April 30, 2017 at 2:18 p.m. PST
Although my Apple TV is primarily used for streaming video, I do enjoy playing games on this device. In fact, Apple TV offers remarkable gaming capabilities. With its speedy 64-bit processor and the tvOS Metal graphics API, Apple TV actually rivals most dedicated gaming consoles. Games such as Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP: Renegade actually offer the highest resolution graphics and smoothest game play on Apple TV. I’ve experienced these titles on game consoles, and can honestly say that they’re better on Apple TV.
Siri Remote Great for Some Games
The Siri Remote is an excellent game controller for certain games. With its accelerometer, it excels at racing games. Simply tilt the Siri Remote, just like a steering wheel, to control the vehicle. It’s responsive, intuitive and loads of fun.
Unfortunately, the Siri Remote is not appropriate for all games. Although you can play most games with the Siri Remote, some games prove challenging to control. For example, a complicated first person shooter is difficult to play with the Siri Remote. This isn’t a problem, as Apple TV supports third-party game controllers.
Apple TV Supports Third-Party Game Controllers
When the new Apple TV first launched, Apple required that all games should be playable with the Siri Remote. A game controller could be used optionally, however, the game had to be compatible with the Siri Remote. Apple has since relaxed this requirement, and there are a few tvOS games that actually require a third-party game controller. Some of these are amazing games. Between the games that require a game controller and those that just work better with one, it became clear that I needed something beyond the Siri Remote.
There’s a lot of different game controllers on the market, and not all of them work with Apple TV. It’s also good to find one with rechargeable batteries, strong Bluetooth connectivity and responsive controls. Let’s take a look at best game controllers for Apple TV.
Make Sure to Get the MFi Version
Some of the game controllers featured in this article use the same model name for different versions. For example, both SteelSeries controllers have an MFi (made for iPod) version and a Windows/Android version. The latter isn’t compatible with Apple TV. Make sure to read the product description and purchase the model that’s compatible with Apple products.
SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller
The SteelSeries Nimbus wireless gaming controller is one of the best options for Apple TV. It’s featured in the Apple Store and earns excellent reviews and ratings from customers. It also gets the Amazon’s Choice seal of approval.
Apple TV game controllers are standardized to offer the same features and layouts. Based on the Xbox 360 and PS4 controllers, they typically offer a directional pad on the left, two thumb joysticks, a menu button, XYAB buttons and shoulder buttons. The SteelSeries Nimbus offers these standard features with a comfortable ergonomic design. Going above and beyond, it also offers LED status lights for multiplayer gameplay. Pressure sensitive XYAB buttons are required by Apple for any compatible game controller. These add fine-grained nuance to your gaming experience.
The SteelSeries Nimbus features Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, ensuring a consistent connection to Apple TV. It also comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery capable of operating for over 40 hours on a full charge. It even supports the lighting connector for charging. You won’t need another outlet to charge this controller, which is a huge advantage.
An iOS app is available for the SteelSeries Nimbus controller. Strangely enough, they don’t offer a tvOS app. The app provides the ability to change settings for the controller and update firmware.
Overall, customer reviews are favorable, but it is not a slam dunk. The SteelSeries Nimbus gets 3.5 stars on the Apple Store and 4.5 stars on Amazon. Customers like the responsive, low-latency controls, however, there are a few small flaws. The power button is labelled as “hold”. The controller does not come with a lightning cable or charger. If you don’t already own a lightning-charged Apple device, you will need to supply your own lightning cable and charger. You can use a lightning to USB cable to charge the controller with your computer. Also, a few customers have complained about joystick reliability. These complaints are common amongst all controllers. Some controllers seem to have more problems with reliability than others.
It’s important to note that this controller only works with Apple devices. This is true of every controller featured in this article. If you’re looking for a controller that works with an Xbox and Apple devices, they simply don’t exist. You can use the SteelSeries Nimbus with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and, in some cases, a Mac.
Although you can’t really go wrong by buying this controller, at around $50, it’s not cheap. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is a huge cost saver in the long run. Also, make sure to shop around to find the best deal. There are some refurbished controllers available, if you really want to save money. The casual gamer might want to investigate less expensive options.
SteelSeries Stratus XL
If the SteelSeries Nimbus is too expensive, the Stratus XL may be sufficient for your gaming needs. This model uses two AA batteries instead of a lithium-ion cell. It also has a slightly less responsive directional pad, however, the thumb joysticks are often preferable controls.
Make sure to buy the iOS compatible version of this controller. Also, shop around for the best deal. Overall, this is much more affordable than its Nimbus sibling. That said, if you play a lot of games, battery costs can add up. I highly recommend this controller for the more casual gamer. Just remember to remove the batteries if you don’t use the device often, to prevent leakage. This isn’t a product flaw, but a good practice for any infrequently used battery-powered device.
PXN-6603 Speedy Wireless Bluetooth Gamepad
You don’t always get what you pay for, and the PXN-6603 is a good example of a bad value. The controller costs more than a SteelSeries Nimbus, yet has garnered quite a few negative reviews.
The main complaint with this controller is that it seems to be poorly made. At first, the controller is responsive, however, with time, the joysticks tend to become less responsive. Attempt to calibrate the controls don’t fix the problem. Users also complain that Bluetooth loses connectivity during gameplay.
Although this controller does offer a rechargeable battery, it simply has too many negative reviews. It’s actually more expensive than the SteelSeries Nimbus. If you are considering this controller, make sure to do extensive research. If you can find a great price, it may be worth buying. A casual gamer might not put it through the rigors which seem to reduce its sensitivity.
Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i Mobile Gamepad
Another dubious controller, the Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i costs about as much as the SteelSeries Nimbus, yet has some minor flaws. First and foremost, it does not have a rechargeable battery. Any controller that costs $50 should be rechargeable. The Mad Catz controller does come with AAA batteries, but after 40 hours of use, they must be replaced by the customer. This adds up over time.
Customer reviews vary a lot, but reveal a few minor flaws. Some customers report high-latency with more complex, first-person shooter games. It is more responsive with simpler, low resolution games such as Minecraft. The overall build quality of the device is problematic. The iPhone holder tends to break easily. If you’re just going to use this controller with Apple TV, that’s not much of a problem. Users also report that the triggers can stop working. Although this can be easily fixed, it can really ruin the gaming experience if it happens. Bluetooth connectivity isn’t as robust as it should be for a $50 controller.
If this controller were half the price, it may be worth buying. Shop around, and you might find a better deal. I would personally avoid this one. The high price and negative reviews are simply unappealing.
Megadream iOS Game Controller
Many gamers want more flexibility out of their controllers. For those who game on Apple TV and the iPhone, the Megadream iOS Game Controller may be a good option. Unlike the SteelSeries controllers, the Megadream features a flexible iPhone dock, making it essential for on-the-go gaming. While every controller featured in this article will work with an iPhone, the dock sets this one apart. The Megadream controller also features a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
The main problem with this controller is that it employs outdated Bluetooth 3.0 technology. This limits the range of the controller to 6-8 meters. This may be fine for the iPhone, but it may cause problems with some Apple TV setups. You can also expect less responsive gameplay with this older Bluetooth technology.
There aren’t a lot of reviews for the Megadream controller. Overall, people seem to like it and claim it is well made. There are also claims that it is flimsy. At over $60 and with outdated Bluetooth technology, you probably want to go for a different controller. It seems like a good purchase if you intend to do most of your gaming on an iPhone.
Horipad Ultimate Wireless Game Controller
If you have no budgetary limitations, the Horipad Ultimate wireless game controller is a compelling option. This controller has gone through an exhaustive design process to ensure a balanced weight and grip and excellent sensitivity. It also boasts a rechargeable battery with 80 hour capacity and Bluetooth 4.1 capabilities. At around $65, it is more expensive than the SteelSeries Nimbus, however, in this case, you may get what you pay for.
Customer reviews of this controller are insightful and favorable. People seem to like the weight of this controller, which is intentional. The SteelSeries Nimbus is lighter, which is actually a disadvantage. The extra weight of the Horipad Ultimate was a design decision. It actually feels better. Users also like the finer details, such as a concave Menu button, meant to resemble the iPhone’s home button.
Not every reviewer sings the praises of the Horipad Ultimate game controller. Some customers note that the joysticks become misaligned over time, making the controller unusable. There are actually a lot of complaints about the joysticks. One reviewer claims that he couldn’t get it to pair with Apple TV. My hunch is that their Bluetooth 4.1 implementation wasn’t compatible with the first versions of tvOS. When Apple TV first launched, there were many complaints of Bluetooth compatibility issues with headphones and other devices. Most of these issues have been fixed, and the vast majority of customers are able to pair the Horipad Ultimate wireless controller.
Although this controller is well made and seems to get favorable reviews, there are some doubts about the joysticks. At $65, I’m not sure that this is any better than the SteelSeries Nimbus. The heftier weight and 80 hour battery life may make the Horipad Ultimate superior to the Nimbus. That said, it’s worth investigating complaints about the joysticks before investing in this controller.
What’s the Best Game Controller for Apple TV?
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer as to which game controller is best. If money is no object, the Horipad Ultimate seems like the best. Although there are a few complaints about the joysticks, customers seem to love it. Personally, I feel the SteelSeries Nimbus is the safest bet. I just haven’t read many reviews complaining about malfunctioning controls, although there are some. That’s very important for a game controller! You may need to have some perspective on reliability. If someone’s toddler hammers away at the controller, it may break easily. Gamers who play with a bit more finesse may fare better. There are also variances in manufacturing runs.
The SteelSeries Nimbus comes with an iOS app that can change settings and apply firmware updates. This really sets it apart from the competition. The price is also reasonable, considering that most other controllers cost more and have fewer favorable reviews. I personally went for the SteelSeries Nimbus.
For the more casual gamer, the SteelSeries Stratus XL seems like a viable option. It’s the least expensive game controller featured in this article. If you don’t mind replacing the batteries occasionally, it may pay off. The left directional pad isn’t as sensitive as the Nimbus and it doesn’t seem to offer a configuration app. If money is an option and gaming is infrequent, this is an excellent option.
Appledystopia has no relationship with any of the vendors featured in this article. This site is not compensated in exchange for favorable reviews.