Razer Kishi V2 represents real competition for Backbone

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Mobile devices are increasingly becoming true competitive gaming machines, but many styles of games just aren’t as enjoyable to play on a touchscreen. To help solve this problem, video game accessory manufacturers have competed to see who can offer the best solution. To date, 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 Kishi V2which is now available for Android and iOS devices, gives it real competition.

Kishi vs. Kishi V2

As the V2 suggests 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 at the top of its list of best mobile phone controllers. The follow-up brings a number of clever tweaks and improvements, as well as some questionable minor tweaks.

This biggest and most noticeable change is the addition of a full deck. The bridge is the connecting piece connecting the left and right sides of the controller. The original Kishi used a collapsible piece of rubber that allowed it to fold up into a portable square when not in use. Making the controller compact when you’re not gaming was nice, but it made connecting and removing your phone from the controller a bit tricky, and it felt a bit flimsy when in use.

The Kishi V2’s deck is a sturdy piece of retractable plastic (like its bigger competitor, the Backbone One), and it makes it easier to insert your phone into the dock and feels sturdier while you game.

The retractable deck makes a big difference.
The retractable deck makes a big difference.

Buttons

The Kishi V2 also adds a number of extra buttons, but does so in a way that doesn’t 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’s 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 app. The app also lets you access YouTube or Facebook streaming features and controller settings. The app is optional and does not have a subscription, which is the case for comparable companion controller apps. I tried the app and it generally seemed superfluous, but a nice accompaniment to the hardware.

The M1 and M2 buttons manage to be both accessible and out of the way.
The M1 and M2 buttons manage to be both accessible and out of the way.

The other extra buttons that have been added – which might be the main feature that separates it from its competitors – are the extra third and fourth shoulder buttons, called M1 and M2. These buttons are placed next to the L2 and R2 triggers and will be programmable for various games. What makes them so good is that they’re as easy to squeeze as they are to ignore. They’re completely away from the main shoulder buttons and are unlikely to be accidentally pressed, but they’re easy to reach when you want to engage them. I love these extra 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 consoles and PC controllers.

Other than those extra buttons, the layout will be familiar to anyone who’s held an Xbox controller. The analog sticks are offset and have a small field of motion, but feel and work like buttons when clicked. 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 various menu buttons) all click satisfyingly and responsively. None of the buttons feel soft, and the only potential complaint you could have with them is that they could be easy to press by accident, especially given their small size. It wasn’t my experience, but I could see it was a problem for big hands.

A barely noticeable degradation from the original Kishi is that the A/B/X/Y buttons are no longer colored. Granted, colored buttons aren’t something you think of when playing a game. The best controllers are designed in such a way that you don’t look at them at all, but I just prefer a splash of color on my controllers, and the Kishi V2 is strictly white and black.

The textured grip is subtle, yet comfortable.
The textured grip is subtle, yet comfortable.

Ergonomics

Hold the Kishi V2 and your phone feels great. Both sides of the controller have a simple round shape with textured grips, and the button layout looks familiar. I mean that in a positive way, but there’s not much to say about the feel of the Kishi V2. A good controller is one that you forget you’re holding and don’t think much about while gaming, and the Kishi V2 achieves that hard-to-quantify goal. He mostly feels invisible in a positive way.

Play games

To test the Razer Kishi V2, I played new games like Diablo Immortal, as well as classics like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, to put the controller to the test of its platforming gameplay, and it followed without problem on Android version. When I got to try out the iOS version of the controller, I tried playing a few levels of Jetpack Joyride 2 and had an equally positive experience.

Compatibility and ease of use will vary from game to game (Apex Legends Mobile, for example, was not yet able to take advantage of the controller), but for those it is compatible with, the integration is seamless. The Razer Kishi V2 is not a Bluetooth controller. It plugs directly into the USB-C port on the bottom of the phone for Android or the Lightning port for iOS devices, meaning you never have to worry about charging or an unstable wireless connection . There’s also a passthrough port so you can charge your phone while gaming if needed on the bottom of the controller, which is well placed to stay out of your way while you game.

Just imagine - it could be you and Diablo Immortal.
Just imagine – it 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 has taken the good lessons from this popular controller and added some of its own welcome flourishes. As a result, it’s the best mobile controller for Android, and the iOS version rivals the Backbone One. The Kishi V2, like the Backbone One, is expensive at $99, but it makes games like Diablo Immortal feel like you’re playing on a proprietary controller and not the thing you use to scroll through Twitter.

Good

  • Excellent ergonomics
  • M1 and M2 buttons are nice additions
  • All face buttons have a satisfying click
  • Textured handles help it stay in your hands
  • No need to charge or connect wirelessly

The bad

  • no colors
  • You may need to remove your case to use the controller
  • Limited game compatibility

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you purchase something featured on our site.

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