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How to use your own controllers to play Google Stadia

The free version of the Google Cloud gaming service from Google Stadia has recently been launched so that those who have not purchased the Premiere edition can finally participate in the promotion. Fortunately, if you want to try it yourself but don’t have an official Stadia controller, you don’t have to stop that.

You can of course buy one from Google if you choose. And if you want to play wirelessly on the Chromecast Ultra, the company’s Stadia controller is currently your only option to do that. But on PC and mobile, the service works with the most popular console game controllers, including the Xbox One controller and the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller – even controllers dating back to the Xbox 360 will work.

In general, support for wired and wireless controllers in Stadia is good, but not perfect. For example, Stadia has support for some wireless controllers, but others may need to be physically connected to work as intended. And whether it works wirelessly or not, it could be what device you’re playing on: a Windows 10 / Linux / macOS PC running Google Chrome or one of the few supported devices with Android 10.

It’s all a bit complicated, but below we’ll try to make it easy with a few steps to get popular controllers on Stadia connected to any supported device.

Photograph by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

PS4 DualShock 4

The Sony controller for the PlayStation 4 works wired or when connected via Bluetooth to your computer with Google Chrome (version 77 or higher). This controller also works with phones running Android 10 software in wired or Bluetooth mode.

To physically connect it to your computer, just find a Micro USB to USB-A cable and pair the two sources. The drivers should download automatically.

To connect it wirelessly to your computer or phone via Bluetooth, make sure the device hosting Stadia is in Bluetooth pairing mode. Then, on the DualShock 4, hold down the “Share” button to the left of the touchpad, then press and hold the center “PlayStation” button with the logo on it. The light bar at the top of the controller starts to flash, indicating that it is looking for a device to pair with. They have to find each other. If not, try again.

Image: Microsoft

Xbox One controller

It is exactly the same story for the Microsoft Xbox One controller. Stadia supports the controller on PC (installed in Chrome with version 77 or higher), whether wired or connected via Bluetooth. Phones that can use Stadia also support the controller, both wired and wireless.

The Xbox One controller, like the DualShock 4, has a Micro USB port and you can connect it to your PC with a cable. They are fairly easy and cheap to find, and you probably already have one or a few.

Before attempting to connect your controller via Bluetooth, first make sure it is Bluetooth ready. Microsoft has made a few different models of the controller, one of which does not support. Fortunately, there is an easy way to see: if your gamepad has a glossy plastic around the Xbox button, it won’t work over Bluetooth. If it has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, this is another indication that it will work.

To pair the controller, turn it on by pressing and holding the Xbox button in the center. Once it lights up, click and hold the connect button on the top edge of the controller until the Xbox logo flashes. This indicates that you are ready to pair. Now make sure that your target device (be it a phone or PC) is in pairing mode.

Nintendo Switch Pro controller

Nintendo Switch Pro controller

The Switch Pro controller works with Google Chrome on your PC, wired or via Bluetooth. If you want to connect it with one wire, know that, unlike the others, the Nintendo controller plugs into a USB-C port.

To use it with phones running Android 10 that support Stadia, Google doesn’t list the Switch Pro controller as compatible with it, either as a wired or wireless controller. That said, in my experience it worked great as a Bluetooth controller. Your experience may vary, but it’s worth a try if you already have one.

To set it up, click on it and hold the sync button near the USB-C port of the Switch Pro controller. Then pair it in your device’s Bluetooth settings. (Oddly enough, the pairing LEDs on the controller keep going back and forth like it’s not connecting, but it worked with every Stadia game I tried.)

Photograph by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Stages controller

Even Google’s own Stadia controller currently has some limitations. It is the only controller that works wirelessly on a TV with a Google Chromecast Ultra connected. However, it is currently much more limited than a PS4, Xbox One or Switch Pro controller.

Whether you want to use the Stadia controller on your PC with Google Chrome (version 77 or higher) or with a device with Android 10, it must be wired.

The Stadia controller has a Bluetooth radio and Google will likely turn it on at some point via a firmware update. But ‘somewhere’ is currently not the case. This controller, like the Switch Pro, connects via USB-C, so keep that in mind when looking for a cable.

Photo by Avery White for The Verge

Other controllers

Google’s support page states that other controllers, such as the Xbox One Elite controller, Xbox Adaptive Controller, and even the Xbox 360 controller, will work with Stadia. You can check out the active controller list here, which also shows their level of wired and wireless support currently allowed by Stadia.

Google notes that the list of controllers tested is not exhaustive and you may experience luck with other models. My Steam Controller worked almost perfectly with its wireless adapter connected to my PC, but also wired, but I couldn’t get Stadia on my Pixel 3 to notice it. On the other hand, my wired PDP Faceoff controller for Nintendo Switch was not working. So if you don’t see the controller you own in this list, try it anyway. It may work.

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