The Best Gamepads to Play Apple TV Games


Published On: , by NewAdMacSoft

While Apple makes it easy for the users of its TV games to play them in multiple ways (including via the Siri Remote), for the best enjoyment, you still need a nice gamepad. With the appropriate analog sticks and smart directional pads, you reach a more precise movement feeling very much like a real Bomber Crew member or Ace Combat pilot. Play experience is surely the best with the proper physical buttons. Altogether, these helpful features bring the Apple TV very close to a genuine game console. And there are games for which a gamepad is a must (one example is Minecraft).

If a gamepad is worth investments, then which one should I choose? Here is a series of brief accounts of the most noteworthy gamepads on today’s market. They will make you better acquainted with all their features and peculiarities. And the differences between the models will suggest you which one is the most worthy of your precious gaming dollars. Also, our review only includes the models compatible with iPhones and iPads. The accounts are brief and do not include configuration issues such as adaptation for one handed use or fine setting.

The Best Ones

SteelSeries Nimbus

A highly recommended gamepad. It was perfect when it first appeared together with the Apple TV, and so it remains now. The pluses in the $50 Nimbus are many. They include a convenient feeling in the hand, very responsive buttons and D-pad. It has parallel analog sticks (resembling a PlayStation gamepad) and supports the Lightning charging for its 40-hour battery.

With such an attractive price tag, the model is probably the best competitor in the segment and the best option for current Apple TV and iOS.

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

Not to be confused with the below described full-size C.T.R.L.i. One peculiar feature: it has no Home button. The reason is that the gamepad shipped a year earlier than the Apple TV. But the feature is not actually a shortcoming as the task is well performed with the pause button. The Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i is truly a small gamepad. To the point that people with very large hands may find it hard to use it.

Nevertheless, the small size is more often a benefit than a shortcoming. The device is very convenient for traveling. And it is equipped with a removable clip that allows attaching an iPhone to the top together with a Bluetooth connection that provides a perfect DIY portable gaming unit. And you can alternatively pull off the clip when you play on Apple TV or iPad.

The most important, however, is the fact that the model meets all fundamental gamepad requirements. The buttons and asymmetrical sticks (like in the Xbox) are quite responsive and feel well in hand. The D-pad is fine as well. Overall, the Micro is a nice pick for iOS gamers with Apple TV. Just have AAA batteries ready as the device needs two of them.

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Hori Horipad Ultimate

The $50 Horipad Ultimate from Hori is the second Apple TV-oriented gamepad shipped after the box itself, and the successor to the original MFi Horipad (no longer available). Equipped with a Home button and Lightning charging. The model resembles a PlayStation, but is larger and has perfect full grips that virtually sink into your palms. Also, like the Nimbus, Horipad Ultimate has a button layout.

Among the drawbacks, one should mention the low plastic quality resulting in a spongy feel in the triggers and creases, which you feel during all play. However, the model’s overall performance is quite decent. Probably the Ultimate is slightly inferior to the Nimbus (mainly in terms of design and button feel), but still a very solid competitor.

Other Noteworthy Gamepads

SteelSeries Stratus XL

The $50 Stratus XL is older than Nimbus, with a similar shape and design.  Among the model’s benefits are a better feel of the plastic and pleasant texturing on the analog sticks. Stratus XL is especially attractive for those who prefer a raised circular D-pad to the plus sign shape. The model is inferior to the Nimbus in that the latter is equipped with Lightning charging (Stratus XL uses a micro-USB cable) and has smoother and quieter triggers.

Still, with its current price tag (down from the starting price of $80) the model remains a decent competitor.

SteelSeries Stratus 

The non-XL Stratus of the SteelSeries was the company’s first MFi gamepad.  However, the device still remains competitive largely owing to its remarkably compact design. Being just slightly thicker than the iPhone 4s, the model is probably the only gamepad on the present list that comfortably fits in a pants pocket. At the same time, the Stratus is equipped with a plastic protective shield, which keeps the device’s sticks and buttons intact during travel.

However, the small size brings a few drawbacks. The model’s shoulder buttons are excessively cramped, and the analog sticks are not very comfortable.

PXN Speedy

The $60 Speedy is sold by the Chinese company directly through Amazon (the only model in this list). By its design, the model represents a full-sized pad built based on the Xbox 360 controller. Among the device’s undoubtedly pluses are the firm feeling analog sticks and an optional clip for attaching an iPhone. Sadly, the D-pad is rather problematic, which is a serious shortcoming. The disc appears to be quite jittery when connected to the Apple TV.

Otherwise, the Speedy should be characterized as a strong competitor to the best models on the gamepad segment.

Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i

A clearly worse version compared to its compact brother. The faults include the low responsive and unreliable D-pad (similar to the PXN Speedy above) and a somewhat bulky design.

However, the model may be worth its $30 price tag, especially taking into account its fine optional iPhone clip and nice feel in the hand.