Ever since the release of the Nintendo Wii back in 2006, motion controls have become a mainstay of mainstream gaming. While Nintendo has kept the torch alive with their gyros on all their subsequent consoles, their competitor Sony wasn´t far behind and has also included a gyro in their controllers ever since last-gen.
As a result, both companies have a fair number of titles that use motion controllers, but what about PC? Can you use motion controls to play games on your computer? Well, yes, you can, but first, you need one of the...
PC controllers with motion controls
The first step to playing with motion controls on your computer is getting a controller with an internal gyro, which it´ll need to track your motions. Now, your keyboard and mouse won´t do because even if you buy one of the few M&K that come with a built-in gyro, they aren´t made for gaming in mind so much as accessibility.
So, where can you find yourself a controller with motion controls? The easier alternative is usually to grab one from your console of choice. Both the Nintendo´s Pro Controller and Sony´s Dualshock (and the most recent Dualsense) have gyros and will do the trick.
If you have either of those, you can try connecting them to your computer via Bluetooth or with a USB-C cable like this one. We already made a detailed step-by-step infographic for the Pro Controller and the Dualshock.
If you don´t have either a Playstation or a Nintendo Switch, what other gamepads can work? Well, pretty much any third-party controller that comes with gyro control. The most premium alternative would be the Steam Controller, but honestly, any third-party Pro Controller that advertises motion controls should work. And they are usually cheaper.
But what if you don´t want a traditional gamepad? What if you want to play with your Joy-cons? Maybe you have an emulator that needs those specialty controllers, can you still use them on PC?
Can you connect Joy-Cons to a PC?
Yes, but it´s a bit more complicated, as we explained in the past. You can´t plug a Joy-con into your computer with any cable, so the only way to connect them is via Bluetooth. If your computer doesn´t have Bluetooth, you will need an adapter like this one.
With the Bluetooth-devices menu open on your PC, hold the button on the side of your joy-con to enter Bluetooth pairing mode. The joy-con will appear on the menu, and then you´ll be able to select them for your PC.
But even after pairing the devices, you will not be able to play with them. Why? Because you will need a driver for the Joy-Con. The two best alternatives I´ve found are BetterJoy and the aptly named Joy-con driver. Each has slightly different setups, so be sure to read their descriptions for a how-to guide in installing them.
Both these drivers are made with emulators in mind, but with some finagling, you can get them to work on other games, so long as they support gyro controls. Which games?
What games can you play on PC with gyro controls?
One of the problems with motion controls, especially on consoles, is that most games have to be compatible with them to use the gyro. This is why there are so few PS4 games with motion control compatibility, although the Switch has a much larger offer.
On PC, simply plugging in a controller with a gyro will not necessarily make it have motion controls out the gate. So, at a glance, it might seem like it isn´t much you can do with your gamepad outside of emulating Nintendo games.
That´s where Steam comes in with Steam Input Gamepad Emulation. You can take advantage of Steam Input to play any game on Steam with motion controls even if it doesn´t have native support.
If a game it´s not on Steam, you can create a workaround by choosing to add a "Non-steam title" in your Steam library and then launching the said game from Steam. That way, you could use motion controls on pretty much every game out there.
How to enable motion controls on your computer
To play with motion controls, connect the controller you want to use to your computer and make sure it´s paired up. To enable motion controls for the game in which you want to use them, select it from your library and then open the Controller Configuration from the Steam overlay. You can also open the "controller" tab in the Steam settings and select the settings of the controller you want to use.
(A step-by-step tutorial on how to use Steam Input can be found here)
You should be able to find a symbol that looks like a gyro somewhere beneath/on the controller. Click it to enable motion controls and then you can customize how the motion controls work. It´s recommended you set the style of input to "mouse" to try and mimic mouse movements with your gyro and then if you want you can keep the gyro on at all times, or when you hold on to a button.
There are a few other alternatives if you don´t want or can´t use Steam. If you use a Dualshock controller, you can try the DS4Windows driver. While DS4 was made as a Dualshock Driver for Windows, it does let you enable gyro from the profile settings.
For other controllers, you can try using JoyShockMapper.JSM is a program made specifically for adding motion controls to games. The disadvantage is that you need to configure the settings for each game, but luckily there is a wiki about it here with all the configurations ready to be copy-pasted.
Your last alternative is to use Rewasd, a gamepad mapper. The drawback is that it´s not free, but it does come with a nifty guide on how to use motion controls with your controllers.
And that´s it. In summary, you can use any controller with a gyro to play with motion controls on a PC. The most common of these controllers are the Nintendo Switch´s Pro Controller, and Sonýs Dualshock and Dualsense.
Thanks to Steam Input, you can use these controllers to play pretty much any game you want with motion controls, usually by mapping the gyro to the mouse movement. If you can´t use Steam, there are alternatives like JoyShockMapper and Rewasd to enable motion controls on pretty much every other game.
Want to go the extra mile? You can also learn to add head-tracking to your PC, learn how here. You can also connect the Kinect, which also serves as a webcam with motion tracking capabilities.