How to use your own controllers to play Google Stadia

- Published: 10 April 2020
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The free tier of Google Stadia’s cloud gaming service recently launched, allowing those who didn’t purchase the Premiere Edition to finally get in on some of the action. If you’re wanting to try it out yourself but don’t have an official Stadia Controller, you thankfully don’t need to let that stop you.

You can, of course, buy one from Google if you choose to. 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 most popular console gaming controllers, including the Xbox One controller and the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller. Even controllers dating back to the Xbox 360 will work.

For the most part, the wired and wireless controller support in Stadia is good, though not perfect. For instance, Stadia has support for some wireless controllers, but others might need to be physically plugged in to work as intended. And whether it works wirelessly or not might come down to which device you’re playing on: a Windows 10 / Linux / macOS PC running Google Chrome or one of the few supported devices running Android 10.

It’s all a little complicated, but below, we try to make it easy with some steps to get popular controllers connected to Stadia on any device that is supported.

 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

PS4 DualShock 4

Sony’s controller for the PlayStation 4 will work wired or when connected via Bluetooth with your computer running Google Chrome (version 77 or greater). 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 link the two sources. The drivers should download automatically.

To connect it wirelessly via Bluetooth to either your computer or a phone, make sure the device that will host Stadia is in Bluetooth pairing mode. Then, on the DualShock 4, press and hold its “Share” button just to the left of the touchpad, then hold the middle “PlayStation” button with the logo on it. The light bar at the top of the controller will start to blink, an indicator that it’s looking for a device to pair up with. They should find each other. If not, try it again.

 Image: Microsoft

Xbox One controller

It’s the exact same story for the Microsoft Xbox One controller. Stadia supports the controller on PC (on Chrome with version 77 or later installed) whether it’s wired or if you’re connected via Bluetooth. Phones that can run Stadia will also support the controller either wired or wire-free.

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

Before trying to connect your controller via Bluetooth, first ensure that it’s Bluetooth-ready to begin with. Microsoft has made a few different models of the controller, one of which doesn’t support. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to tell: if your gamepad has a glossy plastic surrounding the Xbox button, it won’t work via Bluetooth. If it has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, it’s another indication that it will work.

To start pairing the controller, turn it on by holding down the Xbox button in the middle. Once it lights up, click and hold the connect button on the top edge of the controller until the Xbox logo blinks. This indicates that you’re ready to pair. Now, just make sure 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 will work with Google Chrome on your PC either wired or via Bluetooth. If you want to connect it with a wire, know that, unlike the others, Nintendo’s controller plugs in with a USB-C port.

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

To set it up, just click it and hold the sync button near the Switch Pro controller’s USB-C port. Then pair it in your device’s Bluetooth settings. (Oddly, the pairing LEDs on the controller keep running back and forth as if it didn’t connect, but it worked with any Stadia game that I tried.)

 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Stadia Controller

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

Whether you intend to use the Stadia Controller on your PC with Google Chrome (version 77 or later) or with a device running Android 10, it’ll need to be wired.

The Stadia Controller has a Bluetooth radio, and it’s likely that Google will switch it on at some point via a firmware update. But “some point” isn’t right now. This controller, like the Switch Pro, connects via USB-C, so keep that in mind when you’re looking for a cable.

 Photo by Avery White for The Verge

Other controllers

Google’s support page lists that other controllers, like the Xbox One Elite controller, Xbox Adaptive Controller, and even the Xbox 360 controller, will work with Stadia. You can see the running 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 that you might experience luck with other models. My Steam Controller worked nearly 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 it. On the other hand, my wired PDP Faceoff controller for Nintendo Switch didn’t work. So if you aren’t seeing the controller you own on this list, give it a try anyway. It may work.

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