The best retro controllers enable you to not simply feel the buzz of nostalgia as you use a gamepad from your childhood, such as the Sega Genesis controller, but they can also be essential for playing emulated games on PC, enhanced games on Nintendo Switch and remakes for PlayStation 5.
Some of the best retro game controllers can be Nintendo Switch retro controllers that offer replicas of gamepads for the NES, N64 and GameCube; these are perfect for playing retro games on Switch. Some of the best upcoming Switch games include retro remakes, and some of the best Nintendo Switch games include games that make use of retro controllers, such as Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
Retro controllers are also excellent for game development using PCs or Raspberry Pi, and there are some excellent PS5 retro controllers. If you own a mini retro console you may want one of the best USB retro controllers too. Read my guide to the best retro consoles for more, as well as my Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 review for news on the latest retro console.
In my guide below I've picked retro game controllers that can enhance the retro games you play, whether on a new console like Switch, a mini console, or a PC. Sadly right now there aren't any good PS5 retro controllers. Now, scroll down and see if there's a top retro controller that grabs your interest.
Best retro controllers available now
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Best retro controller for Super Smash Bros.
Compatible: Switch, Wii
Features: Classic design
The GameCube Controller Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Edition controller was released to enable fans to play this multiplayer melee game the best way possible, by using this GameCube controller design.
It's the same GameCube controller you remember but this Nintendo Switch retro controller can be used with Nintendo Switch. Nintendo also offers a GameCube adapter(opens in new tab) to plug four controllers into, and it enables you to use your old GameCube gamepads too. An essential pro level pad for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Edition players.
The best retro controller for SNES fans
Connection: Bluetooth, USB-C
Compatible: PC, Mac, Android, Switch
The 8Bitdo SN30 PRO is one of the best Nintendo Switch retro controllers around. If you grew up on SNES games such as Super Mario World, then you'll want to pick up one of these retro controllers. It's wireless and compatible with Switch (as well as PC, Mac and Android) and a charge will last around 16 hours. It also has USB-C connectivity.
This gamepad may look like a SNES controller but it comes packed with all the tech you'd expect from a modern pad, including rumble vibration, motion controls, and a screen capture button. An all-round excellent retro controller for Nintendo Switch gamers.
The best retro controller for Sega fans
Compatible: PC, Mac, Android, Switch, Mega Drive Mini
Features: Remap buttons
The Retro-Bit Official Sega Mega Drive Controller connects Switch, PC, Mac, Mega Drive Mini and Nintendo Switch. It's a great option to use with the new Sega Mega Drive Mini 2 as it features the MK2 six-button layout (plus two shoulder buttons) needed for games such as Street Fighter II.
If you want a little more precision, then you can drop the USB-C connection and opt for the long 10ft/3m cable. This gets bonus marks for its official licence and range of colours – Crimson Red, Clear Blue and Black.
Best retro controller with a modern style
Connection: Wired, bluetooth
Compatible: Xbox Series X/S, PC, Xbox One, Android, PC
The 8BitDo Pro 2 Controller is a smart modern wireless controller for Xbox consoles and PC that apes the look and feel of smaller retro controllers like the PS2 and SNES gamepads, but with all the pro features of an elite controller.
This retro controller can be fully customised, offers button remapping and supports multiple profiles via a supporting app. This is a high-quality modern retro game controller that offers old-fashioned style with modern features.
Best retro controller for small hands
Features: Long battery
The Little Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is a neat tiny gamepad that doubles as one of the best Nintendo Switch retro controllers. This gamepad recalls the design of old Nintendo controllers, such as the SNES pad, but is a completely modern pad. It's one of the best around at the moment.
With motion control and the solid build quality you get from an official Nintendo product, the Little Wireless Controller is an excellent option if you want a smaller game controller or are taking your Switch on-the-go. The 40-hour battery lifespan is excellent and the smart grey and purple colour scheme is an excellent look.
Best retro controller for Xbox fans
Compatible: Xbox Series X/S, PC, Xbox One
Features: Rumble, share button
The Hyperkin Duke Wired Controller replicates the chunky, fat design of the original Xbox console. So if you're replaying some of that games machine's hits, such as Gears Of War, you may want to get the full nostalgia experience with this larger controller.
The Hyperkin Duke comes in three colours – Black, White and a special purple Special Halo 20th anniversary Cortana design. The gamepad has all the features you'd expect, including precision triggers, rumble and the share button.
Best retro controller for Xbox Series X
Compatible: Xbox Series X/S, PC, Xbox One
Features: Rumble, share button
Xbox Series X/S owners looking for a retro game controller should look no further than the Hyperkin X91 Controller. This gamepad has all the features expected of a modern controller but it's designed to look and feel like a classic SNES gamepad.
There's a slight difference in shape, the Hyperkin X91 features 'wings' to hold its shoulder buttons and triggers, for example. This is a fine balance between a retro design and modern technology and comes in four colours – Black, White, Aqua Green and Ruby Red. Perfect for Xbox Game Pass' modern retro titles.
Best retro controller for NES gamers
Compatible: Nintendo Switch, Switch Lite
Features: Full size
Turn your Nintendo Switch into NES with these Nintendo Switch retro controllers. Unlike some other NES retro controllers that are designed for the NES Classic Mini, these are full size replica NES controllers and link wirelessly to your Switch.
The Nintendo Entertainment System Controllers come in a box of two, so these are designed for co-op and competitive gaming and really help bring back some good memories if you grew up on Nintendo's '80s console. The only slight niggle is you need an existing Joy-Con controller to charge them. But we should all have one of these.
Best retro controller for N64 gamers
One of the best Nintendo Switch controllers is the Nintendo 64 controller, which enables you to play N64 enhanced games running on Switch the way they were meant to be played – with no need for button mapping or customising options.
The controller is an official Nintendo pad so you know it's built to last, and feels just like the N64 controller you remember. One difference is the built-in rumble, so no need for the old Rumble Pak you had to plug into your original pad. Note, there are third-party versions too, but generally opt for an official Nintendo product where possible. the only downside? It's really only best for N64 emulator games.
Best retro controller for Sega Saturn fans
Connection: Bluetooth, wired
Compatible: PC, Mac, Mega Drive Mini, Switch, Sega Saturn
Features: Saturn port
Not only can the Retro-Bit Official Sega Saturn Controller work with new consoles such as Nintendo Switch it can also be connected to the original Sega Saturn.
The controller comes in a lovely clear blue plastic or original black and is packaged in a collector's case for safe keeping, alongside the dongles for Saturn and PC connection. A sync button links this smart gamepad to your device, and it works either wirelessly or cabled.
The best retro controller for PS2 fans
Connection: USB-C, wired
Compatible: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Features: Analog on/off
PC gamepad brand QUMOX has an excellent PlayStation 2 replica controller, the QUMOX Wired USB Gamepad that will appeal to any retro gamer looking to play some old classics on PC but also on Xbox.
The advantage of the gamepad is it can be plugged in and you're ready to play; no need for complex drivers or software. If you're into emulation or developing your own games and want to capture that PS2-era feel, this is a great pad. I would say it's a little basic, however, compared to other pads on this list.
Best retro controller for NES Mini
Compatible: NES MIni Classic, Wii
Features: Wii adapter
The OSTENT Rechargeable Controller is an excellent option if you own the NES Mini Classic console and need a spare or replacement controller. This is an authentic retro game controller that also comes with an adapter for Wii, if you have one of these old Nintendo consoles.
The downside to the neat little replica controller is it can only really be used on the consoles stated – NES Classic Mini and Wii – which means it's not compatible with Raspberry Pi, PC or even the Nintendo Switch. Bit of a shame but if you need a spare it's still welcome.