RetroPie: Which Gamepad should I use?

So the Raspberry Pi with RetroPie is up and running, a lot of oldschool games are waiting to be played. But which Gamepad is the best to use? Thanks to the long lifetime of the current “Next Generation” consoles, I’ve collected a good bunch of modern pads. Here comes a list of experiences I made with each one:

Playstation 3 Sixaxis Controller (Wireless)

You can use this controller with a Bluetooth dongle in your Raspberry Pi. There are different sites explaining how it is possible to create a connection, I think the best is posted by Stanislav Kopp, who himself seems to have translated a japanese tutorial. There also is a very detailed PDF manual for the sixad software online.

After some problems with my Bluetooth dongle I was easily able to integrate the controller into RetroPie. I made the following experiences:

  • The connection is stable. If I press a button the action takes place immediately
  • I wasn’t able to get the LED-lights running. Even after playing around with the configs posted in the sixad-manual
  • Force Feedback did not work either
  • The analog sticks weren’t noticed by RetroPie
  • The boot-integration of sixad works pretty well. If the controller are turned on during boot, they’ll be recognized throughout the whole emulationstation session
  • We had a lot of fun playing Mario Kart with 2 players. It seems to be no problem to connect more than one controller

Xbox 360 Controller for Windows (Wireless)

Instead of a Bluetooth dongle this controller brings its own USB receiver. I’m not sure if a original Xbox 360 controller works too (via Bluetooth I would assume). There is a good tutorial in the RetroPie wiki itself.

Installing the driver and connecting the controller wasn’t very difficult. The integration into RetroPie was as easy as with the Playstation controllers. However I had one big problem: The input lagged. It wasn’t possible to play Mario Kart with 1 player, it got worse when connecting a 2nd controller. I asked at Stack Exchange, but wasn’t able to get an explanation.

Here are my experiences:

  • Everything worked good after the connection was established (analog sticks, LEDs, Force Feedback, …)
  • The input lag made them unusable at least for faster games. There however seem to be a lot of people who can run the controller without problems
  • As stated in the Stack Exchange answer from brgsousa, the driver seems to be slow in some cases (autostart?)

PC USB Gamepad (Wired)

Before I tried to use any wireless controllers I connected a low budget USB gamepad. This was by far the easiest installation, as it was recognized directly and I simply could use it. I’ve used a Speedlink Strike Gamepad, but I think any other basic USB gamepad will work too.

I decided to go wireless because of my living room does not allow easily to use cables (I would need very long cables). Besides that, wireless pads are far easier to use if integrated once. Nevertheless, here are my (obvious) experiences:

  • Installation was extremely easy, everything worked out of the box
  • Perfect connection (of course, it’s wired…)

Wiimote (Wireless)

There are tutorials showing how it is possible to connect a Wiimote to the Raspberry Pi. As with the other wireless controllers in this list, they work simply with Bluetooth. As I wasn’t able to find a specific tutorial for RetroPie/Raspbian I did not try to connect it. If someone has any experiences or there is documentation anywhere I’ll be happy to update this article. It does not seem to be impossible, there is just some pioneering work to do.

Oldschool Gamepads

There seem to be a lot of people connecting SNES and N64 controller via GPIO or USB adapters. As I do not own one of these controllers and the related additional hardware (adapters, GPIO connectors) I wasn’t able to try them. As I do not want to use wired controllers at all, I don’t think that I’ll use them in the near future.


The Xbox 360 pads were best supported, but unusable due to their lag. I’ll stick to my PS3 controllers for now. Perhaps I will start creating a DIY solution which uses oldschool controllers anytime in the future, but that’s not planned for now.

Note: I found a good guide which covers everything RetroPie related. Perhaps someone finds it usable too.


6 thoughts on “RetroPie: Which Gamepad should I use?

  1. The items are easy to build and subsequently all you’ll need to do is set up the application
    and press a number of keys. Next, you’ll want to reach out to your
    gaming friends. It’s the technology for PS3 and until now, no-one has found a way to repeat the games.

  2. Sure, the PS3 controllers are good with retropie. However, have you tried Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller, I think it should work well. A friend of mine had one. Thanks

    1. Keep in mind that the post was written before those pads even existed. Nowadays with optimizations on Retropie, Linux kernel and also with RPi3 this is a totally different situation.

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