9 PC games that would work great with a Playdate crank controller

By now you've no doubt formed a complete and unshakable opinion about the handheld game console Playdate. Sure, it's cute, quirky, perhaps a bit hipster, but it's hard not to admire the minimalist design and bold, school bus yellow color. I'm looking forward to seeing the experimental games being made for it.

The Playdate also has a crank controller. And I definitely wouldn't mind having a crank controller to use on PC games, because, let's be honest, the mousewheel has gotten a bit old hat. Been there, spun that. It's tired, not wired. Maybe the future of gaming is a crank! In fact, I can already give you a long list of PC games that would benefit from the Playdate's crank controller, and here is that list, in list form.

Sea of Thieves

I'm gonna take a not-so-wild guess and assume at least one of the Playdate's games will be a fishing game. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there were eventually multiple fishing games. Which is great, because I love fishing in games, and with a little crank controller mounted on my PC I could happily reel in fish all day in Sea of Thieves or Far Cry 5.

Cooking Simulator

Ever whisk some eggs? Stir a bowl of soup? Burn your eggs or soup and then have to scrape them out of a pot or pan? That motion you make for these cooking activities is basically a circular one, perfect for a crank. Cooking Simulator is already a fun kitchen game, and a crank that controls a fork, spoon, or whisk would be a natural fit.

Apex Legends

Loot boxes are gambling according to many irate players and now several governments. As long as we're going to be sitting there opening Apex Packs and hoping there's something useful inside them, we might as well be operating a little crank, just like you would on a slot machine. Instead of just clicking a button, pull the crank from top to bottom and then watch as you get a bunch of common or rare items and not that heirloom set you've been chasing.


I wasn't so creative when I played the Hitman games. I know there are lots of clever ways to kill people but I tended to mostly just choke them until I got caught at which point I'd start shooting them at which point I'd usually die. But when slipping a fiber wire around someone's neck and tightening it until they asphyxiate, I think the crank would be a great controller! The faster you turn, the faster their brain becomes deprived of oxygen and the life ebbs from their body.

Just Cause 4

Grappling hooks are some of the best traversal tools in games, but they're also a bit of a cheat. Running, climbing, driving: they all require a bunch of keypressing, but when using a grappling hook you just click and then watch as the hook flies out, attaches itself to a distant object, and immediately yanks you over to it. Let's get realistic—now when you grapple onto a building, you have to slowly reel yourself all the way up there with a crank. It could take a while, maybe even an hour. But you'll feel like you really accomplished something.

Cities Skylines

Cities Skylines has always leaned into progressive city design with a focus on public transportation over traffic jams and a Green Cities expansion with more eco-friendly building options. And there's no better way to avoid pollution than with a hand-crank generator. Winding a crank controller to provide power to your city would be a bit of extra work—on average a hand generator can produce 10 watts of electricity while a city uses thousands of megawatt-hours per day (megawatts being 1,000 kilowatts and a kilowatt being a thousand watts). So yes, it'd take a lot of cranking—you would never, ever stop cranking—but your virtual city would thank you!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro is a tough game requiring great memory and reflexes. I think. I actually haven't read Tom's review yet but I did a text-search for the word 'parry' and it came up six times, which tells me that using a crank to parry—turning the crank one direction to raise your sword and the other way to lower it again—would be just the challenge for people who have beaten it once already and can't stop bragging about how easy it was for them.

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 wasn't really a massive step-up from Forza Horizon 3, but it's still a fantastic racing game set in a huge sandbox with lots to do and an incredibly satisfying loop of excitement and rewards. It's a highly-polished racing experience and delivers smooth performance and fantastic visuals, one of the best racing games we've played. Oh, the crank controller? You could use it when you wanted to roll the driver's side window down. Or up!

The Witness

The game used to demonstrate the Playdate's crank is called Crankin's Time Travel Adventure, where the crank moves the character across the screen and also allows them to rewind and move backward in time. That's a great concept, and I wish there were a PC game like that to use a crank with, but I can't think of a single one, so I think The Witness, by developer Jonathan Blow, would be a good choice instead.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.