Back paddles are an increasingly common feature in game controllers, but they’re not on the controller that comes with the Xbox or PlayStation. So what’s the problem with paddles and is it worth it to buy a new controller to get access to them?
Why bother with rear paddles?
The rear paddles (unsurprisingly) are on the back of the controller and are operated with fingers you wouldn’t normally use when holding a game controller. Instead of just squeezing the controller, you can use your index or little finger to click on the paddle, which can be mapped to another button on the controller.
These paddles are usually easy to remap on the fly, which means you can quickly change the input they correspond to depending on the game you’re playing. Some controllers have profiles that allow you to save settings. You may find that controllers have one paddle on each side, while others have more than one.
These paddles are perfect for matching face buttons in first-person shooters, but come with a lot of useful features. One good example is matching a jump or crouch (slide) in a fast-paced game like Apex Legends. This means you can keep your thumb on each analog stick while still accessing the jump, melee, reload, or crouch buttons that would normally require you to move your right thumb.
This can give you an edge in competitive multiplayer, especially shooters that feature sliding, jumping, and wall running. Paddles may also be useful in other games for convenience or accessibility reasons. There are no hard and fast rules to follow, so these inputs are easy to reprogram.
In PC games, paddles can be used as additional inputs to increase the total number of available buttons, but this varies by controller.
Some controllers with rear paddles
You can find paddle controllers on almost every major platform. Perhaps the best-known example is the Xbox Elite Series 2 , which works with Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles, as well as Windows, macOS, and Linux computers.
Sony has released a DualShock 4 back button controller app for the PlayStation 4, but no such app exists for the PlayStation 5. Instead, PS5 owners will need to use a controller like the SCUF Reflex Pro or a similar third-party controller if they want to use the paddles.
We’ve talked about how the Hori Split Pro makes playing a handheld Nintendo Switch more convenient, but the Joy-Con replacement (which lacks vibration, gyroscope, and wireless functionality) also has two user-programmable buttons on the back that work the same way like oars. There’s also PowerA Fusion Pro for those who need something to play with in their dock.
Nice but not essential
Paddles are a nice addition, but not needed for most games. They shine in competitive multiplayer games, especially cross-play games like Halo: Infinite where you can play against PC users with a mouse and keyboard.
If you mainly play single-player games or don’t care about thumb position, you probably don’t need to worry about paddles.
Looking for a controller that’s perfect for retro gaming on your PC or Raspberry Pi? Check out our selection of the best retro controllers.