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For quite a few years, there has been a belief amongst gamers that Apple’s ecosystem isn’t meant for “real” gaming. The meme would say that Apple’s products can’t really do the high-end graphics you would expect from a console or a PC built for gaming.
Certainly, there is a grain of truth in there, with the vast bulk of Apple-related gaming being more casual-friendly and mobile-focused than other platforms. However, it’s not the whole story.
Titles such as Genshin Impact, Call of Duty: Mobileand PUBG Mobile all prove it’s possible to get a great gaming experience on a device you can fit into your pocket.
That’s before you consider games that work across other platforms, including the Apple TV and the Mac. Or even game-streaming services that give you a full-fat graphical experience for games that aren’t made for Apple’s platforms.
Apple’s promotion of gaming on its ecosystem via Apple Arcade has also helped other non-mobile game types become more available to users, opening up the prospect of it being more of a serious gaming platform.
There is still one element that is missing, and that is dedicated game controllers. Gamers who may be more used to console gaming would probably feel more at home playing similar games on mobile if they had a controller in their hand instead of tapping or swiping a screen all the time.
Getting a controller could improve your overall gaming experience. It’s also not as bewildering as you may think.
Getting a controller for a platform is relatively straightforward, as it’s usually quite easy to tell whether a product will be compatible or not. The easiest way to do this is to go for first-party accessories but that’s not possible in this case.
While Apple has seemingly looked into the concept, with patents and rumors surfacing around the concept it hasn’t yet created its own peripheral dedicated to gaming. Unlike an Xbox or PlayStation, you can’t search for an Apple-manufactured game controller at this time.
Even so, there are still quite a few options out there for gamers to buy right now and use with their iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV. You do have to be careful, though.
For a start, Apple itself has made it possible to use first-party game controllers for major modern consoles with its ecosystem. If you have a game console, there’s a good chance that it will be compatible, with the controllers generally pairing over Bluetooth.
The second is that MFi accessories are a good general bet to work with Apple’s hardware but not everything. Made For iPhone hardware will work with an iPhone or iPad most of the time, but they will also primarily focus on working with just the mobile hardware Apple produces.
For example, an MFi controller made to fit an iPhone may need to receive power from the iPhone to work, since it may not have a built-in battery.
Check the MFi controller works beyond the iPhone and iPad if you intend to turn your Apple TV into a game console for your TV.
Sony PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller
One of the most sought-after controllers on the planet due to the rarity of the console itself, the Sony PlayStation 5 DualSense Wireless Controller is one of the major game console peripherals that will also work with all of Apple’s hardware.
Sporting Sony’s signature four symbol buttons on the right, the DualSense includes two analog thumbsticks, a directional pad, a PS button, bumpers, and triggers. While you won’t be able to use things like the built-in audio features or enjoy the haptic feedback, you’ll still be able to game with a handset with a console feel.
Amazon sells the PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller for $69, and it is available in a variety of colors.
An alternative to the DualSense Wireless Controller is the DualShock 4 Wireless Controller. Originally produced for the PlayStation 4, it offers practically the same basic features as the DualSense in terms of Apple-based gaming.
It is also cheaper, at $59.99 on Amazon, and again is sold in a variety of colors.
Xbox Wireless Controller
Just as Sony’s popular console controllers work on iOS, so too does Microsoft’s. Apple includes support for the Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, Xbox Adaptive Controller, and the Xbox Wireless Controller Series S and Series X.
Our pick is the Xbox Wireless Controller, which provides pretty much the same controls as Sony’s version: a D-pad, two analog sticks, four main buttons, a pair of bumpers, and a pair of triggers.
The Xbox Wireless Controller, available in a variety of colors, can be bought for $59.99 on Amazon, with deals bringing it down to around $49.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons
Rounding out the main consoles, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers are able to work with Apple’s hardware range. Rather than being a single device, the Joy-Con controllers are two elements that make up one controller.
While they can slide onto either end of a Nintendo Switch or another accessory, they can also be used without being hooked up to anything else.
However, bear in mind that the support is being added as part of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and tvOS 16, so it won’t be available to the public until the fall.
A long-time supporter of Apple products, the SteelSeries Nimbus+ is one of the most versatile third-party controllers available that has support for Apple’s hardware. Supporting iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and macOS, the controller offers all of the main functionality you would expect from a DualSense wireless controller.
The controller offers support for thousands of titles across the App Store, along with Apple Arcade, so there will be a good chance that most games you play will work with the peripheral. It sports dual analog sticks, four main buttons, a D-pad, bumpers, and new hall-effect magnetic triggers.
The SteelSeries Nimbus+ is priced at $69.99 on Amazon, and includes up to four months free of Apple Arcade.
GameSir T4 Pro
One of the cheapest options on the list, the GameSir T4 Pro is a wireless game controller that models itself on the Xbox controller. Like its inspiration, it offers identical control options, including four buttons, a D-pad, two analog sticks, and bumpers and triggers.
While cheaper, it still offers a lot of utility, including wired support as well as Bluetooth, the ability to use the controller with MFi-supporting games, and a 600mAh battery.
HexGaming Rival Pro
HexGaming provides controllers intended for serious gamers, such as those into esports. Rather than a normal controller experience, HexGaming instead aims to make it more exclusive and premium, complete with many customization options.
Made from a genuine DualSense controller, the Rival Pro is HexGaming’s take on the concept. This includes adding in four remappable buttons rear buttons that can be changed on the fly, switchable thumbsticks with variable heights, and assorted thumbgrip designs.
The HexGaming Rival Pro starts at $199.99 (5% off with promo code APPLEINSIDERbut that can easily go up as you customize the controller to your preferred color scheme and options.
RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS
Modeled on the Xbox controller, the RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS is very close to the standard Microsoft offering, but with a lot of changes to make it more usable for gaming from your iPhone.
The MFi-certified controller has a section in the top for a device holder, so you can slot the iPhone in perfect view above the buttons. A cable connects the controller to the iPhone’s lightning port, and provides pass-through charging via a port in the base.
It also has an affiliate app, Ludo Mapp, providing over 1,000 downloadable games, and it also works with other game-streaming services, including Steam Link, PS Remote Play, Amazon Luna, and Google Stadia.
The RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS Xbox Edition costs $69.99 on Amazon.
Attempting to provide as much of a console-gaming experience on mobile, Backbone One does so by providing both an excellent hardware and software experience.
On the hardware side, the Backbone One slides the iPhone between two controller sections, featuring four normal buttons, two analog sticks, a D-pad, bumpers and triggers. There’s a secondary Lightning port for recharging while in use, and a headphone jack.
A well-known gaming brand, the Razer Kishi is a controller for the iPhone that splits into two large sections with an interconnecting spine. Connecting via Lightning, the Kishi cradles the iPhone in the middle, with the controls spread to either end.
A pair of analog sticks, four main buttons, an eight-way D-pad, bumpers, and triggers are included, as well as a selection of function buttons for taking users home, for example.
Taking power from the iPhone, it also has pass-through charging via its own port. Cloud gaming support is also touted, while its ergonomic design promises to help players go for long sessions.
However, Razer is working on bringing out a second version that adds in microswitch buttons instead of using a membrane, along with dedicated screenshot and recording buttons, and a Razer Nexus app launch button, among other changes.