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How to use an external controller on the Steam platform

How to use an external controller on the Steam platform

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It might not be obvious, but the Steam Deck does work with external controllers, and you can connect multiple controllers to it via Bluetooth and USB. Even better, Valve’s Steam Input software makes pairing and configuring your weapon of choice a breeze, meaning you don’t need to spend too much time on a portable gaming PC to get up and running.

If you like to game on the go, the Steam Deck’s built-in controls are a boon, but there are plenty of reasons to pair a portable power bank with the best PC controller. If you’re out and about, you’ll have a hard time using an external gamepad on your device – unless you’re Goro in Mortal Kombat – but if you prefer to hang out on the couch or at your gaming table.

Using an external controller on the Steam Deck is no small feat for its excellent buttons, sticks, and trackpad, as they’re arguably better than any other handheld solution. Instead, an alternative to the Connected Deck helps with versatility, allowing you to use it as a home console or a hybrid device like the Nintendo Switch.

here is How to use an external controller on the Steam platform:

How to use an Xbox controller on Steam

Bluetooth devices can be fiddly, but SteamOS makes the whole thing a breeze. If you’ve ever connected an Xbox controller wirelessly to Windows 11 without an Xbox wireless adapter, the following steps should be somewhat familiar:

  • On your Steam platform, navigate to Settings > Bluetooth.
  • Turn on Bluetooth, then press and hold the controller’s pairing button.
  • Wait for your controller to appear on the screen, then use the A button to select it for pairing.

It’s worth noting that earlier versions of the original Xbox One controllers aren’t compatible via Bluetooth, so keep that in mind before picking one up to use with the Steam platform. You also shouldn’t spend too much time configuring the pad layout, as Valve’s approach is pretty much the same.

How to use a PlayStation controller on Steam

If you’re a PlayStation fan, chances are you already own a Dualshock 4 or Dualsense, and Sony’s pads are also compatible with the Steam platform. Here’s how to connect your PS4 or PS5 controller to your Valve handheld:

  • Head to Settings > Bluetooth and turn it on
  • Press and hold the PlayStation logo and share button until the LEDs flash
  • Highlight “Wireless Controller” on the Steam Deck screen and press A to pair

Like the Xbox controller, you don’t have to spend too much time configuring the layout of the PlayStation controller. That said, you’ll get warnings about in-game buttons in most games because they don’t match any of the built-in UI elements. In other words, you’ll want to ignore Sony’s iconic symbols and take a more positional approach to the press.

How to use the Nintendo Switch Pro controller on Steam

The Nintendo Switch Pro controller helps the best platform games shine, so it’s easy to see why you should pair it with a Steam deck. While older Nintendo peripherals don’t perform well on gaming PCs, you can connect your Pro controller to SteamOS in three easy steps:

  • Jump into Settings > Bluetooth and make sure it’s turned on.
  • Press and hold the pairing button on the top of the Pro controller.
  • Highlight “Pro controller” on the screen and press A.

Your Nintendo Switch Pro controller should now be linked to your Steam deck. Just like the handheld companion to Xbox and PlayStation, you don’t need to configure any buttons. Since most games use Microsoft’s keyboard layout, you must ignore the controller’s face button labels, otherwise the experience should be seamless.

It’s also possible to arm your Steam deck with the Nintendo Switch JoyCon, but they won’t link in pairs themselves. To do this, you must use a specific Arch Linux tool to sync the JoyCons and use them as a single controller.

How to use the Steam Controller on the Steam platform

The Steam Deck Controller might be considered a hardware failure, but its trackpad makes it the perfect gaming mouse replacement – especially if you want to relax on the couch and play some Age of Empires 4. Before you start pairing the two Valve devices, you’ll need to make sure the gamepad’s firmware is up to date, as this will ensure it can connect via Bluetooth. Once this is fixed, you should be able to introduce the handheld to its ancestors:

  • Go to Settings > Bluetooth and make sure it’s turned on.
  • Press and hold the Y and center logo buttons on the Steam Controller.
  • Select the controller on the screen and tap A to pair.

The Steam Controller uses almost the same button and trackpad layout as the Deck, which means it will give your thumb a handheld-like experience. Note that it only includes a joystick, which might make its layout feel a little quirky.

How to use a wired USB controller on the Steam platform

The Steam Deck is wireless most of the time, but you can still connect it to a wired USB controller. If you plan to plug directly into your handheld, you’ll need a USB C cable or a USB A-capable adapter.

The official Steam deck dock hasn’t arrived yet, but it should make using a wired gamepad a little easier. Not only will it offer more USB ports, but it should feel less awkward and a little more secure connecting to a docking station rather than a portable.

Which controllers are compatible with the Steam platform?

SteamOS supports a variety of controllers, and you can configure most options to maximize compatibility. Here is a list of gamepads that are officially compatible with Steam Deck:

  • steam controller
  • Playstation Dualshock 4
  • PlayStation 5 Dual Sense
  • Xbox 360 controller
  • Xbox One controller
  • Xbox Series X/S Controller
  • Any generic XInput controller
  • Any DirectInput gamepad

Valve says other input devices will work, even if they’re not officially supported by SteamOS. So it might be worth trying as you can use your favorite pad with a portable power source.

Pocket Companion: Check out the best PC controllers

Can you connect multiple controllers to the Steam platform?

Just like a PC, you can connect multiple controllers to the Steam platform for multiplayer games. The number of simultaneous Bluetooth connections you can make can vary, but you should be able to wirelessly connect four or mode keys to the deck comfortably. You can also connect a wired option, but you’ll need to use a hub or docking station as the device only has a single USB C port.

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Kirsten Bennett
Kirsten is a passionate writer who loves games, and one day he decided to combine the two. She is now professionally writing niche articles about Consoles and hardware .