These are the best controllers of all time

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We take a look back through the decades and share with you the greatest controllers of all time, from the Atari 2600 to today's Xbox One. Sure, there might be a modern bias to like controllers now compared to those from twenty plus years ago, but it seems like the gaming industry got better at making controllers over time. So we'll take a stroll down memory lane, and chronologically cover the best controllers we've ever put our hands on.

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These are the greatest controllers of all time
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These are the greatest controllers of all time
One of the first controllers people had in their homes, the Atari 2600 was simple and easy: one joystick and one button. It worked, it was unique, and established how controllers would be for decades to come. We think if this hadn't been fun, gaming might have never taken off.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, gave us the quintessential controller that everyone ripped off forever. A directional pad, or D-pad, two buttons titled A and B, and a start and select button in the center. It's perfect design, brilliant in its look and performance, and still feels like a dream today.

The arcade cabinet, and arcade sticks you can purchase now, are extensions of the Atari controller. The one joystick on the left is complemented by several concave buttons in a pattern of three buttons in two rows, and is perfect for beat 'em-ups, fighting games, and side-scrolling platformers.

(Credit: Getty Images)

After the legendary success of the NES, the Super Nintendo, or SNES for short, improved on its controller in several key ways. It added two shoulder buttons, L and R, a first for the industry. And it added two more buttons, the X and Y, in that now iconic Nintendo diagonal pattern. The SNES controller also was easier to hold and the rounder shape felt better than the sharp edges of the NES controller.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Yes that is Ron Howard. But what he's holding, a light gun, is a staple of every arcade and movie theater. The light gun comes in many forms, pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, snipers, but they all are attached to the machine and are either a vibrant green or blue or pink. Add that to the foot pedal, and you got a great gaming controller.

(Credit: Reuters)

The Sega Saturn might not have been a success in the market, but it improved on the Genesis controller to the point where we had to give it a special shout-out over its more famous predecessor. The Saturn controller was maybe the best for playing fighting games ever, and the two rows of buttons, combined with that D-pad, made it perfect for Darkstalkers, Marvel vs. Street Fighter, and Street Fighter Alpha 3.

The always reliable, good old mouse and keyboard. While technically not a real controller, since it's used to do other things on a computer or laptop, it's still a staple and primary way millions of people have and will continue to play games. We'd be hard pressed to not bring it up, since we spent many a decades playing Half-Life and Doom and Counter-Strike. It's still the most accurate way to play shooters!

(Credit: Future Publishing)

The Dreamcast controller wasn't the best controller, nor was it the best Sega one, but it did have the things we want (analog stick, D-pad, four buttons in the diamond pattern, shoulder buttons) and something we didn't know we needed, the VMU. You could plug in things to the controller like memory cards and the screen was a 'before its time' feature we wish more companies had done.

(Credit: Reuters)

The Dualshock 2, the controller that came in every PS2 box, is arguably the best controller of all time. It's up there, for sure. It's the best thing Sony has ever made, and we've played so many games on that console over our lives that if the controller didn't feel invisible in our hands, it wouldn't be the best selling console of all time. There is nothing wrong about the Dualshock 2 at all, and it's sad that people felt the need to try and improve perfection.

The first controller Microsoft made was known as 'the Duke', and it was a big, bloated controller with tiny jelly bean buttons and was too heavy. They decided to make a smaller, better version known as the S model, and a year after launch it became the de-facto controller and design for all Microsoft and Xbox hardware. It was the beginning of many great controllers from Microsoft, and was what we played Halo 1 and 2 for years and years.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Nintendo is hit and miss on their controllers, and after the confusing 3 pronged N64 controller, they went back to basics with the wired Gamecube controller and the wireless Wavebird. The Gamecube controller is so beloved Nintendo re-released it in 2014 for the Wii U, and the Wavebird was, at the time, the best wireless controller ever built and was the prime example of how you made your gear wireless. We love those controllers so much.

(Credit: Getty Images)

The most buzzed about, infamous, debated, and widely played with controller of all time, the Wii Remote and nunchuk attachment had a life of its own back in 2006. Motion control might have been a fad, but a decade ago everyone wanted to go bowling in their house, and it allowed people of all ages to play video games with ease, making it the most accessible and successful controller on this list.

(Credit: Reuters)

The Xbox 360 controller was, until a few years ago, the pinnacle of controller design. It was sleek, it felt good, it had all the right buttons in the right places, it looked great, and had the best shoulder buttons by a mile. If it wasn't for the most recent Xbox, this might have been our choice for #1 greatest controller of all time.

(Credit: Getty Images)

We have to briefly mention flight sticks because they're really, really cool. Even though they only work for flight simulator games. But they're awesome nonetheless.

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Racing wheels are also another peripheral that we love, but only work for racing games, and can be quite pricey. But when you step into an arcade, the only thing you want to do is sit in that chair, grab the wheel, and put your foot down on the pedal, and floor it.
Here it is, our choice for the greatest controller of all time, the Xbox One controller, and it's cousin the Elite pro controller. The only downside to these is the need for AA batteries, but once you buy a play and charge kit, there is nothing bad we have to say about these. They are the best way to experience modern day games, and if you plug them into your computer you can play retro games with them. The sticks, the buttons, the rumble in the triggers, the D-pad, the weight, the start and select, it's all masterful and our favorite controllers ever.
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