhone has gotten significantly better over the years. With the release of Apple Arcade in 2019, gaming developers have been continuously adding controller support. The inclusion of a physical controller heightens the opportunities as well as playability for the huge number of games available. Add in the ability to play games on the Apple TV, and you have what amounts to a full-blown console without the extra hardware. Let’s look at some of the best controllers that will help take iOS gaming to a new level.
1. SteelSeries Nimbus+
While console controllers often get the glory, it’s the SteelSeries Nimbus+ that should be first on any serious iOS gamer’s list. Officially licensed by Apple and made with iOS, iPadOS and tvVOS in mind, this is a fantastic choice. A built-in rechargeable battery allows up to 50 hours of gaming on a single charge. The layout of Nimbus+ is something of a cross between the Xbox and PlayStation controller. X, Y, B and A emulate the Xbox One controller layout. On the other hand, dual joysticks on the same row will be immediately familiar to any PlayStation fan.
Clickable L3/R3 buttons are always in demand for new iPhone games, and the Nimbus+ does not disappoint. The triggers and buttons are highly responsive with a solid connection that rarely breaks from any of your Apple devices. That the controller charges via Lightning cable and includes a dedicated phone mount to play on the go confirms that the Nimbus+ is the iPhone gaming controller to beat.
2. Razer Kishi
Telescopic controllers have been around for years, so it’s no surprise to see at least one appearing on this list. Anyone who enjoys this controller layout should look to the Razer Kishi as the best telescopic controller for iOS gaming. The only real downside of the Kishi is that cases won’t fit. Remove the case, insert your iPhone, and you will find some of the best analog joysticks available for mobile gaming.
Feedback is great, and since iOS devices connect via lightning cable passthrough, there are no concerns over lag that could stem from a Bluetooth/wireless connection. That the lightning cable can also charge your phone while playing is just icing on the cake. The telescopic design feels comfortable to Nintendo Switch owners.
3. DualShock 4 (PlayStation 4)
For any PlayStation 4 owner, the DualShock 4 or DS4 is a familiar and beloved design. Pairing the controller is as easy as holding the Share and PlayStation buttons until the light bar flashes and it connects via Bluetooth. It’s then ready for use on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.
The analog joystick and button layout are arguably among the best of any controller for any console ever. Everything from the shoulder buttons to trackpad feel well built and like they could last for decades. Apple developers can decide to support some of the extras the DS4 supports, like rumble feedback or L3/R3 support. Perhaps the only downside is the inability to see battery life on the controller itself. That said, for anyone who already owns one of these controllers, you don’t have to make any extra purchases, and that is a huge benefit in and of itself.
4. Xbox One Controller
Similar to the DS4, the Xbox One controller is immediately familiar to any console gamer. The arguably more-comfortable controller between the two console giants adds a superb gaming experience on iOS and Apple TV. Connecting is handled much the same as the DS4 by pressing and holding the wireless button on the front of the controller until your iOS or Apple TV device recognizes and pairs. Perhaps the biggest downside to the Xbox One controller is its reliance on AA batteries. While these batteries outlast the PS4 controller (up to eight hours), it lacks the recharging feature of its biggest competitor.
That aside, the comfort of the Xbox One has long been discussed as the biggest reason to use this over the DS4. The asymmetrical layout and larger body make it more comfortable to hold over extended periods. On top of that, the triggers are just a tad more responsive when you are immersed in gaming. The same argument applies to the Xbox One controller where it is up to developers to support added features like vibration or L3/R3 buttons.
5. Rotor Riot
For anyone preferring the Xbox look and feel without having to use one of its existing controllers, the Rotor Riot gamepad is for you. MFi-certified by Apple, the Rotor Riot is one of, if not the only, wired controller that connects with a lightning cable. The wired compatibility ensures that you will not experience any lag or latency with any button input. All you need is to charge your battery and start playing.
As power can be delivered directly to your iPhone from the gamepad, your opportunity for extended play sessions are well within reach. It’s very much plug and play. Functioning L3 and R3 buttons are enabled, and the triggers should be immediately familiar to both Xbox and PS4 owners. The attached clip works with any size iPhone, though it is recommended to remove your case for the best possible fit. Want to check which apps are available with the Rotor Riot? Download Ludu Mapp on iOS and see which games are compatible.
If you want the very best controllers for iOS, go for the SteelSeries Nimbus+. However, the Razer Kishi and Rotor Riot both bring something to the table. That’s especially true if you want to make your iPhone feel very Switch-like, like the Rishi. If you have an Android phone instead, here is how you can connect your PS4 controller to your phone.