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Chapter 3: Gamepads

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised July 1, 2017.

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This article continues from Chapter 2: Download and Setup. In that article, I discussed a few details pertaining to downloading ROMs. I also walked through some basic Windows tasks such as how to work with zip files.

Gamepads are essential for video game emulation! You're going to pull your hair out if you try to play Mario and Sonic with your keyboard.

Recommended gamepads

Bluetooth gamepads

Bluetooth gamepads are designed for mobile devices; I don't recommend them for use with a desktop. I recommend these:

Want to see more? Click here to search for more Bluetooth gamepads on Amazon.

USB gamepads

USB gamepads are designed for desktops and look/feel like a normal console controller. USB gamepads are nearing the end of their heyday in favor of Bluetooth gamepads. The selection of gamepads is rather scarce. Still, I recommend these:

Want to see more? Click here to search for more USB gamepads on Amazon.

Look-a-like classic controllers

You can buy gamepads that are made to look exactly like the real thing! Some are even Bluetooth, too.

Modified-for-USB controllers

Are look-a-like controllers not good enough for you? Do you want to use the real thing? Well, you can! At RetroUSB you can buy real NES/SNES/Genesis game controllers that have been modified to have a USB plug. The only drawback is that you can only buy these controllers from RetroUSB; you won't find them on Amazon. Prices range from $21-$38 US.

Using your classic controllers

Yes, it's possible to use your very own game controllers on your desktop computer. You can do so by purchasing a special USB adapter. These adapters aren't very popular, though, so the selection is rather limited. And I don't know how compatible these might be. I think you're better off getting a look-a-like controller. Nevertheless, here are some that I recommend:

Using an X-Box or PlayStation 3 controller

Yes, it's possible to use your X-Box or PlayStation 3 controller as a gamepad for any video game emulator. However, you need to jump through some hoops to get them to work.

Using an X-Box controller on your PC

A wired X-Box controller is supposed to work like a normal plug-and-play gamepad. The tricky part comes in if you want to connect a wireless X-Box controller. Follow this YouTube video for directions: Connect Xbox 360 Controller to PC (Wireless/Wired) - Windows XP/Vista/7/8.

Using a PS3 controller on your PC

Follow this YouTube video: How To Easily Connect PS3 Controller to PC (No Motioninjoy Required). This is a slightly older video; note that whatever they mention for Windows 8 also applies to Windows 10.

Arcade deck controllers

If you want the best experience when playing arcade games, you must get an arcade deck controller. These controllers are not high in demand so the selection is limited. I couldn't find any non-limited options on Amazon to recommend to you. However I do know that the best brand is X-Arcade. You can still buy their superb arcade deck controllers directly from their site. They're pricey because when I called these “arcade deck”, they literally are a full-size arcade deck!