5 Best Retro Game Controllers for Your Smartphone or Tablet

by Claire Polansky

Remember those old-school video games that you used to play when you were a kid?

Could you save the princess without going through the warp zone in Mario Brothers?

Guess what. You can check if you’ve still got it with retro controllers and joysticks that work with your smartphone or tablet. You can even play many of the same old games like Super Mario, Zelda, Frogger, Pack Man, Oregon Trail, etc.

As if you needed another reason to be attached to your phone. But hey, at least you don’t have to worry about your parents telling you to put the game down and focus on your homework.

In fact, I did your homework for you. I’ve gathered a list of the leading nostalgic gadgets that are bound to make you start exercising your thumbs again.

Top 5 Retro Game Controllers for Your Smartphone

1. 8Bitdo’s Nintendo-esque Game Controllers

If you loved Nintendo, then you will love 8Bitdo’s Bluetooth or USB connected controllers. You can instantly transform your Android, Windows, or macOS into an old-school Nintendo. If you have an iPhone, it looks like you’re out of luck. But you may consider making the switch when you get your eyes on the little red iconic buttons and black cross-like D-pad for running every which way in 4-dimensional space. You also have the option of joysticks for an extra boost if you really want to prove that you are still a gaming pro.

8bitdo NES30 retro Controller

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

2. Hyperkin’s SmartBoy Retro Gameboy-style Controller

Jokesters, be careful of what you wish for — or not. The SmartBoy was born out of an April Fool’s joke. Hyperkin advertised a hardware emulator that would transform your smartphone into a Game Boy. While they confessed that it was a joke, people started begging for it on their social media. You could say that this was a test for the market. They released the working model about a year later. And it’s everything they said it was.

At a glance, you’d think you found your old Game Boy that you used to play in the back seat while your mom or dad took the wheel. You can slide your smartphone into the opening containing a USB Type-C port and transform your phone into a handheld gaming device. You can also pop in one of your old game cartridges just like old times. However, you may still prefer the modern convenience of downloading apps from Google Play.

There are mixed reviews about the game emulation, but don’t take others’ word for it. If you aren’t a super fanatic about replicating the real-thing exactly, you’ll love it.

3. iCade & iCade Jr. Arcade Game

Hyperkin isn’t the only April Fool’s jokester that made their fantasy a reality. One minute, ThinkGeek is taunting us with a fictitious arcade cabinet for our iPad, the next minute they are partnering with Atari and ION to make it a reality.

You can purchase an arcade cabinet that instantly transforms your iPhone or iPad into an old-school arcade game via Bluetooth. It has the same familiar joystick and buttons, only much much smaller. It has a coin slot as well, but it doesn’t actually require quarters. In fact, you can play many of the old classics for free.

Go ahead. Download some games from the App store and play as much as you want. No one’s stopping you — except maybe your boss. That is unless you’re in the gaming industry.

iCade iPad retro controller

Photo by J Bizzie/ Flikr

4. XBox and PlayStation Style Controllers

There is a boatload of gamepads with the look and feel of authentic XBox and PlayStation controllers. For starters, check out the IPega bluetooth-enabled controller.
It comes with a phone doc for your playing ease. Once you charge the lithium battery, you can play for hours.

There seems to be a little discrepancy with its compatibility with Android or iOS. Maybe it’s a translation issue. So I wouldn’t order it offline if I were you without talking to a trustworthy seller first.

I don’t know about you, but my inner 12 year old is drooling over it.

IPega retro controller

Photo by Achim Hepp/flickr

5. Atari Arcade iPad Retro Controller

Finally,  you can set your sites on the nostalgic Atari controller for your iPad. Simply slide your iPad into the doc and start chomping down on those pixelated ghosts in Packman by moving that familiar red-knobbed joystick.

You can play most Atari’s classics. Atari launched the Atari Greatest Hits app and updated their games to work with the new controller. The only problem is that is it doesn’t work with the landscape option for the most part, so it might feel a little clunky.

It only works with iOS, so Android fans, you’re out of luck.

Times may have changed, but you still have the oldies but goodies. Take your pick of your favorite retro controllers and put those thumbs to work. Or better yet, put on your entrepreneur hat and make your own.

Don’t take our word for it. Do you have a favorite retro game and controller? We’d love to hear about it.

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Author: Claire Polansky

I am a Jill-of-all-trades marcom specialist and high tech autodidact. I stay upstream with the rapidly moving high tech scene by excessively reading anything and everything. When I am not reading or writing, you can find me with my dogs on the beach basking in the Mediterranean sun.

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