Making great games and creating powerful hardware is all well and good, but without peripherals, the whole thing is entirely pointless. Controllers connect us to our games; to the virtual worlds, characters and action presented by over four decades of hard work.
It's about time we gave the all-important controllers their dues, so for your delectation, here's our vote for the ten most innovative, most influential and plain best console peripherals ever made. As always, it's open to debate and discussion, so we can't wait to hear what you make of it!
10: Dreamcast Controller
The Dreamcast came bundled with a controller that was years ahead of its time, mainly due to the innovative Virtual Memory Units that were memory cards, Tamigotchis and a secondary UI rolled into one.
Unfortunately, SEGA were too busy innovating to remember that controllers have to be comfortable as well. The weighting was inadequate (front-heavy with a VMU and too light without)... and more importantly, its dorsal skis start to feel like vicious steel blades after extended play sessions.
9: Kinect/Playstation Move
Kinect and the Playstation Move are nifty bits of kit. The accuracy and precision of Sony's peripheral cannot be denied... and Kinect is about to create a legacy in advanced robotics and allowing autistic children a new way to engage with computers.
At present, though, these two peripherals are both struggling to prove their relevance to one key audience: us gamers. This list may well look very different in a year's time, but for now, there's a long road ahead.
8: Steel Battalion
Let's face it: you knew that the Steel Battalion controller would show up sooner or later. It's literally a self-contained mech cockpit, complete with ignition, pedals, advanced inputs and an astoundingly useful eject button. It created a sense of pure immersion that, for our money, hasn't yet been bettered by any simulation of this generation.
It was a little on the pricey side, mind.
7: G-CON 45
Lightguns were once the pinnacle of gaming excellence, and though the third party market has pumped out literally hundreds of cheap imitations, Time Crisis fans know that there's only one sidearm that you can rely on in a firefight: the trusty Guncon 45.
Not only does it look the business (a far cry from the wimpy clones of today), but it's perfectly weighted and designed for combat under extreme conditions. Clonks, bumps and even cat maulings are gimped by the G-CON's durable casing, and we defy you not to feel like a consumate badass while you're wielding it.
6: The WiiMote
The humble WiiMote didn't have the accuracy of the Playstation Move. It didn't boast the full-body sensing offered by Kinect. But Nintendo's casual casual phenomenon did have bags of potential and legions of developers who were willing to unlock it.
By removing a barrier to entry, Nintendo made our hobby accessible to anyone. To everyone. Say what you want about the Wii, but the fact that motion control is threatening to become ubiquitous is testament to just how important the WiiMote was.
5: The WaveBird
I daresay that many of you waited in enormous queues or braved risky pre-orders for this exceptional piece of technology. The Wavebird was the first reliable mass-market wireless controller, and as such, made the massive and dangerous jumbles of living room floor cables a thing of the past.
As well as setting an important precedent, the WaveBird was also comfortable, functional and plenty tough. God bless it, and all those who game upon it.
Controllers have two thumbsticks. We all know that, right? Well, that simply wasn't the case before the Dual Analog Controller came along, and after a few months on the shelves, the DualShock blew it out of the water and literally redefined what controllers could offer. We owe it everything.
However, Sony decided to model all future core peripherals on the DualShock's basic blueprint... which was a mistake in our opinion. It's an important precedent, but the cramped central sticks and protruding bumpers force gamers to adopt an unnatural 'claw' hand position. Sony's refusal to sacrifice tradition for ergonomics sadly allowed their competitor to get ahead in the controller stakes - which, if course, can only mean one thing...
3: The Xbox 360 Controller
The Xbox 360 controller is a thing of rare beauty. Its ergonomic shell, asymmetrical design and recessed triggers are a masterpiece of of form, function and comfort; making the gamepad feel like it was tailored specifically for each individual player. Rather than making us contort our fingers to suit the thumbstick positions, the Xbox 360 controller slips effortlessly into your palms like the gentle hand of a loved one. Shame about the crappy D-Pad, though.
It's not just for consoles. Enhanced connectivity via wireless or USB means that the Xbox 360 controller has also become the industry standard for PC gaming - so if a modern title supports a gamepad, you can practically guarantee that you'll see the familiar layout right there in the options menu.
2: NES Pad
The Nintendo Entertainment System is an iconic system with an iconic controller to match. The red and black motif is instantly recognisable even by those too young to remember the console itself, and will always be synonymous with our medium. Long may it continue.
But let us not forget that it also delivered one of gaming's most persistent innovations: the directional pad. Nintendo's Game And Watch handhelds originally created the humble cruciform button as a way to save space without having to resort to clunky joysticks, but it was the NES that brought it in to homes throughout the world. And, many would argue, brought gaming to homes around the world. NES Controller, we salute you.
1: N64 Controller
We've gone a bit Zelda crazy recently thanks to the release of Ocarina Of Time 3D and our competition... but while we were playing through Ninty's magnum opus, there was one thing we really missed: an N64 controller to play it on.
In addition to being a classic and beautiful piece of gaming history, the N64 gamepad is actually extremely functional. Its Z trigger and responsive central thumbstick allowed developers to consider entirely new hand positions (just ask Sin & Punishment veterans) and radical ways to control our favourite games. And let's not forget just how comfortable it was. The N64 controller is... perfect... and therefore a worthy winner.
Alright, folks, it's time to have your say. Did we miss anything? Do you want to give a shout out to your favourite console peripherals? Have your say in the comments!