Steam Deck, being a portable PC, has robust compatibility just like any other computer. Having set its eyes on becoming a dominating force in gaming, Steam Deck has support for all manner of controllers so you can sync up pretty much any recent and even a few retro-inspired gamepads to the device.
In this article, we will be covering some of the best controllers you can hook up to your Steam Deck and explain what makes each of them a fine choice for gamers.
Steam Deck Official Controller Compatibility
Before we go into specific controllers for the Steam Deck, here is the list of all the controller types officially supported by the Steam Deck:
- Xbox One controller
- Xbox 360 controller
- Xbox Series X/S controller
- PlayStation DualShock 4
- PlayStation DualShock 3 works via USB cable only.
- PlayStation DualSense
- Steam Controller
- Nintendo Switch Pro controller
- DirectInput controllers
- XInput controllers
9 Best Controllers for the Steam Deck
Although you can use all kinds of third-party controllers that support the previously mentioned supported controller types, some have a clear advantage over the other so we will be going through the best.
The 9 best controllers for the Steam Deck are:
- Bluetooth Supported Xbox One and Series X/S Controller
- Dualshock 5 / DualSense – PlayStation 5 Controller
- DualShock 4 – PlayStation 4 Controller
- Switch Pro Controller
- 8bitdo Pro 2
- 8BitDo Ultimate Xbox Wired Controller
- PowerA Enhanced Wired Xbox Controller
- Steam Controller
- Razer Turret (Honorable Mention) or any wireless keyboard and mouse combo
Bluetooth Supported Xbox One and Series X/S Controller
The Xbox button layout has become the standard of general PC games, as you can see the same layout is used on the Steam Deck as well. This controller’s button layout has become the default for most games that support a controller. It has a textured outer shell for easy grip, a textured shoulder, trigger buttons, an extra clicky D-pad, and all-around great support from the gaming industry.
It also has an offset analog stick layout that many players prefer for its comfortable placement. With the Bluetooth on the later Xbox One controllers and the newer Series X/S controllers, pairing it with the Steam Deck is quite easy.
There is also the Xbox Elite Controller that you wirelessly use with the Steam Deck. This controller is a more premium product from Microsoft with top-quality materials, more buttons to remap, trigger locks, and even replaceable buttons like D-pad and analog stick height/shape for that extra control customization.
For older Xbox One models (non-Bluetooth controllers) and Xbox 360 controllers, you will have to go for the wired setup to make it work on the Steam Deck. Just hook them up using a USB hub.
Dualshock 5 / DualSense – PlayStation 5 Controller
PC games are readily incorporating, either manually or automatically, PlayStation button layout in their UI. Even if they don’t, the general layout of the PlayStation controller is similar to that of the Xbox so it won’t take long to get accustomed to it. Steam already has native support for the PlayStation controller.
The DualSense controller features a more rounded, easy-to-grip design from its previous generation. There are also some unique features of this controller, like the Adaptive Triggers, that is receiving support in some games. Steam also supports the onboard touchpad of this controller so you can use it as a mouse input.
The upcoming DualSense Edge controller is another great controller to add to your arsenal. It has features similar to that of the Xbox Elite controller with the added advantage of replacing the entire analog stick component to counter that pesky stick drift issue in most modern controllers.
If you are a fan of the PlayStation and have one of these controllers laying around then it’s an easy pick for you. Otherwise, if you haven’t yet gotten a PS5 then getting this controller separately is also recommended.
DualShock 4 – PlayStation 4 Controller
Speaking of PlayStation controllers, how can we forget the recent most successful console from Sony the PlayStation 4, and its DualShock 4 controller. With the number of units sold of this console, many of you must already own a DualShock 4. As mentioned above, Steam has full support for this controller with the touchpad acting as a mouse.
This is a solid controller to be used on the Steam Deck with its comfortable button layout, inline analog sticks (preferred by some players), and responsive buttons like the bumpers and triggers. Although it has a more plasticky feel and lighter weight compared to the DualSense, by no means it is an inferior product.
Related: How To Play Breath of the Wild On Steam Deck
Switch Pro Controller
For many Switch users, the Switch Pro Controller has become essential for playing on the console and with its Bluetooth support, it can easily pair with the Steam Deck with full support from Steam. It features large face buttons, gyro aiming, asymmetrical stick placement, and a great ergonomic grip.
Gamers who are familiar with the Nintendo button layout will gravitate towards the swapped A and B buttons of this controller. There is even an option in the controller settings on the Steam Deck to swap it to the traditional buttons of PC/Xbox.
There are some reports of this controller having issues properly connecting o the Steam Deck but with each update to the device, the issue is getting rectified.
8bitdo Pro 2
This company, 8BitDo, is well-known for its retro-inspired controllers and a wide range of supported platforms like Switch, PC, and even mobile. There is a slider on the back of the Pro 2 controller that lets you switch to different platforms with ease.
The Pro 2 features a 1000mAh rechargeable battery (easily swappable for AA batteries), two back buttons, gyro functionality, and custom profile settings. 8BitDo’s custom mapping software is fully supported on the Steam Deck too. Once connected to the software, you can customize the button mapping, rumble intensity, and even joystick dead zones.
8BitDo Ultimate Xbox Wired Controller
Building on top of the retro-stylings of the Pro2 controller, the 8BitDo Ultimate Xbox Wired Controller has a rather hybrid classic/modern controller experience. It has a mix of 8BitDo’s typical Super Nintendo-style controller with some of the form of the standard Xbox Core Controller.
The controller’s d-pad uses the typical 8BitDo style to have that unique signature. Aside from that, the 8BitDo Ultimate Xbox Wired Controller features all the enhancements that the Pro 2 model does (aside from a Bluetooth connection so you will have to use a USB hub for the Steam Deck) from its re-mappable buttons, extra pair of back buttons, on-the-fly profile switching, and corresponding application.
Related: How to Install GOG Games on Steam Deck (Quick, Easy Guide)
PowerA Enhanced Wired Xbox Controller
Xbox’s Wireless Core Controller may have made itself an essential PC gaming accessory for many players, but company PowerA makes some solid alternatives with its take. PowerA has established itself as a reliable third-party controller resource when it comes to more budget-friendly options, with the company’s best selection spanning Nintendo and Xbox.
The PowerA Enhanced Xbox Wired Controller features a standard, sturdy Xbox design that shouldn’t take fans of the first-party version by surprise, complete with a share button and a dial to toggle earbud/headphone audio.
It also has some programmable buttons, and the controller comes in a fun and wide variety of different colors. The controller is great for its affordability, and players can choose the higher-tier Spectra line should they want more customizable options.
Placing the Steam Controller amongst the best options for the Steam Deck depends on the person having this controller (since Valve discontinued its production a while back) and whether you like the weird design/input of this device. It has a unique take on the traditional controller design and is more focused on games that are generally played using a mouse and keyboard.
The touchpads on the Steam Controller, similar to the touchpads built into the Steam Deck, function as trackpads. This means with some finesse and software mapping, you can play games originally meant for mouse and keyboard controls like strategy games.
Razer Turret (Honorable Mention)
Although it is not a controller, the Razor Turret sits perfectly well within the controller category as many games especially on the PC are more optimized for keyboard and mouse. However, you can substitute this with any wireless keyboard and mouse combo but the Razor Turret is designed with your typical gamer aesthetics in mind and that lazy couch-playing session.
Some of the features of this combo are:
- Dedicated Xbox Key
- Razer Mechanical Green Switches
- Built-in Ergonomic Wrist Rest
- Retractable Mouse Mat
- More Razer Level Quality Additions
The Steam Deck can be used as a desktop PC so having a combo like this will surely have its utility. And if you hook up your Steam Deck to your TV then this combo will let you enjoy your strategy games from the comfort of your couch.
It is insanely easy to pair with the Steam Deck like any other keyboard and mouse and is a must-have for strategy game enthusiasts. Do get ready to empty your bank account if you are going for the Razor product.
The Steam Deck already has a pretty great controller built-in for your on-the-go gaming needs but if you are looking to plop the console on a desk or use an external display to game then choosing one of the controllers above is your best option. You can also use the Joy-Con of Nintendo Switch but those will pair separately and won’t provide the full controller experience that most of these do.