The smart phone market is expanding rapidly and every day, our mobile devices become more and more obsolete as newer gadgets appear. In other industries manufacturers tend to imitate the existing models and position them as revolutionary ones, while the IT industry isn’t going to see such a trend in the near future.
If you keep up with the times, you understand that games are the best way to maximize the use of your phone’s resources. However, the age of our favorite Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, and Doodle Jump is coming to an end just like their ancestors’, Bomber Man and Snake 3’s age has ended. Your dreams of playing some serious games like Serious Sam or FIFA on your mobile device when commuting have long come true, but controlling these games is still difficult.
Playing strategies on a sensor device is a piece of cake, playing soccer is fairly easy, but any action or fighting game play becomes a nightmare not only for me, but for many other gamers. That’s why today we’ll look into the notion of Android gamepads in detail, we’ll find out what it is, how to use it and we’ll give you a review of the best items.
Why Do You Need a Mobile Gamepad?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, modern Android games’ possibilities are impressive. Among the new features I would especially note Dead Trigger. This great thing reminded me of the times when you could play House of the Dead in theme parks. In the beginning I hated the control but once I connected the gamepad everything changed completely, and I was able to defeat zombies.
Newly launched games are not all that matters, though. It is incredible to play PC games adapted for mobile devices, and that’s how GTA was revitalized. Complete remaking of the game engine ensures stable performance. Another example of this is the popular Max Paine, a game devoted to the story of a detective whose family was killed by some junkies and who consumes painkillers like hot dogs. Revolutionary at the time slowing and two-hand shooting are now back. Of course, playing such games on a sensor is neither convenient nor respectful.
Whether you followed the evolution of consoles from Dendy and Nintendo to the popular Xbox One, Wii, PS4 etc or you saw your dad, elder brother, cat or friend play, you should be nostalgic about such lagging and bugged games as Duck Hunt, BattleToughts, Taken3, Crash Bandicoot and others. It’s possible to turn back the time if you have an Android gadget, as lots of platforms which can be emulated on this OS, such as all types of Sega, PS, Dendy and Nintendo and others are found online. Playing them on a sensor gadget though is often inconvenient or even impossible due to some emulation peculiarities.
How Do You Connect an Android Gamepad?
There are two main types of connection: a wired and a wireless one.
The wired type is the simplest and the oldest one. All that is needed is a device which supports OTG and a USB gamepad. You can buy any wired gadget at a reasonable price or you can save money and use your console’s gamepad. The disadvantage of this approach is connected with the cable itself as it restrains your movements. A lack of a mobile phone holder is another issue.
If having no extra wires is crucial for you, go for wireless connection. In case of Android we obviously mean Bluetooth technology. There are two main types of wireless gamepads. The first one is PS3 and PS4 devices. It would be great for those who already have the said console with the corresponding gamepads. There are certain drawbacks, though, and the first is administrator rights, or simply root. You have to be “the master” in order to connect the device. Since you don’t have these rights initially, you’ll have to hack the firmware. This isn’t difficult, but you will automatically lose the warranty and your customizing might lead to a complete breakdown. Another drawback is that you have to purchase original gamepads, as the compatible ones which are attractive in terms of price won’t work like that.
Using special Android gamepads is your last option. MOGA devices are one of the most popular ones. The main benefit of these products is that you’ll forget about any extraordinary and non-traditional ways of connecting them. If the distributor confirmed that this gamepad supports your mobile device, be sure that most of Android smart phone games will run without any problems as the manufacturers have adapted it for Android devices specifically. Moreover, their gamepad is likely to have a lock (a special holder for the device) so you won’t have to stick your tablet to the joystick for android with duct tape.
What Do You Need to Know when Picking an Android Controller?
What are some of things you have to pay attention to when picking an Android gamepad? In our previous articles we’ve mentioned the main aspects of such choice. But since we’ve focused on console and PC gamepads there, let’s now elaborate some of the peculiarities of mobile gadgets.
I’ve already mentioned the importance of mounting. Special Android controllers are mounted to the gadget, and that means you have a full cool and portable gaming console when you connect the devices. If you decide to use another gamepad, you’ll either have to buy a universal mounting (like Gameclip) or craft a handmade one. Few people have time and skill for wired DIY projects.
The availability and the number of control sticks is a benefit of any gamepad. These sticks are very convenient as they give you full control and a sense of presence in the game which is something the keys can’t provide. As for me, I can’t do without them when playing shooters. Models with a single analog stick or without it at all are often sold. Such devices are playable but it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth depriving yourself of this experience. VR games are an exception though, as using a single stick there is completely justified.
Compatibility is another key characteristic which has two aspects to it. The first is the compatibility of your gamepad with the smart phone. Unless you own a very rare model, your questions about compatibility are answered on some online forum. Using Sixaxis Compatibility Checker is also reliable. This is freeware.. The app is easy to understand and in case of any difficulties, you can find lots of manuals online.
The second aspect is the compatibility of the gamepad and the game itself. The golden rule here is that you only buy best selling devices of well-known manufacturers. The developers are most likely to make the games compatible with the most popular devices.
TOP-9 BEST ANDROID GAMEPADS
Let’s now move on from theory to some practice and focus on the top best gamepads for Android mobile devices.
POWER A MOGA Pro Power – Electronic
I like starting with great gadgets. Devices by MOGA are most popular and well-known on the Android gamepad market. The company owes such reputation to the high-quality performance of the gadgets and great compatibility with other products.
To my mind, POWER A MOGA Pro Power is one of the most interesting ones. Its dimensions guarantee comfortable game play as the gamepad won’t get lost in huge manly hands. Two analog sticks let you fully plunge into gaming. What is important is that this ~$49.99 gamepad has A and B modes. The former supports Pivot, which a game library, and UD which emulates gamepad playing for unsupported games. This is simple and convenient, but is not compatible with the phones not supporting HID.
The 2200 mAh battery also contributes to the price of this device and ensures a few hours of your carefree gaming.
Price: ~$49.99 Check the current price
POWER A MOGA Hero Power - Electronic Games
I either never or very rarely structure my reviews like this, but this successor of Pro Power deserves as much attention. On the outside these devices look very similar, the main difference is in dimensions (Hero Power is smaller), and the rest is consequential.
Hero Power’s ergonomics became worse, but only those with large hands with notice it. There is less space now, and the battery is weaker as it is only 1800 mAh now. That’s about it. Thanks to slight changes to the worse, though, the price has halved.
MOGA Mobile Gaming System for Android 2.3+
Let’s devote a couple of lines to the last MOGA device for today. Its price of ~$13.75 is the main reason for including it in this review. If you have never had an Android gamepad but really want one, this is a great first-time option.
It doesn’t have a built-in battery, the sticks are sunk deep in the foundation and overall the product looks cheap, which was the aim of launching it. If you want to start a gaming life, this will be a great choice.
Price: ~$6.08 Check the current price
iPega Wireless Bluetooth Telescopic Game Controller Joystick For IOS iPhone iPod iPad Samsung HTC Moto Android PC IP117
iPega Controller is a wireless device with vertical orientation of the mobile phone (a horizontal one is also possible). This product is extremely versatile. Since the handles can be moved quite widely, you can insert a 10” wide tablet there easily.
The 3800 mAh battery allows 20 hours of continuous game play. If you own a certain gadget manufactured by a company with an apple on its logo, don’t worry, there won’t be any problems. As for the disadvantages, I would mark inconvenience of controlling systems. Everything is personal, as for me, it took me a while to get used to it.
Further reading: iOs Mobile Devices Gamepad Controllers Battle
Mad Catz C.T.R.L.R Mobile Gamepad for Android, Amazon Fire TV, Smart Devices, PC and M.O.J.O. Micro-Console
Everything manufactured by a well-known on the gaming market company MAD Catz is worth paying attention to. However, Mad Catz C.T.R.L.R managed to become a great implementation of an awesome idea.
Bluetooth 4.0 ensures continuous functioning and good connection. You won’t be sorry for the money spent as this gamepad is also compatible with PC. The device fulfills its main task perfectly with the help of a convenient smart phone mount, by supporting most of the modern games and emulators. There is a full set of manipulation buttons as everything necessary is available. Ergonomics is ensured by enormous size and the device’s material is pleasant for touch.
Price: ~$39.99 Check the current price
Nyko Playpad Pro for Android/Bluetooth
Even though this "dinosaur" is more expensive than Ipega, it isn’t much different from it. The joystick supports 8-way movements only, which is inconvenient for playing some games. The controller includes two analog sticks, a D-pad crossbar, four face buttons, as well as double side triggers on the left and right of the device. Nyko Playpad is also a wireless device. It is compatible with all Android devices equipped with Bluetooth 3.0 and higher.
In general, this is another perspective of the same joystick. Although we have not found any specific comments among customer feedback, we would like to note that the functionality of this device doesn’t seem to be up to the user’s needs in 2015...
SteelSeries Free Mobile Wireless Gaming Controller with Bluetooth for Smart Phones, Tablets, PC and Mac
Now this is something worth looking at! This is a tiny and quite powerful device before you. This product is much more functional than the previous two as its dual analog joystick with 360 degrees rotation will do not only for emulation, but also for FPS games :)
We all know that, apart from other things, SteelSeries, produces keyboards and computer mice, hence customers’ trust to the brand. It is not simply “made in China”, it is “made in China well". SteelSeries Wireless Controller not only supports Android devices, but it is also compatible iOS and Windows. At the moment, there are over 200 games compatible with this device and new ones are constantly being adapted too. In this case, we were able to find positive feedback on the model by an anonymous user:
"I tested it in several games (in NES emulators on the mobile phone and tablet). I want to say that it is very comfortable to play, much better than to poke your screen with fingers. Honestly, it’s bliss. You connect the tablet to the TV via HDMI, sit on the couch and play. It’s very cool that one joystick fits many devices and you can get used to one joystick".
However, this user also notes: "Frankly speaking, its built-in battery annoys me; it can eventually come into disrepair".
Price: ~$60.99 Check the current price
SmartOmni Ipega Game Controller PG-9021 Bluetooth 3.0 for IOS Android System Mobile Gamepad Game Controller
This is a real Xbox360 Android and OS controller which has all the typical features of such controllers, including the convenient box button arrangement. The cell phone mounting can be ejected and thus provides for mounting a device of any size (not a 7” tablet, though, it won’t fit in).
The users with big hands should pay attention to a bunch of small buttons on the gamepad’s right side. If you grip the entire device, these buttons will be in your way. The issue can be resolved by merely turning the annoying buttons off in the settings.
Price: ~$25.99 Check the current price
SteelSeries Stratus XL, Bluetooth Wireless Gaming Controller for Windows + Android, Samsung Gear VR, and Oculus
This is a full-scale gamepad which doesn’t have a special holder. The device is marketed along with Samsung Gear VR. Smart phone VR is complicated to run, but the controller helps solve this problem completely. The gadget resembles a cut-rate Oculus with poorer characteristics, obviously. Nevertheless, the VR helmets are sold out and new supply is expected in the coming summer. That’s why the device will suit first and foremost those who are eager to try out VR. It will also do for regular gaming, as no one will forbid you from mounting your smart phone or tablet in a case or a special holder and use the gamepad while playing some Mega Drive emulator with the same level of comfort.
Price: ~$59.99 Check the current price
We’ve drawn up a general chart where we rated each model of gamepads presented here on a scale from 1 to 5 to facilitate the comparison for you.
Think before you choose. Mind that wireless mode means some lags and that on the market there is lots of trash looking like a decent product.
The opinion of the whole Gadget-Reviews expert team is the same as mine. We believe that a gamer who will always use a gamepad and install emulators needs a gamepad. You can play some rubbish games on sensor screen while some cooler games which are more and more often run on emulators deserve a special approach.
We haven’t included an expensive joystick Mad Catz LYNX in this review on purpose as it is unlikely to become affordable in the near future. However, this type of gadget is our future. You can read about it in more detail in our preliminary review: “New Mad Catz Transformer Lynx 9 Mobile Hybrid Controller”.