TL; DR: These are the best Xbox Series X / S controllers:
1. Xbox Core Controller
Best Xbox Series X / S Controller
Xbox Core Controller
The reigning champion. The ideal gamepad for general use on Xbox and gaming PC. There isn’t much to say about the central controller (see our review) because it speaks for itself. It is a robust, reliable, and standard-setting part that is compatible with many different hand sizes and control schemes. It’s almost like the platonic ideal of a game controller. There’s nothing fancy about it, because you don’t need any gimmicks to do what you do best. It just gets the job done.
The only thing I’m not excited about is that it requires AA batteries to play wirelessly. But if you get rechargeable batteries and a wall charger, you can get away with charging one set of batteries while using the other and not having to keep buying those giant blister packs like it’s 1999 or something. And the central controller comes with a USB-C plug that works on the PC and the console, if you don’t want to deal with batteries at all.
2. PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller
Best Budget Xbox X / S Series Controller
PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller
At the other end of the spectrum, PowerA’s improved wired controller (see our review) continues the tradition of offering cheaper options that still hold up well. If you want to be that awesome friend who has a whole series of controllers out of the box, whether your friends remember to bring one or not, you probably don’t want to splurge on four Elite controllers. That would be a powerful move, so don’t let me tell you how to live your life if that’s the type of player you are.
But for the rest of us, these more affordable workhorses are perfect for the P3 and P4 slots. They can take a lot of penalties and don’t feel as cheap as many other options in this price range. They also come with a built-in share button and microphone mute switch, which is good if your pet suddenly demands your attention in the middle of a match. The front buttons aren’t as tactile as the ones on the central controller, but the overall ergonomics feels great.
3. Xbox Elite Series 2
The best high-end Xbox Series X / S controller
Xbox Elite Series 2
The Xbox Elite Series 2 (see our review) is the sleek sports car of Xbox controllers. It’s going to cost you, but you’re paying for premium components, customization, and a luxurious feel. The joysticks, D-pad, and triggers are interchangeable, so you can choose the parts that feel best for you. It also comes with a rechargeable battery that can last up to 40 hours, so you won’t have to search for batteries like you would with the Core controller.
It even comes with four additional paddles on the back that can be programmed to do things like change the function of the face buttons when held down. This is especially impressive if you’re using it on PC for games like Final Fantasy XIV, where you may have more skills than a standard controller can handle. All of that comes with a price tag of more than double that of a Core controller. But you got what you paid for.
4. Razer Wolverine V2
Best Xbox Series X / S Tunable Controller
Razer Wolverine V2
Priced at a good midpoint between the Core and Elite pads, the Razer Wolverine (see our review) is the best third-party pad overall for Xbox. This isn’t like that off-brand controller you used to hand out to your little brother overnight from Halo in the daytime. Razer has gone to great lengths to make sure it lives up to, or even surpasses, the official hardware that Microsoft has released.
As you would expect from Razer, this thing is highly customizable. The buttons on the face are completely reassignable, and there’s even a trigger mode that you can activate on the fly using physical switches. That means your LT and RT will record an inning with just a slight tap, rather than having to push them down all the way, which is a huge advantage in fighting games and shooters. This is an ideal option for competitive gamers who don’t want to spend a fortune on something like the Elite controller, but need more features than the Core controller can offer.
5. Thrustmaster TMX Force Feedback
The best upgradeable Xbox Series X / S controller
Thrustmaster TMX Force Feedback
The next Forza game may not have a release date yet, but there are already plenty of great driving games on Xbox and PC that are best played with proper steering wheel settings. Thrustmaster always impresses me with the robustness and feel of its components. When I buy something from them, it feels like it came off an industrial assembly line in a car factory, not a toy store. The TMX provides seriously realistic force feedback with its tuned internal motors and the non-slip wheel grip feels great.
It only has two pedals, so you will change gears with the attached paddles. But it’s also relatively cheap for the quality you get at just $ 200. You could definitely spend a lot more than that on a race setting. I also really like the layout and styling of the buttons on this one, because it looks more like something you’d see on a professional race car than a standard controller.
6. Thrustmaster T-Flight HOTAS One
Best Xbox Series X / S Flight Stick
Thrustmaster T-Flight HOTAS One
Microsoft Flight Simulator looks amazing on the Xbox Series X and modern PCs, and for a proper experience, you’ll want to play with stick and throttle. Thrustmaster brings a great all-in-one controller to your virtual cockpit with the T-Flight HOTAS One, which is simple enough for even novice pilots to get used to quickly, but also satisfying for seasoned aces.
This is a one-piece controller, which is great for console gaming, and has a very modern, streamlined look that won’t seem out of place sitting in your living room. The switches and buttons on both the stick and throttle are raised and shaped in such a way that you can easily find them without looking down, which can be trickier on other sticks like Logitech, where all the buttons feel the same. It also has a Share button built into the base to capture the panoramic views you’ll pounce on, something most PC devices don’t usually have.
Leana Hafer is an avid PC gamer. Talk about action RPGs, strategy games, and more with her on Twitter at @AsaTJ