Since the release of End Space on the Gear VR I keep getting emails about ‘What’s the best controller for Gear VR?’ So I made a list, here are the best controllers to use with the Samsung Gear VR. At the bottom of the article I go into more detail as to why some controllers don’t work.
SteelSeries Stratus XL
Recommended by Oculus, the SteelSeries Stratus XL works with both Windows and Android. It’s expensive at ($59.99 on Amazon) but it has top notch build quality and is really comfortable to hold.
- Recommended by Oculus
- The best build quality of any controller for Android
- Comfortable to hold
- Windows support
- Uses 2 AA batteries (Approx 40 hours playtime)
MOGA Pro / Moga Pro Power Controller
The Moga Pro and the newer Moga Pro Power are great gamepads. At $49.99 it’s cheaper than the SteelSeries, has a bracket to hold your phone if you want to play Android games outside of the Gear VR, and has a rechargeable battery that can charge your phone as well. No need to install the Moga Pivot app, just switch the controller to B mode and you are good to go on the Gear VR.
- Rechargeable battery
- Comfortable to hold
- Good price point
- Long battery life
- Build quality isn’t as nice as the Steelseries
- My preferred Moga Pro isn’t available easily, but you can find the newer Moga Pro Power all over.
- Android specific
The GameSir G3s comes highly recommend on Amazon with great reviews. It offers Windows / Android / PS3 support, and has a rechargeable battery. And at $42.99 on Amazon at the time of writing is the cheapest controller on this list.
- Android / Windows / PS3 support
- Rechargeable battery
- Cheapest controller on the list
- Some buttons lack good tactile feedback
- Windows support needs a dongle for Bluetooth connectivity
- Some people have reported connectivity problems
- Long term durability is unknown at this point
That is my list of the Best Controllers for the Gear VR. There are some cheaper controllers that are compatible but they aren’t good enough to be considered on a Best Of List. Of note is the PlayStation 4 controller. It’s a great controller but it’s not 100% Android compatible. I even wrote a guide on how to almost make it work, but the long story is, it doesn’t work. Save yourself the time and the hassle of trying to get something to work and pickup a controller off this list.
After buying a controller, make sure to check out my game End Space for the Gear VR!
I thought it might be interesting for some people to know a little bit more on why some gamepads work and others don’t, like the PS4 controller. Most of the apps / games on the Gear VR are using the game engine Unity for development. Currently Unity doesn’t have a very good input detection system to support the hundreds of gamepads, controllers, and joysticks available. It is extremely hard to support all the gamepads out there because every manufacturer maps a button to a different raw input source. Button A on one controller could be Button X on another. It’s not a fault of Unity, but of Android / gamepad manufactures who haven’t come up with a gamepad standard mapping system.
There are various plugins for Unity to try and handle assigning the correct button mapping to each controller, Rewired being my favorite and the one I used on End Space does a great job. Oculus also provides a SDK for gamepads but it has the drawback for being limited to the Oculus platform SDK. Without using one of these plugins it’s up to a developer to try and support each gamepad individually, pretty much an impossible task.
Some controllers like the PS4 controller can connect to the Gear VR over Bluetooth. But they don’t pass a specific name to Android. It connects as ‘Wireless Controller’ not Sony DS4 controller or something you can uniquely identify. This makes it impossible to support it as a gamepad on Android because you can’t assign the right button mapping to a generic name. How can you support something without being able to identify it?
As a developer supporting gamepads is a difficult task because you have no idea what the end user is going to be using. As a consumer its hard to make decision because not every device is going to be supported by every developer. So no don’t expect your PS4 controller to work, or the cheap no name controller you bought off eBay for $5 from China that no one has heard of and then leave a bad review because the game doesn’t support it. Spend the money and get something recommended in the first place.