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5 Best Retro Gaming Controllers That Work on Linux (2021 Buying Guide)

If you love playing retro video games on your Linux PC, stop using that Xbox controller! Modern controllers are great, but they make you forget how older games were meant to be played. Instead, check out some of the controllers on our list of retro gaming controllers that work on Linux!

Something to keep in mind

All of the retro controllers we cover on this list support Linux officially. However, just because a gaming controller has support for Linux, that does not mean that the controls will be automatically detected in emulators when you plug them in. Keep in mind that you may need to go through emulation settings to manually configure a controller before you can enjoy your games!

If you don’t like programming controllers on Linux, check out Retroarch. They do a good job of automatically detecting gamepads. For more information on Retroarch and how to get it working on Linux, click here.

Best Retro Gaming Controllers for Linux

Without further ado, these are the five best controllers with a retro vibe that will work great on Linux.

1. 2.4 GHz Wireless USB SNES Controller

Are you a lover of Super Nintendo? Do you emulate SNES games on Linux with programs like Retroarch or Snes9x? If so, the 2.4 GHz Wireless USB SNES Controller is perfect for you. It’s a wireless SNES controller that runs on Linux.

The controller is powered by a 2.4 GHz wireless dongle, so there’s no need to fiddle with Bluetooth pairing. Besides its impressive wireless features, you’ll be happy to know that the 2.4 GHz Wireless USB SNES Controller has a built-in battery that is rechargeable, and lasts up to 3 years.

The 2.4 GHz Wireless USB SNES Controller comes in a 2 pack. Each controller has a dedicated USB dongle, and in our testing, we confirmed that it works excellent on Recalbox OS, Lakka, RetroPie, and traditional desktop Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu, Debian, and others

Pros

  • Comes in a 2 pack. No need to purchase multiples for multiplayer support.
  • Controllers are wireless, and each comes with their own dedicated connection dongles so no need to fuss with Bluetooth.

Cons

  • Controllers are rechargeable, but the battery is not replaceable.

2. 2-Pack USB Controller for NES Games

The original NES changed the world with innovative video games that nobody has ever seen before. These days, we can emulate those video games on Linux with ease. The trouble is, most people emulating these NES games use modern controllers, such as an Xbox One controller or a PS4 controller.

If you’re a diehard NES gamer on Linux and you’re trying to find the perfect controller to use, check out the 2 Pack USB Controller for NES Games. They’re excellent quality NES controllers for Linux, Mac, and Windows. They’re USB-powered, and look identical to the classic Nintendo ones.

While using the 2 Pack USB Controller for NES Games on Linux, we found that they worked excellent on Linux retro gaming OSes such as Recalbox, RetroPie, and Lakka. It also works great with no issues on traditional desktop Linux in apps like Retroarch.

Pros

  • Looks identical to the old official NES controllers.
  • Comes in a 2 pack so no need to purchase multiples for multiplayer.

Cons

  • The cable is only 4 ft long, which might not be enough slack for some gamers.

3. Innex Retro Link Classic Console USB Controllers Atari

Before Nintendo, there was Atari, and Atari was king of gaming. Looking back at the early 70s and mid-80s, they were releasing dozens of excellent video games. As time has passed, Atari is little more than a shell of what it once was. All of the classic Atari games can still be emulated on modern operating systems like Linux.

If you love Atari video games and you play them on your Linux PC, stop trying to play them with your Xbox controller! Instead, check out the Innex Retro Link Classic. It’s a modern Atari-like joystick. It comes with a quality joystick and a programmable button that will work with all of your Atari gaming needs. Best of all, it works in modern Atari emulators on both Raspberry Pi retro gaming OSes like RetroPie and traditional desktop Linux OSes like Debian.

While using the Innex Retro Link Classic, we found that it worked pretty well on many Linux retro gaming setups. That said, the official description of the device does not describe Linux, so it depends on the OS.

Pros

  • Looks identical to the old Atari joysticks.
  • Has a lengthy USB cable of 6 ft ensures comfort while gaming.

Cons

  • Joystick only has one functional button meaning it may not work in Atari emulators that support joysticks with multiple buttons.

4. Classic N64 USB Controller

The Nintendo 64 was one of the first gaming consoles to use 3D graphics, and the games on it were instant classics. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 (to name a few) are still talked about and played today! The trouble is, Nintendo 64 has long been retired. Those that want to enjoy the classic N64 games must emulate them.

With emulation, none is more tricky than the N64. The reason? The controller is so unique, that it just doesn’t feel right on anything other than a classic 64 controller.  If you’re trying to enjoy N64 games on your Linux PC, put down that Xbox or PlayStation controller and trade it for the Classic N64 USB Controller!

The Classic N64 USB Controller is identical to the Nintendo 64 controller of old, with one key difference. Rather than having the proprietary Nintendo hookup on the end of the cord, it has a USB input. While using the Classic N64 USB Controller, we found that it runs great on a myriad of Linux operating systems, like Ubuntu, Debian, Arch Linux, and even Raspberry Pi retro OSes like Recalbox, Lakka, and RetroPie.

Pros

  • Identical button layout and craftsmanship to the original Nintendo 64 controllers.
  • The cable is 6 Ft long, a nice length for gaming.

Cons

  • The expansion bay on the back of the controller is for looks only and does not support Nintendo 64 expansions.

5. Retro-Bit Official Sega Genesis USB Controller

If you grew up playing Sega as a kid, you’ll be happy to know that you can relive the experience on your Linux PC with the help of the Retro-Bit Official Sega Genesis USB Controller. It’s an identical USB replica of the Sega Genesis controllers of old, complete with all of the buttons.

The Retro-Bit Official Sega Genesis USB Controller is an excellent device to pick up if you’re missing Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, or other classics. Best of all, the Retro-Bit Official Sega Genesis USB Controller is plug-n-play, so it’ll work on any Linux device you own with zero issues.

In our testing with the Retro-Bit Official Sega Genesis USB Controller, we found that it worked pretty well on Raspberry Pi retro operating systems (Lakka, Recalbox, RetroPie), and Ubuntu, Debian, and other Linux desktops.

Pros

  • 10 Ft cable for maximum length and cord slack while playing.
  • Is compatible with Linux as well as the Nintendo Switch.
  • Has left/right shoulder buttons for extra configuration.

Cons

  • Only comes with one controller, so you may have to purchase 2 for multiplayer games.

Conclusion

In this list, we discussed some of the very best retro controllers that will work on Linux. But there are a whole lot of other retro controllers on the market today compatible with Linux.

So, what is your favorite retro controller to use on Linux? Let us know in the comments below!

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