Is it better to play games: gamepad or keyboard with mouse?

Forum disputes about which is better in games – a keyboard with a mouse or a gamepad, remind wars-discussions “Which console is cooler” and “PC versus consoles”. They have been boiling since the early 2000s. The design of the devices has changed since then, but insignificantly, therefore, the arguments of 20 years ago are still presented. In the new material, we will collect all the advantages and disadvantages of a gamepad and keyboard / mouse and compare them.

Pros and cons of a gamepad
Gamepads, aka joypads or “joysticks”, are usually associated with consoles, but in recent years they have become widespread on the PC. Let’s list their advantages.

The gamepad is compact and gives more freedom than a keyboard / mouse: you can sit in an armchair or on a sofa, and if you get tired of sitting, walk around the room without stopping playing.
Vibration. Vibration motors are built into the joypads. They, for example, accentuate explosions and hum when the car drifts. The tactile feedback is fine-tuned in DualSense, the PS5 controller. It adequately conveys the ride on different types of surfaces and the tension of the bow.

PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller for PS5 White 5 999 *
It is convenient to control the camera using a gamepad. As a rule, this function is hung on the left analog stick. Actually, sticks on joypads “grew” in their time in response to the transition of the industry from 2D to 3D.
Gamepad makers often experiment. For example, Sony has equipped the DualShock 4 for PS4 with a touchpad and speaker. The touchpad is often used to call up the map, while the speaker enhances the immersion – through it, individual sounds and voices are output.
Gamepads lend themselves to deep customization. True, this is true only for expensive models like the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2. It allows for quick replacement of the sticks and D-pad and adjustment of the trigger travel (important for racing and shooters). You can also attach so-called petals to the bottom of the controller, duplicating or replacing “letter” buttons.
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2

And now – to the cons.

Lack of precise control, for example, when aiming. The accuracy of the stick control depends on the size of the circle that it describes. The larger it is, the better, that is, a stick on a long leg is preferable to a stick on a short one (here a special nozzle on the stick will help you out).
Dead zones. Any gamepad has dead zones – these are the positions of the stick when the signal is not read from it.
Someone does not like to constantly keep the joypad suspended – hands get tired.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
















The sticks fail sooner or later – an unpleasant drift (drift) appears: you do not touch the stick, but the character is pulled to the side. The problem is related to the design of the sticks. They are based on potentiometers (variable resistors). There are rubbing parts in the potentiometers, as a result – after a while the drift comes out. Manufacturers could massively swap out the potentiometers for wear-free Hall sensors, but in practice only Sega has done this with the Saturn and Dreamcast consoles.
Pros and cons of keyboard / mouse
A combination of keyboard and mouse is an indispensable attribute of a gaming computer. They were also released for consoles, as an exception – for specific games. They did not supplant the gamepad as the main input device on consoles. Well, let’s move on to the pluses of the keyboard / mouse.

Aiming accuracy. The mouse allows you to point exactly where you want, with very high precision and without unnecessary gestures.
Camera turn speed. With a mouse, it is not limited and depends only on how quickly you move the manipulator across the mat.

A bunch of keys untie the hands of both developers and gamers. Developers implement extremely complex interfaces if required. Gamers customize controls for themselves.
You can bind a macro (sequence of commands) to any button so that you do not perform routine actions over and over again.
The scroll wheel makes life easier – for example, when you need to change weapons or zoom in / out the scenery (in isometric games like Disco Elysium).
There are also disadvantages – where without them.

The keyboard and mouse are inferior to the gamepad in portability. With them, you are “tied” to the table.
HyperX Alloy Core RGB

This “binding” implies that you sit in one position for a long time. You will have to fork out for a special gaming chair – especially if at work you mostly sit at the monitor.
To freely crawl with the mouse on the rug, you need a large table. Waste again.
Gamepad genres
You’ve probably heard from a gamer friend that gamepads are definitely not suitable for shooters. But what they are for.

Platformers (Yooka-Laylee, Super Meat Boy, Ori and the Will of the Wisps …). Controlling a character in 2D and 3D platformer is much more convenient from the joypad than from the keyboard. Here the sticks gain an unconditional victory over WASD and keyboard “arrows”.
Fighting games (Mortal Kombat 11, Tekken 7, Street Fighter 5 …) are also sharpened for gamepads. But if you dig deeper, it’s more likely for special fighting sticks that imitate the input panel of an arcade machine. On a fighting stick, you can press several buttons at once to perform a complex combination. For this you have to trick the gamepad, holding it in a special way. True, fighting sticks are expensive, so the best choice for a virtual fight is a joypad.

Arcade / beat ’em up (in 2D) and action / beat’ em up (in 3D): Streets of Rage 4, Yakuza 5, Castle Crashers and others. There are few commands in games of these genres, they fit well with the layout of the gamepad.
Shoot ’em up (for example, Cotton Reboot and Jets’n’Guns 2), like any arcade game in principle, is more friendly with a joypad than with a keyboard.
Slashers (take the Devil May Cry and God of War series) originated on consoles. Even after coming to the PC, they remain true to their “gamepad” roots.
God of war

Races: Need for Speed, Grid, The Crew series. Joypad is preferable, as its trigger allows you to set overclocking.
Sports games: NBA 2K series, FIFA, Madden NFL. The sticks are easier to control and switch between athletes than from the keyboard.
Keyboard / Mouse Genres
Sports, arcades, racing, action games without shooting – the domain of the gamepad. Let’s see where the keyboard and mouse are indispensable.

First and third person shooters (Far Cry, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Tomb Raider …). The mouse wins at the expense of aiming accuracy and reversal speed. The gamepad has a trigger and vibration, but in fact, the trigger has too long a stroke, and vibration is generally turned off in shooters so as not to interfere. On consoles, gamers have to additionally disable the dead zone and twist the stick sensitivity, otherwise the bullets fly into the milk. At the same time, vehicles are often introduced into shooters that are easier to control from a joypad. Do you remember the helicopters and planes from GTA, which burned a lot of unequal cells on the PC? And finally, about the hardships of shooting with a gamepad: one of the episodes of the comedy show Epic NPC Man is dedicated to this.
Strategies (Shadow Tactics, Age of Empires 4, Hearts of Iron 4 …). There are usually too many actions in them – the standard stock of buttons on the controller will not be enough.
MOBA and other esports disciplines (Dota 2, League of Legends). In such games, the accuracy of the click and the speed of movement are important – they are provided by the keyboard and mouse.

Adventure games (Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, Dreamfall Chapters), especially those where you need to dig in your inventory and rummage through the pixels of the screen, looking for an active point.
What is the bottom line
Some gaming media are promoting the theory that input devices determine the platform. They say that a keyboard / mouse is strictly suitable for a PC, a gamepad for consoles, a panel with sticks and buttons for arcade machines. In fact, there is no such clear division for a long time, for example, now the developers of PC games offer an alternative: if you want – use a mouse / keyboard, if you want – use a joypad.

The choice of device depends on the genre. For racing it is better to use a gamepad, for shooters – a keyboard / mouse. There are genres that are equally good friends with both, say, modern RPG representatives. At the same time, no one forbids you to get the hang of clicking enemies in shooters with a gamepad or cutting circles in racing on the keyboard.