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Let’s break down the best third-party controllers for Xbox, and what exactly they have to offer compared to the Xbox controllers (standard and Elite) that you can buy from Microsoft. Past telling you what you need to know about third-party controllers, I’ll also be giving you my top 5 recommendations for third-party Xbox controllers! So, let’s not waste any time diving right into it.
Why Bother With a Third-Party Controller?
Third-Party Controllers Are Often Cheaper Than Official Alternatives
A timeless truth of third-party controllers is that there will always be at least a few models that are cheaper than the first-party controller that came in the box. While some would argue we live in a post-local multiplayer era, having at least one extra controller laying around for local multiplayer is core to any great console gaming experience.
In the case of Microsoft, third-party controllers aren’t just competing with the basic Xbox Core Controller! The Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller also serves to compete with many high-end third-party controllers on the market, especially with its back buttons. The high $180 MSRP of the Elite Series 2 with everything included can leave something to be desired compared to other choices at high-end pricing, though. We’ll be discussing high-end third party controllers, too, not just cheap alternatives.
Additional Cosmetic Options
Compared to your basic Xbox Core Controller, you can also expect third-party Xbox Controllers to come with far more customization options. This mainly entails a larger variety of preset colors to buy the controllers in, but can also include custom skins and paint jobs depending on where you’re buying your third-party controller from.
Unique Features and Layouts
Finally, third-party controllers can also come with completely unique features and layouts that do not have parallels in either the Xbox Core Controller or the Xbox Elite Controler. For example, one of the controllers I’ll be discussing later in this article actually allows you to fully remove and swap the positions of the analog stick and the D-Pad, providing a level of modularity beyond even that of the Elite Series 2 controller.
But enough preamble. Let’s dive into the 5 Best Third-Party Controllers for Xbox Consoles! And yes, these controllers will work on Xbox One (X) and Xbox Series S/X consoles alike perfectly fine.
The 5 Best Third-Party Controllers For Xbox Consoles
Product Image Credits: Respective Manufacturer’s Site unless Stated Otherwise
1. PowerA Enhanced Wired Xbox Controller
- Estimated Price: Under $40
- Extra Features: 2 Programmable Back Buttons
- Recommended For: Gamers on a Budget
The PowerA Enhanced Wired Xbox Controller isn’t much to write home about! It’s mainly just a cheaper alternative to actually buying a (wireless) Xbox Core Controller for local multiplayer. However, it does offer two programmable back buttons to use bow you please, so it’s hardly a downgrade from the original controller in function.
2. Wired HORI Fighting Commander Octa
- Estimated Price: Under $50
- Extra Features: High-Accuracy Analog and D-Pad, 6-Button Arcade Stick-Inspired Layout
- Recommended For: Fighting Game Players, Arcade/Retro Game Players
The HORI Fighting Commander Octa is a controller built explicitly for fighting game players and retro gamers, but especially those playing games that were built for a 6-Button Layout. For those unfamiliar, that includes such mainstream fighting game titles as…the entire Street Fighter series.
Besides the 6-button layout, the analog stick and D-Pad on the Fighting Commander controllers are considered among the best in class. I can attest to this, having actually used the controller multiple times, though it isn’t my main driver or favorite controller. It could be if I ever got tired of analog inputs, though.
3. Wired Nacon Revolution X
- Estimated Price: Under $100
- Extra Features: Adjustable Weights, Fully-Rebindable Buttons, 4 Programmable Back Buttons, Swappable Thumbsticks, Dolby Atmos 3D Audio Support
- Recommended For: Competitive Gamers on a Budget
The Nacon Revolution X serves as pretty much a fully-functional Xbox Elite Series 2 substitute, with all the main features of the (much more expensive) controller intact at a sub-$100 price point. All it’s missing comparatively is adjustable tension on the joysticks, and in turn you get the unique feature of swappable controller weights, should you prefer a heavier or lighter experience in the hands.
4. Wired Turtle Beach Recon Controller
- Estimated Price: Under $60
- Extra Features: Two Programmable Back Buttons, Built-In Turtle Beach Sound Management and 3D Audio
- Recommended For: Competitive Gamers on a Budget, Gamers Who Want High-Quality In-Game Audio With More Controls
The Turtle Beach Recon Controller is a pretty solid all-around controller, and includes two back buttons for extra programmable features, as is commonplace in this market. The most exceptional feature of the Recon is actually related to that Turtle Beach Audio lineage, though, since it means you have entire EQ presets and other audio controls available for any headset plugged into your controller.
Those audio features are of particular note, since you can pick different EQ presets for getting better at picking up quiet positional audio (i.e. footsteps from enemies).
5. Thrustmaster eSwap X PRO Controller
- Estimated Price: Under $160
- Extra Features: Fully-Removable and Fully-Swappable D-Pad and Analog Stick Modules, 4 Programmable Back Buttons, Adjustable Triggers
- Recommended For: Competitive Gamers, Gamers With Large Hands
Last but not least, let’s talk about one of the most interesting controllers on this list: the Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro Controller. While it may look a little clunky and un-elegant compared to the first party Xbox Controller design or something like the Scuf Instinct Pro, this is a compromise very suited to function.
First, let’s just address the elephant of being able to swap the positions of the D-Pad and Analog Stick at all. I’ve seen hundreds of silly third-party controller gimmicks, but that is truly exceptional. And speaking as a fan of using Analog input wherever possible, it’s a known fact that analog sticks inevitably degrade over time. This controller design makes that inevitable analog stick replacement a breeze, and could result in it having a longer lifespan than any other controller on this list.
Also, for the price…it’s quite competitive, if not better than the Elite Series 2! That’s not bad, especially not for a relatively lesser-known brand like Thrustmaster.
And that’s it, for now!
I hope this article helped clear up any questions you might’ve had about third-party controllers for Xbox, and gave you some solid recommendations to start with if you’re already on the hunt for more controllers to add to your collection. While there used to be a stigma attached to third-party console controllers (especially when I was a kid, and Mad Catz was still allowed to make whatever abominations it wanted), these days a third-party controller can be a badge of pride and an actual upgrade over the first-party option.
On that note, feel free to hit up the @GamersDirector on Twitter with your own favorite third-party controllers or related questions if you’re still on the hunt for one! Until then or until next time, though, I’ll be signing out. Happy gaming!