What's the best MFi game controller for iPad & iPhone?

The iPhone and iPad have come a very long way since their inception, and the same can be said about the quality of games on the App Store

The rise of the App Store has seen a great deal of innovation by gaming devs. Many have come up with ingenious control systems using the touchscreens on the iPad and iPhone; others have made existing games, designed for PC or console, work in this setting. But other ported games, while superb on other platforms, can be improved on iOS by the addition of a physical controller.

MFi (Made For iPhone) controllers are certified to be compatible with Apple's mobile devices, and if you're a serious gamer we'd strongly recommend you buy one. These MFi controllers look more like video game control pads, with sticks, triggers and multiple buttons. An MFi remote will make complex games (especially shooters like Modern Combat) easier and more fun to play.

With games getting better and better, we thought it'd be an appropriate time to round up the MFi controllers (and other excellent gaming accessories for your iPhone and iPad) that'll help transform your gaming experience.

Also see: Best Apple TV game controllers | Best MFi-compatible games for iPhone & iPad

Gamevice Controller for 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Gamevice Controller for 12.9-inch iPad Pro

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is fantastic for gaming, thanks to its big screen and powerful processor, but so expensive and so clearly targeted at business and creative customers that its potential in this area has been a little neglected by both devs (who in a number of cases haven't optimised relatively recent games for the larger screen) and accessory makers. This excellent Gamevice MFi controller goes some way to redressing the balance.

It's like a classic console gaming controller - it seems closest to the Xbox style - that's been chopped in half, and had the two halves connected by a rubbery, stretchy band that goes round the back of the iPad. The righthand end plugs into the Lightning port, so there's no worrying about setting up a wireless connection, and the other stretches over the top of the iPad and is held there securely.

You get two analogue joypads, one on each side, and a more old-fashioned joypad on the left; plus four buttons on the right (and a separate Menu button) and two shoulder buttons on each side.

It's got a terrific, chunky feel and is a pleasure to use. It's also very easy to put on and take off the iPad, and because you can roll the rubbery centre section over, reasonably portable.

Horipad Wireless Gaming Controller

Horipad Wireless Gaming Controller
  • RRP: £55

The Horipad Wireless Controller has a design that will feel familiar to PlayStation users, with dual analogue sticks and a D-pad to choose from.

Officially licensed by Apple and compatible with all MFi games, the controller has a USB-rechargeable battery. It comes with a stand for storing the controller whilst it's charging.

The Horipad is unavailable from Amazon UK at time of writing, unfortunately. Hopefully it will return before long, but one alternative in the mean time is the Horipad Ultimate, which is available on import from the US Apple Store.

Logitech Powershell Controller with Battery

Logitech Powershell Controller with Battery
  • RRP: £89.99

The Logitech PowerShell Controller and Battery looks like the perfect gaming companion for those of you with an iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s, although owners of more recent iPhone models are out of luck. The controller essentially turns your iPhone into a PS Vita, complete with Xbox-esque button layout, analogue directional pad and shoulder triggers. It also offers familiar soft rubber texture grips popular with gaming controllers, making it comfortable to use over long periods of time. The only thing the PowerShell seems to be missing is a pair of analogue sticks, but given that it's dropped below £10, it's by far the best-value controller around if the lack of control sticks doesn't bother you.

Although the PowerShell is a fully fledged gaming controller that houses your iPhone, Logitech claims the controller is "lightweight and slim" and can fit into pockets and bags, ready to be taken anywhere. We think this claim should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the controller makes your iPhone a lot longer, and may stick out of pockets - though we haven't been hands on to test this theory.

One of the downsides to gaming on iPhone is that your battery tends to die pretty quickly, especially with a high brightness and volume. (For tips to alleviate this, see How to improve iPhone battery life.) With this in mind, Logitech equipped the PowerShell with a 1,500mAh battery to charge your iPhone while gaming. Once that runs out, you can charge both the controller and your iPhone simultaneously via micro-USB.

Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i

Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i
  • RRP: £49.99

Mad Catz has been making controllers for a long time and built up a solid reputation in this area. Take the C.T.R.L.i, for example: a solid MFi controller that takes its design cues from the Xbox.

The analogue sticks and buttons are great, although the D-pad leaves something to be desired. There's a compartment in the back that houses two AAA batteries that should be good for 40 hours of battery life.

Oh, and make sure you get the C.T.R.L.i (with a small "i" on the end).

Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i

Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i
  • RRP: £39.99

Mad Catz also has a second offering, the Micro C.T.R.L.i. This is smaller than the company's primary MFi gamepad, and should be available for slightly less. The choice between the two isn't so much about your budget, though, as it is your preference for a large or small pad.

The size may be a little small for some, but it's all about personal preferences. And the C.T.R.L.i has a high-quality feel (apart from that darned D-pad).

SteelSeries Nimbus

SteelSeries Nimbus
  • RRP: £46.99

This controller's overall design seems to be a mixture of Xbox One and PS4. It boasts the usual set of joysticks, pressure-sensitive buttons, triggers and LEDs, plus centre buttons for navigation. SteelSeries also offers the Stratus, but the Nimbus is larger and has a more traditional controller shape, which should provide a more comfortable gaming experience overall, especially for those with big hands.

It's part of Apple's MFI programme, so the controller should automatically work with any controller-supported game on the App Store, including console console Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. And unlike the Stratus XL, the Nimbus controller is powered by a 40-plus hour battery with a Lightning port, making it easy to keep charged.

(It also has another benefit: it's been designed with Apple TV in mind, so it can serve as your controller at home as well. If you want to make the most of this feature, take a look at our round-up of the best Apple TV games.)

Steel Series Stratus

Steel Series Stratus
  • RRP: £45

The SteelSeries Stratus isn't just a smaller version of the XL controller. While that controller takes its cue from the PS4, the regular Stratus is shaped more like an old Sega Saturn controller.

It has dual analogue sticks, placed closely together in the centre, and a large D-pad. It was one of the earlier iOS controllers to come out, so you might be able to pick one up for a bargain if you shop around.

SteelSeries Stratus XL

SteelSeries Stratus XL
  • RRP: £54.99, US$59.99

The Stratus XL is SteelSeries' biggest and boldest controller.

Like the Mad Catz offerings, it feels very much like a console controller. In this case it has twin sticks in the middle of the pad, in a style similar to PS4 rather than Xbox.

It's quite expensive, but the quality is high.

Fling Joystick for iPad

Fling Joystick for iPad
  • RRP: £19.95

We love iPad gaming at Macworld, but if there's one thing that leaves us a bit frustrated at the gaming experience, it'd have to be the lack of physical controls. On-screen controls are a smart way of gaming on the iPad, but in the heat of gameplay you'll often miss the virtual control pad because you can't feel it beneath your fingers - that was, until now, anyway.

Enter Fling for the iPad, or Fling mini for the iPhone if that's your primary gaming device. Fling is, simply, a joystick that you can attach to your iPad display for a console-esque gaming experience. It’s made from anodised aluminium, the same material used in the iPad, so it'll look like an extension of your device rather than a random accessory. Simply stick it to your screen wherever a virtual joystick is displayed (can even dual-wield with two) and you'll be gaming like a pro in no time.

It's not just a cheap joystick, though; some thought has been put into its design. As you're controlling a game with Fling, it'll gently push back towards the centre position. Why? Centralising the joystick helps to guide and enhance your gameplay, which in turn makes "every action more accurate", according to TenOne Design. The best part is that because of the way it's designed, it's already compatible with any iOS game that uses an on-screen joystick! You can find a list of TenOne Design's favourite Fling-compatible apps here.  

Homido virtual reality headset

Homido virtual reality headset
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  • RRP: £119.99

The Homido virtual reality headset aims to bring Virtual Reality to the iPhone, as well as a variety of Android and Windows Phone devices. How? The Homido is a headset that utilises your smartphone instead of charging extra for components readily available for most people.

The idea is that you slot your iPhone (even 6 Plus!) into the front of the headset and is used as the headsets computer and display. Think about it, your iPhone houses all the components needed for a virtual reality headset - high resolution display, gyroscope, on-board CPU and even an App Store that already has hundreds of specially designed VR apps available for download. The best part about using your iPhone in the Homido VR headset is that it makes the headset completely wireless, so you're free to enjoy your virtual world with no cables holding you back.

However, if you thought that the Homido VR headset was just a more expensive version of Google Cardboard, you’d be wrong. In our opinion, the Google Cardboard is only used to see whether VR is for you, and is in turn quite uncomfortable and offers limited functionality. On the other hand, the Homido boasts some pretty interesting features including custom-made VR lenses that offer a 100-degree Field of View and an adjustable IPD (distance between the lenses) as the gap between the eyes isn’t the same for everyone and can affect the overall experience.

You also have the option of buying a Bluetooth controller along with the headset to bring true VR gaming to your iPhone. (Touch-based games won’t work in Homido as you can’t tap the display while its being used in the headset.)

To find out more, check out our guide to using a VR headset with an iPhone.

Tylt Energi 5K+ Battery Pack

Tylt Energi 5K+ Battery Pack
  • RRP: £69.99

Last, but not least, is the Tylt Energi 5K+ battery pack. "Why is this included in an iOS gaming accessory roundup?" we hear you cry - well, if you're gaming for extra long periods of time, you don't want to run out of battery on your device, do you? We've opted for the Tylt Energi 5K+ because it's quite lightweight, despite holding enough battery power to fully charge your iPhone twice, or give your iPad quite the battery boost.

As well as a standard USB slot, the Energi 5K+ also has a built-in lightning cable and micro-USB cables, which makes it even handier for those of us with a compatible device, and allows charging on up to two devices at once. It uses an LED indicator to let you know roughly how much battery power is remaining, so you should never be caught short again.

Read more: Best iPhone battery packs

Not content with iOS gaming? Check out the best games available for Mac.