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Best Controllers For RetroPie

Raspberry PiRetropie

Written by

Matt James

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Best Bluetooth Controllers For RetroPie

Since RetroPie burst onto the retro gaming scene all the way back in 2013, built on the backbone of emulator frontends such as EmulationStation & RetroArch, it quickly became a favourite with retro game lovers across the world when it became the quickest and easiest way to play retro games on the Raspberry Pi.

Since then, we are now spoilt for choice for retro-style USB, Bluetooth & Wireless RetroPie controllers. From faithful recreations of classic home computer joysticks like the Competition Pro USB to replicas of consoles’ most famous controllers such as the SNES-inspired 8BitDo SN30 Pro, blending old design with more modern functions.

Pair a classic retro controller with a retro gaming raspberry pi case, then you have the ultimate setup for your RetroPie games collection!

Here we look at some of the best controllers for RetroPie.

Best Bluetooth Controllers for RetroPie

8Bitdo Pro 2 Controller
9.7/10
  • Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
  • Bluetooth / USB-C Connectivity
  • 1000mAh Li-on Removable Rechargeable Battery
  • 6-Axis Motion Sensor & Vibration
  • 8BitDo Ultimate Software - Customize button mapping & create macros
8Bitdo Arcade Stick
9.2/10
  • Compatible with PC, Raspberry Pi & Nintendo Switch
  • Bluetooth / Wireless / USB-C connectivity
  • 1000mAh Li-on rechargeable battery
  • 8BitDo Ultimate Software - Customize button mapping & create macros
  • Ultra-Moddable Arcade Stick - Universal mounting plate supports sanwa, seimitsu & More
8BitDo M30 Gamepad
8.9/10
  • Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
  • Bluetooth / USB-C connectivity
  • 480mAh Li-on rechargeable battery
  • Super responsive d-pad - Perfect for 8 & 16-bit gaming

When searching for the best Bluetooth controllers for RetroPie, I personally veer towards 8BitDo Bluetooth controllers. 8BitDo has an excellent range of Bluetooth Controllers which are compatible with RetroPie on the Raspberry Pi as well as a number of modern systems.

Depending on whether you are looking for a classic digital style d-pad and buttons with the 8BitDo N30 NS (An NES-inspired Bluetooth Controller), or you want a fully analogue Switch-compatible controller, 8BitDo has you covered. Since the Raspberry Pi 3 onwards has Bluetooth built-in, it makes getting up and running that little bit easier.

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

9.7
8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller

Features:

  • Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
  • Bluetooth / USB-C Connectivity
  • 1000mAh Li-on Removable Rechargeable Battery
  • 6-Axis Motion Sensor & Vibration
  • 8BitDo Ultimate Software - Customize button mapping & create macros

The 8BitDo Pro 2 is an evolution of the brilliant SN30 Pro+. It benefits from some great additions such as two additional rear triggers and customisation software allowing remapping and macro set-up, perfect for fighting game fans! It even has a removable rechargeable battery, which can be swapped out for AA batteries too, perfect!

Just like its predecessor, the 8BitDo2 Pro 2 is very comfortable. It adopts the same primary button layout as the SN30, but with a modern PS4-style feel complete with analogue controls. This makes the 8BitDo Pro 2 perfect for both 8-bit and 16-bit era games as well as the 32-bit PlayStation era too.

Priced at under £40 / $50, it is one of the best controllers you can buy in terms of quality, functionality and compatibility. If you’re anything like me and regularly need more controllers for your Retropie, Switch, PC. & Xbox, you will not do much better than the 8BitDo Pro 2 for the price.

Pros
  • Superb value vs. functionality
  • Comfortable button layout
  • Rechargeable & removable battery
  • Macros can be set up
Cons
  • Customisation software not available on Mac / Nintendo Switch

Modelled on the 6-button Sega Mega Drive / Genesis controller, the 8BitDo M30 is, without a doubt, one of the best Bluetooth RetroPie controllers. Its d-pad alone is one of its main selling points, it is one of the most responsive d-pads I have used on a modern-day controller. Perfect for fighting and platform games.

The 8BitDo M30 comes with two shoulder buttons, a central start button and three function buttons which can be assigned easily in RetroPie to make navigating menus and quitting games a breeze.

In terms of compatibility, again as with most 8BitDo products, the M30 will work with your Raspberry Pi/RetroPie set-up as well as Android, PC, Mac & Nintendo Switch.

The M30 is competitively priced too with it often being available for under £25 / $30, making it a really good value purchase as a retro gaming gift, or even just for yourself!

Another quality 8BitDo controller that is a must-have in your controller collection.

Pros
  • Top quality d-pad
  • Light & comfortable to use
  • Ideal for Sega Genesis & Sega Saturn emulation
  • Sega-inspired design
Cons
  • No analogue controls
  • Built-in battery
8Bitdo SN30 Pro Controller

 

 

 

Features:

  • Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
  • SNES-inspired design, but with all modern features
  • Compatible across a wide range of systems
  • Wireless Bluetooth / USB-C connectivity

In the same way the M30 ticks the boxes for Sega fans, the 8BitDo SN30 Pro will do the same for fans of the SNES.

The SN30 Pro gives you a classic SNES layout, complete with the authentic feeling d-pad and shoulder buttons. We also get the benefit of dual analogue sticks with the SN30 Pro, which then makes playing PlayStation games, etc far more enjoyable. These do not affect the retro feel of the SN30 Pro too much, as they are positioned discretely, but not uncomfortably in the lower midsection of the controller.

Released in 2017, the 8BitDo SN30 Pro remains a popular choice when it comes to retro aesthetics, with modern-day qualities.

Pros
  • Lots crammed into a good-looking controller
  • SNES-inspired form factor
  • Analogue sticks bring welcome versatility
Cons
  • A little awkward for larger hands
  • Built-in battery

Best Wireless Controllers for RetroPie

With many Retro Gaming enthusiasts looking to keep lag to an absolute minimum, but without hardwiring your controller to your Raspberry Pi, 2.4ghz Wireless Controllers are the next best bet.

Highly recommended again is 8BitDo, with the best selection of 2.4ghz Wireless Controllers that are compatible with RetroPie on your Raspberry Pi.

8BitDo M30 2.4Ghz Wireless Controller
8BitDo M30 2.4Ghz Wireless Controller
8BitDo M30 2.4Ghz Wireless Controller
Our Score

 

 

 

Features:

  • Turbo fire function
  • Access the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive Mini home menu wirelessly!
  • 480mAh Li-ion battery, rechargeable
  • 35 play hours with 1-2 hour charging time

There is an officially licences Sega Mega Drive / Genesis clone USB controller available (also recommended further down this list), but the prize for the Best Mega Drive / Genesis Controller goes to the 8BitDo M30.

The 8BitDo M30 has been considered the standard for a recreation of the classic 16-Bit system controller for a while now.

The ace in its hand for me is the really tactile d-pad and really nice ergonomics. The M30 is everything I need in a 16-Bit era controller, it has 6 main fire buttons, 2 additional shoulder buttons, a start button and 3 additional option buttons which are all able to be remapped in RetroPie.

The 2.4ghz Wireless model tends to be a bit harder to get hold of due to its popularity, but the Bluetooth model is still excellent and also comes with a USB-C cable for charging and the option to plug directly into your Raspberry Pi, reducing any small amounts of latency further.

Pros
  • Brilliantly responsive d-pad
  • Lightweight & comfortable to use
  • Works with Sega Mega Drive / Genesis Mini consoles
  • Sega inspired design aesthetics
Cons
  • Built-in battery

Best USB Controllers for RetroPie

Most controllers now tend to be Bluetooth or 2.4ghz Wireless, but there are still some good options available if you are only seeking a USB controller. 8BitDo again have a good option (in fact, all of their Bluetooth & Wireless controllers come with USB cables anyhow) if you are looking for only USB connectivity.

8Bitdo SN30 Pro USB Controller

 

 

 

Features:

  • Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
  • SNES-inspired design, but with all modern features
  • Low latency
  • USB connectivity

This is exactly the same as the SN30 Pro mentioned earlier, but it’s simply a USB version with no wireless capabilities. Perfect if you don’t need wireless and you’ll benefit from reduced latency and slightly lower cost!

The SN30 Pro USB controller has built-in vibration, dual analogue sticks and has wide compatibility being able to be used on your Raspberry Pi, Switch & PC.

Pros
  • Loads of buttons crammed into a retro-inspired controller
  • SNES controller looks
  • Analogue sticks mean you can use it with more modern games
  • Low latency thanks to its wired connection
Cons
  • Can be a little cramped for with larger hands
Speedlink Competition Pro USB Joystick
Speedlink Competition Pro USB Joystick
Speedlink Competition Pro USB Joystick
Our Score

 

 

 

Features:

  • USB joystick for PCs and Android devices
  • Rapid fire mode
  • Nostalgic-inspired design from the original Competition Pro joystick

Not one for console gamers due to its limited button functionality, but if you are an 8-bit and 16-bit home computer enthusiast, you probably remember the original Competition Pro from back in the day.

This modern recreation remains strongly faithful to the original and is a must-have when playing the likes of Amiga, Atari ST, C64, Amstrad & Spectrum games.

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 latency
Cons
  • Microswitches are a bit loud

Best Arcade Stick for RetroPie

8Bitdo Arcade Stick

 

 

 

Features:

  • Compatible with PC, Raspberry Pi & Nintendo Switch
  • 1000mAh Li-on rechargeable battery
  • 8BitDo Ultimate Software - Customize button mapping & create macros
  • Ultra-Moddable Arcade Stick - Universal mounting plate supports Sanwa, Seimitsu & more

Something that fans of Arcade, Neo Geo and fighting games, in general, will be seeking, is a high-quality, durable arcade stick.

8BitDo follow up their popular N30 Arcade Stick with the more generically named ‘8BitDo Arcade Stick’. Ultimately, it’s a competitively priced Arcade Stick with a stack of excellent features.

The joystick and buttons are of decent enough quality and are responsive, but the great thing is that 8BitDo advertise the fact that this Arcade Stick is easy to mod with standard-sized parts, so if you are really competitive player, you can even swap out parts for more premium sticks and buttons such as Sanwa parts.

The 8BitDo Arcade Stick is compatible well across a number of platforms including the Raspberry Pi, Switch & PC.

Pros
  • Multiple connectivity options
  • Highly moddable – Replace components with custom arcade stick/button parts
  • Programmable macros
  • Comprehensive button configuration tools
Cons
  • Stock factory stick / buttons are average

Best Joystick for RetroPie

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.

The best Joystick for RetroPie in our view is, without a doubt, the Speedlink Competition Pro USB. Perfect for playing systems such as the ZX Spectrum, C64, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and many more, the Speedlink Competition Pro USB is built to a good standard (mine is still fully working several years after purchase) and has extra buttons added to make it easier to navigate more modern platforms, such as RetroPie.

Speedlink Competition Pro USB Joystick
Speedlink Competition Pro USB Joystick
Speedlink Competition Pro USB Joystick
Our Score

 

 

 

Features:

  • USB joystick for PCs and Android devices
  • Rapid fire mode
  • Nostalgic-inspired design from the original Competition Pro joystick

Best Budget Controllers for RetroPie

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 RetroPie controllers.

Retro-Bit Sega Genesis / Mega Drive USB Controller

 

 

 

Features:

  • Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
  • USB Connectivity
  • 10ft/3m cable length
  • Classic 6-button layout with re-positioned mode button
  • Officially licensed by Sega

This officially licenced copy of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis 6 button controller is one of the cheapest good quality retro controllers available.

If you are willing to overlook Bluetooth / Wireless functionality, this faithful recreation can be the perfect companion for your RetroPie set-up. Especially when diving into your Mega Drive / Genesis collection.

Pros
  • Low latency
  • Shoulder buttons
  • 3m cable length
  • Officially licensed by Sega
Cons
  • D-pad is not as good as the 8BitDo M30
8BitDo Zero 2 Bluetooth Controller

 

 

 

Features:

  • Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
  • Fits in your pocket - Be ready to play at any time!
  • Bluetooth / Micro USB connectivity
  • 8 hours of play with a 1-2 hour charge time

Now this little cute, but functional controller has to be caveated first – It is a very small controller weighing in at a tiny 21 grams, BUT, perfect for kids who you might be introducing to Retro Gaming. Also really useful if you wanted to keep a controller tucked away for tablet/phone gaming too.

For us, the 8BitDo Zero 2 is bordering on too small, but it certainly has been very useful to have a couple on hand in case of any last-minute extended multiplayer sessions on the Raspberry Pi. Oh, and it also comes with a small strap, making it easy to keep attached to your wrist or keyrings.

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

Best Controllers for RetroArch Round-Up

Here is a quick summary of our best RetroArch controller recommendations found in the above article.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller

8Bitdo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller

  • Highly configurable and compatible with many systems
  • Perfect for playing retro and modern games
View on Amazon
8Bitdo SN30 Pro Bluetooth Controller

8Bitdo SN30 Pro Bluetooth Controller

  • SNES controller form factor but includes analogue sticks, perfect for retro & modern gaming
  • High compatibility across a number of systems
View on Amazon
8Bitdo Arcade Stick

8Bitdo Arcade Stick

  • Perfect for Arcade & Fighting game fans
  • Ultra-moddable Arcade Stick - Universal mounting plate supports parts from Sanwa, Seimitsu & more
View on Amazon
8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth & Wireless Controller

8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth & Wireless Controller

  • Modern form factor & functionality - Perfect for both retro & modern gaming
  • Includes charging dock
View on Amazon
8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Controller

8BitDo M30 Bluetooth Controller

  • Impressively comfortable and responsive d-pad
  • Perfect for Sega Genesis / Mega Drive & Saturn emulation
View on Amazon
8Bitdo Zero 2 Bluetooth Controller

8Bitdo Zero 2 Bluetooth Controller

  • Totally unique tiny, but usable Bluetooth controller
  • Fits in your pocket - Be ready to game anywhere and anytime!
View on Amazon
Speedlink Competition Pro Extra USB Joystick

Speedlink Competition Pro Extra USB Joystick

  • The best retro USB Joystick available today
  • Perfect for C64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga & Atari ST emulation 
View on Amazon
Retro-Bit Sega Gensis / Mega Drive USB Controller

Retro-Bit Sega Gensis / Mega Drive USB Controller

  • Great budget choice
  • Officially licenced by Sega
View on Amazon

RetroPie Controller FAQs

Is The Steam Controller Compatible with RetroPie?

Technically yes, but with some difficulty. There are issues reported currently with the Steam Controller not working with the RPi4, but it has been successfully used on the RPi3 systems. This is achieved by manually installing Steam Controller drivers on your Raspberry Pi and configuring them accordingly. This guide posted on Reddit shows how to set up a Steam Controller to work with RetroPie.

Are PS3 Controllers Compatible with RetroPie?

Yes, PS3 controllers are easy to set up in RetroPie. Simply go to the RetroPie setup, select ‘Manage Packages’, then ‘Driver’. You can then select the PS3 driver from the menu by selecting ‘Install from source’ from the PS3 driver section. Once installed, quit the RetroPie setup menu and go back to the EmulationStation home screen and you should be able to connect your PS3 controller in the normal manner.

Does a wired Xbox Controller work on RetroPie?

Yes, a USB-connected Xbox controller will work out of the box with RetroPie. Simply plug it in and it will be detected, then you just need to configure your buttons and you are ready to play.

Does any Controller work with RetroPie?

Not any controller, but most commonly available controllers do. The Raspberry Pi comes with onboard USB ports as well as many Pi models possess built-in Bluetooth, so the Raspberry Pi and RetroPie will be compatible with most controllers you try out. Many modern controllers such as Xbox & PS3, PS4 & PS5 – Although with the PS5 you may have to connect via USB cable for it to properly work at this point in time.

What Gamepads work with RetroPie?

Many gamepads are compatible with RetroPie, many of which are listed in this article, check out the recommendations for Best Bluetooth Controllers For RetroPie.