Best Apple TV games for controllers

Apple TV Controller Hero
Apple TV Controller Hero (Image credit: iMore)

When it comes to gaming on your Apple TV, the Siri Remote doesn't always give users the best experience. It can be hard to hold, and few things are more frustrating than your controller slipping through your hand in the middle of playing. If you have already picked up a game controller that works with your Apple TV or are thinking about investing in one, there are some games that are infinitely better with a controller.

Minecraft actually requires a game controller to function on the Apple TV — you can't play it with the Siri Remote. So if you've purchased a gaming controller, you should definitely check it out.

It has everything you love about Minecraft. Creepers roam about waiting to creep up on you, small pigs and other animals graze throughout the blocky landscape, and it lets you build almost anything you can dream up!

Our very own Lory Gil says it takes a while to get used to the controls, but once you do, you'll be mining and crafting in no time.


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Oceanhorn is the closest thing to a real Zelda game you'll probably ever get on your Apple TV. When you're playing it with a game controller, it's easy to forget you're using an Apple TV.

Oceanhorn has lots of different items to use, so it can feel a little overwhelming on the Siri Remote. The extra buttons on a game controller will get put to good use.

With colorful graphics, a fun combat style, and challenging puzzles, this adventure RPG feels like a console title. Plus, It's got a pretty lengthy story, meaning it will keep you entertained for hours on end.

Modern Combat 5: Blackout

If you're a fan of first-person shooter games, Modern Combat 5: Blackout is a perfect game for your Apple TV.

Playing a fast-paced shooter like Modern Combat on the Siri Remote is not easy. Between aiming, shooting, switching weapons, and moving around, the small slippery remote becomes annoying.

Using a game controller will make it easier to eliminate your enemies as you progress through the game.

Real Racing 3

Real Racing 3 (or really any racing game) is a million times better to play with a game controller because turning the Siri Remote to turn in game is finicky as heck.

Having proper buttons to accelerate and brake is especially important if you want to be competitive with the best of the best in Real Racing 3 because with the automatic option, it's awfully hard to get first place.

Zen Pinball

You may think I'm a little strange for adding a pinball game to the list, but the fact of the matter is Zen Pinball is way better with a controller.

For some reason playing Zen Pinball on the Siri Remote requires you to swipe the touchpad to activate the flipper and it feels awkward.

By hooking up a game controller, you can easily use the trigger buttons to hit the flippers with much better precision and timing; it makes a world of difference.

What games do you love to play with your game controller?

Let me know what you think is better with a gamepad in the comments below!

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

  • I agree that Zen Pinball is unplayable with the Siri remote, but unfortunately it is also unplayable with a controller. I have a Steel Series Stratus, and the lag is too much for pinball. It may not seem like much in many other games, but when you press the shoulder button in a pinball game, you need an instant response. I have often pressed the button when the ball is touching the flipper only to have it drain before the flipper activates. I wish it would work, since I have all of the Zen tables, but for now I have to stick to playing on my iPhone 6s Plus.
  • I was really hoping we would see couch co-op games on the Apple TV. Something along the lines (not as graphically intense perhaps, but similar) to Borderlands 2., F.E.A.R. 3, Resistance 3, Portal 2 (co-op), Killzone 3, etc. Any recommendations? I wonder if devs are even thinking this way. Seems like an opportunity.
  • As good as some of the third party game controllers are, Apple is doing its TV platform a disservice by not offering a first party controller (and bundle it with 64GB version) and crippling it with 2 controller limitations.
  • As a noob (me) on Apple TV and controllers, what are the 2-controller limitations and what's generally wrong with the 3rd party controllers. Should have posted here first.
  • Limiting the number of controllers means you can only have two people playing local multiplayer games. Nintendo own local multiplayer - four people playing Mario Kart at the same time, for example. It's a great thing to use you console for when you have people around - and, naturally, a great way for more people to experience the fun of your product. The ATV can't do that. The problem with 3rd party controllers isn't necessarily the controller itself, it's the fact that developers can't rely on people having them. If your game needs a controller then the potential market is no longer 'anyone with an ATV', but 'is people with an ATV + a separate controller'. The issue with that is a barrier to adoption. Hardcore gamers will buy the controller, but hardcore gamers would probably rather play on an XBox or PlayStation. So your natural market for the ATV is casual gamers, and they are much less likely to have bought a controller pre-emptively. So you are limiting your market again. The controllers are also relatively expensive (more than a controller for XBox, for example). Apple could solve both those issues by bundling a controller with the ATV as standard - the unit price could be brought down and developers can count on a much larger install base to market their game to. I want quality games across the ATV and iPad. Using iCloud saves it's the Nintendo Switch concept but with hardware I already possess! Apple could swoop in and steal Nintendo's lunch money if they put a little effort into it.
  • @nutmac - as a noob on Apple TV and controllers, what are the 2-controller limitations and what's generally wrong with the 3rd party controllers.
  • I like Gods of's an easier fighting game and FTP, so with patience it won't cost a thing.