The free tier of Google Stadia launched in 2020, so access to Google’s cloud game streaming service is readily available to a wide range of people in a list of countries. If you want to try it out yourself but don’t feel like paying the $69 for the official Stadia controller, luckily you don’t need to let that stop you.
You can, of course, buy one from Google if you want. And if you want to play wirelessly on the Chromecast Ultra, the company’s Stadia controller is currently your only option for doing so. But on PC and mobile, the service also works wirelessly with the most popular console game controllers, including the Xbox Series X/S controller and the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller. Even controllers dating back to Xbox 360 will work.
For the most part, support for wired and wireless controllers in Stadia is good, but not perfect. For example, Stadia supports some wireless controllers, but others may need to be physically plugged in to work as expected. And whether it works wirelessly or not may depend on the device you’re playing on: a Windows 10 / Windows 11 / Linux / macOS PC running Google Chrome or one of the few supported devices running Android 10 or later.
It’s all a bit complicated, but below we try to make it easy to connect popular controllers to Stadia on any supported device in just a few steps.
Sony’s aging controller for the PlayStation 4 works in wired mode or when connected via Bluetooth to your computer running Google Chrome (version 77 or higher). This controller also works with phones running Android 10 or later in wired or Bluetooth mode. Unfortunately, the new PlayStation 5 DualSense controller does not share this Stadia compatibility. So if you’ve kept your DualShock 4, you’re covered until future Google updates enable DualSense support.
To use a DualShock 4 with Stadia via a wired connection, all you need to do is find a Micro USB to USB-A cable and connect the two sources. The drivers should download automatically.
To connect it wirelessly via Bluetooth to your computer or phone, make sure the device that will host Stadia is in Bluetooth pairing mode. Next, on the DualShock 4, press and hold its “Share” button just to the left of the touchpad, then hold the center “PlayStation” button with the logo on it. The light bar at the top of the controller will start flashing, an indicator that it is searching for a device to pair with. They should meet again. If not, try again.
It’s the exact same story for the Microsoft Xbox Series X/S controller and older Xbox One controllers. Stadia supports these controllers on PC (on Chrome with version 77 or later installed) whether wired or connected via Bluetooth. Phones that can run Stadia will also support the controller, whether wired or wireless.
The Xbox One controller, like the DualShock 4, has a micro USB port, while the new Xbox Series controller has been upgraded to USB-C. You can connect any of them to your PC with the corresponding cable. They’re pretty easy and cheap to find, and you probably already own one or a few.
Before trying to connect your Xbox One controller via Bluetooth, make sure it is Bluetooth ready. Microsoft has made several different models of this controller, one of which does not support Bluetooth. Luckily, there’s an easy way to find out: if your gamepad has shiny plastic surrounding the Xbox button, it doesn’t support Bluetooth. If it has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, that’s another indication that it has Bluetooth and will work. If you have the new Xbox Series controllers, never fear, as they all support Bluetooth.
To start pairing the controller, turn it on while pressing and holding the Xbox button in the middle. Once it turns on, click and hold the connect button on the top edge of the controller until the Xbox logo flashes faster. This indicates that you are ready to pair. Now just make sure your target device (be it a phone or a PC) is in pairing mode.
The Switch Pro Controller will work with Google Chrome on your PC, either wired or via Bluetooth. If you want to connect it with a wire, Nintendo’s controller plugs in with a USB-C cable.
For use with phones running Android 10 or later that support Stadia, Google lists the Switch Pro controller as not compatible with it, either as a wired or wireless controller. That said, it worked well as a Bluetooth controller in our experience. Your experience may vary, but it’s worth a try if you already have one.
To set it up, just click and hold the little sync button near the Switch Pro controller’s USB-C port. Then pair it in your device’s Bluetooth settings. (Oddly, the controller’s pairing lights keep working like it’s not connecting, but it worked with every Stadia game I’ve tried.)
Google’s Stadia Controller is currently the only controller that will work wirelessly on a TV with a Google Chromecast Ultra connected. Initially, it couldn’t work wirelessly with PCs or Android 10 devices, but luckily, both of those limitations have been resolved. It can now be used wirelessly with your PC. Additionally, in June 2020, Google released an update that allows it to connect wirelessly to phones running Android 10 or later.
Google’s support page lists other controllers, such as the Xbox One Elite Controller, Xbox Adaptive Controller, and even the Xbox 360 Controller, that will work with Stadia. You can see the current list of controllers here, which also shows their level of wired and wireless support currently allowed by Stadia.
Google notes that its list of tested controllers isn’t exhaustive, and you might get lucky with other models. My Steam Controller worked almost perfectly with its wireless adapter plugged into my PC, as well as wired, but I couldn’t get Stadia on my Pixel 3 to notice. However, my PDP Faceoff wired controller for Nintendo Switch did not work. So if you don’t see the controller you own on this list, try it anyway. It can work.
Updated June 30, 2020, 4:55 p.m. ET: Google has updated the Stadia Controller to work wirelessly with Android 10 devices, so you no longer need to tether the controller to your phone to play on the go.
Updated March 18, 2022, 10:30 a.m. ET: This article was originally published on April 10, 2020 and has been updated to reflect changes made to different operating systems and newly compatible products.