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The most effective Xbox controller 2023: play higher with these pads

Looking for the best Xbox controllers? There are plenty to choose from these days. Thanks to the Xbox Series X/S using the same standard as the Xbox One, older controllers will still work here but you can also invest in a newer model made with the Xbox Series S/X in mind.

Either works just as well with a plethora of cheaper wired options right up to high-end and highly customizable ‘pro’ controllers also available for those that want the absolute best (or at least one that they can fiddle extensively).

Below, we’ve picked out the best Xbox controllers available at the moment. We’ve considered you might simply need an extra controller to play a game with the kids, but we’ve also picked out pricier options if you prefer a controller with customizable buttons and even adjustable thumbsticks. And if you’re an avid PC player as well as Xbox gamer, you can always use the controller with your PC too making spending a little more potentially worthwhile.

What are the best Xbox controllers to buy today?

  • Best overall Xbox controller – Xbox Wireless Controller
    Your console comes with the best Xbox controller for most people. Add another one and you’ve got yourself the perfect couch co-op or competitive gaming setup. It has a satisfyingly familiar design with each button feeling good to press down on. Its D-pad is also perfectly suited for more traditional gaming titles. Triggers are well placed so they fit any hand size, while there’s strong battery life, although one that’s dependent on AA batteries or charging packs.
  • Best premium Xbox controllers – Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
    The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is quite the investment but it offers incredible customization options. That includes modular thumbsticks as well as the D-pad, while you can also adjust the triggers to go down deeper or vice versa depending on what feels right for you. It’s also a rechargeable controller so it’s simple enough to maintain. If you play a wide variety of games, you’ll appreciate how flexible the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2.
  • Best budget Xbox controller – Turtle Beach Recon Controller
    The Turtle Beach Recon Controller feels lighter than most which won’t appeal to everyone, but it has some neat features bundled in. Besides a long and braided cable that makes you feel less bad about it being wired, there’s a focus on audio options. A series of equalizer presets provides you with some great audio while there’s Turtle Beach’s Superhuman hearing mode for helping you hear footsteps better. It’s a cut above the average budget controller.

All our picks for the best Xbox controllers

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2

There’s a lot going on with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and almost all of it is good. It’s certainly very expensive but it feels great to use. It offers modular thumbsticks and D-pads so you can opt for different sizes for different types of games. It’s also possible to adjust the trigger locks on the shoulder buttons.

Shorter triggers are best for FPS games while longer ones suit racing games. Fortunately, thanks to being able to save profiles, you can set this up and forget about it once you toggle across before playing a different game.

It feels great in your hands too. It’s weighty but not much bulkier than the average Xbox controller. It’s rechargeable so you don’t have to worry about needing a supply of AA batteries. It’s also possible to pick your own design via Microsoft’s Design Labs making this a truly personal controller.

Xbox wireless controller

The Xbox Wireless Controller keeps things simple and that works in many cases. If you just want to play FIFA with a friend or family member, there’s little need for anything more complicated than this. The Xbox Wireless Controller is the controller everyone can pick up and figure out.

It’s reasonably affordable too as you can pick up a standard Xbox One controller that has been around since 2013. The D-pad feels great for fighting games while the face and trigger buttons are perfectly placed for all hand sizes.

At all times, the Xbox Wireless Controller feels good to use. Tapping or holding down buttons feels appropriately responsive and satisfying. A textured grip means it’s reliable for extended periods too. The latest Xbox Wireless Controllers also offer extra buttons for taking screenshots or recording video footage, which is handy for the amateur streamer.

PowerA Spectra Infinity Enhanced Wired Controller

The PowerA Spectra Infinity Enhanced Wired Controller is incredibly pretty for a cheap Xbox controller. That’s thanks to it offering thousand of color combinations via its spectra zones – aka the surrounding areas around the face buttons, thumbsticks and D-pad. It’s a fun twist compared to just offering different color schemes. A choice of either solid colors or a breathing mode which sees the lights pulsate is another neat touch.

None of this would matter if it was a mediocre controller, but the PowerA Spectra Infinity Enhanced Wired Controller is pretty respectable for the price. It feels good in your hands with suitably responsive buttons. It also offers two mappable buttons on the back if you want a bit of extra functionality without spending a lot. You can also adjust the triggers to be more sensitive or require more holding down, proving useful for different genres.

Xbox Elite Series 2 Core Edition

Somewhere along the lines, Microsoft realized not everyone wants all the accessories that come with the original Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller so we ended up with the Xbox Elite Series 2 Core. It’s much the same to hold and we love the D-pad for fighting games. However it lacks all the accessories that come with its pricier relative. That brings the price down a lot but it does mean you miss out on back triggers and the extended thumbsticks, although you can purchase them later if you wish.

Still, if you want a weighty controller that offers a lot of what the best pro controllers provide, the Xbox Elite Series 2 Core is almost it. A rubberised grip, shorter trigger locks, and extensive button mapping is certainly useful. There’s appealing 40-hour battery life too via the charging cable, plus it looks great.

Scuf Instinct Pro

The Scuf Instinct Pro is perfect for someone who wants to show off their personality via a controller. Its body is much the same as a regular Xbox controller albeit a little smaller, but the key here is its vast amount of color options. It’s possible to pick out different color backgrounds or designs for the faceplate, before changing the back colour, thumbstick colours, triggers, you get the idea.

Besides color options, you can also choose to set the thumbsticks just how you like them. Each thumbstick can be either a short concave or dome, as well as a longer one of those two. The D-pad can be adjusted between two designs as well. Once it arrives, you can also customize the triggers and paddles to your needs. The variety is almost overwhelming but if you’ve always had a vision in your mind of the perfect controller for you, this is almost certainly the best way to gain that. Providing you can afford it, of course.

PowerA Fusion Pro 2

The PowerA Fusion Pro 2 has quite a lot of functionality at a fairly competitive price. It’s a wired controller which brings the price down and at least saves you the need to buy many batteries. Despite that, it’s fairly high-end. It has four programmable buttons on the back which can be customized to suit many needs depending on the game you’re playing. It also has the increasingly lovely set of trigger locks so you can have shorter triggers or longer ones, all dependent on your tastes.

The thumbsticks can also be swapped out for convex-capped or tall sticks with both offering pros and cons. A rubberised grip is also available thanks to a choice of faceplates. It’s all well-designed yet quite good value too. Even a carrying case is bundled in for the price. There’s also a volume dial, one-touch mic mute, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

8BitDo Pro 2 Wired Controller

While most Xbox controllers are typically Xbox looking in style, the 8BitDo Pro 2 Wired Controller looks more at home with Sony’s console. Its contours are certainly much like the PlayStation controllers. It’s light too so it’s handy for anyone who has issues with heftier devices. It keeps things fairly simple but you can still adjust the stick trigger sensitivity along with vibration controls. Controller profiles can be set up so you can alternate as needed if you have a particular preference in mind.

There are also two subtly placed triggers on the back if you need some extra control options. You may need to spend some time setting things up just how you want them, but if you just want something straightforward, the 8BitDo Pro 2 Wired Controller serves that role too. For anyone in need of a different shape than average, the 8BitDo Pro 2 Wired Controller has a home there.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller

The Turtle Beach Recon Controller isn’t your average wired controller. It’s all about offering you the advantage aurally. Up the top of the controller is a set of audio options. These include equalizer presets along with the option to mix game and chat volume, as well as monitor your mic too. The presets are divided up fairly well with different options best for certain game genres. It makes a difference with some more bass-heavy and others more treble-focused.

Alongside that is Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing mode which basically makes footsteps louder. It takes some getting used to and can make things a bit ‘thuddy’ but it works well for games where enemies can sneak up on you. In particular, it boosts the sound quality of budget headsets which is a nice perk.

As a general controller, the Turtle Beach Recon Controller can feel a tad flimsy but it works well with responsive buttons and two mappable rear buttons as well.

Razer Wolverine V2

As with much of Razer’s gear, the Razer Wolverine V2 is designed with pro gamers in mind. It’s a wired controller under the guise of ensuring there’s no input lag that could get in the way. It’s how accurate the buttons feel that are most appealing to us. They’re suitably tactile with a cushioned touch adding to the sense that you’re doing a little more than just tapping a small button. As with other controllers here, you can adjust the hair triggers to either make them longer or shorter. It’s also possible to remap buttons at the front while you can adjust thumbstick sensitivity too.

Durability plays a big role too with Razer reckoning that the Razer Wolverine V2 will last for three million clicks. We haven’t quite got there yet but it does feel more robust than most. It also looks sleek and fits in your hands in a very comfortable way.

Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Pro

A little more complicated than your average Xbox controller, the ESWAP XR Pro is designed to replicate a steering wheel. That means no need to find room for the hefty accessory while also still getting the benefits of a racing wheel-style experience. It has a module for one thumbstick that provides a 95-degree rotation angle along so you can steer more accurately than a controller can normally provide. It’s possible to swap the module out for a regular thumbstick as well as move the D-pad around. That means this could just be a regular controller but that’s hardly the point at this price.

Triggers can also be adjusted with locks, while you get four extra rear buttons to remap as needed, or disable them instead. Does everyone need this? Not in the slightest, but if you’re a big racing fan and don’t want a wheel, this is an excellent middle ground.

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