Keyboard vs controller. Which is the best way to play on the PC?

    Updated: Mar 21

    The computer remains today as the most versatile gaming platform on the market. It has the greatest library of games stretched across all kinds of genres. And with such a great selection, come a variety of ways to play them.


    The most popular options are the classic Mouse and Keyboard or a comfortable Gamepad. But which one is better? Which is the best way to play?


    Let´s find out.!


    What are they?


    What are the Mouse and Keyboard?

    The keyboard is an input device that has all the letters of the alphabet and then some; you use it to interface with your computer. The mouse is an accessory that allows you to drag the cursor on your screen and click things on your monitor.


    If you are reading this, then already you know what they are.


    Most PC games are controlled by using the two in tandem. The exact controls differ with each game, but usually, the keyboard commands your character while the mouse moves the camera.


    What is a gamepad?

    A gamepad is a controller that you hold with both hands. They usually have four face buttons, two analog sticks, a directional pad, and triggers at the top. You use your thumbs to press buttons and move the analog stick.


    Originally, there weren´t any gamepads compatible with the PC. Now, there are entirely too many gamepads available for your computer, you can browse a list of them here if you so wish.


    The best-seller among them is the Xbox Wireless Controller, Microsoft´s flagship gamepad, but there are enough alternatives to suit any need and taste.

    For the purpose of this article, we are using actual gamepads as a point of comparison. Not gimmicky, retro, modded, or your smartphone using a special app. Just normal, out-of-the-mill controllers.


    Ok, so now we know what they are, but…


    What are their advantages and disadvantages?


    Advantages of the Mouse and Keyboard.


    The main benefit of this combo is the precision that the mouse offers. You can put your cursor anywhere on the screen in less than two seconds flat.


    This precision grants you a competitive advantage in shooters, as you can aim and shoot much faster than someone with an analog stick.

    The mouse allows you to aim with much more precision than the stick.

    Strategy games and MOBA´s practically require you to play with the mouse, as the analog stick is too slow for these genres.


    The keyboard also has its own benefit: The buttons. You can bind your actions to more than thirty keys, allowing much deeper customization of the controls than the gamepad can afford.


    Specialized gaming keyboards can go even further. They let you save macros on their internal memory. To put it simply, a macro lets you bind a series of actions to a single button (or combination of buttons).


    For example, imagine that you are playing a strategy game and pressing “W” selects your home base. If you set up a macro, pressing “Alt+W” will select your home base and begin training five workers, allowing you to save a bit more time and be more efficient.


    For some titles, using macros is considered cheating. This type of customization is attractive, however, among MMO´s players, as it allows them to easily chain their abilities together.


    Advantages of the Controller


    The main advantage of the gamepad is that is simpler than its alternative. When you look at key binding screens like this one:

    The key binding menu in Monster Hunter World.

    And compare it to this one:

    The difference between the two becomes evident. One is much simpler than the other.


    You will find a lot of people online that swear up and down that the keyboard feels just as good as a gamepad, but a lot of them have grown up playing games on the computer, handling it is second nature for these people.


    If you don´t have any experience with either type of controller, learning how to play with a gamepad is easier. You only have to memorize the location of four different buttons at once.


    Another advantage of the controller is the analog stick.

    To move with the keyboard (in most games), you use the WASD keys. Your character will go in the cardinal direction of the key you have pressed. Your movement is binary, you are either moving or not.


    With a controller, you move by tilting the analog stick. Depending on how far you push it, your character might walk, jog, or run, and you can turn into any angle to move diagonally.


    This allows for a greater degree of control when playing with a controller, which is especially notable when handling a virtual wheel. Driving games benefit greatly from the maneuverability offered by the analog stick.

    Games like Devil May Cry 5 control better with a gamepad.

    Another problem with the keyboard is that it struggles with Action games. These genres demand you to press a series of different buttons in quick succession to perform special moves and maneuvers.


    Because your hands are split between the mouse and the keyboard, half the keys are out of reach. With a gamepad, however, this isn't a problem, as your thumbs are always near the buttons they need to press and can slide into each other with ease.


    There is a final advantage that the gamepad has, although it´s not due to its own merits. PC gaming wasn’t very popular in Japan until recently.


    Why does this matter? Because Japanese computer games are rarely made with mouse and keyboard in mind. They tend to be ports of the console version, which only allow for gamepad play.


    This can lead to a very unoptimized control scheme in games like Ace Combat 7, Devil May Cry 5, or Monster Hunter World. To avoid dealing with this problem, playing with a controller is preferable.


    Verdict:


    Which one is better? The keyboard or the controller? They are both good options, but the answer depends on what kind of games you are interested in playing.


    In summary, the mouse and keyboard are good for:

    • Strategy Games

    • MOBAs

    • Shooters

    • MMOs

    While controllers excel at:

    • Racing Games

    • Action Games

    • Hack and Slash games

    If you don´t have a preferred type of game, then you should consider getting a controller. Learning how to handle a gamepad requires less practice overall. It is the ideal choice If you aren´t already used to handling any of the two alternatives.


    Now, I should point out that some people say that you can get carpal tunnel syndrome from playing with a mouse and keyboard, but not a gamepad. this isn't entirely true, and in any case, you can still get gamer´s thumb from the gamepad. Neither of these afflictions is particularly hard to prevent, however.


    If you remain unconvinced, there is another type of controller that is a hybrid between the two. These are keypads, and they combine the buttons of the keyboard, with the portability of a controller. The Orbweaver Chroma is an example of such a controller.


    Which one do you think is better? Let me know in the comments. If you are looking for a top-notch gaming keyboard and mouse, we recommend the K55 and the Scimitar. And for a gamepad? The Xbox Controller will work fine, but the Steam Controller is an excellent high-end alternative as well.

    Or you might want to browse the options yourself. In that case, we have a collection of available controllers for PC here, and for the mouse and keyboard as well. If you want to catch these controllers when they are on sale, join our mailing list and we´ll notify you!