Can A Controller Compete With Mouse and Keyboard in Gaming? (2023)

In over 35 years of gaming, we have played with all input devices from the very beginning. Even with the Atari 2600, there were controllers, but also a mouse and keyboard. Depending on the game, we always tried to use an adequate device. 

Today, there are many games, for example, Call of Duty or PUBG, which run on console and PC, often also offer cross-play and thus raise the question: 

Should I rather play with a controller or with a mouse and keyboard? 

With what do I have an advantage and with what a disadvantage, or are these input options equally strong in the end?

Let’s first clarify the central question.

Note: This article was written in English. Translations into other languages may not provide the same linguistic quality. We apologize for grammatical and semantic errors.

Picture of a Gaming Controller in Hands
Xbox controllers are very popular with gamers

Can A Controller Compete With Mouse & Keyboard?

The answer to this question depends mainly upon the nature of the game in question. 

However, as all modern-day games require quick reaction times from players, the use of an effective gaming control is vital for exceptional gameplay performance.

In general, a controller can’t compete with a mouse and keyboard setup mainly because the level of accuracy that a gaming mouse offers is far beyond what the gaming controllers can reach.

Why Do PC Players Use Controllers?

Typically, controllers on the PC are only used for very specific game genres or games. These include, for example, action games that require quick combinations or sports games like the FIFA series.

Rocket League is also an excellent example of a game played on a PC, but with controls designed for a game controller. Long-lasting movements, such as controlling in flight, paired with fast button combinations, are made for a controller.

In contrast, flight movements with slow key combinations are better implemented by other control devices such as a joystick or a steering wheel than with a controller.

In the field of FPS games, there are very rare games that are also meant for controllers. These are mainly titles that are also available on consoles for casual gaming. Examples are Halo or Call of Duty.

What Percent of PC Gamers Use a Controller?

Referring to a report from Steam, 10% of all gamers use a controller every day when playing via the Steam service. Looking at individual genres, usage ranges from 1% for real-time strategy games to 90% for racing and skating games.

We’re interested in first-person shooters, of course. Steam shows that about 7-8% of gamers prefer to use a controller.

What Controllers Do PC Gamers Use?

Referring to a report from Steam, here are the top 5 controllers used by PC gamers via the Steam service:

Why Do FPS Games Seem More Difficult On Gaming Consoles?

You might have noticed that playing first-person shooter games on consoles like PlayStation and Xbox are much more challenging than playing the same titles on the PC. 

This is only because the mouse offers an experience that is not only quick but also much more efficient than a gaming controller.

In many FPS games, a few pixels decide whether the opponent’s head or another body zone is hit. The zone, in turn, determines how much damage the opponent suffers. And in the last instance, the damage decides whether a duel ends positively or negatively. A mouse is designed for pixel-precise movements.

FPS games are played to about 93% with mouse and keyboard

Why Is A Combo Of Mouse & Keyboard Better?

Here are a few other reasons why a mouse and keyboard combination is generally considered better for gaming purposes.

Mouse Is The Quickest Way To Move Around

While racing games don’t require much navigation, the same is not true about strategy and first-person shooter games.

In such titles, the players need to quickly select the right tools and weapons, making the combo of mouse and keyboard the best option.

Keyboard Allows A Wide Array Of Shortcuts

The large number of shortcuts that various games need for controlling the in-game activities also make the combo of mouse and keyboard far superior to a gaming controller.

Gaming Controllers Excel In Some Situations

It is pertinent to mention that the gaming controllers are better for PC gamers that want to mirror their screens on large TVs and enjoy the gaming experience by sitting far away.

Mostly such players enjoy their games while slouching on a couch or sitting on a bed. Under such conditions, using a mouse is difficult as the mouse requires a firm base for optimal working.

Gaming controllers, however, don’t have any such requirements and can operate easily regardless of where you sit.

So, in short, while a gaming controller can’t compete with a mouse & keyboard combo in terms of performance, it excels at ease of usage and offers a higher level of comfort to players by not bounding them to their desks.

In some FPS games, casual gamers use controllers

Controller Or Mouse & Keyboard For FPS Games

As FPS games require a high level of accuracy and players have significantly less reaction time, under such circumstances, a controller can’t compete with a mouse and keyboard setup.

While gaming controllers are also quick, they can’t match the pace that a gaming mouse offers. Such gaming components are exclusively designed for high precision.

Specific Design For Optimal Performance

Further to that, the unique shape of a gaming mouse allows players to enjoy first-person shooter games for a long duration without tiring their hands.

Effective Usage Of Mouse

In FPS games, players need to click hundreds of times in a single session while maneuvering through the gameplay dynamics in the quest to find enemies and eliminate them in no time. 

The effective usage of the mouse with one hand and the keyboard with the other ensure that players can hover around the map while keeping an eye on the situation.

Keyboard Shortcut Keys Are Handy & Effective

An additional benefit of using the mouse and keyboard in FPS games is that players can easily toggle between the primary and secondary weapons with ease using the keyboard shortcuts.

Customizable Hotkeys

These shortcuts can be customized and associated with a larger number of available slots than gaming controllers. This means that the functions that players often perform can all be set to shortcuts.

So, in case you are running low on ammunition in a situation requiring an emergent response, you can easily use another weapon, and the ease of switching can mean the difference between life and death in such situations.

Do FPS Pro Gamers Use Mouse Or Controller?

Pro-level gamers are much different from ordinary players. Such gamers have to be the best in their respective fields to stand against the cut-throat competition.

Equipment Matters For Pro Gamers

Professional players have a millisecond response time, so they can’t rely on a device that isn’t accurate and responsive. 

This is the reason why such players go for industry-leading equipment. This type of equipment makes sure that no opportunity gets missed. 

In addition to this, it also ensures that players can remain well informed about their surroundings.

Almost All-Pro Gamers Use Mouse & Keyboard

The combination of mouse and keyboard is far superior to the gaming controllers, and this is evident from the fact that almost all professional PC gamers use this combination.

No matter which gaming competition you attend, you will observe that most of the pro gamers choose the mouse and keyboard for their first-person shooter games. 

But why? It can’t be a random choice. Well, the answer lies simply in the accuracy and quick response times of this equipment.

There are only exceptions where either the game is much more playable with controllers (e.g., sports games like FIFA) or there are leagues that don’t support cross-play, for example, Call of Duty.

Keeping an Eye on Everything Is Easy

In FPS games, pro players constantly move around to have a 360-degree view of their surroundings. By doing so, they make sure to keep a check on all sides. This is because, in such games, the enemy can attack from anywhere. 

They could be waiting on roofs, ready to shoot players down, or they might have planted mines on the ground, causing the players to be blown away as soon as they step on them.

As a result, players must respond to such attacks with a highly responsive mindset. A gaming mouse’s quick navigation allows players to check out their surroundings in seconds and on a regular basis.

Although a controller also offers this option, the speed with which players can operate is much slower than a mouse and keyboard combo.

Gaming Controllers Offer Less Command During Gameplay

Gaming controllers also have keys, but they are much less numerous than the keys on a keyboard. Unfortunately, this also means that gamers have fewer options to customize the key combinations.

Thus the player’s command over the gameplay is far lesser than that offered by a keyboard. 

These are some reasons why pro gamers mostly use a combo of mouse and keyboard over gaming controllers to ace their gameplay.

Do Pro Players Use Aim Assist With Controllers?

The answer varies depending on the player. While most players adhere to the principle of utilizing anything that can improve the gaming experience, some believe that using aim assist interferes with the gameplay and thus compromises the experience.

Why Do Pro Players Use Aim Assist?

Players who use aim assist believe that it simply makes it easier to target enemies in all first-person shooter games.

However, it is not an exaggeration to say that in some cases, it takes away the true spirit of the game by making it extremely easy with little fun left.

Using It Or Not Depends Upon The Tournament Rules

Furthermore, it also depends upon the nature of the competition and the rules. For example, in some circumstances, the tournaments in which pro players are participating don’t even allow to make use of aim assist.

Major Disadvantage Of Aim Assist

A major disadvantage of using the aim assist feature is that it takes away the natural gameplay and sort of adds an added layer of cheat code by making the gameplay easier for players. In addition, the algorithm determines where exactly the opponent is hit. When aiming with the mouse, the challenge in most games is to hit the opponent’s head to achieve maximum damage.

A Personal Choice Of Pro Gamers

I would add that choosing the aim assist feature or not is more of a personal preference.

That’s why it’s impossible to say for sure whether all professional players use it or all avoid it. What can be said for sure, though, is that it’s more of an amateur feature used by newcomers who want to get through the game levels quickly.

This is why most gamers prefer not to use it, as using the aim assist feature is not well received in the world of advanced first-person shooters. 

Final Thoughts on Controller vs. Mouse and Keyboard

If you got the impression that we are entirely in favor of mouse and keyboard and against controllers, then that is true in terms of FPS games. There is currently no more precise and adapted input device for first-person shooter games. We often ask ourselves why there hasn’t been an innovative device in this segment for years.

For example, when it comes to the keyboard, there is the Azeron Keypad. That could be a better alternative to a regular keyboard, even if it takes a very long time to adapt. Masakari is experimenting with this right now.

Currently, however, there is no gaming mouse replacement on the market. I suspect that the next stage of evolution is more likely to be in the VR device space. Until then, you can only find the best mouse and keyboard combination for you, as Masakari has done over the years. He provides insights into the finding process here:

Personally, I also think it’s pointless to keep converting a controller into a mouse and keyboard with add-ons. But, ultimately, this is the approach of SCUF Controllers like the SCUF Instinct Pro.

Here are our posts on the subject, relating to the games below:

If you have a question about the post or pro gaming in general, write us:

GL & HF! Flashback out.

Michael "Flashback" Mamerow has been playing video games for over 35 years and has built and led two Esports organizations. As an IT architect and casual gamer, he is dedicated to technical topics.