Rotor Riot iPhone game controller lets you kick more ass in Apple Arcade [Review]

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Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller plays well with Apple Arcade.
Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller is like plugging an Xbox controller into your iPhone.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

While the 100+ games on Apple Arcade are designed for touchscreens, many of them are more fun with a physical controller. That can be one from an Xbox or Playstation, but the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller is a better option for iPhones because of its built-on phone stand and Lightning connector.

I tested this surprisingly-affordable MFi controller with some of the best titles on Apple’s gaming service. Read on to see why I’m so impressed by it.

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Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller review

This Rotor Riot controller is nearly identical to an Xbox one. Just like Microsoft’s offering, on the front are dual joysticks, a D-pad, and A, B, X and Y buttons — just not in the same colors.

On the top are left-and-right shoulder buttons (R1 and R2) and triggers (L2 and R2). Plus, press down on the analog joysticks for L3 and R3.

I’ve spent (probably) thousands of hours with an Xbox controller in my hands, and moving to the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller for iPhone felt about as natural as breathing. Everything — joysticks, buttons, triggers, etc. — are just where my fingers expect them to be.

This product seems well made; it’s not some cheap knockoff that’ll break in a couple days. I’ve used my test unit for hours and hours over the last week and it’s still going strong.

Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller has a very familiar design.
If you’re spent hours, days or years holding an Xbox controller, you’re already familiar with Rotor Riot’s.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

iPhone Stand

Thanks to iOS 13, you can just use an Xbox controller to play games, but that’s inconvenient with an iPhone because there’s nowhere to put the handset. Rotor Riot’s solution is a stand built into its controller.

Admittedly, it makes the controller slightly front heavy. It’s not terrible, but you’ll start to notice it more during long sessions of play.

This includes a flexible and padded clip so a range of phones can be used. It works well with the iPhone 11 used for my testing.

The screen is held at a useful angle, which is good because it can’t be adjusted. That’s mildly irritating because I wish I could tilt it back just a bit.

The stand is easily removable for storage and transport.

Lightning connector

You won’t need to mess around with Bluetooth or batteries when using the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller — it connects to your iPhone via a Lightning cable. This is 26 inches long, but you really don’t need to be very far away from your handset when you’re playing games.

The advantage is simplicity: just plug in the Lightning cable and start playing. The controller gets power from the iPhone.

You’ll need to have the Ludo Mapp application on the handset, though. This is no big deal, especially as it also includes a guide to games that support this controller. There’s Fortnite, Call of Duty Mobile, and tons more.

A Lightning port on the front edge of this accessory lets you charge your iPhone while you’re playing games. Very handy.

Rotor Riot also makes a version of this controller with USB-C. Be sure to get the Lightning version for your iPhone. The USB-C version is supposed to be compatible with the 2018 iPad Pro, but I was unable to test this.

Carrying case

The disadvantage of the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller is it’s something else to carry around. That takes away from the big advantage of iPhone gaming — normally you just need your phone.

To make toting this extra accessory easier, there’s a carrying case specially designed for it. And it fits this accessory and the detached stand perfectly. But Walmart is the exclusive source for it.

That said, this controller is so similar to an Xbox one it’s worth trying cases designed for Microsoft’s accessory to see if Rotor Riot’s will fit.

Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller has an iPhone stand and Lightning cable
The iPhone stand and Lightning cable make the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller ideal for mobile gaming.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller performance

To test Rotor Riot’s accessory, I played a bunch of games with it. (Everyone here at Cult of Mac is always willing to make sacrifices to help you readers.)

Sayonara Wild Hearts is fast-paced enough that a controller makes it easier. The same goes for Towaga: Among Shadows.

Dual joysticks really enhance Oceanhorn 2 — you look around with one while controlling movement with the other. And playing Redout: Space Assault or any flying game feels more natural with a joystick.

These are all from Apple Arcade, which brought a huge rush of titles that can be played with touchscreen or controller. But don’t get the idea that only Apple Arcade games can be used with the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller. It’s MFi compatible, so there are tons of titles that support it.

To test this, I pulled out one of my old favorites, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It’s still runs even on the iPhone 11, and the wired controller made it better than ever.

Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller final thoughts

iPhone users with Apple Arcade ought to think seriously about the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller. It’s not necessary for this gaming service, but makes many of the titles more enjoyable. The same goes for FortniteCall of Duty Mobile and other MFi-compatible games.

On the downside, this accessory is as bulky as any other controller.

Pricing

MFi game controllers have a bad reputation for costing too much. Not this one. It’s available on the Apple Store for $49.95/£49.95.

Buy from: Apple — $49.95

It can be found on Amazon, too.

Buy from: Amazon

Walmart is the only one who has the specially-designed case, which adds a bit to the cost.

Buy from: Walmart — $69.98

Comparable products

As mentioned, iOS 13 brought support for Xbox and PS4 controllers. But not all of them. According to Apple, the only compatible options are the PlayStation DualShock 4 Wireless Controller and the Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth (Model 1708).

That Xbox controller is available on the Apple Store for $59.99.

Buy from: Apple — $59.95

The DualShock 4 Wireless Controller also has a $59.95 suggested price.

Buy from: Amazon

Neither of these has the built-in stand that makes the Rotor Riot Wired Game Controller such a great option for iPhone gaming. And they depend on Bluetooth and their own batteries, two hassles the Rotor Riot product doesn’t put you through.

Rotor Riot provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.