The XInput Controller Conundrum


A little while ago there was a bit of a scare from rumors about Microsoft, the Xbox One controller, and Windows, which Microsoft quickly debunked. I feel like some people need a little clarification on why some people get worked up over various controllers for PC games.

Right now the Xbox 360 controller is pretty much accepted as the default for PC games due to Microsoft’s XInput drivers becoming so widely accepted among PC developers. It’s a great controller for most modern games but it has one huge problem affecting a lot of them — its directional pad is horrible. Making matters worse, actually finding another controller that’s as good as the 360’s in most areas but has a better D-pad is surprisingly difficult.

This is particularly though on 2D games where the D-pad makes more sense for movement than analog sticks. It’s stopped me from almost ever buying such games on Xbox 360. You may not notice it, but such games are growing in number on PC (many of them indie) which is magnifying the problem.

My current solution has been to use the 360 version of the FightPad Mad Catz released for Street Fighter IV back in 2008. It’s designed specifically for 2D arcade-style games with a D-pad very much resembling the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) and Saturn pads. If you don’t own one already however I hear they’ve become pretty rare (though maybe not the more recent Street Fighter X Tekken version). Plus, that controller lacks analog sticks so it really only works for games that don’t use them. It’s been great for games like Rogue Legacy and Oniken, and I definitely suggest it for avid Spelunky players.

Basically, the holy grail here is a controller that uses XInput, has analog sticks, and has a good D-pad.

What I’ve heard about Microsoft’s more recent 360 controller isn’t great — mainly that its improved D-pad still isn’t that great. Sony’s Dual Shock 3 and Dual Shock 4 are popular options, but with both you have to manually apply third party drivers and other programs which don’t work 100 percent of the time. Some people also don’t like using PlayStation controllers when XInput games use Xbox controller icons.

One of the best options seems to be Mad Catz’s tournament edition controllers. They’re standard PlayStation and Xbox controllers but with great D-pads and lots of customization options, letting you switch around different D-pad styles and positions. The problem is they cost $100.

This leaves the Xbox One controller as, in my opinion, one of the best options. It’s a fully-featured Xbox controller with a decent D-pad, which is all I really need right now. It’s just a matter of when Microsoft get’s those official drivers out there.


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2 thoughts on “The XInput Controller Conundrum

  1. Corey says:

    Yeah I really don’t like the 360 controller for PC games. A few of the games its pretty good on, like TF 2 and Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed but I play a lot of fighters and its terrible on it. I can make it work but not as great as PS3 controller. I’ve found some decent 3rd party PS3 controllers that have PC drivers. I had a corded Nyko one that had a pretty decent at least with Skull girls. The only problem is that its pricey ($ 30) and eventually the controller started spazing out. Then I found some controller that was much cheaper that also worked on the PC but the controller was as responsive as the Nyko one and found out about the whole XInput through that. That’s what eventually lead me get the 360 one.

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