PlayStation Controller Thumb

How to Use a PlayStation 3 Controller to Play Games On Your Mac

Posted in How To, Mac, OS X on 16/01/2013 by J. Glenn Künzler

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Gaming on the Mac can be a rewarding experience, but there aren’t a great deal of Mac game controllers available (especially that you know you can rely on). Plus, if you’re already used to a Playstation 3 controller (the $40 Dual Shock 3), using something different can be a confusing experience. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about it – you can use your existing PlayStation 3 controller with your Mac via Bluetooth!

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 10.07.14 PM

Drivers to support the Sony DualShock 3 PlayStation controller are already included in OS X Snow Leopard or later. All you have to do is pair it via Bluetooth, and you’re good to play any game that supports a Bluetooth gamepad. Github user Statico has posted detailed instructions to make it happen. Here’s how to set it up!

* Note: These instructions are specifically for OS X Snow Leopard, OS X Lion, and OS X Mountain Lion. The process is much simpler under OS X Mavericks, and does not require many of the below steps, such as adding the controller to favorites.

  1. Open Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Bluetooth and disable Bluetooth on Mac as well as any other nearby Macs or devices which will try to pair with and confuse the controller.
  2. Reset PS3 controller by inserting paperclip into pinhole near L2 button.
  3. Connect PS3 controller to Mac with USB cable.
  4. Enable Bluetooth.
  5. Press “PS” button for 1-2 seconds until the red lights flash.
  6. Unplug USB cable.
  7. Click the “+” icon in the preferences to open the Bluetooth Setup Assistant.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.43.08 AM

  1. A window will appear asking you to enter an access code. Enter “0000″ (without the quotes) and click “Accept.”
  2. Close the Setup Assistant.
  3. Click the “PLAYSTATION3 Controller” item in the Bluetooth list in the preferences. Then select “Add To Favorites” and then “Update Services” from the little gear icon menu.
  4. Disable Bluetooth. Wait a second.
  5. Enable Bluetooth. Wait another second.

I have tried this myself, and can verify that it works. The above screenshot actually came from my Mac. I hope you enjoy this tip – I certainly plan to do some PlayStation-style Mac gaming this weekend! Let us know in the comments if you find any especially great games that support a Bluetooth game pad!

If you need a controller, the DualShock 3 really is an excellent one, and is available on Amazon for around $40.

For more helpful tips, check out our full collection of tutorials by visiting our How-To category!

 

 * Update (9/27/2013): After receiving numerous requests and comments about this not working, I’ve looked into the matter once more. I’ve successfully completed this, and used the PS3 controller in Steam Big Picture Mode under OS X 10.8.3, OS X 10.8.5, and the latest developer preview of OS X Mavericks. If using OS X 10.8.x, you NEED to add the controller to your “Favorites,” as specified in the above instructions, in order for it to work.

My co-editor Chris Hauk has also taken it upon himself to test the process, and was able to successfully use the PS3 controller to play LEGO Batman under OS X 10.8.5.

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 5.09.12 PM

As an aside, the entire process seems to go much smoother, and work much more reliably, using OS X Mavericks. The above image demonstrates some of the differences in the Mavericks Bluetooth settings.

Update (10/28/2013): You can also use the upcoming DualShock 4 PlayStation 4 controller to play games on your Mac – click this link for details!



  • http://www.facebook.com/llipnicki Łukasz Lipnicki

    Great post. What are the titles you successfully played without using key mapping app?

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      So far, I’ve used it successfully with Lego Batman 2 and Tomb Raider Underworld from the Mac App Store.

    • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

      I’ve used it in SDL MAME (command line version), Sonic Generations under the Wine API in CrossOver Mac, Steam’s Big Picture, many other emulators, many Mac compatible games that accept game pad input. Many don’t. Some may give you guff about some buttons like And Yet It Moves which only allows some buttons for some reason, but overall it should work fine.

      The button layout is like this:

      Select=1, L3 button=2, R3 button=3, Start=4
      D-pad is Up=5, Down=7, Right=6, Left=8
      L2=9, R2=10, L1=11, R1=12
      Triangle=13, Circle=14, X=15, Square=16
      PS button=17

      And the thumb sticks are:
      Left has the X and Y axis
      Right has the Z and Rz axis

      No SixaxiS, no pressure sensitivity on buttons, no analog triggers, only a few games see rumble functionality. It’s essentially a DS1 controller with the added PS button.

      With USBOverdrive I’ve managed to get it working like an Apple remote control would. Which is more novelty than functional as you run into functional conflicts among apps.

  • zinzarin

    I’m trying to do this in 10.8.3, and it’s just not quite working. I’m not getting asked for the passcode, so I’m never entering 0000. I skip past that and finish the instructions, and everything looks okay in the settings, but the red lights on the dualshock keep blinking and it’s not able to interact with my game (LEGO Star Wars III: Clone Wars). Any ideas?

    • booball

      Anyone found a fix for this yet?

    • Drakior

      You have to configure the controls on lego

  • http://www.facebook.com/rchung89 Richard Chung

    have 10.8.3 as well. doing the blinking thing for me too.

    • Guest

      It’s supposed to blink. It works fine for me on 10.6.8.

  • Vyrus420

    Have 10.8.3 too and have the blinking thingy too and am not able to make it work… (wanted to play to Grand Theft Auto San Andreas that I bought on the App Store)

    • Daniel Nnadigwe

      You have to configure the controls it happened to me too

  • Lord_Ardget

    Does the controller still work for the ps3 after this?

    • Steve Ballmer

      No if you pair your Dualshock 3 controller to an Apple device it voids the warranty and permanently dissociates the gamepad from all Sony products.

      • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

        False on all counts.

        • Lord_Ardget

          Yeah, I just read his reply a few weeks after I paired them, and it works great! Either he’s really bad at sarcasm, or just a troll. Thanks for the great post!

          • christopherjacques

            Basically he’s playing the character “Steve Ballmer” the actual head of Microsoft, which makes him anti-Mac, anti-Playstation. So it was a bad attempt at humor. Not useful info which is what we’re looking for.

  • Hunter

    Does NOT work on 10.8.3, if anyone could find a work around or fix for this it would be greatly appreciated. Also tried it on the Mavericks Beta, doesn’t work there either.

  • mike

    i want to play the game with the ps3 controller only, not the mac controls. how do i do this?

    • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

      If I interpreted this right (you want to play a game with PS3 controller instead of the Mac’s keyboard?), if you have a game that accepts game pad input it should be a simple matter of assigning controls to the buttons. So instead of using WASD for the movement, you use the 5, 6, 7, and 8 buttons on the DS3 (the D-pad) for the movement. Each game may be different though in that you may have to activate game pad control first either through the command line, a config file or within the game interface itself. It’s different for each game.

      Do you mean the keyboard when you say Mac controls? It shouldn’t be a problem. A PlayStation 3 controller just acts like a PlayStation 3 controller should on the Mac as it would on a Windows PC. Standard input.

  • christopherjacques

    Non bluetooth question. Does this mean a PS compatible controller that stays connected via USB will work? Basically I saw an awesome HORII arcade style controller for PS. It connects by USB. It’s cheap and great.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Yes.

      • christopherjacques

        Thanks!

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Probably.

  • igor

    after pairing – my controller disappears from the bluetooth devices list – can you help – why?? also Bluetooth Setup Assistant. can see it – pairing window appears just after I press PS btn on controller…
    please help)

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Did you remember to add it to favorites?

  • hawk

    its asks me to type in a 8 digit code for verification

  • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

    Has anyone gotten the PS move navigation controller to work on a Mac? I’ve been wanting to use that as my analog movement controller while still using mouse for aimingshooting.

    • http://photovoltaik.bandcamp.com/ Ujn Hunter

      That sounds cool. Might have to try that at some point.

      • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

        Reason why I asked was because I have one and I never had any luck getting it to pair no matter what I tried. So it was pretty much a no go as far as I can tell.

  • Richard Brown

    I have gone through this tons of times. First off the lights start flashing right when I plug in the USB. Sometimes I get the pairing prompt but after I put in the 4 zeros it just comes up again. Yes I made it a favorite. Sometimes I go through all the steps and then nothing even happens. Any ideas? Is there something else I might be missing? If there IS a PS3 driver that I downloaded, would it mess me up? How could I disable it? I am usually pretty good with this stuff, but I’m having a rough time here.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      I’m not sure…you could perhaps try using Joystick Mapper from the Mac App Store.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Try using Joystick Mapper from the Mac App Store perhaps.

    • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

      It’s not readily apparent that it works as OS X has no native way to test the buttons for activity like Windows has (probably in the Terminal it does as raw data somehow). You have to start up a game that accepts game pad control to see if it worked. One way to see if the controller is connected is to see if the Bluetooth preference panel has it listed or if it’s listed in the Bluetooth menu in the menu bar. But beyond that, you have to test it out in a game. The DS3 controller should be seen as “PLAYSTATION(R)3 Controller”.

      • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

        You’re welcome. It seems when someone posts a link in here it has to be approved for it to show up.

        • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

          Oops. Can you reply with the link again, and I’ll approve it? Sorry.

  • Ben Kramer

    It doesn’t even work with an 10.8.5 version of OSx. What a waste of time….

    • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

      How did you do it? It’s pretty straight forward and I know from experience that it works under 10.8.x.

  • ckoerner

    This works beautifully in 10.9 Mavericks. Awesome.

    • Jiff

      Did you need to add the controller to favorites in Mavericks 10.9? The article update implies you need to, but I don’t see a gearwheel to add the device to favorites in Bluetooth settings in Mavericks.

      • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

        Nope. That step is not needed with Mavericks.

        • KaramK51

          Mine is still not doing anything. Mac says PS3 controller is connected but its not doing anything..

          • Guido

            I have the exact same problem as KaramK51. I’ve been looking for a solution all afternoon and this is driving me craaazy

          • Jojo92100

            I’m just like you guys, i don’t understand and i couldn’t find some help on internet…

          • charpkun

            i’ve successfully paired it under mavericks without going through steps 5-12. just plugged into the usb using a mini usb cable (used the one that came with the ps3 if that helps at all…). other than showing as a connected device on the bluetooth notification bar, there are no lights indicating it is paired with the mac. but you should know it’s working if you press the ps button when steam is active and it engages big picture mode

      • ckoerner

        Nope, just paired it like a normal device.

  • disqus_BO1exiPF0S

    I can’t get this working. Anyone else using Generic PS3 controllers?

    • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

      What I usually do is connect it with a USB cable, press the PS button, then unplug the cable and it should be paired. You have to be deliberate with the steps, but it’s simple. I don’t get a pairing code window, it just seems to pair through the USB connection. You should then see it listed in the Bluetooth menu in the menu bar. I use MAME to test whether the buttons work as there are no utilities available to test controllers like in Windows with the Game Controllers CP.

  • disqus_BO1exiPF0S

    I’m running Mavericks – it’s seeing my controller as a keyboard – When I open Lego Batman 2, It doesn’t detect the controller in the options.

    • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

      Make sure you don’t have any keyboard emulation software such as gamepad companion or something like that activated.

      • disqus_BO1exiPF0S

        I’ve got that and I’m still having problems. What’s the best game to test it in. Not working with my Lego Batman 2

        • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

          What do you mean you’ve got that? You mean you have keyboard emulation software installed and ON? I was asking you because that could be why it’s seeing it as a keyboard.. that’s not what you want.

          • disqus_BO1exiPF0S

            Ohh. SO get rid of all of those programs? What game are you getting it working in? Whenever I try to get a Lego game to discover the controller, I just get nothing from it.

          • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

            Or at the very least make sure it’s off before you play the game. It can cause conflicts with Feral’s games in particular. I’ve used my controller with all of Feral’s games such as LEGO Batman 2. You may want to get in contact with their support if you continue to have problems. I already know they would tell you the same thing about keyboard emulation software that I have though.

  • adsfsdf

    i am on the 10.9 it still doesn’t work

    • Andy.w

      works as stated above. works on 10.9 on latest hardware release by apple 2013

  • C-Dubs

    I’m curious. I don’t have a PS3, but would like together a controller for my Mac. These instructions IMPLY it’s the standard Dual Shock 3. Will 3rd party PS3 controllers work just as easily?

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Probably. But not having tested any 3rd-party PS3 controllers, I can’t say for sure.

    • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

      Having tried a third party PS3 compatible USB type controller myself I can say that it works as expected. Games see the buttons. I have used a Versus Fighting Pad on my Mac for Sega Genesis emulation. You may get extra functions from the chips used in those controllers that may not be on the controller itself though. On my Versus Fighting Pad I can see analog functionality in some utils, but there are no analog sticks or SixaxiS functions on it. If it’s USB or Bluetooth, there’s a good chance you can use it. With Bluetooth controllers you just have to figure out how to pair it and it should work. Just note that if there are any features that go beyond the usual standard D-pad/two analog stick/6 face button/two-pair shoulder-button layout (like a proprietary steering wheel function or touch controls that only certain PlayStation games see) you probably won’t see that function work on the PC or Mac unless drivers are deliberately available.

  • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

    Just in case you guys missed it but the PS4 controller also works with the Mac. Don’t know how it compares to the PS3 though in terms of how it works or how easy it is to setup.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Lemme shed some light on that. The compatibility is FAR deceased (at least for now) – but it’s significantly easier to pair via Bluetooth.

      • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

        Not sure what you mean by deceased (dead).. do you mean decreased? The computability is far decreased in the PS4 controller compared to PS3?

        • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

          Oops. Yes, I meant decreased.

          • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

            OK then, so exactly how is it decreased?

  • Younes

    what to do when you already use bluetooh mouse in MAC, we can’t disable bluetooth !!!

  • random person

    It works fine. I am running 10.8.4

  • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

    Works, but the DS3 acts like a DS1 controller. This has been the case since Snow Leopard. The L2 and R2 triggers don’t act like analog triggers and function only as digital buttons, the rest of the action buttons have no analog control as well, and there is no tilt/Sixaxis function. Has anybody succeeded to get these features to work at all?

    • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

      At least the faceaction buttons analog function was rarely used even in PS3 games. I don’t imagine any Mac or PC games use it.

      In fact it was so rarely used Sony decided to do away with analog face buttons in the DS4. They just included digital face buttons.

      But yeah the rest should act as analog… Hell, the X360 pad, wired or wireless has analog triggers functioning as they should and games support it.

      Also I noticed with a logitech controller if it’s set to dinput mode then the analog triggers only function as digital buttons there too. Also if one is using keyboard emulation with a gamepad almost nothing will function as analog except whatever axis is emulating the mouses axis.

      • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

        I think utilities like USBOverdrive simply mask analog buttons (if they even worked as analog buttons in the first place) with keyboard keys and those are usually on/off digital functions (mouse clicks, key presses, launching applications, etc). So that’s not too surprising that the behavior exists. If USBOverdrive had a function that used analog signals. like the mouse emulation on the left stick, then I think that would be more noticeable.

        It seems most platforms/OSs do recognize the two analog sticks as standard features with the standard HID drivers with no thought put into recognizing other analog functions as most PC USB/Gameport gamepads included those as standard features in the first place. At least that’s the impression I get from looking at other keyboard emulation utils.

        But it would be nice if someone looked into implementing some kind of function in these utils to use what’s there. I guess a lot of that functionality (analog buttons, analog triggers) is proprietary though and documentation on it is not public.

        • http://smoke.livejournal.com/ Smoke Tetsu

          That’s the thing about keyboard functions in general. They are digital, on or off and there’s nothing that utilties can do to convert it. You can’t just take a “digital signal” and convert it to an analog signal. You can’t squeeze something out of nothing. Utilities like USB Overdrive or Gamepad companion will never give you analog functions for anything other than the mouse which is inherently analog apart from the buttons of course.

          The same thing with the type of button functions games support. Again, most games even on the PS3 don’t support analog face button functions except for a racing game and Metal Gear Solid games. On the PC or Mac a game most likely does not support analog function for say… square, circle, cross or triangle unless it was a direct PS3 port and the game originally supported analog function for those buttons in the first place. You’re not missing much by missing analog face button support.

          What I was meaning by mentioning the logitech was there is two modes that gamepad can be in.. dinput mode and xinput mode. The analog triggers only function in xinput mode. Perhaps the dualshock drivers are only written to support dinput mode. I’m just guessing here.. I know for a fact that analog triggers work with xinput (xbox compatible) controllers and input mode. The tattiebogle 360 drivers for example map the analog triggers to analog joystick axis and games support that.

          So, in order for a gamepad or any other peripheral to have full functionality support needs to be there at all levels. At the game level with the game design and at the driverOS level.

          Fortunately many games do support full controller functionality at least for some types of pads.

  • http://www.thepenciler.com ThePenciler

    A note, and a lightbulb went off just now for me, for anybody who is using a knockoff DS3, you MIGHT be running into problems because of that. Most of these tips are useful for genuine Sony PlayStation 3 DualShock 3 controllers. There are lots of reports of knock off DS3 controllers (and just as many well intentioned not-quite-right “exposés” on YouTube). The main differences between genuine DS3s and fake ones are spelling or printing errors on the sticker on he back. It seems that on some a French word is misspelled, bisected into two words, instead of a single two or three syllable word, rendering the word meaningless. And the casting of the case may be off. Some are saying that if you can see the lights through he casing then that’s a giveaway that the controller is a knockoff, but I have an official “Deep Red” controller bought from Amazon, bought new from Amazon not a third party, and I can see the lights through the casing so that isn’t one of the signs, and it works fine as expected.

    Now, “might” was in caps for a reason. I’m not 100% sure I’m right on this (maybe 70-85%), but it’s just an idea and might be the cause of many rough goes at trying to get your DS3 connected by Bluetooth. You MIGHT have a counterfeit DS3 if you got it from ebay and it’s not an official Sony PS3 color (US or Japanese versions). Like “Red” or “Cherry” instead of the official “Deep Red” and I’m not sure Yellow or Orange is an official color, I might be wrong on the Yellow though. Just a for instance.

    Just an idea. The Bluetooth chip in the fake DS3 might be wonky. i’ve heard they work fine as a USB controllers though.

  • Arturo Álvarez

    It worked! I’m on OS X 10.8.5, and I confirm that this instructions worked for me. Thank you so much!
    Has anybody configured the joystick buttons to play GTA – San Andreas?

  • Deathm1te

    Hi, im on 10.8 OSX and when i plug in my ps3 controller then plug it out the three dots show on the bluetooth bar then they disappear, any help with this?

    • Arturo Álvarez

      Where are you plugging in your controller? In the Mac or in the PS3?
      If in the PS3, try resetting the controller, by inserting a paperclip into pinhole near L2 button. Then, turn off both the PS3 and the controller. Turn on the console, and plug in the controller by using the USB cable. The PS3 should recognize it.
      If in the Mac, try resetting the controller, then follow the instructions on this guide, it worked for me.
      Actually, I wasn’t asked for an access code.

  • akris

    I use USB connection with DShock without any configuration for Borderland2 and XCOM and it works fine (MBP2012, 10.7)

  • FactsAreImportant

    I’ve tried this with 2 different ps3 controllers and nothing. It says its connected and the lights continue to flash. The game is showing game settings for the controller but its not doing a thing. I’m using Mavericks 10.9.1. It just doesn’t make sense to me at all.

  • SanAndreas guest

    hey guys it works for GTA San Andreas just add the controller to favourites, mess around a bit and follow the instructions until the green light is next to the controller name in Bluetooth settings, then see if your game has a “joypad” or “controller” setting and then it should work! NO SOFTWARE TO DOWNLOAD AND NO NEED TO ENTER ANY PASSWORD(e.g.. 0000) i don’t exactly know what i did just get that green light and a compatible game!

  • Aram Chemishkian

    couldn’t even see my controller

  • http://photovoltaik.bandcamp.com/ Ujn Hunter

    After many attempts last night my PS3 Sixaxis controller finally works (OSX 10.7.5). Steam Big Picture Mode works right away, but most games that say they support controllers don’t work. I’ve had to buy Joystick Mapper ($4.99) from the App Store to get it working in all games.

  • Jermaine Scott

    WORKS

  • Muhannad Agha

    Here is how I did it on my iMac running Mavericks

    1) Turn off bluetooth (If you’re using a bluetooth mouse you’re gonna have to plug a USB mouse)

    2) Reset PS3 controller by inserting paperclip into pinhole near L2 button

    3) Plug the controller

    4)Turn on bluetooth

    5) Unplug the controller

    6) Right-click the PS3 controller in the bluetooth preferences then connect

    Sometimes the red lights will be off but you’re still gonna be able to play.

  • Ghilyon Welby – Jenkins

    I’ve got Mavericks and it seems to connect but doesn’t work. It connects when plugged in, but if I try use it wirelessly it connects but doesn’t work and then seems to disconnect after the lights stop flashing on the controller. Tried everything, I’m trying to use the PCSXR emulator.

  • Mike Mac

    should the ps3 controller continue to blink after it is connected?

J. Glenn Künzler

Author

J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.