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Gamepad vs. Joystick: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 10, 2023
A "gamepad" is a handheld controller with buttons and directional controls for video games, while a "joystick" is a lever that pivots to control movement in a game or simulation.

Key Differences

A gamepad, often used in modern gaming consoles, is a handheld device featuring a set of buttons, directional pads, and sometimes analog sticks for controlling video games. A joystick, however, is a control stick that pivots on a base and translates the user's movement into electronic signals, typically used for more precise directional control in games and simulations.
Gamepads offer a wide range of controls including buttons, triggers, and joysticks, designed for versatile and multifunctional use in various types of games. Joysticks, on the other hand, are primarily focused on providing accurate and sensitive control in two or three dimensions, often used in flight simulators and racing games.
In terms of ergonomics and design, gamepads are designed to fit comfortably in both hands with easily accessible controls, suitable for long gaming sessions. Joysticks are usually operated with one hand, with the other hand often used for additional controls or buttons on the base of the joystick.
Gamepads have become synonymous with modern gaming, prevalent in console gaming and also used in PC gaming. Joysticks, while still popular in certain gaming and simulation circles, are more niche and specialized, often preferred for specific types of simulation games.

Comparison Chart


Handheld with buttons and pads
Lever pivoting on a base

Primary Use

Versatile for various game types
Precise control in simulations

Control Type

Buttons, triggers, sticks
Directional control stick


Designed for two-handed use
Operated primarily with one hand

Popular Use

Common in console and PC gaming
Preferred for flight and racing games

Gamepad and Joystick Definitions


Controller for console gaming.
She preferred a gamepad for playing her favorite games.


Control stick for precise movements.
The joystick provided accurate control in the game.


Ergonomic gaming device.
The ergonomic design of the gamepad made long sessions comfortable.


Lever for controlling games.
The pilot used a joystick in the flight simulator.


Multi-functional controller.
The gamepad's versatility made it ideal for various game genres.


Device for flight and racing games.
Flight games are best played with a joystick.


Handheld video game controller.
He used a gamepad to play the console game.


One-handed gaming controller.
He maneuvered the aircraft using the joystick.


Device with buttons and sticks.
The gamepad had multiple buttons for different actions.


Stick that pivots for movement.
The joystick's sensitivity allowed for subtle movements.


(video games) A type of game controller held in both hands and controlled with the thumbs.


The control stick of an aircraft.


A manual control or cursor device, as one attached to a computer or video game.


A mechanical device consisting of a handgrip mounted on a base or pedestal and typically having one or more buttons, used to control an aircraft, computer, or other equipment.


(slang) A penis.


(rare) To manoeuvre by means of a joystick.


A lever used by a pilot to control the ailerons and elevators of an airplane


A manual control consisting of a vertical handle that can move freely in two directions; used as an input device to computers or to devices controlled by computers


Is a joystick suitable for all game types?

Best for simulation games, not all.

What is a gamepad used for?

Controlling various video games.

Are gamepads compatible with PCs?

Yes, many are designed for PC gaming.

Do gamepads have analog sticks?

Most modern gamepads include them.

Can a joystick be used for racing games?

Yes, especially for a realistic experience.

What is the primary function of a joystick?

Precise directional control in games.

Are joysticks expensive?

Can vary, high-end models may be costly.

Do gamepads work with all consoles?

Usually specific to certain consoles.

Can joysticks be used for first-person shooters?

Not commonly, as precision is key.

Are wireless gamepads available?

Yes, many gamepads are wireless.

Do joysticks have buttons?

Many have additional buttons for more controls.

Is a joystick easy to learn?

Has a learning curve, but manageable.

Are joysticks durable?

Quality ones are built to last.

Is a joystick good for flight simulators?

Ideal for flight simulation games.

How many buttons does a gamepad have?

Varies, often many for different functions.

Can gamepads have customizable buttons?

Some allow button remapping.

Do joysticks improve gaming experience?

Yes, in games where precise control is needed.

Are gamepads ergonomic?

Generally designed for comfort and long use.

Do gamepads require batteries?

Wireless ones typically need batteries.

Is haptic feedback available in gamepads?

Many modern gamepads feature it.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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