Earlier this year my colleague Cameron Faulkner tested the Razer Kishi, a smartly designed game controller for Android phones that was developed in collaboration with Gamevice. Now a version is available for iPhones, and it's essentially the same story – the biggest difference is in what it can do.
The Kishi is like two Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons that are permanently connected and collapse into an easily portable package. The band between them is elastic, which means you can pull them over the edges of your phone and get a snug fit. The iOS version has a Lightning connector and a connector for passthrough charging on one end. I've tried an iPhone 11, but it also comes with adapters for smaller phones like the SE.
- Comfortable, portable design
- Easy to put on and take off
- Works great with Apple Arcade
- Buttons are a little mushy
- Not cheap
- Apple does not allow cloud games on the iPhone
I really like this design. It solves many of the biggest problems facing mobile game controllers: carrying, attaching, removing, and pairing with your device can be difficult. The Kishi is effortless to set up, and the iOS version is MFi certified, so it is instantly recognized as a gamepad by almost any game that uses standard controls.
That said, it works with many games on the App Store. For example, my waste of time is the mobile version of NBA2K, and I usually play it in automatic mode, where you are only occasionally directly involved in the action via a few basic on-screen buttons. With the Kishi controller, however, it is not much different from playing the full version on the switch.
I also tried the Kishi with the new mobile version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which suddenly becomes an infinitely more attractive offering. This is a very good $ 2.99 version of a legitimate classic, but I'd never want to play it with a touchscreen – arguably, the Kishi is one of the best ways to play the game.
I'm saying here that I agree with what Cameron said about the Android version of the Kishi: it doesn't feel like a really premium controller. The analog sticks and triggers are decent, but the face buttons are a little squishier than I'd like them to be. Likewise, I'd prefer a more tactile responsiveness to the D-Pad. Still, the D-pad is worlds better than the Switch Joy-Con's four-button facsimile, and overall, the Kishi does a reasonable job of giving the iPhone a full Xbox-style controller layout.
Would be great for xCloud, but Apple won't allow it
Unfortunately, the comparison with an Xbox controller is less relevant on iOS than it is on Android. Due to Apple's limitations on game streaming services like Microsoft xCloud, the iPhone version of the Kishi lacks a compelling use case. On Android, you can stream Xbox Game Pass games directly to your phone and turn them into a handheld console with the Kishi. Until or until Apple changes its App Store policies, however, you're mostly limited to games that run on the iPhone itself. (If you have a gaming PC, you can use Steam Link to stream Steam games to your iPhone on your home network, which works fine with the Kishi.)
One thing Apple is offering over Android is Apple Arcade, the company's $ 4.99 per month subscription service that gives you access to a curated selection of iOS, Mac, and Apple TV games. All support touchscreens and are exclusively available for iOS. However, many of them also work with controllers to run on the Apple TV. This is a great blessing for the kishi.
Games like Sayonara Wild Hearts, Oceanhorn 2, and Shinsekai: Into the Depths are far better on the iPhone with the Kishi attached – I think this makes the overall service a much more compelling proposition. I'll never play these games on my Apple TV with a PS4 and Xbox One connected to the same screen, but with the Kishis in my pocket I have a lot more reason to try them out.
If you want to play controller-based video games on your iPhone, consider the Razer Kishi. It costs $ 99.99, $ 20 more than the Android version – which was already expensive for a mobile controller. But it's by far the best option I've ever seen for the iPhone to be a product I could use regularly myself. The focus is on convenience and ease of use, and I think Razer has mostly done it.
The biggest blow to the iPhone version of the Kishi has to do with what Apple allows on the App Store – but on the flip side, the way it works with Apple Arcade is one of its greatest strengths. So life is.
Photography by Sam Byford / The Verge