With Xbox Cloud Gaming, which has now switched tostatus, you can enjoy your favorite titles from almost anywhere. Microsoft has added browser-based gaming support, which means you can stream games to your Android or iPhone, iPad, PC or basically any device that can run Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Safari browsers. And to get the most out of this handy service, you’ll want to make sure you have all the right controllers and accessories.
Xbox Cloud Gaming, formerly Project xCloud, allows you to play a subset of Xbox Game Pass games on a non-console device by streaming them from the cloud. It is similar to Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now. To use it, you must be a subscriber to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $ 15 per month or $ 160 per year (). For Windows computers, it allows you to play games that your system would not otherwise have the power or space to run locally via Game Pass for PC. The latest update on the Xbox wire site says, “Xbox Insiders can now stream cloud games (Beta) to their Xbox One or Series X / S console, and this cloud gaming service does not require installation.” Go to the Xbox Game Pass games on your console and look for games with a cloud icon, then click the “play” button.
I’m not here to review, which requires a fast internet connection for uninterrupted streaming of games. Instead, I highlight the best controllers and accessories for use with supported devices. As you might expect, different iterations of the Xbox controller are your primary option, but there are many other controllers and add-ons to choose from, and some are designed exclusively for Android phones, Windows PCs, and iOS devices.
According to Microsoft, this is it, but you will find others that work. Microsoft says that if you use a web browser to play games in the cloud, the Xbox Wireless Controller “is currently the only officially supported controller.” However, “other controllers may or may not work to play in the cloud on a browser.”
I will update this list as more Xbox Cloud Gaming controllers and plugins are released, and we will test additional products.
The best Xbox Cloud controllers for Apple devices
The Backbone One is my favorite of the iPhone controllers that mimics the physical experience of the Nintendo Switch, just like the Razer Kishi. But as part of the Designed for Xbox program, it also has special features designed to make you feel like you’re playing on an Xbox or standalone device. Backbone One is compatible with the Xbox app as well as the PlayStation Remote Play app.
The Backbone One gamepad uses a look similar, though not identical, to the look of Microsoft’s Xbox controllers. But Backbone’s software is one of the keys to its success and that makes the controller an easy update for current owners to get new features. It is compatible with all iPhones running iOS 13 or later.
For example, it already has a dedicated game capture button, can tag a game and share it as a link, includes a dynamic feed, and since it is designed for use with all mobile games, it can serve as a central hub for those titles.
Backbone One will also come with one free month of Game Pass Ultimate for new subscribers (although you’re better off with Microsoft’s current offering, which brings you three months for just $ 1).
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Unlike the Backbone One, the Razer Kishi for the iPhone is not listed as an officially supported controller for Xbox Cloud Gaming. However, it works well and sells for less than Razer’s official Kishi Xbox iPhone controller (there are some small cosmetic differences between them and the Xbox version includes the code for the free month Game Pass Ultimate for new subscribers).
It stands out from typical mobile controllers thanks to its Nintendo Switch-like design, with blades that attach to both sides of the screen. It also connects directly to the phone, in this case via Lightning, instead of using Bluetooth, which is the way game controllers generally work on mobile devices. It also has a pass-through port to charge your iPhone while you play.
It expands wide enough to fit all iPhone models and folds into a compact package. It’s a good controller, although I prefer the ergonomics of the Backbone, especially for longer gaming sessions.
If you have access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, you probably have an Xbox system, which means you already have an Xbox console. Any version 2 of the Xbox wireless controller with Bluetooth will pair wirelessly with everything from an iPhone to an iPad to a Mac. You can go wired with a Mac by plugging the controller into a USB port. Microsoft sells a controller with a USB-C cable so you can connect to a USB-C port on a variety of devices, including Macs equipped with USB-C. (Be 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, textured trigger holder, and easy pairing and switching between devices.
The Xbox Core controller is listed for $ 60, but sometimes sells for $ 50 or less. The Xbox Elite series controller costs $ 180, but can sometimes be found for $ 150. While the Elite series controller includes a rechargeable battery, the Core controller does not, which is the only irritating thing about it. You can find the full range of Xbox controllers on the Microsoft Xbox Accessories page.
Microsoft says iOS 14.5 or later is required to play on all Apple devices.
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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.
It’s on Microsoft’s list of supported XCloud controllers, but keep in mind that Microsoft says that if you use a web browser to play games in the cloud, the Xbox Wireless Controller “is currently the only officially supported controller.” However, “Other controllers may or may not work for cloud-based games on the browser.” The DualShock 4 PlayStation controller worked well for me, although I experienced a bit of a lag.
Note that the buttons are marked differently from those on the Xbox controller so you’ll want to check how they match before playing.
This is how you pair your DualShock 4 with Apple devices.
If you have a Sony Playstation 5, Sony’s new DualSense controllers pair via Bluetooth with iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TVs as long as they use the latest versions of their operating systems (iOS 14.5, iPad OS 14.5 , macOS Big Sur 11.3, tvOS 14.5 or later.) It’s an expensive controller if you don’t have a PS5, but it worked well on my iPad. Again, the buttons are marked differently from those on the Xbox controller, so just note how they match.
Like its predecessor, the DualShock 4, the DualSense controller has a built-in rechargeable battery. Here’s how to pair a DualSense controller.
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It’s not cheap for $ 40, but OtterBox’s mobile MagSafe gaming clip is a well-designed accessory for people who want to magnetically stick their iPhone 12 or 13 to the clip holder. I personally use the MagSafe case with this accessory to protect my phone. However, if you don’t have a MagSafe holster, you can certainly use your iPhone that supports MagSafe naked (the phone holds up well to the holder, but isn’t attached so it can fall if you drop the controller).
The clip is configurable for various iterations of the Xbox controller, including the latest version for the Xbox Series X and Elite controller. Using MagSafe makes it easy to set up and remove your iPhone with a clasp, so you can quickly pick up a call if needed while playing.
If you’re just looking for a gaming clip to mount your iPhone on an Xbox controller, the PowerA MOGA Mobile Gaming Clip 2.0 is a good option for $ 15. It’s not as sleek as the Otterbox MagSafe option, which has a slightly more premium look but definitely does its job.
The best Xbox Cloud controllers for Android and Windows computers
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The Razer Kishi for Xbox Android is similar to the iOS version, but connects via USB-C instead of Lightning (no Bluetooth) and has a transient charging port while playing.
Like the iPhone version, this one has a Nintendo Switch-like design, with blades that attach to both sides of the screen. It expands wide enough to fit a variety of Android smartphones and folds into a compact package. It can fit on Android devices with centrally placed USB-C ports and dimensions from 145.3 to 163.7 mm (height) with 68.2 to 78.1 mm (width) with 7 to 8.8 mm (depth).
If you’re looking for a controller that wraps around your Android phone, Kishi is really the only game in town (Backbone currently only produces an iOS controller). But it’s a good controller and is often lowered to well below the $ 100 price tag.
Lori Grunin / CNET
The PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus includes a wireless game controller and a mounting clasp for your phone. It’s a decent controller that also has an integrated 3000 mAh battery to charge the phone while you play. It’s a little awkward, with a cable running from the controller to your phone, but it also works a lot during long gaming sessions.
The controller is compatible with Android devices and Windows computers. This is probably the best value when it comes to Xbox Cloud Gaming accessories for your Android phone. It is on Microsoft’s list of officially supported game controllers and looks and feels like a cheaper version of the Xbox controller.
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Although the SteelSeries Stratus Duo wireless gaming controller is not on Microsoft’s list of officially supported Android game controllers, it worked well in our tests, is ergonomically sound and sturdy. (The older Stratus XL is on Microsoft’s list of supported controllers). It is also designed to work with Windows computers, Chromebooks and certain VR devices.
One of the key reasons to get this through an Xbox wireless controller is because it has a built-in rechargeable battery. Unfortunately, it uses micro-USB for charging, but that’s just a small nuisance. We assume that future versions will be updated USB-C.
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Many people have a PlayStation DualShock 4 wireless controller lying around. It is compatible with Android devices via Bluetooth (it is desirable to use it with Android devices that use Android 10 or later, says Microsoft). What’s nice about the DualShock 4 is that unlike the Xbox Wireless controller it has a built-in rechargeable battery. As mentioned, the buttons are marked differently from those on the Xbox controller, so just note how they match. It worked well for me on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 tablet.
This is how you pair DualShock 4 with Android devices.
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The new Sony DualSense controllers for the PS5 are also paired via Bluetooth with Android devices. As I said in the section for Apple, the set is a controller that can be purchased separately, but if you already have it, you can try it out. It’s not currently on Microsoft’s list of supported controllers and the buttons aren’t labeled the same as the one on the Xbox controller so just pay attention to how they match before you start playing.
To connect via Bluetooth to your Android device, press and hold the PlayStation button and the Share button to enter Discovery Mode. The controller should appear in the list of available devices in the Bluetooth settings of your Android device.
The PowerA MOGA XP5-X Plus is listed above, but you can only purchase 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 clip of good value for the iPhone, but it works just as well on Android.
Sarah Tew / CNET
If you’re looking for versatile gaming headphones that are comfortable, work well for your price, and include a USB-C key for use with Android phones (as well as the Nintendo Switch and PS5), the SteelSeries Arctis 1 is a good option. It also works with Xbox, PS4 and PC – but it doesn’t have Bluetooth, so don’t expect to use it with Apple devices.