Best Controllers For RetroArch 2022

RetroArch has been around since 2012 and fast became a must-have application for retro gaming fans as well as being one of the backbones for projects such as RetroPie.

Since its inception, RetroArch now has over 200 emulation cores available including everything from classic consoles such as the NES through to a pocket karaoke player, RetroArch deals with all things retro and emulated!

But what’s the best controller to use with RetroArch? Sure, you may only be wanting to play Atari 2600 games, but if you want to navigate menu systems and set up hotkeys/shortcuts, you’ll be needing a controller with more than one fire button!

Here we look at the best controllers for RetroArch, everything from the most basic Joysticks, to full arcade stick setups.

Best Controllers For RetroArch

Best Bluetooth Controllers for RetroArch

If you’re looking for Bluetooth controllers that work on multiple systems, are packed with features and have all the buttons you’ll need to control RetroArch from the comfort of your sofa, then the following list will be all that you need. They are all retro-inspired in terms of design as well as the functionality you need.

8BitDo are the leading retro-inspired controller makers at the moment, they have controller designs that are classic console inspired, right through to more modern implementations such as the Xbox controller.

Here are a few of the best Bluetooth RetroArch controllers that 8BitDo have to offer for use with RetroArch.

Here are some of the best 8BitDo Bluetooth controllers they have to offer.

8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller for Switch, PC, macOS, Android, Steam & Raspberry Pi (Gray Edition)
8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Wireless Gamepad (Nintendo Switch//)
8Bitdo SN30 Pro (G Classic Edition) Bluetooth Game Pad
8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller for Switch, PC, macOS, Android, Steam & Raspberry Pi (Gray Edition)
8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Wireless Gamepad (Nintendo Switch//)
8Bitdo SN30 Pro (G Classic Edition) Bluetooth Game Pad
8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller for Switch, PC, macOS, Android, Steam & Raspberry Pi (Gray Edition)
8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller for Switch, PC, macOS, Android, Steam & Raspberry Pi (Gray Edition)
8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Wireless Gamepad (Nintendo Switch//)
8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Wireless Gamepad (Nintendo Switch//)
8Bitdo SN30 Pro (G Classic Edition) Bluetooth Game Pad
8Bitdo SN30 Pro (G Classic Edition) Bluetooth Game Pad

8BitDo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller

Best Controllers for RetroArch - 8BitDo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Wireless Bluetooth®4.0
USB-C
Dimensions / Weight
153.6*100.6*64.5mm
228g
Features
2 Pro back paddle buttons
Custom Profile switch button, 3 profiles, switch on the fly
Mode switch button (Switch, macOS, D-input, X-input)
Ultimate Software for PC and mobile
Enhanced grip
Modifiable vibration
6-axis motion sensor
PROS+ Value vs. functionality
+ Comfortable button layout
+ Rechargeable & removable battery
+ Macros can be set up
CONS– Customisation Software Not Available On Mac / Switch
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

The natural evolution of 8BitDo’s SN30 Pro+, they are some fantastic additions, including two new rear triggers as well as a customisation application allowing for full macro and remapping set-up functionality.

My favourite feature though sounds basic, but it is the removable, rechargeable battery, this can be replaced with 2x AA batteries should you need to. Very rare to have both as an option in controllers these days.

The 8Bitdo Pro 2 is supremely comfy to use. It essentially is the same button layout as the SN30 but has a more rounded PS4 controller feel to it, as well as analogue sticks which makes it perfect for PS1 games upwards.

But don’t be lulled into a sense that this controller is for 3D games, the d-pad is fantastic too, which makes playing those 8-bit classics a pleasure.

Not only is the Pro 2 just great in terms of functionality and quality, but it is also priced at under £40 / $50, so is a really competitively priced controller.

I absolutely recommend this controller if you are looking for a great performing all-rounder for your emulation set-up, it just does not let you down.

8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Controller

Best Controllers for RetroArch - 8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Controller

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Wireless Bluetooth®
USB-C
Dimensions / Weight
147*74*31 mm
115g
Features
Turbo function
Lag-free
PROS+ Top Quality D-Pad
+ Light & Comfy
+ Ideal for Mega Drive / Genesis Emulation
+ Sega-Inspired Design
CONS– No Analogue Controls
– Built In Battery
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

Inspired by the Mega Drive / Genesis 6-button controller, 8BitDo’s M30 is one of my favourite controllers for RetroArch. Its d-pad is really its main selling feature and is one of the most responsive I have used on a recent controller.

Aside from its top-grade d-pad, the M30 has shoulder buttons, a start button and three additional function buttons which can be mapped easily in RetroArch to access menus, save states, etc no problem at all.

It is compatible with your RetroArch set-up on PC, Linux & Mac as well as Android devices.

The M30 sells for under £25 / $30, which is brilliant value considering the quality you are getting. You should not be looking at any other controller if you’re looking to buy one for Mega Drive / Genesis emulation.

8BitDo SN30 Pro Bluetooth Controller

Best Controllers for RetroArch - 8BitDo SN30 Pro Bluetooth Controller

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Wireless Bluetooth® 4.0
USB-C
Dimensions / Weight
144*63.5*33 mm
114g
Features
Built-in rumble
Motion controls
Turbo
USB-C Connectivity
PROS+ Lot Crammed Into A Good Looking Controller
+ SNES-Inspired Looks
+ Analogue Sticks Bring Welcome Versatility
CONS– A Little Awkward For Larger Hands
– Built-In Battery
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

We have the M30 for the Sega fans, but what about the Nintendo fans? The SN30 Pro ticks all the same boxes for those who favour Nintendo!

The SN30 Pro has a SNES-inspired classic layout, along with authentic feeling d-pad and shoulder buttons. Unlike the M30, added analogue sticks bring it far more into the future in terms of being able to use the SN30 Pro for more recent systems far more easily.

Even with the dual analogue sticks being added to the bottom of the controller, it doesn’t remove too much from the feel and usability.

it’s been out since 2017, but the 8BitDo SN30 Pro is still a hugely popular product with emulation fans.

Best Wireless Controllers for RetroArch

Lag can be contentious for retro gamers, so if you still don’t want to go fully wired, then consider a 2.4ghz wireless controller to keep lag to a minimum whilst being wireless.

8BitDo M30 2.4ghz Wireless Controller

Best Controllers for RetroArch - 8BitDo M30 2.4ghz Wireless Controller

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
2.4G Wireless Technology for SEGA Genesis Mini & Mega Drive Mini
USB
Dimensions / Weight
147*74*31 mm
114g
Features
Turbo function
Access the SEGA Genesis Mini HOME menu wirelessly
480mAh Li-ion battery, rechargeable
35 play hours with 1-2 hour charging time
PROS+ Brilliant Responsive D-Pad
+ Light & Comfy
+ Works With Sega Mega Drive / Genesis Mini Consoles
+ Sega Design Aesthetics
CONS– Built-In Battery
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

Whilst there is an officially licenced Mega Drive / Genesis controller which is perfectly good, I still recommend the 8BitDo M30 above all!

Its trump card is an excellent d-pad, it is super responsive and comfortable for long periods of use. The M30 has everything you need for 16-bit and earlier retro gaming, with the bonus of some shoulder buttons, you can also easily play SNES games with the M30 no problem at all.

The wireless version of the M30 seems to be not quite as easy to get hold of as its Bluetooth counterpart, but for some, they swear by the 2.4ghz connection over Bluetooth. An added bonus is that it also comes with a USB-C connection for charging the M30, but you can also use it wired, for an even more responsive experience.

Best USB Controllers for RetroArch

START FROM HERE

Whilst most people tend to use wireless or Bluetooth controllers, there are still some great wired USB controllers out there. 8BitDo once again provide some USB versions of a couple of their best-selling products. Here we recommend the USB version of the SN30 Pro.

8BitDo SN30 Pro USB Controller

Best Controllers for RetroArch - 8BitDo SN30 Pro USB

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Wired USB
Dimensions / Weight
144*63.5*33 mm
145g
Features
Vibration
Customized Turbo function (Windows only)
PROS+ Loads Of Buttons Crammed Into A Retro Inspired Controller
+ SNES Controller Looks
+ Analogue Sticks Enhances Usability
+ Low Lag Thanks To Its Wired Connection
CONS– Can Be A Little Cramped For Users With Larger Hands
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

This controller is the same as the excellent SN30 Pro mentioned above, but simply with a hard-wired USB cable and no wireless built-in. It’s an ideal solution if you game at a desk and want optimum performance in terms of latency.

The SN30 Pro USB has dual analogue sticks, and built-in vibration and is compatible with a wide range of systems.

Best Controllers for RetroArch - SpeedLink Competition Pro USB

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Wired USB
Dimensions / Weight
96*118*130 mm
280g
Features
USB joystick for PCs and Android
Perfect for Arcade And Retro Games
Nostalgic Inspired Design From The Original Competition Pro Stick
PROS+ A Great Recreation Of The Original
+ Extra Buttons At The Base Of The Joystick
+ Ideal for Amiga, Atari ST & 8-Bit Micro Emulation
+ Low Lag
CONS– Micro Switches Can Be A Bit Loud
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK

One for more of the home and microcomputer fans here, so lovers of the C64, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga & Atari ST can rejoice as being able to play their favourite games on an actual joystick!

This modern replica of the Competition Pro remains strongly faithful to the original and also throws in some additional buttons which can be useful for mapping a second-fire button.

Best Arcade Stick for RetroArch

Arcade & Neo Geo fans as well as lovers of the fighting game genre will be excited to see that 8BitDo also offer a highly functional arcade stick.

8BitDo Arcade Stick

Best Controllers for RetroArch - 8BitDo Arcade Stick

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Bluetooth®
2.4g
Wired USB
Dimensions / Weight
303*203*111.5 mm
2.1kg
Features
Dynamic Button Layout
Button Swap Functionality
Ultimate Configuration Software
Control Stick Switch
Turbo Functions
2 Dedicated Macro Buttons (Player 1 & Player 2)
PROS+ Multiple Connectivity Options
+ Moddable – Replace Components With Custom Parts
+ Programmable Macros
+ Comprehensive Button Configuration Tools
CONS– Stock Factory Stick / Buttons Are Average
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

The follow-up to the very popular N30 Arcade Stick, the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick delivers more of the same but is more geared towards power users and fighter enthusiasts with its macro functionality and highly configurable setup.

One thing that really appeals to arcade fans with this arcade stick is the moddable nature of this great product. All the parts are universal-sized, meaning that you can swap out parts for more premium buttons such as Sanwa, etc.

The 8BitDo Arcade Stick is compatible across a number of devices, especially great for RetroArch fans!

Best Joystick for RetroArch

If you are a fan of 80s and early 90s Home Computers, then you will no doubt have memories of using joysticks more than joypads. There are Loads of classic joysticks of the time including the Cheetah 125+, Quickshot, the Konix Navigator and the Zip Stick. But one name has lived on and has received a second life – The Competition Pro.

Fans of the 80s and 90s home microcomputers will love this. Whilst some used Mega Drive / Genesis or Master System controllers on their computers most would have had an old-school joystick. The Competition Pro name and design have been resurrected and is a must-buy for those looking to get that original feel back in their computer gaming.

Best Controllers for RetroArch - SpeedLink Competition Pro USB

Without a doubt, the best Joystick for RetroArch in my view is the Speedlink Competition Pro USB.

it is ideal for playing old C64, Amstrad CPC, Spectrum, Amiga & Atari ST games with. I could never get to grips with playing Sensible Soccer on a gamepad, but now I can get the old skills back like they never left me!

This modern reinvention of the Competition Pro also has an additional button added so setting up a useful second button for navigating the RetroArch menus is really useful.

Click here to find out more about the Competition Pro Extra.

Best Budget Controllers for RetroArch

There are plenty of budget-priced retro-style controllers on eBay & Amazon. If you are looking for minimal fuss and cost, then look no further than these best budget RetroArch controllers.

Whilst the 8BitDo range of controllers offer huge value for money in terms of their quality and functionality, sometimes you are just looking for something quick and easy to play retro games as cheaply as possible, look no further than these best budget RetroArch controllers.

Retro-Bit Official Sega Mega Drive USB Controller

Best Controllers for RetroArch - Retro-Bit Official Sega Mega Drive USB Controller

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Wired USB
Dimensions / Weight
157*40*98 mm
250g
Features
Officially Licenced SEGA Controller (Original Grade Quality)
New L/R Shoulder Buttons
10ft/3m Cable
Classic 6-Button Layout with Mode Button
Compatible with Sega Mega Drive Mini, PC, Mac, Steam, RetroArch, Raspberry Pi
PROS+ Low Lag
+ Shoulder Buttons
+ 3m Cable Length
+ Fully Licenced
CONS– D-Pad Is Not As Good As The 8BitDo M30
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

This licenced copy of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis 6 button controller is a great buy. It is usually one of the cheapest controllers to buy and is still of good quality.

If wireless or Bluetooth connectivity isn’t a requirement, this excellent-looking controller will be a perfect match-up for playing Mega Drive / Genesis games in RetroArch.

8BitDo Zero 2 Bluetooth Gamepad

Best Controllers for RetroArch - 8BitDo Zero 2 Bluetooth Gamepad

SPECIFICATIONSConnectivity
Wireless Bluetooth
Micro USB
Dimensions / Weight
73*36.5*14.7 mm
20.7g
Features
X-input, D-input, Mac mode, Switch mode, Keyboard
8 hours of play with a 1-2 hour charge time
PROS+ Compact Enough To Carry With You
+ 8 Hours Use With Just 1-2 Hours Charge
+ Compatible With Most Systems
+ It’s Cute
CONS– Not Ideal For Long Play Sessions
WHERE TO BUYAmazon UK | Amazon US

This very cute little controller looks like a novelty toy, but don’t be fooled, the 8BitDo Zero 2 is tiny, weighing on 21 grams, but is perfect as a controller to take on the move with you. It’s ideal for kids to pack away in a pocket on holiday, or maybe even keep it on a keychain!

Possibly a little small for most adults, at least for long gaming sessions, but the 8BitDo Zero 2 is perfect for ad-hoc gaming sessions where it can easily be kept in your pocket and is especially good as a gift for kids who are just starting their journey into retro gaming.

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