360 Sunday Games Top 10: Best Controllers
Video game controllers play an important role. Their our connection to the virtual world we are playing in, they are designed to be comfortable so we can spend hours leveling up or going for the next big win. Controllers also have to be innovative, do something different, make us more then just ‘playing’ the game, we have to feel like we’re the heroes saving the princess, that we’re the big sports star getting his team to the championship. They have come in many different sizes and shapes, with different ways to control your virtual avatar, but these following remotes all have something very important in common. They are the ones we keep picking up time and time again.
So I bring you the best of the best that game imputs can give, with the top 10 controllers of all time.
* – Honorable Mention – N.E.S. Controller
I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave the good ‘ol N.E.S. controller off this list. Sure it has jagged corners and the D-pad could blister up a thumb in no time, but it was the 1st to even have a D-pad. Plus it’s also a fashion statement. That black, red and gray have become synonymous with retro gaming, with some gamers even going as far as to wear N.E.S. styled belt buckles, hats, t-shirts and all manner of hip gear. So you can forgive me for pushing this list to 11.
10 – Dualshock 2
- Platform: Sony Playstation 2
- Year Released: 2000
- Innovations: Analog buttons, L3 and R3 buttons
Continuing the evolution from the PS1’s Dual Analog and Dualshock controllers, the Dualshock 2 quickly established itself as the face of gaming controllers. While it didn’t change the look of Sony’s previous models it added new features like all-analog buttons which provide better response time then digital buttons and more sensitivity as well as ‘clickable’ joysticks which birthed the L3 and R3 buttons, the successors of which can be found on the Sixaxis, Dualshock 3 and Xbox 360 controllers,
9 – Virtual Boy Controller
- Platform: Virtual Boy
- Year Released: 1995
- Innovations: Dual-Dpads, Power switch for console on controller
Now here’s the sleeper hit of this list. The Virtual Boy is often regarded as one of the worst gaming consoles of all time, (check our previous top 10 to see where it ranks), but if it did one thing right was its controller. Sure the console was uncomfortable to use, causing problems like eye strain and back pains, but the controller is one of the most comfortable we’ve come across, with its fat handles that grip well to any hands, but the Virtual Boy also birthed some innovations, like Nintendo’s 1st attempt at 3D control with two D-pads, a pattern that would be repeated for the Nintendo 64 with the 4 ‘C’ buttons and D-pad combo. Also the controller also held the battery pack for the console, so the power really was in your hands.
8 – Nintendo 64 Controller
- Platform: Nintendo 64
- Year Released: 1996
- Innovations: Joystick, Expansion slot, Trigger button
At first glance this beast of a controller looks like it was designed for someone with three hands, but when you hold one and really dive into a game of Super Mario 64 you realise it was with gamers in mind that Nintendo took a three-pronged approach. Designed primarily for 3-D gameplay, the centerpiece of the 64’s controller was the joystick which allowed for 360 degree analog movement, add to that the 4 ‘C’ buttons which for most games were used to control the camera that could be problematic in this new frontier of 3D games and you have a controller built for the future. And the innovations just keep coming, the ‘Z’ trigger has since become a must for modern controllers, the expansion bay opened up the controller for modifications like a memory card slot, transfer pak to play certain Game Boy games on the big screen, but most importantly the famous rumble pak which finally added the ‘feel’ of the game to players hands and as seen a return in most (cough, Sixaxis, cough) modern controllers ever since.
7 – Guitar Hero ‘Guitar’ Controller
- Platform: Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 2 and Playstation 3, PC
- Year Released: 2005 (new models frequently available)
- Innovations: Custom guitar shaped controller
More then any other controller on this list the famous Guitar Hero controller makes you feel like you’re actually in the game, and not merely a spectator to the action. Its easy to pick up and play nature made it so that even your mom could pick it up and start strumming right away while still keeping more difficult techniques available for the core gamer to really master his plastic guitar. Over the years we have seen many different models of the guitar come out, some are just different shells while other’s like Rock Band’s change some key features to add more to the experience. But in the end they all serve to same purpose, to turn a boring Saturday night with friends into a full blown rock concert. \m/
6 – Sega Genesis Controller
- Platform: Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)
- Year Released: 1989
- Innovations: Handles
Sometimes perfecting a formula is more important then reinventing it. Taking what made the N.E.S. controller a success Sega went and made it even better. The D-pad was smoothed out and made more responsive and comfortable, a third button was added to give players and developers more options in their games and most importantly the shape was molded to fit more comfortably in player’s hands, a precursor to the handles now standard on modern controllers, and this was a huge help when we spent our nights trying to get Sonic through one more zone.
5 – Wii Remote & Nunchuck
- Platform: Nintendo Wii
- Year Released: 2006
- Innovations: Motion controls, IR pointing, Expansion bay, Sound feedback
When you think innovation in games, you automatically think of Nintendo and their revolutionary controller. And with good reason, the Wii is everywhere and everybody knows about it. From your kid brother, to your mom and pop to even ‘ol granma. Motion controls have replaced button presses as the new norm, IR pointing has made the first person shooter more accessible then ever, some titles even rival the mouse and keyboard for control precision. For more traditional gameplay expeirences you can connect the Nunchuck, an expansion that adds traditional joystick control and extra buttons to get the most out of our adventures. And with Wii Motion Plus just around the corner, their’s no telling what Nintendo will make us feel and play next.
4 – Sega Genesis Controller (6 Button)
- Platform: Sega Genesis
- Year Released: 1993
- Innovations: 6 face buttons
Yes that’s right, the Sega Genesis makes a second appearance on this list thanks to its revised controller. Released around the same time as the classic Street Fighter 2, the controller was basically designed for the more complex games to come. Fighting game fans quickly began proclaiming this model as the best ever, so much so that today some companies will even mod Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 controllers to look like the Genesis 6-button so players can rock Street Fighter IV in classic fashion.
3 – Super Nintendo Entertainment System Controller
- Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
- Year Released: 1991
- Innovations: Shoulder buttons
Perhaps the most influential game controller of all time, the Super Nintendo’s pad did much more then paint our NES controller’s purple. The basic layout of four face buttons arranged in a diamond pattern has been a mainstay of every console generation since 1991, shoulder buttons have also become a must on controllers, eventually evolving into the famous triggers we know today. In fact Nintendo liked this controller so much they basically created a 2nd version with the Wii Classic Controller, massive D-pad and all.
2 – Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller
- Platform: Microsoft Xbox 360, PC
- Year Released: 2005
- Innovations: ‘Home’ button, dual triggers
The ultimate modern gaming controller, the Xbox 360’s pad takes all that old-school know how and meshes it perfectly with new school features. The four face button layout made popular with the Super Nintendo returns, as well as the Playstation inspired 2 joystick, 1 D-pad input. New features include dual triggers matched up with 2 shoulder buttons, now labeled ‘bumpers’. The controller is centered by a glowing Xbox logo, that not only tell us now wireless gamers who is player 1 and who is player 2 but a quick press will send you to the dashboard where all sorts of stats and options are posted, including our sacred Xbox Live profiles. The only thing holding it back from the number 1 spot is the awful D-pad.
1 – Wavebird
- Platform: Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo Wii
- Year Released: 2002
- Innovations: Wireless
Cut the cord. That was Nintendo’s philosophy when developing the Wavebird for the Gamecube. The Wavebird took an already stellar controller and made it better by eliminating the rope that has tied gamers to their consoles from decades. Sure other’s would attempt wirless controllers before, but Wavebird was the 1st to hit it out of the park. So much so that ever since the Wii launched Nintendo has had to keep manufacturing the controller to keep up with a rising demand. The omission of rumble was unfortunate but a necessary evil (right Sony fans? ) to keep the battery life well into the 60 hour range and at distances of more then 20 feet. The Wavebird opened the floodgates, today no major game console’s main controller is directly connected to the console with a cable, and we have Wavebird to that thank for that freedom.
You’ve seen the best but are you ready to see the worst? Tune in next week as we count down the top 10 worst devices to call themselves game controllers.