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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas plus iOS 7 controller equals the future of iPhone gaming

Will controllers turn iOS devices into true handheld game devices? Rockstar's newest Grand Theft Auto on iOS is the best reason yet to get one.

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There are finally universal game controllers that work with Lightning-equipped iPhones and iPods running iOS 7. Both the Moga Ace Power and Logitech PowerShell offer the potential to turn your device into a little handheld game dynamo by adding buttons. But, there's a problem: it's not easy to find games that support them.

There are supposed to be hundreds of iOS 7 controller-ready games out there in the App Store, but with 1 million apps to sift through, discovery isn't a piece of cake. Games need to be updated to work with these controllers. Luckily, many of the newer games are coming out of the gate controller-ready, and Rockstar's newly released Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the king of the early heap.

Without a controller, there are lots of buttons. Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Even if GTA: San Andreas didn't work with controllers, it would still be an easy recommendation: it's a full graphics-enhanced port of the infamously long PlayStation 2 game, at a very reasonably price of $6.99. I like getting these games for nostalgia, but I know from experience that trying to play them with a ton of cramped onscreen virtual buttons becomes nearly impossible. Playing on one of these iOS 7 game controllers, however, makes a lot of the onscreen buttons disappear, and frees up the precious 4 inches of screen space for unobstructed viewing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

GTA: SA works with both the Logitech PowerShell and Moga Ace Power controllers; I tried both. The Logitech controller lacks dual analog pads, but its analog D-pad does a very good job for controlling most in-game action. The Moga controller, which has more buttons and pads matching a full console setup, allows for additional camera control, and changing radio station channels with the D-pad (yes, it has all the radio stations, it seems).

Sarah Tew/CNET

I've found other iOS 7 controller-ready games: Limbo, Bastion, a new update to Sega's Sonic 2, Asphalt 8, Angry Birds Go!, and Galaxy on Fire 2 HD are some stand-outs. But, GTA: San Andreas is the first game I've seen that I'd call a killer app. It's not enough to justify a $100 controller purchase, which is what the Logitech and Moga accessories cost, but hopefully the game library of supported titles will grow, making these accessories feel more essential.

If you just bought an iOS 7 game controller, San Andreas is an absolute must-buy.

Read my review of the Moga Ace Power, and First Take of the Logitech PowerShell, which I received recently (full review coming soon).