Touch controls for mobile games aren’t always great. Perhaps they’re poorly implemented, or maybe your device doesn’t handle multitouch well. Fortunately, you can play Android mobile games with a controller, instead.
You can hook up a wired controller to an Android phone or tablet via USB. You can also connect a wireless controller using Bluetooth—the Xbox One, PS4, PS5, or Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers all work with Android devices. Once paired, you can even cast your screen to an Android TV for the big-screen experience.
Here’s how to connect a game controller to a mobile Android device, as well as an explanation of what controllers work with Android phones and tablets.
Connect a Controller Using USB or Bluetooth
You can boost your Android gaming with the help of a controller. If you’re playing Fortnite on your phone, or even something slower-paced like Minecraft, a controller provides more stability than touch controls.
You can connect a controller to your phone using either a USB cable or Bluetooth. Here are the specific controllers that work with Android phones and tablets:
- Generic USB controllers
- Generic Bluetooth controllers
- Xbox One controller
- PS4 controller
- PS5 controller
- Nintendo Switch Joy-Con
Generic controllers are those that aren’t made for a specific console. GameSir, Redgear, and Motorola are all examples of high-quality game controllers that you can use with your Android device. Android phones and tablets are both able to sync with controllers through Bluetooth or USB connections.
In a moment, we’ll look at each kind of controller in turn. Note that we’re skipping older console controllers (such as the Xbox 360 controller) due to out-of-date apps and changes to Android’s Bluetooth support. Generic controllers designed for use with a PC may not work, either. Lastly, the controller won’t work if the game you’re playing doesn’t have controller support built-in.
Let’s examine how to set up a game controller on Android.
Connect a Wired USB Controller to Android
If you want to play games on Android with a USB controller, you’ll need a USB OTG cable. This is a special tool that adapts a standard USB connector to fit in your phone or tablet.
However, the OTG-USB cable does more than that, even letting you connect all manner of USB devices and drives to Android. Our guide to USB-OTG explains this in more detail.
You’ll first need to purchase a USB OTG cable. They’re available for cheap from Amazon. Make sure you choose a USB-C or micro-USB connector depending on what your phone uses.
Once you have a USB OTG adapter, just plug it into your Android phone, and connect the USB game controller to the other end of the adapter. Next, open the game you want to play. Games with controller support should detect the device, and you’ll be ready to play.
Connect a Standard Bluetooth Controller to Android
If you have a generic Bluetooth game controller, you’re almost guaranteed that it will work with your Android device. It’s nearly as simple as connecting a USB controller, although of course, you won’t need any special adapters.
Start by making sure your phone is discoverable by Bluetooth devices. Open Settings > Connected devices > Connection preferences > Bluetooth and make sure Bluetooth is enabled.
From the same menu, select Pair new device, then follow the specific instructions to make your controller discoverable. Look for a dedicated Bluetooth button, or check the manual for the right button combination if there isn’t one.
Your phone should detect the controller; tap its name to establish the connection. As with USB, games that can use controllers will detect them when you start the game. Other games might support controllers, but require additional software from Google Play.
Connect an Xbox One Controller to Android
If you have an Xbox One, you’ve already got a fantastic way to control Android games. But how simple is it to hook an Xbox One controller up to your Android device?
Similar to connecting the Xbox One controller to your Windows PC, you don’t need any additional hardware with a newer model controller. A typical Android device’s Bluetooth support is all you need to connect the controller to your phone or tablet.
Before starting, make sure the controller is fully charged, and you’ve unplugged your Xbox One. If you don’t, the controller will remain paired to it, which means you can’t pair it with your Android device.
Begin by putting Android into discoverable mode as explained in the previous section. Next, hold the Sync button on the Xbox One controller. Upon detection, select the controller on your phone and follow the instructions to pair.
Note that this will only work with newer Xbox One controllers that use Bluetooth. The original models released when the Xbox One first came out use RF, which Android doesn’t support. In the below image, the bottom controller (with a darker Xbox button) supports Bluetooth.
If your controller won’t connect wirelessly, you can use USB OTG instead. This also applies if you want to connect an old wired Xbox 360 controller. It should work with most Android devices, although note that the Guide button may flash while you play.
Connect a PS5 or PS4 Controller to Android
Sony has used Bluetooth in its controllers for years, which makes it easy if you want to play Android games with a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 gamepad. The instructions are the same for both consoles since they both use Bluetooth.
Make your Android device discoverable, then sync the controller by holding the PlayStation and Share buttons simultaneously. When the controller light flashes, you should see a Wireless Controller entry listed on your Android device.
Select this to complete pairing. Your phone or tablet will then ask you to confirm the pairing, so do that, and you’re done! A solid light on the PlayStation controller means that it’s successfully connected.
Play Games on Android With Nintendo Switch Joy-Con
You can also hook up a Nintendo Switch controller to your mobile Android device. You can either sync one Joy-Con on its own or, as the video above illustrates, sync both as a full two-handed controller.
To sync both Joy-Cons attached to the Joy-Con Grip, you’ll need a wireless adapter and USB OTG adapter compatible with your phone.
Check the accompanying video to find out more about controlling Android with Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers. And be sure to learn how to share your Nintendo Switch gameplay online.
Keep in mind that, in addition to the Joy-Con, you can connect the Nintendo Switch Pro controller to your Android device.
What Is the Best Android Game Controller?
You can connect any of these controllers to your Android phone or tablet with varying degrees of success. While connecting is generally easy, some games just don’t work right with a controller.
The best controller option is the one that works for you. However, despite the quality of Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch controllers, one designed specifically for mobile gaming may work better for you long-term. Whatever the case, if the games you play support console controllers, you should be fine.
Of course, some games have such innovative controls, you might not even want a controller!
Tired of the same old mobile games? These five unique titles for Android and iOS let you play using your phone’s microphone, gyroscope, and even by tapping the back of your phone.
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