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The best console controllers for playing games on a Mac

Considering the awkwardness of almost every other aspect of Mac gaming, I was a little shocked to discover how easy it is to pair popular console controllers with my MacBook. Sure, you’ll need to tweak a few things. Yes, some of the “support” exists only through the generosity and dedication of a few modders. Even so, you’re not entirely nuts if you assume you can pick up your PlayStation or Xbox controller and use it with your MacBook without dropping any extra cash.

There’s a catch, of course (and there always is): It’s easier to pull this off with some controllers over others. You’ll sometimes need to download separate drivers, and you might need to reboot the system to see those drivers take effect. You’ll almost certainly have a better time if you use a wired gamepad. For that matter, there’s no guarantee that every controller here will work with every game (although you’ll have a better chance if you play games downloaded through Steam).

Luckily for us, it is possible. You just might have to do a little work, so that’s why I’ve listed each controller here according to ease of use and setup, with the easiest being at the top.

Sony DualShock 4 for PlayStation 4

You’re in luck if you own a PlayStation 4. Sony may be the company that infamously resisted crossplay with other console systems to the point of absurdity, but it’s also the only major console maker that made an official adapter that’s partly aimed at Mac users. Just buy the $60 DualShock 4 USB Wireless Adapter, plug it into your Mac, and your DualShock 4 controller should work immediately. Power to the players, indeed.

dualshock 4 macbookLeif Johnson/IDG

As with the rest of the controllers, you shouldn’t need any special mapping app to use the DualShock 4.

But if you don’t feel like paying $60 for what’ll likely amount to a dongle for another dongle, you can plug the  controller directly into your Mac with a Micro USB cable. It should work immediately. If you’re having trouble, you can see if your Mac is properly recognizing the device by opening About This Mac, clicking System Report, then USB, and seeing if Wireless Controller is listed (yes, even if you have it plugged in).

Alternatively, you can simply pair it through Bluetooth. First, open the Bluetooth menu under your Mac’s System Preferences. Then reset the DualShock 4 by slipping a paperclip into the tiny hole near the DualShock’s L2 button (on the back). Hold it down for a couple of seconds.

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