Cloud gaming has come a long way since its inception. Gamers no longer need to sit in front of a PC to play their favorite video games. There are more ways than ever for you to live in fantasy worlds. It’s not just a versatile option for gamers, but Cloud gaming is also a great way to play all of your favorites and the latest releases. Xbox Game Pass offers Xbox Cloud Gaming, allowing you to access the entire Game Pass library on the go.
First, a little background. Xbox Cloud Gaming, formerly Project xCloud, lets you play a subset of Xbox Game Pass games on a device other than a console by streaming them from the cloud. It’s similar to Google Stadia (RIP) and Nvidia GeForce Now. To use it, you need to be an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber, which costs $15 a month or $160 annually (with four three-month membership codes). For Windows PCs, it lets you play games your system might not otherwise have the power or space to run locally via Game Pass for PC. Navigate to Xbox Game Pass games on your console and look for games with a cloud icon, then click the “play” button.
Xbox Cloud Gaming requires a fast internet connection for smooth game streaming. I’m not reviewing it here, but I’m highlighting the best controllers and accessories to use with supported devices. As you might expect, the various Xbox controllers are the main options, but there are plenty of other controllers and accessories to choose from. Some are designed exclusively for Android phones, Windows PC and iOS devices.
Microsoft maintains a list of supported controllers, but you’ll find others that work. Initially, Microsoft said that if you’re using a web browser to play cloud games, the Xbox Wireless Controller was the only “officially supported controller.” However, most controllers I’ve tried — and every controller on this list — works for cloud gaming on a browser.
If you’re an Apple user, go to the Xbox website and sign in to the Microsoft account linked to your Xbox Game Pass, then tap the share button at the bottom of the screen and select Add to Home Screen. Android users can download the Xbox Game Pass app from the Google Play Store or Samsung Galaxy Store (Samsung devices only).
Below, you’ll find my picks for the best Xbox Cloud gaming controller options currently out there. And I’ll update this list as more Xbox Cloud Gaming controllers and accessories are released, and we test additional products.
Best Xbox Cloud controllers for Apple devices
The Backbone One is my favorite of the iPhone controllers that mimic the physical experience of the Nintendo Switch, although Razer’s improved second-generation Kishi V2 controller is a close second. As part of the Designed for Xbox program, it also has specific features designed to make you feel more like you’re playing on an Xbox or stand-alone device. The Backbone One is compatible with the Xbox appas well as the PlayStation Remote Play app. (And Backbone now makes a white PlayStation Edition of this controller.)
I previously had the RiotPWR Mobile Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS on this list, but it had one flaw. Because it has an integrated Lightning cable that allows for lag-free gaming — at least when it comes to button presses — you couldn’t use it with newer iPads that have a USB-C connection. The new RiotPWR RP1950 controller solves that problem by allowing you to swap out the Lightning cable module for a USB-C cable module.
The second-generation Razer Kishi V2 smartphone controller is similar to the Backbone and comes in both iOS and Android versions (the iOS version has an integrated Lightning connector while the Android version has a USB-C connector). Both cost more than the original models, but offer substantially improved ergonomics and more responsive buttons.
Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET
PowerA’s Moga XP-Ultra is fairly pricey, but it works as a wireless controller for not only Android smartphones but with your Xbox Series X/S and Windows 10/11 PCs. What’s nice is that unlike the official Xbox controllers, it incorporates a 2,000-mAh rechargeable battery. On top of that, it has a modular design with a detachable full-size grip and a mobile gaming clip so you can choose whether to go with a full-size controller or a more compact controller for gaming on the go. That said, the ergonomics are much better when you go with the full-size grip.
If you have access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, you probably have an Xbox system, which means you already have an Xbox controller. Any Version 2 Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth will pair wirelessly with everything from iPhones to iPads to Macs. You could also go the wired route with a Mac by plugging the controller into a USB port. Microsoft does sell a controller with a USB-C cable, so you can connect to the USB-C port on various devices, including USB-C-equipped Macs. (Make sure to update to the latest firmware on your Xbox controller.) This Bluetooth controller helps you stay on target with the new hybrid D-pad and textured grip on the triggers, and easily pair and switch between devices.
While you’re probably better off using an Xbox controller if you have one, the PlayStation DualShock 4 Wireless Controller is compatible with Apple devices, including Macs, via Bluetooth. And what’s nice about the DualShock 4 is that unlike the Xbox Wireless controller it has a built-in rechargeable battery.
If you own a Sony PlayStation 5, Sony’s new DualSense controllers do pair via Bluetooth with iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TV, so long as they’re running iOS 14.5, iPad OS 14.5, MacOS Big Sur 11.3, TVOS 14.5 or higher. It’s an expensive controller if you don’t own a PS5, but it worked fine for me using an iPad. Again, the buttons are labeled differently from on an Xbox controller so just note how they match up.
If you’re just looking for a gaming clip to mount your iPhone on your Xbox controller, the PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip 2.0 is a good option for as low as $12 when discounted. It’s not as swank as the Otterbox MagSafe option, which has a little bit more of a premium look to it, but it certainly does the job.
It’s not cheap at $40, but OtterBox’s Mobile MagSafe Gaming Clip is a well-designed accessory for folks who want to magnetically stick their iPhone 12 or 13 onto a clip mount. I personally use a MagSafe case with this accessory to keep my phone protected. However, if you don’t have a MagSafe case, you can certainly use your MagSafe-enabled iPhone naked (the phone sticks well to the mount but it isn’t clamped in so it can fall off if you happen to drop your controller).
Best Xbox Cloud controllers for Android and Windows PCs
The Razer Kishi V2 for Xbox Android is similar to the iOS version, but connects via USB-C instead of Lightning (there’s no Bluetooth) and has a pass-through port for charging while you play.
The PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus includes a wireless game controller plus a clip for mounting your phone. It’s a decent controller that also features an integrated 3,000-mAh battery to charge your phone as you play. It’s a little kludgy, with the cable running from the controller to your phone, but it works and is a big help during longer gaming sessions.
While the SteelSeries Stratus Duo Wireless Gaming Controller isn’t on Microsoft’s list of officially supported game controllers for Android it worked fine in our tests, is ergonomically sound and has a sturdy feel to it. (The older Stratus XL is on Microsoft’s list of supported controllers). It’s also designed to work with Windows PCs, Chromebooks and certain VR devices.
The PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus is listed above, but you can also just buy the PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip 2.0 separately if you already have an Xbox wireless controller and want to mount your phone on it. I listed it as a good value clip for iPhones, but it works just as well with Android devices.