Finishing our trifecta with the PlayStation 5 controller, we have the Mac. The Mac’s gaming prowess (or lack thereof) has been joked about before, but just because it is not a common gaming machine doesn’t mean you can’t game with it. Just like it’s iOS cousin, Mac OS can pair with a PS5 controller and use it to play games.
What’s up! This is EasyOSX, and today I’m showing you how to pair a PlayStation 5 controller to your Mac.
Before You Begin
First, you’ll want to make sure you’re running at least Mac OS 11.3, “Big Sur”, or later in order to take advantage of native support. While you could use the controller on older versions, you’d have to go through a few more hoops to make it work. To check what version you’re using, hit the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen, and then hit “About This Mac”. There, in the window that appears, should be a line listing the version of the OS you’re using, such as Mac OS 12, “Monterey” in my case. If you’re running something older than Big Sur, then you’ll need to upgrade to at least that or newer from the Mac App Store (which I’ve got a link to in the corner). If you can’t upgrade, stay tuned, because you’re not out of luck just yet though.
Next, grab your PS5 controller. You can use it either wired or wirelessly, but the easiest and best way to use it is over a wired connection. Just plug your USB cable into the controller and the Mac, using an adapter cable if necessary. That’s it.
If you want to use Bluetooth, that will require a few more steps. First, you’ll need to make sure Bluetooth is turned on on your Mac first. Open System Preferences and click on the Bluetooth pane. If it’s not already, hit “Turn on Bluetooth”. Leave this open though because we’re going to come back to it.
On your controller, locate the PlayStation Logo between the two thumb sticks and the create button to the left of the touchpad and upper right from the D-Pad. You’re going to press and hold these 2 buttons together until the little lights on the side of the touchpad begin to quickly flash blue.
You should see the controller pop up in the Bluetooth list either saying something like “DualSense controller”, “PlayStation 5 DualSense”, or something similar. Once you do, hit the connect button next to its listing, and after a few seconds the controller should automatically connect, and the lights on the controller should turn either blue or orange.
Native Connection Options
Once it’s connected, you have a few options built in. First, you’ll see the “Options” button appear next to the controller listing. Clicking on this will let you set what pressing the Home and share buttons do (the PS logo and Create buttons respectively). While these are all set to off by default, you can set pressing the Home button to open the Launchpad. Within Launchpad you can then move around using the D-Pad or thumb sticks. You can then launch an app using the X or Cross button and exit Launchpad by hitting the Circle button. That said, I couldn’t seem to get the share buttons to work, so you might be better off using a different tool to record or catch highlights.
So how do you play games with this? Let’s break this up into 3 sections: The Mac App Store, Steam, and lastly games without native controller support.
Connecting to Mac App Store & Apple Arcade Games
Let’s start with the Mac App Store. It gets a little tricky with finding games with controller support. Like it’s iOS counterpart, the Mac App Store has a tag for controller support alongside the developer’s name, star rating, etc. But just like the iOS counterpart, some games don’t use that tag and either list it in the description or in the patch notes where it was added.
That said, I find the tag for controller support much more common in the Mac App Store than in the iOS Store. If you’re a member of Apple Arcade, many games will have controller support on the Mac though not all of them. If you’re looking at games in the Mac App Store that aren’t in Apple Arcade, then just make sure to check the App Store tag or the description.
The great thing is for the games that do support controllers, once you’ve got the controller connected, all you’ll have to do is launch the game and everything will just work. Some games will let you adjust and remap the controls, but that’s on a game-by-game basis.
Connecting to Steam
Next, let’s talk about Steam. There are a few things you should know up front about Steam. First, even if you’re not running Big Sur or later, Steam can still recognize the PS5 controller, so you’re not out of luck. But that’s also because of the 2nd thing you need to know: you will have to use a wired connection to use the controller with Steam. Steam’s menus will work over Bluetooth, but most games will not even see the controller. So go ahead and connect the controller with your USB cable. The last thing is that while Steam games may list controller support, not all of them may work properly with the PlayStation 5 controller. It may be just the newness of the PS5 or a game just needing to have its config files edited, but you may want to check forums for your game in question to see how far controller support goes.
Now in Steam, hit the “Steam” label on the far-left side of the menu bar, and then hit “Preferences”. In the window that pops up, hit “Controller” in the left sidebar, and then hit “General Controller Settings”. It should take you to a Big Picture Mode Interface. Near the bottom left corner, you should see your controller listed under the “Detected Controller” setting. Assuming you do, then check the “PlayStation Configuration Support”, and you’re all set. If you want to adjust your controller settings on a general level, then go back to the Preferences window, and edit them under the “Big Picture Configuration” (where it’ll be used most conveniently) or “Desktop Configuration” (which is disabled by default). Many, but not all games in Steam that support controller settings will also have some options for button remapping or controls within them too, so make sure to check those separately.
Games without Controller Support
Lastly, let’s cover games that don’t have native controller support, say Minecraft for example. You’re going to need a controller mapping app. My go-to-choice is Joystick Mapper from the Mac App Store. It’s not a free app, it cost $4.99 American to install, and it also hasn’t been updated in a while, but it is consistently the one app that continues to work for me with various controllers. Like Steam though, while it can work over Bluetooth, I find it works best while wired. With the controller connected, it will let you create presets based off controllers and games. You’ll be able to map every button, trigger, and stick movement to a keyboard or mouse control. There are a few presets for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PS4 gamepads already in place for different game types like FPS, retro games, etc. as well as some community made ones on their forums. If you don’t feel like manually mapping every control to a button, then maybe take a preset, test it with the controller, and adjust to what works. For example, I found the PlayStation 3 FPS setting kind of worked but needed to be adjusted for looking up and down to work properly. I ended up reusing my Switch – Minecraft preset and adjusting the sticks for this video.
Make sure the controller is connected and detected before starting this process, preferably wired. If you want to create a new preset, scroll down to the very bottom of the list and hit “Add a New Preset”. Then hit “Add New Joystick” followed by hitting “Add New Bind”. Now you’ll see it presents a button and number that corresponds to the controller, and a keyboard and key corresponding to the Mac keyboard. If you want to map the W key to “Up” on the left joystick, start setting the Mac key first to “W” by hitting the letter “A” in the dropdown and scrolling down the list to select “W”. Now on the left side if you know the button or axis you want to use, then you can select that option and its corresponding number. If you don’t then, then hit the “Scan” button, and the move the joystick you want to bind it to (or press a different button if you want. In this case I’m hitting up on the left thumb stick to bind it to the W key on the keyboard. You’ll see that the listing changed it to Axis 1 and a minus sign, which indicates the direction. I can hit “Add a new bind” to bind the right stick movement to a mouse movement by selecting “Mouse Motion” and the direction, and then hitting the scan button to be “Up” on the right stick. Lather, rinse, repeat.
While you’re in edit mode, the Mac won’t respond to any inputs from the controller (outside of the scan function). If you are ready to use this or just test your mappings, close out of the tab, and then in the preset list hit the checkbox to the left of the name of your preset. Now that it’s checked, and the selection has turned yellow, when you make a move on the controller, you can now see the computer responds to your inputs as if you were making them on the Mac. Again, this is a lengthy process, so you might just want to copy a preset by hovering over one of the pre-made ones and hitting the “Clone” button, which looks like 2 sheets of paper slightly overlapping, and then make some adjustments by hitting the scan button next to a particular bind.
I’ve provided some gameplay below first with a 3D platforming game called “FreezeMe” from Steam, then Minecraft to demo using the controller with Joystick Mapper, and finally a racing game called Asphalt 9 from the Mac App Store. I’ll have links to these games below the video as well.
A little bit of forewarning, the audio capture dropped for all three of these games, and I don’t know why. So all you’re going to hear is my voice and a little bit of background noise from the game.
- FreezeMe on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/390210/FreezeME/
- Minecraft: https://www.minecraft.net/
- Asphalt 9 in the MAS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/asphalt-9-legends/id1491129197?mt=12