Keyboard and mouse might be the old standards of the PC platform, but they’re by no means the only way to game on a computer. Native support for Xbox controllers and a wide range of other dual-analog controllers are now commonplace, and sometimes recommended, for PC games. Whether you’re cracking out that fancy Xbox One Elite, or picking from our list of recommended controllers, these are 15 big PC titles you should be playing with a gamepad.
Don’t let its beautiful cartoon visuals fool you — Cuphead is a punishing bullet-hell platformer in which the slightest mistimed move will get you killed. As such, you’re going to need the precision of a traditional controller, particularly one with a very good d-pad. Playing Cuphead with a controller will give you much finer control over your movement, and will make it far easier to jump, shoot and launch special attacks all at once.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman: Arkham Knight is one of those third-person action games that just never quite seem to translate well to a keyboard-and-mouse setup. It’s here that a gamepad will offer better camera and character control. Full analog movement should prove useful for the game’s various stealth sections as well as the versatile Batmobile that’s capable of switching into “combat mode” with a full 360-degree-turning radius.
Rivals of Aether
Rivals of Aether is a fighting game that models itself very closely on the unique gameplay found in the Super Smash Bros. games with a big focus on competitive play. As such, a controller with two analog sticks will be key for anyone looking to dive deep into the first worthy alternative to Nintendo’s venerable fighting series. And if you’re super-serious about it, you might want to use these drivers that let you use a GameCube controller on the Steam version of the game.
Dark Souls III
The entire Dark Souls action-RPG series is best played with a controller, and Dark Souls III is no exception. If you’ve managed to make it through Dark Souls and Dark Souls II on a PC without a controller, we’re very impressed, but you could be making it so much easier on yourself! You’ll find many instances where controlling the speed of your walk with the analog stick to be invaluable for sneaking up on enemies or being able to get through menus in a flash in the middle of combat.
Okami HD is a remastered version of one of the PlayStation 2’s most beloved action/adventure games, so naturally, it’s made to be played with a controller. This gorgeously cel-shaded experience is essentially Capcom’s answer to The Legend of Zelda, and guiding the wolf-goddess Amaterasu through the game’s mix of combat, platforming and puzzle solving will feel best on a traditional gamepad.
Final Fantasy XIV
Square Enix’s massively multiplayer online RPG is constantly evolving with new content, and whether you’re just jumping in or are starting a new character class, it’s worth your time to explore this game with a controller. MMOs might not seem like a good fit for controllers, but Final Fantasy XIV was built with them in mind. They’ve made it incredibly easy to use and swap between the large list of combat skills so you can nail that rotation and pump out big damage.
Nier: Automata is a game made with consoles in mind, which means it was made for a controller. A lot of the functions that are relatively effortless on a controller can be awkward to pull off with a keyboard and mouse. Dodging requires a double key press of W, A, S, or D and camera sensitivity is simply not calibrated for use with a mouse. The game also launches into top-down shooter segments occasionally, where the lack of analog movement can be sorely missed.
Analog control is a serious must for any driving game. The smash hit Rocket League is an online competitive mashup of racing and soccer (or “football,” if you prefer), so you’ll want whatever edge you can get. Having full control over your steering radius can be a big help, and so is more stable control over the camera in a game where you need to keep splitting your focus between the ball and the other players looking to run you over.
Nioh is a brutally difficult action-RPG in the vein of Dark Souls, meaning that you’ll need a controller if you want any chance of surviving the supernatural demons it throws your way. This hellish Samurai romp often requires you to slash, dodge and change stances within a matter of seconds, and while mouse and keyboard support was recently patched in, you’ll have a much easier time managing all that chaos on a gamepad.
Hollow Knight takes after the illustrious “Metroidvania” genre of games that made their mark on consoles like the SNES and PS1. So if you want to get those classic Castlevania-like experiences and have already had your fill of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, you can come pretty close by playing Hollow Knight with a controller. The game doesn’t make use of the mouse in any way, so the gamepad is the way to go here.
Bayonetta is a fairly basic PC port of the original 2010 PS3/Xbox 360 release. Keyboard and mouse support should be playable with some tinkering with mouse sensitivities, but it should also be clear that this game was designed for a controller. Bayonetta’s pedigree rests with games like Devil May Cry and other stylish action games that take advantage of a gamepad’s strong suits, and the developers even note that it’s “best experienced with a controller” on the Steam store page.
Street Fighter V
Street Fighter has been the standard bearer of the fighting game genre, and it didn’t get there by being a simple game. Characters have moves that require unique button combos that can be easier to pull off with a diamond-face button layout and a traditional directional-pad (or, if you’re more serious, a dedicated fight stick). In particular, it would be tricky to input a quarter circle or full 360 rotation using just a keyboard, compared to using a gamepad. If you want to get competitive in the game’s online modes, you won’t want to be stuck with that handicap.
Shovel Knight is a love letter to old NES and SNES platformers like Mega Man, Duck Tales and Super Mario Bros. There’s no better way to play a throwback like this than with a controller that sports a good directional-pad, just like the games it takes inspiration from. The addition of a local co-op adds to the need to have a way of comfortably supporting two players without needing to do something silly like sharing the same keyboard.
Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons
Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons is a game that uses a gamepad’s two analog sticks to control the titular brothers independently around the world — one stick controls the older brother and the other stick controls the younger brother. It’s a fun idea for a puzzle/adventure game and one that would be difficult to emulate on a keyboard and mouse. In fact, according to the Steam store page, a controller is required for play.