How to use your console gamepad with your PC

Games aren't the same without a gamepad under your thumbs. Play on your PC with your Xbox 360, PS3, or PS2 controller--and other game devices.

Mario can't rescue the princess without his Fire Flower. Mega Man can't beat Dr. Wily without his Mega Buster. If you're going to save the world, you need the proper equipment--and a keyboard and mouse just won't cut it. Fortunately, you can get pretty much any mainstream console gamepad working on a PC, so you won't have to shell out megabucks for an X-Arcade TankStick to bring back your gaming glory days.

Current Controllers: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii

First off, if you haven't tried using your Wiimote on your PC, you're missing out. We've got a how-to on using your Wiimote with your PC already, but the abbreviated version is: Get GlovePIE.

Xbox 360 controllers also aren't too tricky to get working, since they're made by Microsoft. If you have one with a USB cable already, it should work when you plug it in, but if you'd rather not be tethered to your PC you'll need to grab an Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver ($19.95), which will let you use up to four Xbox 360 gamepads and headsets at a time so you can brawl with your buddies.

187658-ps3gamepad_original

Stalwart Sony fans will have to install a driver for their PS3 pad--although the pad is automatically detected when you plug it in via USB, it won't work. You can find different homebrew drivers out there, but the most feature-heavy version comes from MotioninJoy, which supports both Sixaxis and DualShock 3 gamepads for Windows XP/Vista/7 (32-bit and 64-bit). MotioninJoy's instructions are a little tricky to follow, but here are the basic steps:

  • Download and install the MotioninJoy package.

  • Restart your PC, and press F8 during startup (after the BIOS is done loading, but before Windows starts) to open the Advanced Boot Options menu, and pick Disable Driver Signature Enforcement. (Doing this could potentially open up your PC to a security risk, so don't make it a habit.)

  • Plug your PS3 pad in.

  • Once you're done booting up, open the MotioninJoy folder in your Start Menu, right-click on Install MotioninJoy Driver, and choose Run As Administrator.

  • Open the DS3 Tool app from the MotioninJoy folder and start configuring your PS3 gamepad. Bluetooth support is still a little bit shaky, but USB should work fine.

Classic Gamepads: PS2, SNES, Genesis, and Beyond

If you're looking to get your Playstation/Playstation 2 controller working, your best bet is a Playstation-to-USB converter, but if you pick the wrong converter you might notice lag or compatibility issues. The Stepmania.com Wiki has a good listing of these converters (as well as GameCube-to-USB converters), though it's written specifically with Dance Dance Revolution fans in mind.

Just don't grab one without reading a few reviews first. Generally, these will either have manufacturer-supplied drivers included on a disc or for download, and they'll be usable with any HID-compliant game software.

187658-atariusb._originaljpeg

Even the grizzled gamers who just can't bring themselves to play an NES game with a Playstation pad have options. Though a handful of companies make updated versions of classic pads with dimensions similar to the originals, RetroZone caught my eye because it offers adapters for NES, SNES, N64, Atari, Vectrex, and Sega Genesis pads as well as converted NES/SNES USB pads if you don't have your old gear any more. The adapters typically run for about $22, while the pads are in the $35 range.

187658-joy2key_original

But what about gamepads for truly vintage legacy games (which might not support HID devices)? No gamepad how-to would be complete without a link to JoyToKey, a freeware utility that lets you take inputs from any USB gamepad and map them to keyboard inputs, so older PC games won't be left out from the action.

All you have to do is download JoyToKey, install it, plug in the gamepads you want to use, and assign each button to your desired keyboard input. It takes a little trial and error (the buttons are typically named unhelpful things like Button 1 and Button 2 instead of X and Y or Square and Triangle), so be prepared to spend a few minutes testing it.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags peripheralsgames

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Miller

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?