Over the last decade, as more and more console titles have found prettier homes on the PC, and more and more indie action games hit the big time, the controller has become just as important as the mouse & keyboard for playing games. But out of the countless options available to PC gamers, which one is the best?

In case the image up top didn’t give it away for you, it’s the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller.

While peripheral specialists may offer more gimmicks, and Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 controller remains a reliable choice for most titles, it’s the Xbox One Elite that is the best choice for playing action games on the PC.

Why?

  • The design of the Xbox 360 controller was as close to perfection as a control pad has ever gotten, which is one of the big reasons it used to be our top choice here. The Elite retains this layout, only now everything just feels nicer, and is built to a better standard. It’s almost impossible to overstate how important the feel, heft and quality of the Elite is to the way you’re able to play and enjoy games.
  • The Elite doesn’t just copy the 360 controller’s layout, but adds a bunch of extra paddles and toggles underneath it as well. You can customise the use of these in the Xbox Accessories app for Windows, and it’s a double-edged sword. The potential for fine-tuning is great, but the program itself sucks.
  • The only area the 360 controller was clearly lacking was its awful d-pad, and the Elite fixes this by allowing users to choose between two swappable d-pad inputs, a regular cross-shaped one (vastly improved from the 360's) and a more experimental “dish”.
  • Just like you could with the 360 controller, if you plug an Elite into a PC and start playing a game, you’ll notice that nearly all developers have programmed their in-game prompts (button letters, start button icons, etc) to match those of Microsoft’s controllers. The importance of this cannot be overstated, particularly in games with complicated control schemes.
  • Wired solutions are always best for peripherals, and despite the “Wireless” in this controller’s name, it’s best to play it plugged in. The Elite ships with a long, fabric USB cable that lets you stay permanently connected (and charged). If you really want to play wirelessly, though, you can buy a dongle to plug into your PC.
  • But if you own an Xbox One, then you can simply unplug your Elite, take it wherever your console is and use it there too. That’s a convenience you don’t get from many other expensive PC peripheral purchases.

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At $150, it’s easy to view the Elite as a niche purchase. And in some ways it is, since you can get much of the same functionality out of an old Xbox 360 controller for less than half the price. But everyone on staff here who has bought one agrees that they’re worth every cent if you play a lot of video games.

Just as a smart carpenter invests in quality tools, anyone who is serious about playing a lot of games on the PC (or at least a lot of PC games that are suited to a controller) should know this is the best controller out there for the platform.

UPDATE: This post was updated in January 2018 to replace the Xbox 360 controller with the Xbox Elite as our top choice.

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