Retro's back: the best wrap-around game controllers for your iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone

Apple is finally allowing emulators in the App Store. Here are some of the best wrap-around controllers for your iPhone that lets you play them on the go.

An example of an iPhone game controller
An example of an iPhone game controller



On April 5, Apple updated its App Store rules to reverse a policy that prohibited emulators from being distributed within the storefront. The policy meant gamers who wanted to use emulators had to use other ways to be able to play the older games on the iPhone or iPad.

With the change, the App Store will probably gain a collection of emulators over time. However, avid gamers wanting to enjoy the retro titles will not be too pleased about gaming on a touchscreen.

Thankfully, there are many game controllers available on the market that introduce key control elements like joysticks and buttons. These are elements that have become commonplace in console gaming for quite a few years.

While they were made to give gamers a way to enjoy console-like control of their gameplay, the features of the controllers will almost certainly be welcomed by retro enthusiasts wanting to improve their own experience.

There are three general formats of game controller: A separate controller that needs you to prop up your iPhone to play, one that includes an attachment to place your iPhone above the controller, and a controller that separates into two sections that you then slip the iPhone inside. This last category is arguably the best for portable gaming.

What follows is a collection of game controllers that you can slot your iPhone into, allowing you to play your favorite titles while on the move. We've talked about the best controllers before -- and we'll be revisiting that soon enough.

Backbone One



Now on its second generation, the Backbone One is a prime example of a game controller for the iPhone. It's also one that offers a combined hardware and software experience, once you slide your iPhone between the two sections.

The controller has dual analog sticks as well as a D-Pad, four face buttons, shoulder bumpers and triggers, and a selection of extra function buttons. It is available in both Lightning and USB-C versions, depending on your selected model of iPhone, with the latter also working with Android smartphones.

Backbone One, Second Generation
Backbone One, Second Generation



At the bottom of each section are two ports, with a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand section and a Lightning or USB-C port on the right for pass-through charging.

Along with working as a standard MFi controller, Backbone includes its own app, which handles button remapping, screenshots, and handling firmware updates. A Backbone+ subscription is available, providing discounts on Backbone products, in-game rewards, game hubs, video capture, and in-app voice and text chat, among other features.

The second-generation BackBone One costs $99.99 in both its USB-C and Lightning versions. First-generation models with Lightning are still available, sold at a discount through Amazon.

GameSir G8 Galileo



A controller mount with a slot for a USB-C smartphone like the iPhone 15 Pro, the GameSir G8 Galileo was reviewed quite favorably by AppleInsider in January.

Fixing some of the annoyances of mobile gaming, the Galileo can hold an iPhone in a slim case, with a size that's more fitting to gamers with larger hands. The button placements are reminiscent of a Nintendo Switch's controllers, with classic grey and purple colouring harking back to older consoles.

GameSir G8 Galileo
GameSir G8 Galileo



The controller is also designed to be easily adjusted, with face plates magnetically attached and the joysticks able to be replaced by other options supplied in the box. This can lead to a more personalized gameplay experience.

Towards the base are USB-C and headphone ports, while the button selection includes two joysticks, four face buttons, a D-pad, shoulder bumpers and triggers, and extra feature buttons. The controller even includes a calibration feature to make sure the sticks and triggers are working optimally.

The GameSir G8 Galileo is available from Amazon for $79.99.

Razer Kishi V2



Razer is one of the best-known gaming accessory producers, and that extends to game controllers for smartphones. AppleInsider has previously looked at the second-generation model with Lightning, but Razer does also make a USB-C version for Android that is also compatible with newer iPhone models.

Bearing the Razer name and designed in partnership with Gamevice, the Kishi V2 has a back that expands while avoiding the issues with large camera bumps. Also for the second-generation device, Razer uses the same ultra-respnsive microswitches as it uses in its game controllers, meaning they are very easy to trigger.

Razer Kishi V2
Razer Kishi V2



Using the same fairly standard layout of two joysticks, four face buttons, a D-pad, shoulder bumpers, and triggers, and a few extra buttons for macros, it also includes a port for charging under the right-hand controller but no headphone jack.

The Razer Kishi V2 is available on Amazon for $79.45 for the Lightning version, $80 for the USB-C.




Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 3
    What about a wraparound controller for an iPad? Do they exist?

    I had a credit card reward thing that was expiring, so bought a Nimbus+ controller from Apple, assuming that I could use it with either my Mac or iPad Pro or AppleTV. Good luck even getting the thing to pair, never mind actually using it.

    It lives in its box, under my desk. A total waste.
    edited April 10
  • Reply 2 of 3
    corp1corp1 Posts: 93member
    @Jeffharris I've used SteelSeries MFi controllers (including the older Nimbus) for years (on iOS) and they have worked fine. I kind of liked how they charged with lightning like the iPhone. A regular PlayStation DualShock4 or DualSense controller also works fine with iOS and macOS - and particularly well for PS remote play. Like you I am still waiting for a modern wraparound iPad controller like the old GameVice Wikipad for the 2015 iPad mini and iPad Air: https://newatlas.com/wikipad-gamevice-ipad-controller/35507/

    @AppleInsider GameSir G8 all the way if you have an iPhone 15 and want a full-sized controller that also works with thin cases like Apple's MagSafe.
    I want to like the Razer Kishi but it's inferior to the (sadly discontinued and completely unavailable) GameVice Flex and it lacks a headphone jack (useful for lag-free audio.)
    Backbone One gets a hard pass because of the obnoxious upselling to their useless $40-a-year Backbone plus service.




    edited May 22
  • Reply 3 of 3
    jeffharrisjeffharris Posts: 797member
    corp1 said:
    @Jeffharris I've used SteelSeries MFi controllers (including the older Nimbus) for years (on iOS) and they have worked fine. I kind of liked how they charged with lightning like the iPhone. A regular PlayStation DualShock4 or DualSense controller also works fine with iOS and macOS - and particularly well for PS remote play. Like you I am still waiting for a modern wraparound iPad controller like the old GameVice Wikipad for the 2015 iPad mini and iPad Air: https://newatlas.com/wikipad-gamevice-ipad-controller/35507/
    I didn’t realize that the SteelSeries Nimbus + required games to support the thing directly. 
    I thought it would be more like a mouse or something, just use it with whatever. The few games I play don’t support it. 
    I don’t have the patience or desire to hunt around for games that support the thing that I might like.

    That GameVice controller looks interesting. Exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to find.
    I’ve bought all sorts of “experimental” trackballs, joysticks, controllers and whatnots over the years for my Macs, but they’ve all disappeared. Except the Kensington Expert Trackball (wired).

    I use an iPad Pro 11”, but most on-screen controls are absolutely dreadful and make games unplayable, for me anyway. 
    Probably spent too much time playing with keyboard and trackball on my Macs.
    edited May 22
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