While most people use their Apple TV strictly for movies and TV shows, it’s a perfectly capable little casual gaming console—if you pair it with a good controller.
There are some pretty lightweight games, like Crossy Road, you can play with just the Siri remote, but if you want to get the most out of gaming on the Apple TV you’ll need a proper controller. Not just any old controller will do, however, on top of selecting one that’s comfy in your hands you’ll want it to be MFi certified as well.
MFi controllers have been given the Apple seal of approval, and you know that they’ll work no matter what software update Apple puts out. That isn’t always the case with non-MFi controllers.
There’s an added bonus to picking up a controller that has been blessed by Apple as well. That is, all MFi controllers are certified to work with each of Apple’s mobile devices as well as the Apple TV. Gamers with iPhones and iPads can use their MFi controllers with ease, and that might be of more benefit than you’d think. After all, have you tried to play complex games with touch controls? With a MFi controller suddenly your iPad becomes a better gaming device too.
When shopping for an MFi game controller, there are some that immediately rise to the top of an already short list. We’ve split them into categories based on the very best available, plus two that are more suited to those with small hands or might also want to take their controller out and about with them to sneak in some gaming with a controller on their iPhone or iPad. Here are our top picks.
Best Overall: SteelSeries Nimbus ($50)
The SteelSeries Nimbus is the canonical Apple TV game controller, and it’s probably the one you’ve seen used in Apple’s advertising. It looks and feels like an Xbox One controller, which is a good thing, with all buttons just where you’d expect them to be.
Battery life is reasonable at 40 hours between charges, and when the time does come to add juice you can use the same Lightning cable that you charge everything else with.
Most Versatile: Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i ($50)
Mad Catz is a name that gamers of a certain age will be very familiar with because it’s been around a long time. The company knows how to make a wireless controller, and the Micro C.T.R.L.i has some tricks up its sleeve.
Again, if you’re familiar with the popular Xbox One layout then this will feel right at home. Unlike our previous pick, however, this one features a snap-on stand to mount your iPhone on—a nice hidden value for those times you want to take a break from the big screen or game on the subway.
Unlike the Nimbus, this controller runs on AAA batteries, although they’re good for the same 40 hours or so.
Best Compact Controller: SteelSeries Stratus ($24)
If you have small hands, or just want the controller with the most portability for when you use it with an iPhone or iPad, the SteelSeries Stratus is where it’s at.
This is a controller that has been around a while now, but it’s still one of the best and it’s certainly one of the smallest. Somehow, being super small doesn’t make it a dog to use, although at just 10 hours the battery life could certainly be better. You don’t need to go fumbling for AAA batteries through—the Status charges via micro USB.
As far as looks are concerned, the white version of the controller, in particular, reminds us of the classic Nintendo SNES controller, and that’s definitely a good thing!