Rear paddles are an increasingly common inclusion on game controllers, but they’re not included on the controller that comes with your Xbox or PlayStation. So what’s the big deal with paddles, and is it worth investing in a new controller to get access to them?
Why Bother with Rear Paddles?
Rear paddles are (unsurprisingly) found on the back of the controller and operated with the fingers you usually don’t use while holding a game controller. Instead of simply gripping the controller, you can use your index or pinky finger to hit a paddle, which can be mapped to a different button on the controller.
These paddles are usually easy to remap on the fly, which means you can quickly change which input they correspond to depending on the game you are playing. Some controllers have profiles that allow you to save your setup. You might find controllers have a single paddle on each side, while others have more than one.
These paddles are ideal for mapping face buttons in first-person shooters but have all sorts of utility. One good example is to map jump or duck (slide) in a fast-paced title like Apex Legends. This means you can keep a thumb on each analog stick while still being able to access buttons for jump, melee, reload, or duck that would normally require you to move your right thumb.
This can give you the edge in competitive multiplayer, particularly in twitch shooters that feature sliding, jumping, and wall-running. Paddles can also be useful in other games for comfort or accessibility reasons. There are no hard rules to follow which is why these inputs are easily reprogrammable.
In PC games, paddles may be used as additional inputs to increase the total number of buttons available but this is dependent on the controller.
Some Controllers with Rear Paddles
You can find controllers that feature paddles on just about every major platform. Perhaps the most famous example is the Xbox Elite Series 2, which works with both Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles and also computers running Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller
The ultimate Xbox controller features adjustable tension thumbsticks, additional rear paddles, customizable button mapping, replaceable components, and 40 hours of (rechargeable) battery life.
Sony produced the DualShock 4 Back Button Controller Attachment for PlayStation 4, but no such attachment exists for PlayStation 5. PS5 owners instead will need to use a controller like the SCUF Reflex Pro or similar third-party controller if they want to make use of paddles.
We’ve talked about how the Hori Split Pro makes portable Nintendo Switch play more comfortable, but the Joy-Con replacement (that lacks rumble, gyro, and wireless features) also has two user-programmable buttons on the back that work a lot like paddles. There’s also the PowerA Fusion Pro for those who want something for docked play.
HORI Split Pad Pro
Nice But Not Essential
Paddles are a nice add-on, but they’re not essential for most games. They shine in competitive multiplayer titles, especially cross-play titles like Halo: Infinite where you might be playing against PC users with a mouse and keyboard.
If you mostly play single-player titles or don’t find yourself inconvenienced by your thumb position then 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 picks for best retro controllers.