In the realm of PC gaming, keyboard and mouse is still king. We used it to play Doom in the ’90s, and we still use it to play first-person shooters today.
Think about that: nothing has really changed in more than 25 years.
Arguably, that’s for good reason. Mouse aiming is extremely accurate, which is ideal for shooters. And WASD provides access to plenty of auxiliary keys while also offering passable movement control.
That’s right, I said passable. Accuracy notwithstanding, WASD comes with real downsides, whether you’ll admit it or not!
Whether due to dexterity issues, comfort, or even disability, many people (me included) default to using basic gaming controllers, which have their own drawbacks.
Luckily, we have alternatives. We can now enjoy mouse accuracy without relying on those four popular keys.
So what are the best WASD control alternatives to mouse and keyboard? We’ve found seven viable options.
Advantages of non-WASD movement control
So why should you consider a WASD alternative controller?
- Analog Movement: Unless you’re sporting an analog switch keyboard like the Wooting One, your switches are digital, meaning they’re either “on” or “off.” Press a key, move at full speed. Release the key, you stop. In stealth-dependent games like Skyrim, that’s a problem. Analog offers natural, featherable movement.
- No Diagonals: With WASD, you can only move in eight directions: forward, back, left, right, and diagonally. If you want 360-degree movement freedom, you’ll definitely want analog controls (probably a thumbstick.)
- Ergonomics: Over time, WASD movement hurts can cause strain on wrist and finger joints. WASD movement alternatives are often far more ergonomic and comfortable.
7 Top Gaming Control Alternatives to WASD Keyboard & Mouse
Here are seven of my favourite WASD substitutes. Some are products, others are just ideas; each has unique advantages.
1) Half a Controller: Easy and Inexpensive
This might seem low-tech, but you can use a standard gaming controller in one hand.
This makeshift solution gives you a joystick for analog movement, as well as shoulder buttons, d-pad and the trigger for extra functions.
Many modern games support simultaneous controller and mouse, meaning you can use both inputs at the same time.
You’ll run into issues with older games where mouse plus controller support is hit-and-miss. You could use Joy2Key to assign buttons to functions, but that’s fiddly.
Also, I find it tricky to hold a controller in one hand. You can rest it on a tabletop, but that’s not ideal.
Still, it’s an affordable, easy option to replace WASD gaming movement.
2) Nintendo Switch JoyCon: Comfortable Nunchuck-Style Controller
Nintendo recently added PC support to its peripherals, which is great news. The Switch JoyCon is a clever, user-friendly, high-end peripheral, and it makes a fantastic WASD movement alternative.
You can connect half or both to your PC using Bluetooth. One half of a JoyCon is almost perfect for movement; it fits naturally in your hand and provides six buttons plus a shoulder trigger.
As Nintendrew mentions in the linked video, default drivers aren’t analog-friendly, so you’ll get the same 8-directional movement as WASD. Fortunately, there are 3rd-party drivers which solve this problem. I won’t mention any here, but I suggest you Google “JoyCon analog driver PC.”
The other drawback? You’ll have fewer inputs than WASD; you’ll have to determine whether six buttons is sufficient for your gaming needs.
3) Gaming Keypads: Good Choice to Replace WASD
There are a handful of awesome gaming keypads out there, and they can be a fantastic upgrade over your old keyboard. They aren’t cheap! That said, you’re getting a premium product with top-of-the-line mechanical switches and plenty of buttons.
The Razer Orbweaver and Nostromo keypads are popular, and far more ergonomically efficient than a standard keyboard.
The Logitech G13 is another popular keypad with an analog thumb stick. It’s highly programmable, but I don’t love the stick placement, and it may be discontinued.
Frankly, a thumbstick is awkward unless you can hold your input device in a claw-style grip. I’m still waiting on a great gaming keypad with a thumbstick set on a 90-degree angle.
On Razer’s keypads, the thumb stick is really an 8-directional hat switch, which is basically WASD with better ergonomics.
4) Azeron: Hand-Crafted Gamepad, Total WASD Upgrade
Speaking of thumbstick keypads, you should really check out the Azeron. This cool-looking gaming keypad is an exceptional WASD movement alternative that’ll support even input-hungry games like MMOs.
The story is great. Starting with a hand-crafted wooden keypad, Latvian inventor Bucis now sells hand-crafted keypads. The Azeron gamepad uses efficient little tabs that can be easily reached without glancing down. There are now 30 buttons in total, including a D-pad (not pictured.)
Topping it off is the thumbstick. This one is set at a usable 90 degrees, and it’s intended for thumb movement. (They make a left-handed version too.)
Azeron reached out to me to let me know they now include custom key mapping software, including a feature to let you “rotate” the analog stick.
This 3D-printed product won’t have the polish you’d find with an “off-the-shelf” controller. And purchase turnaround time isn’t quick.
That all said, I think it’s an absolute bargain for a handmade, highly customizable item. The Azeron gaming keypad is utterly unique. You can check them out here.
5) Splitfish: A Unique, Quirky WASD Alternative
Splitfish has been crafting WASD alternative controllers for years, but they approach it from a different angle. They bring mouse accuracy to console.
Thumbsticks don’t hold a candle to mouse aiming. Anyone using a mouse on a console has a huge advantage and that’s Splitfish’s business model.
Of course if you’re reading this, you’re probably a PC gamer. Don’t worry though, several Splitfish products are PC compatible, like the FragFX 360.
It comprises a mouse with extra buttons on the side, and a Wii-like nunchuck. Together they replace every button on an Xbox 360 controller. On PC, Splitfish emulates a keyboard, with each button hard mapped to a key.
The FragFX nunchuck can only mimic a keyboard digitally. That means no analog movement and no feathering. There may be custom scripts that can get around this, but I wasn’t able to find any.
However, you do get more buttons than the Nintendo JoyCon, with two shoulder buttons and a full d-pad.
6) Joystick & Mouse: A Strangely Effective Combo
This one’s a little wilder, but it’s viable (if you can handle the learning curve.) You can use a joystick or flightstick instead of WASD.
A joystick is like a giant thumbstick. You push forward and backward to move, use left and right to strafe, and the remaining buttons as various inputs. And the movement is analog.
Once you’re accustomed to it, the controls feel natural and instinctive. There have been controller prototypes along this line, such as the ill-fated Wasdio.
The first is fatigue. A flightstick requires more physical movement to go forward, back, left and right, which might wear you out.
The second issue is setup. You’ll need a key mapper, and you’ll likely have to configure it for each game.
Still, if you have a joystick kicking around this might be worth a shot.
7) Steam Controller: Awesome WASD Substitute, Steep Learning Curve
I went back and forth on whether to include this one. Ultimately, I included it because I love the concept. The Steam Controller offers dual thumbpads and endless customizability. There’s no other controller like it, and it’s a true alternative to WASD movement, with far better aiming than any joystick gamepad.
Counterpoint: I hated using it.
I really tried to like it, but ultimately I gave up. The triggers and buttons are all top-notch; it may be the best feeling controller I’ve held. Still, I couldn’t get past my deeply-ingrained gaming habits.
Setup is a major hurdle. For each game, I spent an hour getting my controls configured. That’s not sustainable, at least not for my impatient dinosaur brain.
I also feel like there’s an overall shortage of inputs. Mode-shifting and dual-stage triggers help, but again you need to set that all up.
That said, I have friends who absolutely love the Steam Controller, so it’s clearly a subjective thing.
In compiling this list, I looked at several other ideas that didn’t make the list for various reasons.
Playstation Nav Controller
This is similar to the Splitfish or the half-a-controller idea. A Playstation Nav controller connects wirelessly or via USB and offers analog movement to replace WASD. It features a half-controller’s worth of buttons and fits very nicely in your hand.
Nobody makes or sells these anymore. You’re stuck buying one used. This well-made controller just isn’t a reliable WASD control alternative for gaming anymore.
The Dufentech KeyBall
I’ve never understood why consoles haven’t embraced the trackball. They offer mouse-like aiming accuracy and you can easily mount one in a standard controller.
Case in point: the Dufentech KeyBall. This cool, DIY input device has combined an old Xbox 360 controller shell with a trackball mouse and a tiny thumb keyboard. And lots of Bondo.
It’s a prototype, not available for sale. Unless you’re willing to bust out your soldering iron and replicate the process at home, the KeyBall will forever be out of reach.
Who else hates WASD and wants a substitute?
Do you hate WASD movement too? Have you tried any of the above options?
Do you think I’m out to lunch?
Feel free to comment below, I’d love to hear what solutions you’ve come up with.