The best con­sole con­trollers for play­ing games on a Mac

It’s a lot eas­ier to play Mac games with a Plays­ta­tion 4 or Xbox One con­troller than you might think.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY LEIF JOHN­SON

Con­sid­er­ing the awk­ward­ness of al­most ev­ery other as­pect of Mac gam­ing, I was a lit­tle shocked to dis­cover how easy it is to pair pop­u­lar con­sole con­trollers with my Macbook. Sure, you’ll need to tweak a few things. Yes, some of the “sup­port” ex­ists only through the gen­eros­ity and ded­i­ca­tion of a few mod­ders. Even so, you’re not en­tirely nuts if you as­sume you can pick up your Plays­ta­tion or Xbox con­troller and use it with your Macbook with­out drop­ping any ex­tra cash.

There’s a catch, of course (and there al­ways is): It’s eas­ier to pull this off with some con­trollers over oth­ers. You’ll some­times need to down­load sep­a­rate driv­ers, and you might need to re­boot the sys­tem to see those driv­ers take ef­fect. You’ll al­most cer­tainly have a bet­ter time if you use a wired gamepad. For that mat­ter, there’s no guar­an­tee that ev­ery con­troller here will work with ev­ery game (although you’ll have a bet­ter chance if you play games down­loaded through Steam).

Luck­ily for us, it is pos­si­ble. You just might have to do a lit­tle work, so that’s why I’ve listed each con­troller here ac­cord­ing to ease of use and setup, with the eas­i­est be­ing at the top.

You’re in luck if you own a Plays­ta­tion 4. Sony may be the com­pany that in­fa­mously re­sisted cross­play with other con­sole sys­tems to the point of ab­sur­dity, but it’s also the only ma­jor con­sole maker that made an of­fi­cial adapter that’s partly aimed at Mac users. Just buy the $60 Dual­shock 4 USB Wire­less Adapter ( go. mac­, plug it into your Mac, and your Dual­shock 4 con­troller ( go. mac­ should work im­me­di­ately. Power to the play­ers, in­deed.

But if you don’t feel like pay­ing $60 for what’ll likely amount to a don­gle for an­other don­gle, you can plug the con­troller di­rectly into your Mac with a Mi­cro USB cable. It should work im­me­di­ately. If you’re hav­ing trou­ble, you can see if your Mac is prop­erly rec­og­niz­ing the de­vice by open­ing About This Mac, click­ing Sys­tem Re­port, then USB, and see­ing if Wire­less Con­troller is listed (yes, even if you have it plugged in).

Al­ter­na­tively, you can sim­ply pair it through Blue­tooth. First, open the Blue­tooth menu un­der your Mac’s

Sys­tem Pref­er­ences. Then re­set the Dual­shock 4 by slip­ping a pa­per­clip into the tiny hole near the Dual­shock’s L2

but­ton (on the back). Hold it down for a cou­ple of sec­onds.

After that, ac­ti­vate the Dual­shock 4’s Dis­cov­ery Mode by hold­ing the Share and Plays­ta­tion but­ton at once for a few sec­onds. The con­troller should ap­pear in the Blue­tooth menu, and hope­fully you’ll soon be shocked by how well it works.


Plenty of folks still claim the ag­ing wired Xbox 360 con­troller ( go.mac­ xbwr) is the best gamepad for the PC, and as far as I’m con­cerned, that re­mains true for the Mac as well. Alas, it’s not through any ef­fort on the part of Mi­crosoft it­self. You can’t even pair a wire­less ver­sion through Blue­tooth thanks to Mi­crosoft’s pro­pri­etary soft­ware, so you’ll need to keep it plugged in with the cable re­gard­less of which model you use.

For­tu­nately, cour­tesy of the mod­der Fran­t­i­crain, you can get it to work sim­ply by down­load­ing a driver from Github ( go. mac­ It works per­fectly (so long as you’re not us­ing it wire­lessly). Just down­load the .dmg file, run it, and let it in­stall. You’ll then have to restart your Mac, but after it boots up you should see Xbox 360 Con­trollers on the bot­tom row of your

Sys­tem Pref­er­ences.

Even bet­ter, Fran­t­i­crain keeps it up to date. As of the time of writ­ing, the file was up­dated just two days ago. You’ll sim­ply need to be run­ning macos 10.11 (El Cap­i­tan) or later for it to work.


The mod from

Fran­t­i­crain I men­tioned above also works with the Xbox One con­troller ( go.mac­ xbct), but not as smoothly. You’ll still need to have it con­nected to the Mac through a Mi­cro USB cable, but you’ll likely also need to head to Sys­tem Pref­er­ences, click on Xbox 360 Con­trollers at the bot­tom (as­sum­ing you’ve in­stalled the mod), and then click Ad­vanced.

At the bot­tom, you’ll see an op­tion to Pre­tendto Be An Xbox 360 Con­troller. Check it. You shouldn’t have any other trou­bles be­yond that. Plenty of other users claim it works fine with­out this op­tion for mul­ti­ple games, but it only worked if I checked this op­tion on my Macbook, my Macbook Pro, and my imac.

As a re­minder, if you’re in­stalling Fran­t­i­crain’s mod for the first time, you’ll need to restart your Mac be­fore it takes ef­fect.


Okay, so it’s not a con­sole con­troller per se, but the Steam Con­troller ( go.mac­world. com/stmc) was de­signed for use with Steam’s Big Pic­ture mode, which de­liv­ers a home con­sole-like ex­pe­ri­ence for Steam’s stag­ger­ing li­brary of PC and Mac games. But more im­por­tantly for our pur­poses, it fully works with Steam on the Mac out of the box. Just plug in the USB adapter (with a don­gle) and it should work im­me­di­ately.

Sure, this sounds great, but I’m go­ing to be frank: I can’t stand the Steam Con­troller. It’s com­fort­able to hold and looks sort of cool, but Valve de­signed it with in­dented cir­cu­lar touch­pads rather

than two tra­di­tional thumb­sticks and a D-pad. A cou­ple of years later, I still haven’t made it over the learn­ing curve. I wouldn’t sug­gest buy­ing it solely for its ease of setup, but it’s a wor­thy op­tion if you’ve al­ready bought one for your PC.


At $70, the Nin­tendo Pro Wire­less Con­troller ( go. mac­ packs a pro price tag, but if you’ve al­ready bought one for Nin­tendo’s wildly pop­u­lar Switch con­sole, you can also bring it along for good times on the Mac.

Con­nected through a USB-C cable, it’s ridicu­lously easy to set up—at least if you’re play­ing your games through the Steam beta client ( go. mac­ stbc). Here, you’ll find sup­port for the Pro Wire­less Con­troller un­der Pref­er­ences → Con­troller, where you’ll select Use Nin­tendo But­ton Lay­out so you don’t have to deal with the con­fu­sion of a Nin­tendo con­troller act­ing

like one for the Xbox. And yes, if you were won­der­ing, you can use the Switch’s reg­u­lar Joy-con con­trollers with your Mac if you pair them through the Blue­tooth in­ter­face in Sys­tem Pref­er­ences. The prob­lem is that the Mac will regis­ter them as two sep­a­rate con­trollers—which, of course, they tech­ni­cally are. As I see it, it’s not worth the ef­fort.


The Dual­shock 4 is your best bet for play­ing Mac games with a Plays­ta­tion con­troller, but you’ll be fine if you only have its pre­de­ces­sor. You just won’t have sup­port from Sony’s of­fi­cial adapter and you’ll likely need to play it wire­lessly.

The pair­ing process for the Dual­shock 3( go.mac­ is a lit­tle com­plex (and not guar­an­teed to work, judg­ing from re­ports from other users), which is why I’ve listed it last.

First, re­set the con­troller by slip­ping a pa­per clip in the tiny hole on the con­troller’s back­side near the L2 but­ton. Hold it down for a few sec­onds. This un­pairs it from any other de­vice.

After that, plug the Dual­shock 3 into the Mac with the Mi­cro USB charg­ing cable. Press the Plays­ta­tion but­ton and then the four lights on the top of the con­troller should light up. When you see the lights, dis­con­nect the cable.

You should see a pair­ing re­quest from your sys­tem for Plays­ta­tion 3 Con­troller. If it asks for an ac­cess code, en­ter

This should work. Even so, nu­mer­ous peo­ple claim it doesn’t al­ways work with older ver­sions of macos, and other peo­ple claim they never see the code re­quest. So if you’re go­ing to go out and buy a con­sole con­troller, take our word for it: Buy one of the other con­trollers in­stead of the Dual­shock 3. ■

As with the rest of the con­trollers, you shouldn’t need any spe­cial map­ping app to use the Dual­shock 4.

An oldie but a goodie.

The mod makes it ex­tremely easy to cus­tom­ize the con­troller.

I get eas­ily...steamed when us­ing this.

Nin­tendo Pro Wire­less Con­troller

Dual­shock 3 for Plays­ta­tion 3

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