Best game controllers for Apple TV and Apple Arcade in 2024

Not only is the Apple TV brilliant for watching movies and TV shows, it's also a fantastic arcade gaming console thanks to the App Store and Apple Arcade

The best game controllers for Apple TV can transform your unit into a hub of fun for all the family. Thanks to great connectivity and compatibility, options include offerings giants Microsoft and Sony, and their respective Xbox and PlayStation consoles. To that end, you might already have a great option in your home. If not, we've rounded up six of the best options for gaming on Apple TV and Apple Arcade with a controller. 

So whether you want something classic, retro, sleek, or cheap, there's an Apple TV game controller on the market for you, check out our list!

Quick list

Best Overall

8BitDo Ultimate

8BitDo Ultimate (Image credit: 8BitDo)

1. 8Bit Do Ultimate

Best overall

Specifications

Batteries: Internal rechargable
Layout: Asymmetrical thumbsticks
Vibration: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Rechargeable Battery
+
Many ways to connect
+
Great charging station
+
Excellent design

Reasons to avoid

-
On the more expensive end
-
Can't replace battery

The 8BitDo Ultimate isn't just the top-of-the-line 8BitDo controller but our absolute favorite pick to play Apple Arcade games on. 

With a similar design to the Nintendo Pro controller, it goes for the thumbstick layout found in Xbox Controllers, with one above the D-Pad and one below the ABXY pad. It is super comfortable in the hand thanks to its ergonomic design and clicky tactile buttons make presses feel more satisfying. 

One of the best features of the 8BitDo Ultimate is its connectivity features. With the included dongle, you can plug it straight into a TV or device and get running with the lowest amount of latency or you can connect via Bluetooth in just seconds. With 20 hours of battery life, you will never run out if you place it on the handy charging station whenever you are done gaming for the night. It also helps that the charging dock has USB pass-through, meaning you could choose to charge your phone or watch from the same stand. It's a very classic controller feel with some really nice extra features. 

Best on a budget

The GameSir T4 Cyclone game controller for iOS and macOS against a pink background.

(Image credit: Future)
Best on a budget

Specifications

Batteries: Internal rechargable
Layout: Asymmetrical thumbsticks
Vibration: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Hall effect sticks and trigger
+
Strudy build quality
+
Very affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Hair Trigger mode doesn't really work
-
Confusing customization process

One of the Gamesir T4 Cyclones' biggest features is the hall effect sticks and triggers, doing away with stick drift forever and allowing for much quicker trigger responses. Given it is the cheapest controller on our entire list, this is a considerable bonus that even manages to beat out many of its pricy competitors. Triggers are satisfying, the grips feel great, and the controller's build quality is great. 

It is capable of connecting to your TV or laptop via Bluetooth, USB-C, and with a wireless dongle for low latency play that isn't included with the controller. It comes included with programmable buttons, that are great for a more nontraditional gaming layout but can be a little confusing initially. The standard Cyclone comes with a Nintendo Switch-like ABXY layout and loses out on trigger vibration but makes up for it with a lower price point.

It does still have standard vibration in the grips and built-in motion controls are a fun little gimmick, even if Apple Arcade won't really get the most out of it. If you are looking for something cheap and sturdy, this is a great choice. 

Best symmetrical stick controller

Dualsense Face Buttons Closeup 3

Dualsense Face Buttons Closeup 3 (Image credit: Android Central / iMore)

3. PlayStation PS5 DualSense Controller

Best symmetrical stick controller

Specifications

Batteries: Internal rechargable
Layout: Symmetrical thumbsticks
Vibration: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Very cool features
+
Also works with PS5

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't use the cool features with Apple TV
-
Expensive

If you've been lucky enough to get a PS5, or you are waiting to be able to get one, the DualSense controller is an amazing piece of technology you can use with your Apple TV, iPhone, and Mac. It has all the buttons you expect from a PlayStation controller, dual analog sticks, and a traditional D-Pad, which most gamers will be familiar with.

Unfortunately, all the really cool features of the DualSense controller — like the awesome haptic feedback and adaptive triggers —aren't available when you're gaming with your Apple products. Still, the controller is fully featured and comfortable, and you're going to get all those features when you inevitably upgrade to a PS5.

One last thing, to get the DualSense to work with your iPhone, Apple TV, and Mac, you need to be running the latest software. Make sure you have at least iOS 14.5, tvOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 — or the latest version of macOS Monterey. One of the coolest controllers PlayStation has ever made, and now it works with your Apple products!

Best for Xbox players

Xbox Controller

Sport Red Xbox Controller (Image credit: Microsoft)

4. Xbox Core Wireless Controller

Best for Xbox players

Specifications

Batteries: Two Double As required
Layout: Asymmetrical thumbsticks
Vibration: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Familiar design
+
Ergonomic and comfortable
+
Also works with Xbox consoles and PC

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs AA batteries

The Xbox Core wireless controller is a super comfortable gaming experience. It not only works with Apple TV, but it works seamlessly with the PC, too, either wired or over Bluetooth. There's a reason this controller is often considered the default even outside of use with Xbox consoles, such as on PC.

If you're not a fan of dumping AA batteries inside it, a play and charge kit is available that transforms it into a rechargeable controller. And whether it's through the Design Lab or the ridiculous amount of special edition designs, there's a color combo that's perfect for you. This way, you're prepared regardless of whether you're playing on Apple Arcade or grabbing an Xbox Series X|S.

The official Xbox One controller has a tweaked design, adding more grippy parts on the rear side, making it comfortable to hold.

Best for Portable gaming

iPhone mounted onto PowerA MOGA XP5-i plus

PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)
Best for Portable gaming

Specifications

Batteries: Internal rechargable
Layout: Asymmetrical thumbsticks
Vibration: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life
+
Great feeling controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Too many cables
-
Clip is a little cumbersome

The PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus is the only controller on this list with a built-in clip for using it with your iPhone too. This makes it the most well-rounded choice for someone looking for a controller to use on the go and at home. 

It has excellent low latency play, fantastic battery life, and the built-in mobile clip offers many different angles to see it from. The addition of two cables, one for charging and one for connecting, is a little strange initially but you'll soon forget about it when you try out how fantastic the controller is. 

In our 4.5-star review, we said 'the PowerA MOGA XP5-i Plus offers a comfortable controller that works well with Apple Arcade and other compatible mobile games. It's great for use with Apple TV as well.

Best mid range

The GameSir T4 Cyclone Pro game controller for iOS and macOS against a yellow background.

(Image credit: Future)
Best mid range

Specifications

Batteries: Internal rechargable
Layout: Asymmetrical thumbsticks
Vibration: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable
+
Lightweight buttons
+
Hall effect triggers and buttons

Reasons to avoid

-
Thumb sticks are a little cumbersom to press
-
Customization is a bit awkward

At just $10 more than the traditional Cyclone, the Gamesir T4 Cyclone Pro comes with a bevy of extra features like a quad motor structure for rumble, allowing for reaction in both grips and triggers. It also comes included with the wireless dongle, meaning you can get low latency play for the nearly 20 hours of battery life it tends to average.

Like our previous choice, it also comes with a host of programmable buttons which are initially a little confusing but quite good once you've figured everything out. It also comes with the hall effect sticks and triggers, ensuring you don't get stick drift and have a very reactive trigger. 

If you are picky with buttons, the Gamesir T4 Cyclone Pro's are designed to withstand 5 million clicks, have an actuation distance of 0.6mm, and can be pressed with just a small amount of force, meaning they are super lightweight and clicky. All of this is held in a controller shell that is comfortable, whilst being weighty enough to take a knock if you drop it. In our 4 star review, we said 'The GameSir Cyclone T4 Pro is a strong choice if you’re after a macOS and iOS controller that won’t break the bank. Just be careful when activating some of its extra modes.'

Q&A

Which of the best game controllers for Apple TV is right for you?

You can always trust iMore. Our team of Apple experts have years of experience testing all kinds of tech and gadgets, so you can be sure our recommendations and criticisms are accurate and helpful. Find out more about how we test.

When it comes to gaming on your Apple TV, adding one of the best Apple TV game controllers can go a long way. While you can get by with the Siri remote when playing many games, others require or will feel a lot better if you have a traditional console controller. If you're shelling out for an extra accessory, you want to make sure you choose well. Plus, the best Apple TV game controllers are super easy to add to your Apple TV, so it's not an extra hassle.

The 8BitDo Ultimate is the best around. Its 20-hour battery life is more than enough to keep you gaming for extended periods, and thanks to its comfortable ergonomic design, your hands won't cramp up! It's got the precision to give you an edge in your favorite Apple Arcade or iPhone games, and its charging stand means you can pop it down when you're done and get a full charge for later. 

However, if you already have a console using a wireless controller or you miss the feel of an older controller, it makes sense to grab one that also matches your pre-existing hardware.

Can I play all games on Apple TV and Apple Arcade with a controller?

Sadly, no. Many, but not all, games on the App store offer controller support, but before you buy a game, you should check whether it can be played with an external handset before you decide to hit the "buy" button. 

Do I need a controller for Apple Arcade?

While you don't need a controller for Apple Arcade, using one will vastly enhance your gaming on an Apple TV. Whether you're buying one of our budget picks or opting for a more expensive controller, using any will give you a much better experience.

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.

With contributions from