Some PC gamers will question why keyboard and mouse alternatives for gaming exist at all. After all, while the keyboard and mouse were not designed for gaming, by gosh, do they go well with video games.
But not everyone loves using a keyboard and mouse for gaming. Personally, I’m fine with a keyboard and mouse, however I only use them when I have no other choice.
What Are the Best Keyboard and Mouse Alternatives?
The good news is, if you don’t like to use a keyboard and mouse then there are several keyboard and mouse alternatives for gaming available.
Here are the 5 best options.
Controller and Mouse – The Ultimate Keyboard and Mouse Alternative?
Hear me out. A gamepad in the left hand, a mouse in the right hand. The ability to run around with an analog stick is so much more comfortable than craning your hand over the WASD keys, and the mouse provides the accuracy needed to survive online.
That’s an instant win then, right? Well, kinda.
Yes, the mouse gives the ability to thrive with headshots or quickly clicking the right enemy when milliseconds can be the difference between winning or losing. The problem is, the left hand just doesn’t have enough access to the buttons needed to do all of the actions required in a game.
The average gamepad has the thumbstick, left shoulder button, left bumper button, plus the option to click in the thumbstick (usually to run). Yes, there is usually a D-pad, too, but try and switch from the thumbstick and click the D-Pad while holding the controller in one hand and you’ll quickly pretend that it doesn’t exist. Basically, that’s four control options.
There are a lot of buttons to allocate to those four options. Run, crouch, prone, jump, reload, grenade, spotting, health kit…the list goes on.
Some of those can be passed over to the mouse should it have enough buttons, but it’s not practical to pass them all over and this can reduce the accuracy of the mouse as you struggle to click every button needed during a tough gunfight.
Left-handed players may have it easier if they use their right hand to run around, but that’s a big if.
All the same, if you’re willing to compromise on the number of buttons available to you, a keyboard and mouse combo could be the ultimate compromise when considering keyboard and mouse alternatives for gaming.
If you’re happy to purchase a more attractive version of this setup, then you could try the HORI Tactical Assault Commander GRIP (TAC: GRIP) KeyPad and Gamepad Controller. We have reviewed the gamepad and controller combo here.
A Gamepad – The Obvious Alternative
Now we’re only a more obvious keyboard and mouse alternative: the good ol’ fashioned gamepad. It doesn’t matter whether you use an Xbox Series X, PS5, Xbox One, PS4 or random generic controller; some games are perfect for a gamepad. Driving games, adventure games, puzzle games. Games that do not require a high number of inputs or pinpoint accuracy benefit the most from a comfortable controller in hand.
The moment you switch over to a controller for first-person shooters, the problems begin, especially online. Compared to a keyboard and mouse, it just can’t compete in a competitive setting.
I personally purchased xPadder to play Planetside 2 with my Xbox controller. I wanted to be able to chill on the couch and wage war with a few hundred other people. The result was I could move more comfortably than before but got killed before I could even line up a body shot. The accuracy in the right thumbstick just cannot compete with a mouse – it’s fairly close, but still not close enough.
I’ve also used my Xbox controller to play Black Desert Online, a game with controls for hand-to-hand combat, controlling pets, using magic, talking, and about a million other things. The controller simply doesn’t have enough buttons to do everything you need to do, which means holding down a shoulder button to then provide secondary options for buttons. The result is an impossible-to-remember mess of twisted fingers. Other MMORPG’s offer similar experiences.
Still, I personally feel that gamepads are much more comfortable than a keyboard and mouse and, if the game is fine with a controller, it is a great alternative. My go-to options for controllers are:
- Xbox Series X controller for the premium option (or the Xbox Elite Series 2 if you want to go super premium)
- PlayStation fans will likely prefer the PlayStation 5 DualSense Wireless Controller (or the DualSense Edge Wireless Controller if you want to spend even more money)
- If you’re on a budget, then the EasySMX ESM-9101 Wireless Gamepad or the EasySMX ESM 9110 Wireless Controller are solid options. We have reviewed them both (here and here) and I’ve owned them for several years with no issues whatsoever.
Steam Controller – The Interesting Alternative
Valve did their best. The Steam Controller is an innovative take on classic traditional gamepads, offering trackpads for increased accuracy. There is a learning curve, which can be steep depending on how in love you are with your preferred controller, but the resulting control scheme is a level above any other controller.
But is it good enough for FPS or MMORPG titles? Some owners feel that they are, but I personally couldn’t get to grips with them. Accuracy is substantially increased over using a standard gamepad, but playing online against other human players with a mouse in their right hand will still result in another death 9/10 of the time.
The Steam controller has now been discontinued, but can be picked up pre-owned. When you see the price, you’ll wish that you’d snapped one up for five bucks when Valve was practically giving them away…
Joystick and Mouse
This option comes straight from the 90s, but if anything, offers even less capacity than the gamepad and mouse option listed at the beginning of this article.
The majority of joysticks made in the last 5 years are engineered for flight simulators and mech titles. They can be used in other genres, but they aren’t ideal.
There are smaller, more practical joysticks on the market, but few of these offer a quality of control plus the buttons to comfortably use in the games that require lots of inputs.
I’ve tried, but using a joystick and a mouse feels more complicated than holding a gamepad in my left hand. I’m just not a fan. For me, this just isn’t a particularly good choice when it comes to keyboard and mouse alternatives.
Gameboard and Mouse
Now we’re talking. A gameboard is a keyboard that has been condensed into the vital attributes needed for gaming. They feature fewer keys and are often more ergonomically designed for comfort and convenience.
I own a Logitech G13 Gameboard, and I like it. It has been discontinued but the Razer Tartarus V2 looks like the best modern equivalent. If you’re on a budget then you may want to check out the Redragon K585.
If you can’t stand using a keyboard then a gameboard may make things slightly more pleasant, but it’s not going to revolutionize the experience for you.
The Keyboard and Mouse Are King for a Reason
The reason the keyboard and mouse are so popular is they provide a balance between utility and accuracy. WASD or ESDF (or arrows if you’re particularly rock and roll) get the job done when it comes to movement, with enough keys for reloading, running, using health potions, and so on. The mouse provides unrivaled accuracy to click on your chosen enemy or deliver an instant headshot.
Other control schemes struggle to provide as many control options as possible with the left hand, with the accuracy of the mouse in the right hand.
My dream keyboard and mouse combo are the Logitech G502 X plus Lightspeed Wireless RGB gaming mouse. They’re well-made and gorgeous to look at.
So… What Is the Best Control Scheme?
The keyboard and mouse combo is the best control scheme for PC gaming; the keyboard and mouse were never designed for gaming, but have been adopted by PC game developers for so long that playing with anything else feels like a compromise at the best of times.
However, that doesn’t mean it is the best control scheme for every game.
Single players games can easily be played with a gamepad, due to the forgiving nature of AI enemies; they lack the killer instinct of human players.
Racing and adventure titles can also be played with a gamepad, due to their often reduced number of inputs, or because they do not require pinpoint accuracy.
I play GTA Online with my Xbox 360 controller and while I notice the difference in accuracy between those using a keyboard and mouse combination and those without, the game is engineered to assist gamepad players. It is feasible to be competitive in GTA Online with a controller, as it would for any other games which afford this assistance to those with a gamepad in hand.
Personally, I use the keyboard and mouse combo only when absolutely necessary. I don’t find it comfortable and I feel strained the next day having used them, even with ergonomic supports. For Planetside 2 and other online shooters, the keyboard and mouse control scheme isn’t just a recommendation, it’s a requirement if you don’t want to die every five seconds. But, in other games, if I can play with a gamepad and still get enjoyment, that’s my first and only option.
Have we missed any alternative control schemes? And, what is your chosen control scheme? Leave a comment, below!
Oh, and if you’re looking for ergonomic mouse options, we recommend viewing this guide from hotrate.com on ergonomic mice.