It doesn't matter if you own an Xbox, Switch, PlayStation or even a PC, the most common gaming accessory you will use is a controller.
Controllers are peripherals that you use to, well, to control your videogame. Each gaming console comes with its own default gamepad that does a well enough job on its own, but what if you want more?
Maybe you want more buttons and paddles to customize how you play? Maybe you want a controller with mods to give you an edge? Or maybe you just want to change the look of the gamepad because it is not pretty enough, and you are nostalgic for the classic look of the Gamecube Controller.
In either scenario, you can get what you want by buying a custom controller or by modifying one yourself.
However, they might not give you what you need, or what you want. What exactly should you be looking for in a custom controller? How do you know which one (or which part) is best for you?
Well, let´s break down what are the modifications you can make to your controller so that you can know what would better suit your playstyle and taste.
Starting with the basics:
Custom appearance: Faceplates, shells, and skins.
This is the simplest and the most common modification. It´s probably what you were looking for in the first place when you searched for custom controllers.
If not, keep reading, we´ll touch on adding paddles, buttons, and mods later on the article.
While modifying your controller´s appearance can be as simple as grabbing a box of crayons and going crazy on your poor gamepad, there are better and more stylish alternatives to alter its look.
The easier, and often cheaper, way to do so is by purchasing skins and decals. These are "stickers" with special designs that you put over your controller to change how it looks. They have the added bonus of acting as a sort of protective shell too.
To get them, simply search for them in the online store of your choice. You will get a ton of results for your controller of choice, some being simple color swaps while others have an artistic design. Here are some good examples:
But this is not the only way to alter the appearance of your gamepad.
A more permanent modification for your controllers is buying a replacement faceplate. Installing these is not as simple as sticking your decal on the gamepad, as you will have to swap parts of it. To put a new faceplate in place, you have to unscrew the current one and replace it.
As with before, you can get a wide variety of faceplates online, and most include a screwdriver of the appropriate size to be able to put them in place.
Because they are screwed in, these faceplates and shells can be made from wildly different materials. Some are softer to the touch, others are resistant to sweat, a few are transparent, etc.
However, you might prefer a truly custom paint job. Like, maybe you have a special photo that you would like to plaster on your gamepad to commemorate a special date or a special someone.
In that case, there are sites like Decalgirl that lets you design your controller´s skin before mailing it to you. You can even try your hand at your painting your own design and selling it to other people.
Now that you have a controller that looks exactly how you want, it´s time to keep customizing it:
Custom design: thumbsticks, d-pads, paddles, and grips.
It´s important to note that if you are a Nintendo Switch player, this is as far as you go. Unfortunately, the Pro Controler (and the Joy-con) does not support the kind customization that we are about to do.
This section is about adding or modifying parts of the gamepad itself to make it more comfortable or to add extra features.
The easiest and less complicated of these modifications is replacing the thumbsticks and the D-pads of both the Dualshock and Xbox Wireless Controller.
Why would you do this? Well, because both are pretty susceptible to wear and tear, and sometimes they even get the infamous drift (no, it's not a Joy-Con exclusive problem, and it even shares many of its same fixes across platforms).
Another reason is that some people argue that having longer sticks makes it easier to control the game by having a wider radius to turn. Others say the contrary. At the end of the day, is a matter of preference, I encourage you to try for yourself.
To replace them, buy a kit like the following:
And proceed to unscrew your faceplate so you can put the replacement in. It´s not particularly hard, and the kits usually come with a guide if you are unsure of how to proceed. If you still can´t picture how to do it, you can always check Ifixit for a step by step photoguide.
Moving on, the triggers are another part of the controller that often needs replacement. Some of the aforementioned kits come with their own set, but there are special alternatives as well.
Anti-slip triggers help people with sweaty hands or those who play for long hours ( they are compatible with the Xbox as well). Extra-long triggers (only for the PS4, sadly) make it easier for you to reach and press them.
Another part that you can replace is the backplate and/or grips. They are similar to the front plate, but for the back of your controller (duh).
Since no one is looking at them directly, replacement backplates tend to focus on bringing you comfort rather than looking pretty. Others are made with sweat-proof materials or might help you grip the gamepad if you have large hands. Some even have built-in paddles, which we´ll get to in a moment.
Installing some of these is as simple as putting them over your controller, but others do require you to screw in place.
Next, you can add paddles and shifts. You can think of this as additional buttons that you can slap onto your gamepad. They allow you to map extra actions or to use them instead of a face button.
There are a lot of people who find the paddles easier to reach and press than the triggers, for example. Some backplates come with extra paddles too.
If you don´t want to unscrew the whole back of your controller, you can buy the following packs that you connect to the back of your controller. They are easy to install, but they might be more prone to get wear and tear over time than a built-in paddle.
The extra paddles come with mods as well. The most popular being the rapid-fire mod, which turns all your semi-automatic weapons in your shooter into fully automatic ones.
If you want to install a mod without having to buy one of these packs, you can, but it requires acquiring a chip like this one and messing with the controller´s circuitry, so I would advise against it.
If you want to use a mod, I would recommend buying one of the previous packs or a custom controller that already comes with them installed.
A word of caution. While these mods are compatible with Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Fortnite, a lot of people consider them cheating, so use them at your own risk. You might get banned from some servers.
Where to find custom controllers
And that´s pretty much everything you can modify on your controller short of making your own.
These gamepads come with special grips, paddles, thumbsticks, all ready to go. They are pretty expensive, but with reason, as they are pretty the creme of the crop.
You can also order a personalized controller from ModdedZone and EvilControllers to skip building one yourself. These sites let you select what parts (and colores) you want, and they build the controller for you. You only have to choose, pay and wait for it to be delivered.
If you want to modify your controller yourself, then you can get pretty much all the parts you want off Amazon, or Gamingcobra as well, a specialized site for custom parts.
And that´s it. Hopefully, you were able to find the way to customize your controller to your liking, or a way to buy it online. If you want to look at more accessories for your controllers, we have some pages listing them all on our site. Check them out here, for the Switch, Playstation, and the Xbox.
In either case, don´t forget to join our mailing list so we can notify you when a special controller, the skins or the parts themselves go on sale.