MMOs on the Go: Which Mobile Controller is Best for MMORPGs on Your Phone?

Previously, I talked about the early days of playing MMOs on Valve’s new Steam deck. The portable PC definitely has some potential, which will be explored in more detail at a later date, but one area where millions of people play games, including MMOs, is already established ecosystems.

Yes, I mean our phones.

Mobile MMORPGs come in all forms, from auto-battlers that require little to no input from the player, to fully mobile versions of PC MMOs and RPGs. Although these games are optimized for touchscreens, making the controls fairly easy, what if you want to expand beyond that and have a more console-like experience in the palm of your hand?

With the advent of streaming services, like Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Xbox’s Cloud Game Streaming, and even Google Stadia, there are new ways to play full, fat MMORPGs in the palm of your hand.

The question is what is the best way?

We’ll take a look at a few options in this article, from the Google Stadia controller to bespoke controllers for phones like the Razer Kishi and Backbone One

Stadia Controller

While Google Stadia doesn’t look that great, the controller itself isn’t really terrible. Since launch, the controller has been wirelessly compatible with iOS and Android devices via the Stadia app, making functionality a bit easier.

However, playing Stadia is still hit or miss depending on your connection. I found play The Elder Scrolls Online initially a mostly pleasant experience, but only when connected to a strong WiFi network. If you’re traveling, you won’t be able to use the Stadia Controller’s wireless connectivity unless that controller has been separately connected to Wi-Fi first.

Stadia Controller

This makes it a bit of a hassle to connect to the phone unless you can make a wired connection, which isn’t an option on an iPhone thanks to the USB-C port that the controller requires.

The size of the controller also makes it a little cumbersome, although it’s still portable. However, I found it cumbersome to just pack when I went to my parents’ house for an afternoon or to a coffee shop to play outside of the house for a while.

It’s also a little cumbersome as the controller only really works in the Stadia app. I can not play Genshin Impact or black desert when streaming with GeForce Now, at least on iOS. It limits the options you have if you decide to only use the Stadia Controller as an input method.

Luckily, many controllers have Bluetooth.


Dual Sense controllers from Xbox or PlayStation

These options are relatively easily available to the vast majority of players out there. PlayStation’s Dual Sense (as well as the Dual Shock 4) easily syncs with Android and iOS devices, with the Xbox controllers also having Bluetooth functionality. Fortunately, these controllers are also simply reduced to a single app, but will work in games with native controller support, as well as when using any of the various streaming apps available to gamers.

Play IT on my Xbox Game Streaming app with the Xbox controller in a coffee shop was a pretty cool feeling, as was being able to check into my Steam library with GeForce Now using Dual Sense. Even Stadia supports these other controllers, unlocking the entire library for a better experience than touchscreen controls.

Unfortunately, these also share the same problem as the Stadia Controller – it’s not the most portable of devices. Sure, they’re small, and even my Xbox Elite 2 controller comes with a case. However, they can be cumbersome to carry around, and without a controller clip to hold the phone, it’s a bit difficult to use easily.

Razer Kishi

Razer solved this problem to a certain extent by creating a setup reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. Connecting your Kishi controller is pretty easy, although you’ll need to make sure you have the right one for your device. Since I use the iPhone, I actually had trouble finding the Kishi at my local electronics store. Mostly I found the Android version.

I was able to snag one on Amazon for $99 and within a day it was in my hands and ready to use. The Kishi doesn’t require any real setup: just insert your phone and launch the game you want to play.

The controller is laid out like an Xbox One controller with staggered thumbsticks (I actually hate inline sticks so that worked out beautifully). Each button is also easy to reach, so it feels pretty comfortable when gaming. The Razer Kishi expands to fit your phone too, making it easy to use whether you’re carrying an iPhone 12 Mini or an iPhone 13 etc.

Razer Kishi for iPhone

An iOS connected to the phone recognized the device immediately and it worked in every game I threw at it – assuming the game Even had controller support. like MMOs RuneScape didn’t fit well, but luckily streaming war frame Using Steam Link worked like a charm. Genshin Impact also works with this controller, although you have to re-enable controller support in the settings menu every time you launch the title.

What I don’t really like about the Kishi are the buttons themselves. The face buttons themselves are muddy, they don’t quite have the satisfying click I associate with many controllers. Also, the triggers don’t really feel great as they don’t move up and down smoothly with each pull.

There’s an iPhone app that will check if your firmware is up to date, although it lacks some of the features of its closest competitor, the Backbone. You can’t launch games, check compatibility, and more with the Razer Kishi app – it’s just a firmware updater.

I appreciate that there is a charge-through port on the bottom of the controller. However, I also wish there was a headphone jack, giving people an option other than Bluetooth headphones.

All in all, the Razer Kishi is a good option if you’re looking for a no-fuss mobile controller to play your favorite MMOs or RPGs on the go.

backbone one

The Backbone One is probably my favorite way to play on this list. It’s also a controller that turns your phone into a mini switch, with the gamepads on either side of the device. It has both a charging port and a headphone jack for those who want the option.

The device itself feels premium. For $99, the bundle includes an adapter for your phone (assuming you need one) and the device itself, as well as access to the Backbone app, which offers a ton of functionality with the device itself.

First off, the Backbone One has incredibly clicky face buttons, something I love about a small form factor like this. Unfortunately, the DPad leaves a lot to be desired as it is incredibly squishy and doesn’t feel precise at all. However, the shoulder and triggers are snappy and responsive, which is more impactful than a muddy DPad for many titles.

The Backbone is compatible with pretty much every app on the store that supports controllers, and the Backbone One app also offers compatibility info to make sure you know if it works natively or not when you download it. It also works beautifully with every major streaming app, from Stadia to Amazon’s Luna. Play Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia with the Backbone felt amazing, every shot of my pistol felt snappy and accurate. Running around black desert Streaming to Xbox Cloud also felt very natural, the controller fitting perfectly in my hand.

Backbone One for iPhone

But with the Backbone app, the device really comes into its own. The Backbone app offers a full library of games to explore for all supported apps (whether the app is installed or not) and offers plenty of options for those looking for them. In addition, every Backbone One comes with an annual subscription to the premium service Backbone+. This service offers features like the ability to record, edit and share gameplay using the Backbone itself, the ability to party with friends who also have the Backbone One controller, and more.

Being able to quickly take a screenshot with the backbone also helps. Instead of having to grab the sides of the phone and take screenshots as usual, there’s a dedicated button on the controller. This can also record gameplay for later editing and sharing. In addition, the backbone can connect to Twitch, so you can easily stream your gameplay to the service should you want to.

At the same price as the Razer Kishi, it feels like a better deal (although I’ve seen the Kishi in stores for less than the listed RRP, so your mileage there may vary). The device itself feels incredible, and the range of features makes it much more than a simple game controller for your phone. If you like it, you can also connect it to an iPad or even your PC and use it there as a regular controller, provided you have a USB-C equipped cable.

Any of these options will work as well. It really just depends on your use case. Just play Stadia? This controller is fine, especially now that it’s wireless. Regular Xbox and PlayStation controllers are always great, as are aftermarket Bluetooth controllers. Personally, however, I lean towards either the Kishi or the Backbone One, and of the two, the latter is my top choice at the moment. Whichever way you go, it’s never been easier to play full MMOs and RPGs on your phone without having to grapple with clunky touchscreen controls.

Missing from this list are two of the most obvious: the newly released Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch, although the latter is a bit sparse when it comes to MMORPGs. However, we will examine these in more detail next week in a separate article. MMOs on the Go: Which Mobile Controller is Best for MMORPGs on Your Phone?

Fry Electronics Team

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