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Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

Jonathan Lester
Controllers, DualShock, N64, peripherals, Steel Battalion, Top Ten, Top Ten Tuesdays, Xbox 360

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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.

4: DualShock

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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

Top Ten Tuesdays | Console Controllers

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!

Add a comment22 comments
flyingteddy  Jul. 12, 2011 at 13:10

I think the size of your hands will have a big factor in deciding your favourite controller. As I have quite small hands, the Dualshock feels very comfortable to me and I'm happy its stuck all the way from PS1->3, larger controllers like the 360 or N64, take a bit of getting used too

Late  Jul. 12, 2011 at 14:30

The Bug (toward the bottom of this page for those who don't remember or didn't experience it) was a personal favourite of mine, back in the Spectrum days.
Held with one hand underneath, cupping it (with buttons at first finger and thumb) and the other moving the joystick, I think it was the first controller to "break the mould" from the first joysticks.

Last edited by Late, Jul. 12, 2011 at 14:31
JonLester  Jul. 12, 2011 at 15:10

Good shout, Late, and I'll definitely add some honourable mentions to the beginning of the article if some more come in.

@flyingteddy: You're right, hand size does come into it. I'd very much like to hear from some more gamers who primarily play on a PS3 with a Dualshock/Sixaxis.

Last edited by JonLester, Jul. 12, 2011 at 15:11
stevenjameshyde  Jul. 12, 2011 at 15:14

The Cheetah Bug was a classic. I'd also recommend Namco's NegCon which was groundbreaking at the time

AGBear  Jul. 12, 2011 at 15:18

No Sega Saturn or Neo Geo controller mentions? Oh dear.

RiKx  Jul. 12, 2011 at 16:45

hand size yeah I'm sure that's it...No snes? :( Wasn't the analog pad for psx only released here because of licencing or sommit with the dualshock tech. That's why wasn't that long before the dualshock came out? could be wrong, but i do remember that some games that didn't mention vibration support did have it like porche boxster challenge or whatever it was called.

Also I had a light gun that was almost identical to the G-con .45 except that it had a sliding top to give recoil on each shot. That ruled!

Last edited by RiKx, Jul. 12, 2011 at 16:51
jvl  Jul. 12, 2011 at 19:33

wtf n64 controller are you joking LOL everyone knows ds3 should be number one and wtf is wii and kinect and move doing on this list i would also bump xbox360 down for not havin built in battery but honestly n64 number 1?? it doesnt even have 2 joysticks or rumble hurrrrtin article

bakerboi  Jul. 12, 2011 at 20:12

C'mon now...The N64 controller, Dreamcast, and Gamecube controllers? Are serious. Those were among the most uncomfortable controllers in history.

You can't really say too much about the NES, cause even though it wasn't very comfortable it was miles ahead of the other **** we had to deal with, with Atari and other systems.

All nintendo's controllers but the NES should be striken off the list for pure crappery. And SNES should be added along with it. The Sega Genesis Game pad should then Dreamcast Brick should be striken off. The Genesis pad is still one of the best controllers constructed.

The Dreamcast Brick is up there with the 1st XBOX controller which is just as bad, so neither should be on this list.

1.SEGA Pad
2.SNES Pad
3.PS DualShock
4.360 Controller
5.The Magic Wand - Gives you a blitzing orgasm since you
think waving somethin around is so cool.

There's your list.

And I guess we could throw the Joystick in the for honorable mention since it got this whole thing kick started.

RiKx  Jul. 12, 2011 at 20:44

@bakedboy sorry your post is confusing can youu edit it to make your message more intelligible? Also by gamecube controller do you mean the wavebird cos thats A gamecube controller not THE gamecube controller. Which SEGA pad do you mean? the mastersytem one was a copy of the NES (though i think usably superior) the megadrive pad was crap - at least the original iteration. It was clunky and badly responsive.

which joystick there was massive variation's? Also whats the magic wand?

RiKx  Jul. 12, 2011 at 21:05

@jvl built in battery is a disadvantage. when my rechargeable flats out i can swap it for normals till its charged. Also rechargeable batteries have limited recharge cycles. my friends ds3 has about a twenty min life these days mines prob only couple hrs. Eventually they will need plugging in constantly. The N64 was the first with a built in analogue stick waaaay before the ds controller and it does have vibration its a plug in pack and if you ever played N64 you'd know that and that the feedback was awesome - so powerful it prob wasnt healthy. The satisfaction of firing the ak-7 in goldeneye!!!

jvl1  Jul. 12, 2011 at 21:18

@RiKx a built in battery a disadvantage what are you retared lol like a wireless controller is a disadvantage you dont even own a ps3 u bitch ...n64 analogue way before ps what are smoking maybe like a month LOL i have had my ds3 for 4 years and it still holds its charge i dont have to buy a **** 40$ rumble pack for it that devours batteries not to mention soo many n64 joysticks breaking it was very uncomfortable too made from hard plastic playing perfect dark and golden eye was a cumbersome nightmare wtf is meh second joystick fag

gordunkthed0  Jul. 12, 2011 at 21:37

The N64 controller is literally one of the worst controllers in terms of ergonomics and build quality. The analog stick is incredibly difficult to use, and the buttons unsatisfying, not to mention that the controller is impossible to hold. I mean sure, for nostalgia maybe, but I haven't met a single person who likes that design.

RiKx  Jul. 12, 2011 at 21:46

@jvl1 lol you are so very very young. The original dualshock wasnt released in the uk til late '98 a year later. You call me a bitch then complain that the N64 was uncomfortable lol awww im sowwy princess. I never said the wireless was a disadvantage. I have 2 N64 controllers still working 14 years later. Yeah your right PD and Goldeneye were rubbish...

RiKx  Jul. 12, 2011 at 21:49

"but I haven't met a single person who likes that design." I liked it at the time though don't get me wrong I wouldn't choose it now with the subsequent available controllers...

JonLester  Jul. 12, 2011 at 22:10

Keep the comments coming, guys, I'm working on some honourable mentions. There are some great suggestions here - as well as a couple of recurring topics I'd like to weigh in on.

RE comfort: If this list was simply about comfort or ease of use, it would look very different. In fact, the Xbox 360 and Mega Drive/Saturn controllers would be fighting for the top spot. But we've also taken influential design features and impact at the time into account.

RE The DS3: There's a world of difference between a good controller and a great controller that will stand the test of time. The Sixaxis may be impressive, but it's essentially just an incremental upgrade of the original (and incredibly important) DualShock.

Last edited by JonLester, Jul. 12, 2011 at 22:12
tinkerbellelove  Jul. 12, 2011 at 23:46

Playstation controllers, handsdown ^^ I agree w/ Teddy on hand size.

vazdrae  Jul. 13, 2011 at 00:16

Yeah, I disagree about the 360 controller in-front of the Dual-shock. The Dual-shock is probably the most comfortable for a large amount of people. Though, i love the NES and the N64 controllers, they probably shouldnt be in front. Dreamcast's also could be up a little more in my opinion, its a very unique controller that takes a bit to get used to, but its also feels good to play with, though it can be a big frustrating at time...

the dandy p  Jul. 13, 2011 at 01:06

How can people argue that the Dualshock 3 controller is better than the 360 controller, I would genuinely like some reasons. Don't get me wrong, back in the day, the original dualshock was a real game-changer, but the current model just seems to be a decade-old rehash.
Compared to the 360 controller (in my own opinion) the DS3 is a heck of a lot smaller, and no where near as comfortable. It's too light and feels rather flimsy, while the 'trigger' buttons are just simply a joke, they just feel spongy to use, and lack definition.
The thumbsticks are too floaty and offer far less resistance than the 360 versions, seeming to lack precision.
However the single biggest difference is the thumbstick layout of the DS3 controller; most people use the 2 thumbsticks to play their games ...so why the hell do I have to stretch my left hand's thumb halfway across the controller, to reach the thumbstick which I will want to be constantly using, while the d-pad (which WAS the primary method of control 15 years ago on the dualshock 1) sits perfectly under the natural resting place of my left thumb being used infrequently for some unimportant task.

Simply put, Sony still has the same controller it produced in 1995, when we used the d-pad instead of thumbsticks. They then bolted on some thumbsticks underneath, that we all started to use for driving games, as more and more games started to use these thumbsticks instead of the d-pad, they should have redesgined the controller, instead of just adding new features, they should have completely overhauled it.
Games evolved to take advantage of the new features of the controller, yet Sony seemed perfectly happy to leave the controller looking like they tacked the damn thumbsticks on at the last minute.

Last edited by the dandy p, Jul. 13, 2011 at 01:08
supermetroid  Jul. 13, 2011 at 01:33

I think its definitely worth including the original Gamecube controller. Why? Because in my opinion - its the best and most comfortable controller ever made - as if its made for your hands.

I agree wholeheartedly about the N64 controller being no.1 - it was a huge step, and till today, the best looking and most functional controller ever made.

Last edited by supermetroid, Jul. 13, 2011 at 01:34
joesmoe  Jul. 13, 2011 at 06:38

dual shock controller is the most overrated piece of equipment of all time. so awkward

RiKx  Jul. 13, 2011 at 09:22

@supermetroid "its the best and most comfortable controller ever made - as if its made for your hands." - I have issue with the Z (?) shoulder button other than that I really liked it.

Glad to see some people standing behind the argument that DS is not the pinnacle of game controllers. It's really not the dandy p makes a good point about thumbstick location and the shoulder buttons. I've never felt the need to tack on extra plastic to the 360 pad. The ds thumb sticks were fine when they were mostly used for driving but times have changed and the PS pad should have too.

A thing that I felt Nintendo got right controller wise over SEGA was cables. The cable length on both the MD and MS pads were criminally short in comparison - no wonder we sat so close to the TV ;)

Who remembers the NeGon lol what about that! lol

Last edited by RiKx, Jul. 13, 2011 at 09:26
JonLester  Jul. 13, 2011 at 10:00

I've started a discussion thread if anyone fancies getting involved.

@RiKx: "The ds thumb sticks were fine when they were mostly used for driving but times have changed and the PS pad should have too."

Yes, it should have.

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