When it comes to game controllers, I tend to be particular. After all, playing the game is the most critical part of it. In that regard, the controller is crucial to get into the game. While that may be an evident notion to most, it baffles me that some companies fail to deliver on something so pivotal to the gaming experience. Others, however, perfect the idea so much that there is no going back to anything even remotely inferior. That is why today, on my first “Top Ten” list, we are looking at five controllers that knock it out of the park and five others that flop at the starting line.
I want my readers to keep in mind that these are controllers that I’ve personally played with. There might be some obvious ones that I missed, but that may be because I never played with it or its system. For my worst list, I am omitting third-party controllers, as those would populate the entirety of the bottom of the barrel. Thus, only first-party controllers are allowed on the worst list. With that out of the way, let’s countdown the Top five best and worst controllers!
5th Best: The Super Nintendo (SNES) Controller
Our list of best controllers starts with none other than the first one I ever held in my hands: the Super Nintendo Controller. I see the SNES Controller as an improvement over its NES predecessor in every regard. It sports two extra face buttons, the debut of buttons on top of the controller, and a marginally less rigid directional pad. The SNES Controller is innovative, but it also sets the standard for future controllers.
5th Worst: The Wii U Gamepad
I hate to place the Wil U Gamepad on this list because I don’t hate it as a controller. It’s surprisingly lightweight, and the included stylus feels comfortable enough not to cramp my hands after extended use. However, if I look at it more objectively, it is bulky, and it creates a disjointed experience (who wants to look at the controller half of the time when playing a console game?) It is a very confusing piece of tech to develop games for. Even on paper, I struggle to find a good game genre that fits the Wii U Gamepad (excluding party games).
4th Best: Xbox 360 Controller
Number four on our list of best controllers is the Xbox 360 controller. I will be talking about the wired variant as that is the one that earned it the spot on this list. It has precise triggers, optimal stick placement and can connect to the PC without downloading additional drivers (with the wired version). It would place higher on the list if it weren’t for the circular directional pad.
4th Worst: Sega Genesis Controller
This might be where I start ruffling some feathers. I’m placing the Sega Genesis controller low on the list because I’m personally not a fan of the controller. I don’t think the controller is poor per se, but I find the placement of the buttons odd (how am I supposed to press the C button while holding on to the A button?) I’m also not keen on circular directional pads, which is the Genesis controller’s most prominent feature. I feel my opinion on the Genesis controller is the exact antithesis to my thoughts on the Wii U Gamepad. The Sega Genesis controller is not bad by any means; it simply fails to impress me.
3rd Best: Nintendo GameCube Controller
I deliberated on placing the GameCube controller above the Xbox 360 controller for quite some time. It came down to the superior directional pad and the deliciously clicky L and R buttons, which are one of the first analog triggers on a controller. I still catch myself mashing the Land R buttons to this day to hear some sweet GameCube ASMR. It and the Xbox 360 controller were neck and neck when it came to third best, but the GameCube squeezes by due to the nostalgia.
3rd Worst: The Wii Remote
Now we’re getting to the rough and tumble of the worst list. In terms
of build quality, the Wii remote is impressive, the buttons are responsive, and the design philosophy is revolutionary. Where my problems begin is with its functionality. The main draw to the Wii Remote is its motion sensing ability. This makes simple games like Wii Sports engaging to play. However, there is one significant issue: any infrared interference will render the Wii Remote uncontrollable. Is the sun shining down on the sensor bar? Off goes the pointer! Does the player have candles placed anywhere near the TV? That isn’t good because the Wii Remote loves candles! The motion controls were so finicky that Nintendo had to release the Wil Motion Plus peripheral to offer a slightly more authentic experience. Hence its placement as the third-worst.
2nd Best: The Playstation 4 (PS4) Controller
Since I placed the SNES controller on this list, it only stands to reason that I put at least one Playstation controller, an improvement on the SNES controller in every way, on here as well. I like Sony’s “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach to designing their subsequent controller iterations. I’m placing the PS4 controller this high up the list because of its functionality. When I discovered that the PS4 controller could connect to PC natively (with the help of the DS4Windows software), it immediately shot up as the best Playstation controller. I played so much with them that their batteries have trouble holding a charge (this is due to the number of times I charged them.) It is a vast improvement over every other Playstation controller before it, and it deserves its spot as the second-best controller on this list.
2nd Worst: The Nintendo 64 Controller
I might ruffle some feathers with this pick, but I am firm on my decision. The Nintendo 64 controller’s design is questionable at best. I could give it to a three-armed alien to play with, but all N64 games are designed with two hands in mind (since that is how many the human race has.) Seventy-five percent of Nintendo 64 games use the face buttons and the Control Stick exclusively, meaning one-third of the controller always gets ignored. What’s more, the Control Stick’s build is atrocious. After one intense game of Mario Party, the player will have bloody palms and a loose Control Stick. I could go on about how much I dislike the controller, but suffice to say, it earns its spot as the second-worst controller on our list.
Best Controller: PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller For Xbox Series X|S
While it is a pricey controller, the PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller For Xbox Series X|S is not only the best third-party controller, it is also the best controller I ever played with. Highly accurate and responsive triggers, three additional buttons on the back for further customization, PC compatible, awesome feeling face buttons and directional pad, and excellent analog sticks are the qualities I look for in a controller. Hence why it is our favorite controller.
Worst Controller: The Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons
I don’t hate the idea of the Joy-Cons. I like that individual Joy-Cons act as their own controller, solving multiplayer inclusivity issues. Where my problems lie with it is with its functionality. The first build of the Joy-Cons had connectivity issues with the Switch. For the controllers to stay connected, the user needed to install a piece of conductive foam inside the Joy-Con near the joystick. Nintendo since fixed this issue. What they didn’t improve, and keep denying, is the infamous Joy-Con drift.
After only a few months of play, the Joy-Cons will register directional movements without the player’s input. In total, I’ve owned six Joy-Cons, all of which suffered from drift at some point in their lifetime. I am aware that Nintendo offered (or used to offer) free repairs on Joy-Con suffering from drift, but that would leave the player controller-less for an extended period. When I saw the Switch Lite used the same joysticks as the Joy-Cons, I wrote the console off entirely, as it too will drift like a rally car after a few months of use. I hate the Joy-Con so much I bought a far superior third-party alternative.
One might wonder, if the Joy-Con is broken, why not replace it? Joy-Con drift would warrant a replacement if each Joy-Con didn’t cost fifty dollars (Canadian) each. That means both Joy-Cons will set the user back one-hundred dollars for controllers that will drift in a few months. That is inexcusable! That is why the Joy-Cons are the worst controllers we’ve ever touched.
Have any of my readers played with other exceptional controllers? How about some that are, somehow, worse than the Joy-Cons? Do you disagree with our list? Please let us know in the comments!