A large part of the success of video games has been the evolution of the video game controller. Whether you’re a console, mobile, or PC gamer, the importance of a well-designed and properly functioning controller cannot be understated. From the humble beginnings of the Magnavox Odyssey with its rudimentary controller block to the elaborate contraptions we see attached to next-gen consoles, the story of the controller has been an exciting evolution.
We’ve certainly wrapped our banana-grabbers around our fair share of controllers and while personal taste and experience certainly comes into play, we’ve tallied up our favourite controllers to see which one really pushes our buttons.
10 - NES Controller
It’s not hard to admit that this list wouldn’t be complete without the NES controller. Sure, it doesn’t stack up to today’s modern marvels in any facet but it is the father of modern controller design. Its iconic design style, the simplicity and effectiveness of its layout, and the exuberant success of the console it was attached to make it one of the most recognisable video game images in history.
9 - Dreamcast Controller
An unwieldy and uncomfortable looking beast of a controller on the face of it, the Dreamcast controller was more of an innovation and a pleasurable gaming sensation. It’s beauty lies in the innovation of its portable memory, meaning you could take saved data with you and even play minigames on the controller itself. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?
8 - Nintendo 64 Controller
Speaking of weird looking pieces of plastic, Nintendo sure threw the mould out the window when they thought up this monstrosity. Catering to the important, albeit niche, three-handed market, they inadvertently made a controller that was both fun and a constant challenge to use properly. While the majority of games required no more than two hands to play, the 64’s intriguing design and surprising usability were part and parcel of it becoming a staple product in the entertainment suite of the 1990s.
7 - WiiMote
Nintendo again went boldly where someone has gone before but the first entity didn’t do it very well. The WiiMote was the first majorly successful motion-based controller. In an era dominated by controller-clones, it broke the mould and revolutionised how we thought about playing games. While a lot of the game’s that employed the new controllers full potential were a little gimmicky, the WiiMote is a success in that it is no longer a fancy party trick and has rather become a staple in many gaming households.
6 - PlayStation 2 DualShock 2
Like the WiiMote, what the DualShock controller brought to the table wasn’t necessarily new but it was perfected. Sony had already stumbled upon the most ergonomic controller design we’d seen in a while with the original PlayStation controller and the addition of vibrative feedback took the experience to new heights. You didn’t need a fancy RumblePak for this controller, all the fun came built in.
5 - PlayStation 4 Controller
Everything the PlayStation 2 DualShock 2 perfected and even more. The PlayStation 4 controller ditched a few things, though. The Start and Select buttons are no longer with us (did they really have much use anyway?), in place of which are a trackpad and two new buttons. A fancy disco light on the backend and some rudimentary speaker outputs on the control and you’ve got a space-age looking beast which feels great in your hands.
4 - Super Nintendo Controller
If the NES controller is the father of modern controllers, then the Super Nintendo variant is certainly the uncle or some other not-too-distant relative. The introduction of shoulder buttons and a more ergonomic feel in hand were the signals for manufacturers across the globe to lift their game in terms of controller design. So influential was it that the Wii Classic Controller is designed in its image.
3 - Keyboard & Mouse
PC Master Race assemble! You didn’t think we’d forget you, did you? In terms of sheer volume of options and customisability, there really isn’t anything that compares with a good, old-fashioned keyboard and mouse. You’ll need to be at a desk to use them and, unless you’ve forked out some major cash for a high-end setup, they can be uncomfortable for prolonged periods of no-scoping and typing ‘GG scrubs’.
2 - Nintendo Gamecube Controller
Nintendo kept most of the wackiness of the Nintendo 64 controller but were wise enough to listen to a little bit of sense when it came to designing the handheld portion of the GameCube. It’s still got a quirky design, with two protruding segments hanging off the undercarriage, but it fell into line enough to make it a hit both with the new fans and seasoned Nintendo veterans alike. Keeping the colourful design was also a big reason it stood out against a competition so heavily stuck on the path towards clinical, monotone designs.
1 - Xbox One Controller
There’s a lot of emotion and nostalgia in this list, and rightfully so, but the winner of the day goes to the Xbox One controller. It’s surprising that a line of controllers that began with the original Xbox monstrosity could have culminated in such an amazing piece of design. It’s clinical, attractive, and incorporates the best of almost every other controller on this list. Smooth triggers, the calling card of a good Xbox controller, are optimised far better than any other controller for responsiveness and authenticity of feel, and the buttons and joysticks fit so seamlessly into the overall design of the controller. Microsoft sure have come a long way since their first attempt.
There’s no doubt at least one of you is enraged by our lineup, which is good news because you can comment below and let us know which you think is the best controller of all time.