How to Use External Game Controllers with Steam Games

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The era of uncertain controller compatibility and makeshift solutions is long gone. In the past, certain games only supported specific controllers and functionalities, leaving others out of the loop. However, thanks to Steam, you now have the freedom to seamlessly connect virtually any controller to any Steam game. Not only that, but you can also personalize your controller’s layout according to your preferences. Additionally, you have access to a wide array of custom controller configurations crafted by both developers and fellow gamers. Let’s delve into how you can effortlessly enjoy Steam games using an external game controller.

There is an extensive array of supported controllers, encompassing all the prominent contenders in the field.

  • Wired or USB dongle, embrace the power of Xbox 360 controllers.
  • Cutting-edge Xbox One controllers that seamlessly connect via both wired and Bluetooth connections.
  • Cutting-edge Xbox One Elite controllers for ultimate gaming experience, available in both wired and USB dongle options.
  • Cutting-edge Xbox Series X controllers available in both wired and Bluetooth options.
  • Cutting-edge PS4 controllers available in both wired and Bluetooth versions.
  • Revolutionary controllers for the ultimate gaming experience — Switch Pro controllers, now available in both wired and Bluetooth versions.
  • A diverse range of Logitech and HORI controllers.
  • It’s highly likely that whichever game controller you possess will be compatible with Steam. However, if you happen to own a particularly archaic or budget-friendly controller (or even both), the extent of its functionality may differ.

    How to use your controller with Steam

    Begin by establishing a connection between your PC and the controller. While certain controllers, such as the Xbox One Elite controller, can be wirelessly connected via a USB dongle, numerous others can be easily linked using Bluetooth (refer to our aforementioned list for compatibility).

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    Afterward, access Steam and tap on the “Steam” icon situated at the upper-left corner, followed by selecting the “Settings” choice.

    Steam Settings

    Explore the realm of possibilities by venturing into the “Controller” tab and gracefully tapping the “General Controller Settings” button, unveiling an enchanting new window. Embark on a journey of customization as the “Controller” tab grants you the power to finely tune controller capabilities in various scenarios, be it within Steam’s Big Picture mode or on the boundless canvas of your desktop.

    Steam Controller Settings

    Explore the limitless possibilities in the Controller Settings window, where you can seamlessly activate compatibility for any controller you possess. It’s worth mentioning that almost every game that embraces controller functionality readily accommodates the Xbox 360/One/Series X controller, eliminating the need to manually select the “Xbox Configuration Support” option. Interestingly, if you’re integrating non-Steam games with Steam, it’s advisable to steer clear of this feature, as it has been notorious for triggering various complications.

    There is a scarcity of games that offer native compatibility with PlayStation controllers, and an even smaller number of games support the Switch Pro controller. If you happen to use these controllers, it is advisable to activate Configuration Support. Essentially, this feature allows the controllers to be recognized as Xinput/Xbox controllers, resulting in on-screen game prompts displaying Xbox buttons. However, this may cause some confusion while playing!

    Any gaming controller, excluding PlayStation, Xbox, and the Switch Pro controller, is commonly regarded as a run-of-the-mill gamepad.

    How to choose what games to play with a controller

    After successfully connecting your controller and enabling Steam’s controller support, the exciting moment arrives when you must decide on a game to be played with the controller, and then carefully select your preferred layout.

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    Start up Steam in the immersive Big Picture mode by simply clicking the icon located to the right of your username at the top right corner of the Steam client. Once there, embark on your gaming adventure by navigating to the game of your choice. Don’t forget, you have the power to activate Steam controller support for any game, regardless of whether it already has built-in controller support or not.

    This statement applies to every game, encompassing real-time strategy games and entire genres of games that may not immediately come to mind for controller play.

    Steam Game Settings

    From the Steam Big Picture mode, journey to the game’s menu and effortlessly tap on “Manage Game.” Navigate to the realm of “Controller Options” and ensure that the sacred “Forced On” option is selected. With this power bestowed upon you, unleash your creativity by venturing into the magical land of the “Controller Configuration” button. Here, you can mold and shape your controller’s layout to your heart’s desire. Prepare to embark on a journey where every aspect of your controller becomes a canvas for your imagination.

    In the Controller Configuration window, you will discover an array of controller layouts specifically designed for the game at hand, offering a plethora of choices. Among these options, you will find layouts crafted by the game developers themselves, as well as those embraced by the enthusiastic fan community.

    Mastering the art of utilizing your Steam controller is an accomplishment in itself, but achieving the perfect calibration is an entirely different adventure. However, fret not if you’re a Windows user, as the calibration process is a breeze. Moreover, it wouldn’t hurt to acquire the knowledge of inspecting your controller for any deadzones.

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    Robert Zak.

    As a Content Manager at Make Tech Easier, I find immense pleasure in exploring the realms of Android, Windows, and pushing the boundaries of retro console emulation to its limits.

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