macOS Big Sur 11.3 Includes Game Controller Emulation for iPhone/iPad Apps on M1 Macs

Mar 22, 2021 11:24 am PDT by Juli Clover

Over the course of the macOS Big Sur 11.3 beta, Apple has been refining and improving the way that iPad and iPhone apps run on M1 Macs. In the latest beta, Apple has added game controller emulation for ‌M1‌ devices, allowing a keyboard or a keyboard and mouse combo to function as a game controller.


The new game controller feature was discovered by MacRumors contributor Steve Moser. When running an ‌iPhone‌ or ‌iPad‌ app, opening up the preferences brings up a Touch Alternatives and Game Control interface that can be used to make touch-based ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ apps run better with Mac controls.

With Controller Emulation toggled on, common game controller buttons are mapped to keyboard keys and mouse buttons. X, for example, is mapped to Q, the direction stick is mapped to WASD, and Y is mapped to E. L1 and L2 can be accessed by pressing Tab and Shift, respectively, and the Space Bar is the A button.

Controller Emulation will allow ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ games that have controller support built in to be accurately controlled with a keyboard and/or mouse when those games are played on an ‌M1‌ Mac. This feature is designed for those who don't have a game controller, as those who do can just connect a controller to play.

The macOS 11.3 Big Sur beta also includes the aforementioned Touch Alternatives panel for mapping touch-based features like tap, swipe, drag, and tilt to keyboard keys, and it has a feature for making ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ app windows larger.


Controller Emulation and Touch Alternatives work independently of one another, and only one of these features can be enabled at a time.

As for game controller support, many current controllers from Sony and Microsoft are compatible with ‌M1‌ Macs, and the beta adds support for the latest PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X controllers.

Related Roundup: macOS Big Sur
Related Forum: macOS Big Sur

Top Rated Comments

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26 weeks ago
This is going to be huge in a few years.
Score: 12 Votes
26 weeks ago

This is going to be huge in a few years.
No, it won't.
Rating: 5 Votes
26 weeks ago
...that no one will be using because there are almost no iOS apps in the Mac App Store, and Apple prevents us from sideloading apps :)
Rating: 4 Votes
26 weeks ago
That's a good first step; I hope it will be configurable for those who don't like the default mappings.

Next should be the ability to allow us to create additional key mappings to correspond to touch and/or gesture controls at specific locations within an app. This would be useful for any app, not just controller-based ones.
Rating: 3 Votes
26 weeks ago
Article needs to be correct to say Xbox Series X controller
Rating: 2 Votes
26 weeks ago
I would love this on iPadOS as well for magic keyboard! Many games that don’t support keyboard input would be amazing with it
Rating: 1 Votes

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