Chapter 3: Gamepads
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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.
Bluetooth gamepads are designed for mobile devices; I don't recommend them for use with a desktop. I recommend these:
- 8bitdo NES30 Pro Bluetooth Controller ($42.99 US)
This gamepad has grown popular thanks to the Nintendo Switch. It's great for any device!
- iPEGA PG-9017S Wireless Bluetooth Game Controller ($16.99 US)
Supports Android/iOS/PC and has a bunch of neat features. A piece flips up to hold your phone.
Want to see more? Click here to search for more Bluetooth gamepads on Amazon.
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:
- Logitech Gamepad F310 ($19.93 US)
A nice, solid gamepad with a smooth grip and 11 buttons. For its price it's a 'high end' USB gamepad.
- Sabrent 12-Button Game Controller For PC ($9.99 US)
If you insist on saving $5, here's a cheaper gamepad. Although I urge the Logitech gamepad over this one.
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.
- 8bitdo Bluetooth NES controller ($34.99 US)
That odd looking grip pops off to be a holder for your phone :)
- 8bitdo Bluetooth SNES controller ($34.99 US)
You can get this with the blue buttons or the colored buttons.
- Hyperkin USB Genesis controller ($13.58 US)
A slightly old controller, but the best one for Genesis.
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:
- SNES Controller to Adapter for PC USB ($10.99 US)
- Tomee NES to PC USB Retro Controller Adapter - PC Mac Linux ($14.37 US)
- Mayflash Genesis/Mega Drive Controller Adapter for PC USB ($19.98 US)
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!
- X-Arcade Tankstick + Trackball: With USB ($199.99 US)
- X-Arcade Dual Joystick: USB Included (No Trackball) ($149.99 US)