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 ($39.99 US)
This gamepad has grown popular thanks to the Nintendo Switch. It's great for any device! They also have a version of this gamepad that looks closer to a SNES controller.
- BEBONCOOl Mobile Game Controller ($39.88 US)
A neat Android/iOS gamepad that turns your smartphone into a Nintendo Switch-esk device with buttons on both sides.
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 this one:
- Logitech Gamepad F310 ($14.99 US)
A nice, solid gamepad with a smooth grip and 11 buttons. Its price has gone down a lot over the years. Buy one before Logitech stops producing them!
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 close to the originals!
- 8bitdo Bluetooth NES controller ($25.99 US)
This is the newer model. Previous models looked even closer to the original NES controller. This model, though, has more buttons and works more efficiently. It's compatible with Android, PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch.
- 8bitdo Bluetooth SNES controller ($29.97 US)
Like above, this is also a newer model that looks less like a real SNES controller than previously, but it's a high quality gamepad. It's compatible with Android, PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch.
- Hyperkin USB Genesis controller ($19.99 US)
A slightly old controller, but the best one for Genesis. It's compatible with PC and Mac.
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 ($13.50 US)
- Mayflash Genesis/Mega Drive Controller Adapter for PC USB ($17.99 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) ($129.99 US)