Every gamer knows about the age-old war between console gamers and PC gamers, but there is another secret war going on; you might even be participating without realising it. There is a civil war going on between console gamers; some are loyal to Xbox, others to Nintendo, others to PlayStation and they fight to see who will come out on top. Stans fighting stans is common online but it happens between friends, too. Maybe your friend keeps trying to convince you to buy a PS4 now that they are cheaper since they love the controller and the power but you are all about the Nintendo Switch. This argument can tear apart friendships and poison voice chats across the world.
An integral part of arguments over which consoles are superior or not are their respective controllers. I am not here to settle the debate about consoles for good. I am here to discuss which console controllers are the best. Sometimes it is the features that make a controller great, or the battery life, or the feel of it in your hands that really make it stand out from its competitors. The memories and emotions behind each controller can complicate the ranking system since everyone has biases and different experiences. Some fans prefer old school controllers while others appreciate a more modern or advanced controller. This list is a mixture of personal opinion, research, and interviews with other gamers that will let you know what the best major console controllers are, ranked.
22 Magnavox Odyssey: Paddle (1972)
We have to pay homage to the original console that made what we have now possible. The Magnavox Odyssey was the first video game console that could be played at home. It featured the same basic principle of two lights representing the players and one light representing the ball. You could twist the knobs on the side of the controller to move your light horizontally or vertically and could bring the 'ball' into play with reset. There were even stickers for your TV screen to help visualise play. It seems clunky now but it was the inspiration for Atari's Pong and other games.
21 Atari 2600: CX40 (1977)
The natural progression from the Magnavox Odyssey, the Atari 2600 came with a pair of CX40s with the iconic joystick feature. They were as simple as it could get - a joystick and a button connected to the TV by a wire. It was the most advanced controller by far in '77 and you cannot make a controller list without including this on here. While it is advanced compared with others of its time, the wires and shape of the controller leave something to be desired when compared with modern controllers.
20 Atari 2600/2700: CX42 (1983)
Another big step in video game history, the Atari CX42 controllers were the original wireless controllers. To their credit, they worked well and had good signal even if you stood a few feet from the TV. They kept the iconic and beloved design of the previous iteration and improved on the mechanics. However, in exchange for sacrificing wires, the actual controllers were chunkier and more difficult to hold for kids with small hands.
19 Nintendo Wii: Wii Fit (2008)
Ah, the Wii Fit; who did not have one of these lurking around at home? After the success of the Wii, Nintendo wanted to capitalise on that and get people moving. The Wii Fit was perfect for balancing games and activities like yoga and meditation. The sensing technologies were advanced for the time and did help people become fitter and more balanced. However, it was a large flat rectangle and there was not much more you could do with it, hence its place on the list.
18 Nintendo N64: Controller (1996)
So the layout of the N64 controller is all too familiar by now in terms of the buttons and stick. However, the biggest drawbacks of the N64 controller are the third stick and the size of it. The third stick was incredibly inconvenient on a normal day, never mind if you had to be quick in your movements while playing. Then the size of the controller made it difficult to reach all of the buttons for some people. The logic can be seen, but the execution was off.
17 SEGA Dreamcast: Controller (1999)
With the SEGA Dreamcast, we see more of the origins of modern controller styles. The classic alphabetical, start, the 'D' pad and stick were all in place and had a screen which served as a second screen or as a screen all on its own. While the shape is odd, the Dreamcast has the foundations of most major controller designs of later generations. The Dreamcast did have a short production run thanks to the PlayStation 2, but it is remembered fondly by many; Sonic fans, in particular, owe a lot to this console.
16 PlayStation 3: Move (2010)
What a flop the PlayStation Move was. While it had the right elements on paper in terms of technology, tracking, buttons, and shape, it just crashed upon release. The controller was too thick and the function left something to be desired. Even if the controller had worked well, it could not contend with the behemoth that was the Wiimote controller designed by Nintendo.
15 Wii: Wii U Gamepad (2012)
The Wii U gamepad was not as popular as its motion control predecessor, however, it was better than many give it credit for. Like the Dreamcast before it, the Gamepad could function as its own console and be useful for many games. However, the biggest drawbacks for this controller, besides a terrible marketing campaign, were its size and shape. It was too large for smaller children and the rectangle shape felt like an older model.
14 Xbox: Fat 'Duke' Controller (2001)
This chunky boy was the first generation Xbox controller and boy was it big. The Duke had all the components of a good controller but has some key design elements that would later be improved on. The giant Xbox logo in the middle that does nothing but take up space and the size and shape of the controller were the biggest drawbacks. While the lighter version was more popular, this controller was brought back briefly as a nostalgia purpose in 2017.
13 Nintendo Wii: Wii Remote (2006)
Thanks to the incredible popularity of the Nintendo Wii, everyone and their mother had this controller in their home. The motion controls added a whole new level of play and fine-tuned the art of motion controls. The straps, when actually used, helped to protect people and possessions from getting damaged and the game selection was great. It is no wonder why the Wii outstripped its contenders.
12 Sony PlayStation: Dual Analog Controller (1997)
The first handheld analog controller for the Sony PlayStation, the Dual Analog Controller is iconic. Many people think that the DualShock range of controllers were the first PlayStation controllers, but this is not true. The Dual Analog controller defined the iconic PlayStation controller design that has been developed and refined to this day. Honestly, the only reason this is here is that the Dualshocks took things to the next level.
11 Sony PlayStation: DualShock (1998)
The DualShock controller for PlayStation developed the design of the Dual Analog controller and the N64 Rumble Pak. It kept the design of the Dual Analog controller and added textured analogue sticks and added two motors in the handles that vibrated depending on events in the game. The dual motors were more sophisticated than the Rumble Pak as there was two of them and the left one was larger, allowing for more range of vibrations.
10 Sony PlayStation: DualShock 2 (2000)
Honestly, the DualShock 1 and 2 are very similar bar some cosmetic changes. The DualShock 2 is lighter than the DualShock 1. There are also fewer screws and their placement is different. The DualShock 2 came in black at first, unlike the grey of the first one, and came in more colors such as blue, red, pink, white, and silver. That is about it in terms of differences, but some folks put emphasis on color choice and weight.
9 Sony PlayStation: DualShock 3 (2008)
With the DualShock 3, PlayStation came into the wireless era. The DualShock 3 was USB chargeable and could motion sense and vibrate at the same time. Crucially, the DualShock 3 also had force-feedback capabilities that the Sixaxis lacked, and it was this feature that ultimately discontinued the Sixaxis. Besides that, there is not much to say on the DualShock 3 besides it also had color options that were more complex like camouflage.
8 Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Pad (1985)
What an icon of gaming history. The NES Pad is so nostalgic and a wonderful memory for so many people that it usually makes it onto lists like this. The simple and slimline design with the key buttons that we are so familiar with paved the way for excellence in controllers. The NES Pad showed that controllers do not have to be thick to be effective controllers for gameplay. While it did not have color options or additions like modern ones, the NES Pad was in a league of its own.
7 Super Nintendo Entertainment System: SNES Pad (1991)
The updated version of the NES Pad, the SNES Pad has become as iconic as its predecessor. The rounded shape was more comfortable to hold during play and it still maintained the simple layout and lightweight design that was integral to the NES Pad. In fact, the NES Pad is so popular that Nintendo released small versions of both the NES and the SNES in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The sales of those mini consoles speak volumes for the nostalgia surrounding this controller.
6 SEGA Genesis: 6 Button Controller (1993)
The curved 6 button controller for the SEGA Genesis has a place in many peoples' hearts. The simple, lightweight design and curved shape made playing with the 6 button controller a breeze. All of the buttons felt easy to use and responded quickly. A classic gaming controller, the 6 button was best for fast-paced games like Mortal Kombat and consistently ranks in the top 10 or top 5 of the best gaming controllers of all time. If you were a fighting or sports game fan then this was probably your favorite controller.
5 Xbox 360: Xbox 360 Controller (2005)
Another icon of the console gaming scene, the Xbox 360 controller really stood out from the crowd on its release. It was released in a wired and wireless version and could connect to other accessories like the Chatpad. The design of the 360 controllers was more comfortable to hold and the misaligned analog sticks were found to be more comfortable than the PlayStation's aligned sticks for many people.
4 Nintendo GameCube: Controller (2001)
The most colorful controller on the list, the GameCube also holds its own against modern controllers. The shape feels comfortable and the handles are thinner than other more cylindrical handles. The trigger buttons are pleasant to press and the 'z' button added a wide range of interesting gameplay moments for many games. The 'c' stick for the camera added a much more dynamic relationship between the player and the world of the game that was phenomenal for its time.
3 PlayStation 4: DualShock 4 (2013)
The most innovative of the Dualshock series thus far, the DualShock really brought things to the next level. In terms of new features, the innovative front touchpad is the most identifying feature and is highly underutilized in PlayStation games. It is too sensitive, as Until Dawn showed us, but after that, it was relegated to the map button and that is unfair. The light bar is also helpful for identifying players and whether the controller is on. The options and share button make moving around menus so much easier as well.
2 Nintendo Switch: Switch Pro (2017)
The Switch Pro is by far one of the best controllers released to date. It is a pleasure to hold and use. The weight feels nice to hold, the capture and home buttons are convenient, the trigger buttons feel good, it's chargeable, and the '-' and '+' buttons are a clever addition to the controller. The Pro controller is a convenient and powerful contender in the controller market and is tied to one of the most successful consoles back then.
1 Xbox One: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller (2015)
One of the most flexible and interchangeable controllers ever created, the Xbox Elite Wireless controller is incredible. The hair-trigger locks, the changeable parts, the unique analog sticks, and the d-pad are all revolutions in gaming. Add to that the color options and the customizable button mapping are truly a dream for gamers everywhere; there is a reason that this controller was marketed as an 'elite controller for elite gamers'.