How to Set Up Joystick Controller for Movement in Unity

Unity Engine, a powerhouse for game development, offers flexible tools to integrate and respond to various input methods. Among these, the joystick stands as a popular choice for both developers and gamers. Mastering joystick integration means smoother gameplay and a wider audience reach. This tutorial delves into setting up joystick movement in Unity for game characters or objects.


  • Unity Engine installed and set up.
  • A new or existing Unity Project.
  • A joystick or controller, that is connected to the development machine for testing.

1. Setting up the Input

  • Navigate to 'Edit > Project Settings > Input Manager'.
  • In the Input Manager, there are predefined axes like "Horizontal" and "Vertical" which, by default, are set up for keyboard inputs.
  • For joystick controls, duplicate one of these axes by right-clicking and selecting 'Duplicate Array Element'.
  • Rename this duplicated element, for instance, "JoystickHorizontal".
  • Set "Type" to Joystick Axis.
  • For the horizontal axis on most joysticks, set "Axis" to the 'X' axis.
  • Repeat these steps for the vertical input, naming it "JoystickVertical" and setting "Axis" to the 'Y' axis.

2. Scripting the Joystick Movement

  • Create a new C# script, name it 'JoystickMovement', and open it in the preferred code editor. Below is a simple example of capturing and applying joystick inputs to move a game object, paste it inside the script then save it:


using UnityEngine;

public class JoystickMovement : MonoBehaviour
    public float speed = 5.0f;

    void Update()
        float moveHorizontal = Input.GetAxis("JoystickHorizontal");
        float moveVertical = Input.GetAxis("JoystickVertical");

        Vector3 movement = new Vector3(moveHorizontal, 0.0f, moveVertical);
        transform.Translate(movement * speed * Time.deltaTime);

3. Applying the Script

  • Return to Unity.
  • Select the game object or character that should move using the joystick.
  • Attach the 'JoystickMovement' script to this object by dragging it over or using the 'Add Component' button.

4. Testing the Joystick Movement

  • Hit the Play button in Unity.
  • Use the joystick to witness the movement of the game object or character.

Answers to Common Questions:

  1. Why isn't the game object responding to joystick movements?: a) Ensure the joystick or controller is connected properly. b) Check the axis settings in the Input Manager to confirm they are set to the correct joystick axis. c) Confirm the 'JoystickMovement.cs' script is attached to the intended game object.
  2. How can the sensitivity or responsiveness of joystick movement be adjusted?: Within the Input Manager, adjust the "Sensitivity" and "Gravity" settings for the joystick axis. Higher sensitivity means a faster reaction to input changes.
  3. What if the object should move up and down instead of just side to side?: Adjust the movement Vector3 in the 'JoystickMovement.cs' script. For vertical movement on the Y-axis, modify the movement line to 'Vector3 movement = new Vector3(0.0f, moveVertical, 0.0f);'.


By the end of this tutorial, joystick movement should be effectively integrated into a Unity game project. Testing frequently and adjusting settings as needed will ensure an optimal gameplay experience.