A good mouse can make a big difference when playing your favorite games. Here’s what you need to know about grip styles, types of gaming mice, technical specs, and more, before purchasing a new gaming mouse.
What Differentiates a Gaming Mouse From a Regular Mouse?
Gaming mice aren’t all that different from regular mice. Just about any design can be designated “for gaming,” and it doesn’t necessarily have to have a dozen extra buttons and an acid trip’s worth of flashing LED lights. But generally speaking, any gaming mouse worth considering for purchase will have at least the following two characteristics: an advanced optical or laser sensor that allows for faster or more precise movements, and some degree of user customization.
Gaming mice often feature extra buttons for the player’s thumb, on-the-fly adjustments to sensitivity and speed, extra-long cables, or even exotic functions like adjustable weights or button tension springs.
In addition, most gaming mice come with a wired connection. These typically offer a faster response time than their wireless counterpart, although nowadays it’s more common than ever to find wireless variants of your favorite wired mouse. Speeds vary by product, but if you’re looking for the fastest possible connection, your best bet is to stick with something wired. They’ll also be more affordable than their wireless counterparts.
More expensive gaming mice generally have more bells and whistles than cheaper models, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll just get a better experience by spending more. Here’s what you should consider before you lay your money down on a new design.
Know Your Grip Style
The kind of grip you use, specifically when you’re playing a PC game versus using a mouse for more mundane tasks, is important. While every player is different, you can generally separate the grips into three broad styles:
Palm grip: A standard grip used by most players. Your fingers lay flat on the mouse buttons and your entire palm rests on the body of the mouse.
Flu type: Only the tips of your index, middle, and ring fingers rest on the left, center (wheel), and mouse buttons, with your palm not touching the body of the mouse at all. Your thumb grips the side of the mouse.
Claw grip: A mix between the palm and tip grip styles. Your palm rests only on the back edge of the mouse, with your finger and thumb tips angled in towards the buttons.
Different grips can be more or less effective for different types of games, but it’s not a great idea to try and change your grip type intentionally. Simply use whatever grip feels right to you and lets you play well.
However, different mice may favor different kinds of grips. Larger, wider mice are good for a more general palm grip — these usually assume at least some of your hand will be resting on the mousepad at all times. Short mice, without a large palm area and ideally with a lighter overall body, make maneuvering with a tip grip easier. Claw grip users appreciate relatively narrow mice with skinny, elongated primary buttons.
The Customization’s in the Software
Most dedicated gaming mice come with their own PC software, either as a stand-alone package or in a “suite” with compatibility for other gaming gear like keyboards and headsets. This software allows you to set up the lighting profile (not all that important), customize button assignments (useful, but usually available in individual games as well), and set DPI options. The latter is particularly important since it allows you to change the sensitivity of the mouse for faster or more precise tracking — and some more advanced mice will even let you adjust this on-the-fly with mouse buttons.
Mouse software may also allow you to customize macros for different buttons, make adjustments for specific mousepads, and set up custom button profiles for individual games. All gaming mouse software will handle all of these functions to a greater or lesser degree. A particularly useful tool is the ability to save profiles directly to the memory on a mouse itself, allowing it to be moved from PC to PC with its settings intact, no extra setup required. Note that Razer software does not offer local device memory profiles, unlike most modern “gaming” software packages.
The Different Types of Gaming Mice
As PC gaming itself has become more complex, so too have PC gaming accessories. There are a few distinct subdivisions of gaming mice that we can take a look at, most of which have button designs and placements meant to aid in very specific types of games. Note that these subdivisions are independent of the body and grip styles mentioned above — a shooter mouse can be wide and low for a palm grip or skinny and shallow for a tip grip. So once you decide what type of gaming mouse to buy, be sure to look at our recommendations with grip type and software in mind.
Shooter Mice: Fast and Basic
This is the most common type of gaming mouse. Shooter mice use a conventional left button-mouse wheel-right button setup for primary input, mirroring most regular desktop gaming mice, plus two to three thumb buttons. In most first-person and third-person shooting games, these correspond to primary fire, weapon selection or zoom, secondary fire or iron sights, and grenade or melee actions, respectively.
Shooter mice are relatively simple, allowing gamers to quickly adapt to all kinds of action games using only three fingers. In addition to DPI up and down buttons on more expensive models, some shooter mice have a precision or “sniper” button, which when depressed temporarily lowers the DPI for super-sensitive shots.
A great gaming mouse for shooter fans is the Logitech G502. Not only did it walk away with our “Best Gaming Mouse of 2022” award, but it’s affordably priced and highly customizable. You could also check out the Logitech G203 or Razer Viper, both of which are incredibly versatile and well-suited for twitchy FPS matches.
The Logitech G502 is a great combination of power and price, with a lightning-fast sensor that makes it a perfect fit for FPS games.
“MOBA” or “MMO” Mice: Big on Buttons
Massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, strategy games like Age of Empires, and MOBA games like Noun of Other Noun League of Legends all have some common design elements: a bunch of very specific, very contextual skills that don’t necessarily need to be used all the time, but have to be activated quickly to stay competitive. Thus the “MMO” mouse was born, with a crazy 12-button grid just for the thumb.
MMO mice are excellent for games that benefit from a lot of custom-bound skills or unit groups. They take some getting used to for new players, not to mention a lot of setup for the ideal skills or units for each button. The smaller, harder-to-distinguish thumb buttons make them less ideal for faster-paced action and shooter games.
Our favorite gaming mouse for MMOs is the Logitech G600. The sleek device somehow manages to hold an eye-catching profile while packing in 20 programmable buttons, and its wired connection and sensor result in stunning response times. Other options include the Razer Naga Trinity and Corsair Scimitar RGB Elite.
The Logitech G600 was made for MMO players with its 20 programmable buttons, low latency inputs, and solid build quality.
Ambidextrous Mice: Southpaw’s Special
Most left-handed gamers — like yours truly — simply grin and bear it when it comes to mice, using our right hands just like our cruel anti-sinister oppressors. But for those who refuse to compromise, gaming hardware companies do offer a few lefty options — or, more often, ambidextrous options, with perfectly symmetrical bodies and buttons rather than bodies curved for the right hand. Most of these use a relatively simple shooter-style button layout with thumb buttons on both sides, with the assumption that players will disable the buttons for their off-hand. Some even come with replaceable blanks for unused buttons.
One of the best left-handed products money can buy is the Razer Viper. Its ambidextrous design lets both lefties and righties enjoy its lightweight profile, while also packing in one of the best sensors on the market — providing you with premium in-game performance. Other options include the Corsair M55 RGB Pro and Razer Naga Left-Handed Edition.
Lightweight, ambidextrous, and featuring a handful of programmable buttons, the Razer Viper is a solid, simple choice for left-handed gamers. It also features a 16,000 DPI 5G optical sensor, meaning you’ll have no trouble keeping up with the competition.
Mobile Mice: Good Companions for Gaming Laptops
For the gamer on the go, some manufacturers offer smaller, more portable versions of their mouse designs. While these are often wireless and much lighter than standard gaming mice, they also offer a specific advantage to gamers who prefer a tip grip style, as the smaller body can be more easily maneuvered while physically touching less of the mouse.
This category of gaming mice is underrepresented, as stuffing high-end components into a small form factor isn’t easy. The Razer Orochi V2 is one of the few great recommendations in this category, although you’d be served just as well by carefully packing your favorite, standard-sized product and giving up a few inches of space in your bag.
Razer Orochi V2
The Razer Orochi offers two different types of wireless connection, making it easy to go from performing daily tasks to participating in competitive ranked matches. It’s a bit expensive, but high-quality components and up to 950 hours of battery life make it a solid choice for any gamer on the go.
With all that in mind, you should be able to narrow down your search quite a bit. What kind of mouse are you looking for? What kind of grip do you use? Do you care about extra features like RGB lighting and on-device profiles, or will any software do the trick? The gaming mice market may seem huge, but once you whittle down the stuff that really matters, you should have an easy time finding the perfect one for you.