The last few months have seen a plethora of new game console controllers hit the market, thanks to the arrival of multiple new gaming consoles and the addition of MFi controller support for Apple’s iOS 7. And those aren’t the only new entries: exciting innovations like the Steam Machine’s touch-screen controller prototype and the many planned iPhone and iPad-compatible game pads look to continue the long, iterative history of hand-held joysticks into 2014 and beyond.

With that in mind, we took a look back at our favorite game console controllers of all-time. Here are our five favorites:

The Best Game Console Controllers of All-Time


snes controller

5. Super Nintendo Controller Pad

Our list begins with a huge piece of nostalgia: I can’t count how many hours I spent with the SNES controller in my hands, playing through Super Mario WorldChrono CrossSuper Metroid, and countless other classics from the 16-bit era. Simplistic and colorful, the Super Nintendo controller has provided inspiration not only for future generations of Nintendo consoles, but just about every controller design since (remember those shoulder triggers?), the truest sign of the controller’s lasting design legacy.


sega controller

4. Sega Mega Drive Six Button Control Pad

To this day, Sega’s six-button control pad remains the definitive standard game controller for fighting games. The button layout is perfect for the classic, “piano-finger” arcade style of button pressing, and the large, responsive eight-way directional pad remains one of the most thumb-friendly creations of its kind to grace home consoles. Sure, there were a ton of games that never utilized the extra buttons, but when it came to Super Street Fighter II battle royale, there wasn’t a better controller to duke it out with.


gamecube controller

3. Nintendo Gamecube Controller/Wavebird

Arguably the most ergonomic controller ever produced, the Nintendo GameCube controller initially looks like a warped version of its predecessor (the head-scratching N64 game pad), full of colorful buttons, a ‘C-stick’, and an oddly placed third trigger. But get the GameCube controller in your hands, and it’s like heaven. The thick, tactile shoulder triggers and well-placed action buttons fit neatly into one’s hands, almost as if it were constructed from some futuristic version of memory foam. To say its a “snug fit” would be an understatement. The GameCube controller (and its wireless, slightly bulkier sibling Wavebird) is a perfect fit for two hands, a memorable piece of plastic full of Super Mario Sunshine and Resident Evil 4 memories.



2. Xbox 360 Controller

The most versatile controller ever made (thanks to the wired version’s compatibility with Windows computers), the Xbox 360 controller is a marked improvement over the Xbox Controller S (let’s not even talk about the original Xbox behemoth), removing some of the extraneous buttons and adopting a more compact, ergonomic design. It also introduced us to the “Guide” button, a multi-functional input that controls everything from opening menus to turning the system on and off – something Sony’s adopted since with their ‘PS’ button, and something that lives on (with even more functionality) with the Xbox One controller.


ps4 controller

1. Sony DualShock series

Introduced in 1997, Sony’s DualShock Analog controller was the first home console controller with vibration support built in (the Nintendo 64 required the use of a Rumble Pak, lest we forget) – and Sony hasn’t stopped innovating since, continuing to upgrade and improve their signature game pad with each new generation. Their latest – the DualShock 4 – may just be their best yet, with its Share button, touchpad for navigating menus, built-in speaker, and reconstructed triggers (the DualShock 3’s always felt a little squishy). There’s a reason Sony hasn’t revamped the basic design of the DualShock in the 17 years since its debut: the controller just works, an unbeatable combination of technical achievement and impeccable design.

What is your all-time favorite game console controller? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Published by Randy Dankievitch

Currently living in Portland, Maine, Randy has written about television, games, and technology since 2010. These days, he writes for Processed Media, Sound on Sight, Geeks Unleashed, TVOvermind, SLUG Magazine, and Games Reviews.

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