Why a game controller helped me rethink mobile gaming completely

Gamesir X2 Bluetooth Mobile Controller Hero
Gamesir X2 Bluetooth Mobile Controller Hero (Image credit: Jennifer Locke / Android Central)

I've been playing video games for over twenty years, nearly my entire life. That whole time it's been on consoles, from the NES and Nintendo 64 all the way up to the PS5 and Xbox Series X that I have now. Despite the rise of mobile gaming in the past decade or so, I've never been able to get into it. A large part of that is because I hate touch controls. They're not conducive to the types of games I want to play, mostly AAA experiences that can be found on Xbox Game Pass for Android. I've spent more time with some of the best mobile controllers like the Razer Kishi and GameSir X2 recently, I've found myself appreciating mobile gaming more.

Controls are the cornerstone to a good gaming experience.

A game can live or die by how you interact with it. Controls are the cornerstone of the experience. If you're using a bad controller, you won't want to play it, no matter how good the game may be. I've always felt this was true even for consoles, and it is another reason I didn't play on PS3 or PS4 a lot — the DualShock is garbage (the DualSense is great, though). And I never wanted to pair up my Xbox controller with my phone for two reasons: 1. I didn't want to keep repairing it with my Xbox, and 2. I didn't care for the games on mobile. That's changed. Reason #2 was solved with Xbox Game Pass. Reason #1 was most recently solved, for me, with mobile controllers.

Controllers like the Razer Kishi and GameSir X2 are designed specifically for mobile gaming, effectively turning your phone into a Nintendo Switch. I don't need to worry about pairing them with multiple devices because I'm only using them with my Galaxy S10. Turning on my GameSir X2 Bluetooth controller isn't going to accidentally turn on my Xbox or PlayStation. This may seem like a very petty complaint — and I can admit that it is — but it was also a constant annoyance for me and something that I didn't want to keep dealing with.

Razer Kishi Hero

Source: Rebecca Spear / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Rebecca Spear / Android Central)

I've played dozens of hours of Fallout 4 on my Xbox, and I was worried how that would transition to my phone through Xbox Game Pass. If you think it'd be near impossible with touch controls, you're probably right — it doesn't even support them (thankfully). Using my Razer Kishi, though, it's almost as if I was playing it on console, minus the smaller screen. The biggest difference, I think, was the controller sensitivity. It look some time to get it right so that it felt natural and I wasn't missing my targets. Scrolling through my Pip-Boy, however, is just as easy as I'd imagined.

Things are a little bit different with games like Genshin Impact and Call of Duty: Mobile. Genshin Impact doesn't actually have controller support on Android, which I think is a glaring omission. I said as much in my review, and although I think its touch controls are surprisingly competent, I know it would play better with a controller. That's why I keep playing it on my PS5. If most games were like Genshin Impact on mobile and didn't support controllers, I don't think I'd be playing them too often.

Call Of Duty Mobile Purifier Kill

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The option to play with touch controls or a controller highlights the stark contrast between the two control schemes.

With Call of Duty: Mobile, you have the option to play with touch controls or a controller, and this really highlights the stark contrast at play between the two control schemes. It's like night and day. Call of Duty: Mobile forces you to go through the tutorial with touch controls before you can connect a dedicated controller, and it's not fun. That was by far the worst experience I had with Call of Duty: Mobile, aside from it being full of bots. Once I finished the tutorial and started with my controller, I immediately felt more comfortable. I don't think it can necessarily replace the console experience, but it's a close enough approximation with a controller, and it complements console gaming in a way that mobile gaming with touch controls can't.

When it comes to those controllers, you'll also want to find the right fit for you. For me, as nice as the GameSir X2 controller is, I noted in my review that its face button layout was a frequent annoyance because I would constantly press B when I meant to press A. With the way the face buttons are shifted ever so slightly on the Razer Kishi, I didn't have this problem. That immediately made it easier for me to use.

And if you don't want to turn your phone into a Nintendo Switch, you can always grab a good phone mount and attach it to your PS5 or Xbox controller. I highly recommend trying a few options to see what fits you best, because you're missing out on a ton of the best Android games if touch controls are what's keeping you from having fun.

Jennifer Locke
Games Editor - PlayStation, Android, VR

Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.