Mobile devices are increasingly becoming genuine competitive gaming machines, but there is one undeniable hurdle phones just cannot overcome. Many styles of games simply don’t feel as good to play on a touchscreen. To counter this complaint, video game accessory manufacturers have been competing to see who can sell the best solution. Generally speaking, the Backbone One (which is not yet available for Android devices) has been the go-to phone controller for a number of compelling reasons, but Razer’s Kishi V2, announced and launched today for Android devices, gives it some real competition.
Kishi versus Kishi V2
As implied by the V2 in its name, the Kishi V2 is a follow-up to its 2020 Kishi mobile phone controller, which was a solid phone controller that GameSpot ranked highly on its list of the best mobile phone controllers. The follow-up makes a number of smart changes and improvements, as well as a few minor questionable changes.
This biggest and most notable change is the addition of a full bridge. The bridge is the connective piece joining the left and right sides of the controller. The original Kishi used a foldable piece of rubber that allowed it to collapse into a portable square when not in use. Making the controller compact when not playing was nice, but it made connecting and removing your phone from the controller a little tricky, and it felt a somewhat flimsy while in use.
The bridge on the Kishi V2 is a solid piece of retractable plastic (like its greatest competition, the Backbone One), and it makes it easier to insert your phone into the dock and feels more solid while you’re playing.
The retractable bridge makes a big difference.
The Kishi V2 also adds a number of additional buttons, but does so in a way where it does not feel excessive. Along with the options and share buttons on the left side of the controller, and the menu button on the right side, there is also a dedicated Razer Nexus button.
Razer Nexus is Razer’s dedicated iOS and Android software that works in tandem with the controller and lets you organize your games and launch them from a single application. The app also allows you to access YouTube or Facebook streaming capabilities and controller settings. During my time with the controller, I was not able to test out Razer’s new dedicated software, but it is optional and does not feature a subscription, which is the case for comparable associated controller apps.
The M1 and M2 buttons manage to be both accessible and out of the way.
The other additional buttons that have been added–which has the potential to be the main feature separating it from its competitors–are third and fourth additional shoulder buttons, which are called M1 and M2. These buttons are set next to the L2 and R2 triggers and will be programmable for various games. What makes them so good is they are as easy to press as they are to ignore. They are completely out of the way of the main shoulder buttons and unlikely to be accidentally pressed, but are easy to reach when you want to engage them. I like these additional buttons so much that I wouldn’t mind seeing them on future standard console controllers. I find them easier to use and more comfortable to press than the back paddles that are becoming increasingly popular on high-end console and PC controllers.
Outside of those additional buttons, the layout will be familiar to anyone who has held an Xbox controller. The analog sticks are offset and have a small field of movement, but feel good and function as buttons when you click them. The L1 and R1 buttons are standard shoulder buttons, while L2 and R2 function as triggers. The L2 and R2 buttons also have a small field of movement, but still feel good. The D-pad and face buttons (and the various menu buttons) all click in a satisfying and responsive way. None of the buttons feel mushy, and the only potential complaint you could levy against them is they might be easy to press by accident, especially considering how small they are. This was not my experience, but I could see it being an issue for larger hands.
One barely noticeable downgrade from the original Kishi is the A/B/X/Y buttons are no longer colored. Colored buttons are, admittedly, not something you think about while playing a game. The best controllers are designed in such a way where you don’t look at them at all, but I just prefer a dash of color on my controllers, and the Kishi V2 is strictly white and black.
The textured grip is subtle, but comfortable.
Holding the Kishi V2 and your phone feels good. Both sides of the controller have a simple round shape with textured grips and the layout of the buttons feels familiar. I mean this in a positive way, but there is not much to be said about how the Kishi V2 feels. A good controller is one you forget you are holding and don’t think about much while you’re playing, and the Kishi V2 achieves that difficult-to-quantify goal. It feels mostly invisible in a positive way.
To test the Razer Kishi V2 we only had access to the Android version of the device. An iOS version is currently in development but will not be available later this year. I played new games like Diablo Immortal, as well as classics like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, to put the controller through its platformer paces, and it kept up without issue.
Compatibility and ease of use will vary game to game (Apex Legends Mobile, for example, was not yet able to take advantage of the controller on Android), but for the ones it is compatible with, integration is seamless. The Razer Kishi V2 is not a Bluetooth controller. It plugs right into the USB-C port on the bottom of the phone which means you never need to worry about charging or an unstable wireless connection. There is also a passthrough USB-C port so you can charge your phone while playing if needed on the bottom of the controller, which is placed well to stay out of your way while playing.
Just imagine–this could be you and Diablo Immortal.
The bottom line
The Kishi V2 impressed me during my time with it. The Backbone One is the mobile phone controller to beat, and the Kishi V2 took the right lessons from that popular controller and added some of its own welcome flourishes. As a result, it’s the best mobile controller for Android, and the upcoming iOS version will likely rival the Backbone One. The Kishi V2, like the Backbone One, is pricey at $99, but it makes games like Diablo Immortal feel like you’re playing on a first-party controller and not the thing you use to scroll through Twitter.
Excellent ergonomicsThe M1 and M2 buttons are worthwhile additionsAll the face buttons have a satisfying clickThe textured grips help it stay in your handsNo need to charge or connect wirelessly
No colorsYou may have to remove your case to use the controllerLimited game compatibility at launchiOS version coming later