Hi Five – Top Five Controllers7 minute read

Jim Cullinane looks back over the years to select the top five controllers over the decades

This weeks edition of Hi Five takes an oppurtunity to look at what makes our Fing’rs & Thu’ums work best. Myself, Jim Cullinane – editor-in-chief at Fing’rs & Thu’ums, select my top five controllers as requested by Twitter member @BudgetNostaliga.

Disclaimer – these are my top five and are in no way to be considered an official list.

This was an interesting nostalgia trip for me and I have to admit I have searched the attic for my “spare” controllers to see which ones I truly feel comfortable with. I could have gone with the most quirky designs, like the 17-button Atari Jaguar controller or the Mega-Jockey-9000 – the 44 input point controller for Steel Battalion. But I went with my personal favourites instead, so below is my top five weapons to take forth on the battlefield of games.

5 Nintendo Entertainment System Controller

With only five input points, and two main buttons it is one of the most simplistic controllers ever made. Original joysticks on the Atari and controllers on the Master System had less input points than the NES but considering the sales that the Nintendo Entertainment System made the button count clearly did not matter back in the 1980’s. The design was created to be a less bulky version of older gaming input devices too.

And simplicity was key. Not only were some amazing games released on the NES such as three of the most beloved Super Mario Bros. games, but the console itself is considered part of gaming heritage. Nintendo even released a pair of Nintendo Switch compatible NES controllers for Online Membership subscribers to be used on the NES catalogue on the Switch. Playing games on this controller just feel right. It is perfectly balanced, light, easy to repair and the fluidity that still comes from the original console and this controller combined is amazing to this day.

4 Sega Mega Drive Six-Button Controller

I would be lying if I said that the 3-button Mega Drive controller was not originally on my list. not only was it a massive step in gaming for me, moving from 8-bit to 16-bit games, but I could also use the controllers on my Amiga 500, 600 and 1200 too. The controllers also seemed to plummet in price after this console generation which made them brilliant to pick up for a multitude of applications.

But during this console generation a new entry into the controller face-off landed. The 6-button Mega Drive controller was an unexpected and phenominal change to gaming at the time. The controller was known as Fighting Pad 6B in Japan and was even physically characterised by region. A smaller pad was released in Japan whilst the west saw larger controllers due to the sizes of peoples’ hands. The Sega Saturn and Xbox followed with this idea until pricing of two seperate sized controllers was seen as financially dumb. This controller wasn’t fully compatible with Mega Drive games prior to it’s 1993/1994 launches. A mode button was added to rectify this. The game was released with Street Fighter II’: Special Champion Edition and this was also the first game I used the controller on. With the ability to use six buttons it almost felt like an arcade machine in your hands. As an upgrade to the original controller for the console this one had to take fourth place.

3 Nintendo GameCube Wavebird

The name Wavebird is a reference to Dolphin, which was the GameCube’s codename during the development stage of the console. Some controllers are pretty, some are cumbersome and some look outrageously ridiculous. The GameCube controller was always one of these controllers that sat on the edge of practicality and design flaw. However, after using one you seriously could not fault the utterly strange design.

The Wavebird was a step up from the original controller as it was wireless. if the Wavebird did not exist then number three would have been the standard GameCube controller hands down. Both are totally unmistakable, fantastic to wield, goofy and child-like in almost a mature manner, and unquestionably amazing for games such as Smash Bros. which can still be played with this style controller on it’s Switch variant. The controller is nothing short of amazing, and the quirkiness of the button layout and sizes made it almost like playing braille.

2 PlayStation DualShock

Before the DualShock there was the Dual Analog. The Dual Analog was the first controller I used on the PlayStation and using thumbsticks for the first time did blow me away – although I had hardly any games that could use them. Then along came the DualShock controller.

The core difference was the vibration of the controllers. The Dual Analog had vibration circuits installed, predominantly in Japan, but the western countries had no motors. This was initially down to not many games having rumble capabilities to trigger the motors. The handle sizes were different and the thumbsticks became padded. I can still remember the first paddded thumbstick I used, and it felt almost like I was a professional gamer. The rumble feedback was also an amazing feeling back in the day and it literally made a perfect controller to an unbeatable gaming platform. Later version of this controller obvious exist as the design has been duplicated across all the PlayStation console ranges, even the PlayStation 5 is similar is most respects. But for the shape, appeal and at the time originality, the original DualShock gets my vote for number two.

1 Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Contraversial to some, my first place goes to the Pro Controller for the Nintendo Switch. After years of gaming on Nintendo platforms and then heavily on PlayStation I eventually ventured out into the realms of the Xbox 360. I very quickly became used to the staggered design of the thumbsticks and the overall feel of the controller. After collecting near 1,000 Xbox 360 games it became my most used controller.

Then the Xbox One came out and I became dissapointed with the available catalogue. I found myself wandering and searching for something better, until the Nintendo Switch came out. I very quickly obtained a Pro Controller and with the feel of the Xbox 360/Xbox One/X controllers it fell into place wonderfully. This controller is simplistic in design – bringing me full circle back to the controller on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It doesn’t try to be anything more than its purpose (unlike some previous Nintendo designs like the Ninteno 64, Wii, Wii U Pad etc.). Sometimes simplicity is key and for me this controller truly feels high-range, comfortable and brings about a great feeling when I am battling my son or playing online. I couldn’t recommend this controller enough.

What will next weeks Hi Five be about? Well you can decide. Send us your ideas via Facebook or Twitter and we will pick one at random, no matter how obscure they might be! And the creator will get a mention too.

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