The goal here is not to rank the top 5 BEST controllers of all time, because that is subjective to the type a gamer a person is and the type of games they enjoy playing. Someone who prefers fighting games is going to have a different opinion that someone who enjoys FPS games. But enough with the technicals, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at the controllers that helped change and mold the gaming industry.
5. Nintendo Wii
The Nintendo Wii controller is something that definitely turns heads when you first see it. When looking back at previous controllers that Nintendo has put out, it fits the mold of being wacky and different, but never before to this extreme. Nintendo put all their chips on motion controls and the console sold like hot cakes. Never before was it this easy and this fun to go bowling and golfing with friends in your living room.
4. PlayStation 2
The Sony PlayStation 2 is very likely the most popular console among gamers in their 20s and 30s today. Almost everyone had one of these as a kid. The design did not change much from their PlayStation 1 controller, but the added vibration is a feature that hasn’t gone away and likely will never go away. This controller saw hundreds of imitation products from third-party companies that were always given to the younger sibling during split screen play sessions. Sony realized that this blueprint for a controller works and they haven’t deviated too far from it. Even when compared to the PlayStation 5 controller set to release this fall, it‘s clear that it still takes inspiration from this one here.
3. NES (Nintendo Entertainment System)
The NES was home to some of the most recognized games the industry has ever seen. It’s not possible to look at this controller and not think of Super Mario Bros. The concept was so simple, and when it’s this simple it’s hard to do it wrong. A D-pad and 2 buttons, what else do you need? This takes a place on the list more so for the games that were played on it as opposed to the functionality of the controller itself. Nintendo made this relevant today by releasing the NES classic as well as access to NES classic games on the Switch that can be played with the classic controller. Holding this controller in your hands takes you back quite a bit.
2. Xbox 360
When the Xbox 360 released, it‘s controller became the gold standard for FPS games. Pair this with the rise of competitive online gaming and it’s clear why this controller was loved and still loved by so many people. The idea of actual “Triggers” has been done before but the 360 nailed it with this controller. Pulling back the string of a bow or holding your finger patiently on the trigger while looking down the scope of a sniper rifle felt so natural that it won the hearts of every gamer during this console generation. Today, the Xbox and PlayStation controllers share many similar features but the off-set joysticks still divide people on personal preference. Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, you can’t deny that the 360 controller is one of the most iconic and arguably one of the best ever made.
1. Nintendo 64
Ahhhh yes, no list about video game controllers Is complete until it mentions the Nintendo 64 controller. At first glance, this thing looks ugly let’s just get that out of the way. 3 handles when humans are only born with 2 hands, 1 joystick, half of the rainbow and alphabet on here, what the heck is going on? The reality is, this controller from a functionality perspective is absolutely not the best. With that said, this controller came at a big turning point for the gaming industry. The transition from 2D to 3D games was no easy task. You can tell just by the layout of this controller that it wants to work for 2D games but also be usable for 3D games. Titles like Super Mario 64, Goldeneye, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are all considered to be some of the best games ever created. Even when going back and playing them today the games hold up well but you can tell the controller caused some limitations. That just goes to show how great these games actually were that even with a controller like this, they can still be considered among the best games ever made. And in the end, that’s what gaming is really about. The games.