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How to Play Games with a Physical Controller on Your Android Phone

Configuring the MOGA Controller

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The MOGA controller is a nice fix for the whole physical-controller on Android problem because the MOGA has two companion apps that really cover a lot of ground.

The first is the official app that makes it dead simple to use your MOGA controller on dozens of popular apps without any configuration at all. The second is a third-party driver package that opens up the MOGA for use on any game that can be key mapped, included emulators.

Let’s start off by installing the official MOGA app, MOGA Pivot. Launch the app and hit Set Up. Power up your MOGA controller with the power button (concealed beneath the middle brace that pivots up to hold your phone). Once the blue light starts blinking on your controller, hit the The Blue Light is Blinking to move forward in the setup. A box will pop up indicated the MOGA controller is requesting permission to sync with your Android device. Click Allow.

After the MOGA and your Android device start talking, the MOGA app will indicate you need a passkey. Click Generate Passkey. Make sure you see the following screen (or a variation there of) on your screen:

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If you don’t see the above pairing screen (and it skips right to the next step) it will fail to pair. Be prepared to run through the pairing wizard again.

Once we’re paired up, MOGA offers us a free download of Pac Man. It’s not cutting edge or anything, but it’s perfect for testing the MOGA controller. We’ll take it.

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Everything works great and we even managed to get through the first level of Pac Man without biting it too hard.

Now that we know the MOGA controller is linked properly and we can control a MOGA enabled game, it’s time to expand the functionality of the MOGA controller by installing the MOGA Universal Driver. This will allow use the MOGA controller with any games.

Launch the MOGA Universal Driver. The Universal Driver can function in one of two modes: IME mode (just like the Wiimote Controller app), or System Mode (which requires root on your phone). The wording in the settings menu is a bit unclear regarding the difference between these two. If you use IME mode the joy sticks on your MOGA remote will function in DPAD (or Directional Pad) mode, just like the directional pads on traditional controllers like the NES and SNES controllers.

In short, you should start off using the IME interface unless you come across an app that is not support by the official MOGA app but requires analog input for comfortable play. With that in mind, let’s start off by configuring the IME.

Just like we did in the Wiimote Controller section, you will need to activate the new IME. Navigate to Settings –> Language & Input and then scroll down to the Keyboard & Input Methods. Within that sub-section check the entry for MOGA IME.

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Return to the Universal Driver settings menu.  Tap on Select IME. Select MOGA IME. After you have set the IME, scroll down in the settings menu to Select Device. Tap it and select BD&A to link the MOGA Driver with your MOGA controller.

Just like in the Wiimote Controller, we can create key maps and key map profiles. If/when you need to create a key map you can click on Configure to do so. Remember, also like the Wiimote Controller, there are two ways of using the controller with games. You either need to 1) map the keys used by the game or emulator in the MOGA Universal Driver app or you need to 2) set up your key maps, if possible, in the game or emulator itself.

Now that we have learned how to set the controller-app mappings for both the Wiimote and MOGA controller, let’s take a look at how easy it is to set up key maps in popular console emulators.

Setting Up Key Maps in Emulators

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Whether you have set up the Wiimote, the MOGA, or both—you ambitious mobile gamer, you—it’s time to look at how to configure them outside of their specific control applications. Remember, you can always create a profile within the control apps, but given how many games and emulators support mapping within the game/emulator itself, it is usually easier to map within the specific application rather than have to switch profiles in the controller app every time you switch between games or emulation apps.

When you’re setting up emulation apps there are a few basic things, key map related and otherwise, you will want to do for maximum enjoyment:

  • Switch the emulator to landscape mode.
  • Turn off the onscreen controller/keyboard.
  • Map the emulator’s controller keys to the physical controller.

Regardless of the emulator you’re using, those are the three steps you want to go through when configuring it.

We’re going to look at key mapping in the popular SuperGNES SNES emulator. At the end of the emulator section we’ll list off emulators with app-side key mapping you may wish to check out.

First, we’ll install SuperGNES Lite—don’t forget to copy over some SNES ROMS to play with; if you’re new to emulation we suggest checking out the “Locating Game ROMs” section of How to Play Retro NES and SNES Games on Your Nintendo Wii.

After we have installed it and thrown a ROM or two on the SD card, it’s time to map the keys. For this section we’ll be mapping the MOGA controller, but the instructions are the same for both the Wiimote and MOGA.

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Run SuperGNES, tap the menu button and select Preferences. In keeping with our three steps outlined above, you’ll want to tap on the Orientation icon and select Landscape. Tap on the Touch Controls icon to turn off the on screen controller. Finally, tap on Controller 1 to map your controller’s hardware keys to the emulator’s keys.

When you’re in the controller menu, tap on the Controller option at the top and select either MOGA or Wiimote, depending on which you’re configuring. To set each button, simply tap on the entry for that button (such as “A” or “Select”) and then press the hardware key on the controller you wish to map to it. Most apps will use this press-the-key approach, though some apps will have you manually select the hardware button you want for that key map such as “Button 1” or “Left Trigger”.

After you’ve mapped out the keys, open up a ROM and give it a whirl:

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After a few minutes running around the Mushroom Kingdom, the vote was unanimous: using a physical controller instead of the onscreen controller is the only way to do it.

If you are looking for more easy-to-key-map emulators to round out your mobile gaming experience, the following emulators have in-app key mapping that makes setting up both the Wiimote and MOGA controller a snap:

NES Emulators:

SNES Emulators:

Gameboy Emulators:

Almost all of them have Lite versions which usually include all the major features sans the ability to create custom save points. If you’re looking for more emulators in the Play Store, check the description for phrases like “hardware support”, “Bluetooth controllers”, and “gamepads” to cue you into whether or not the application supports external game pads/key mapping.


If you’re fired up about mobile and/or retro gaming, we’ve got a pile of tutorials for you to check out. For more gaming fun you’ll want to read over:

Have a gaming guide you’d love for us to write? Want to learn how to play your favorite retro console games on a modern device or otherwise get more gaming fun for your bottom dollar? Sound of in the comments or email tips@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to help you out.

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Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/19/13

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