Nintendo has always been one for pushing the boat out with its hardware designs, and no more so is this the case than with its controllers. Yes, those of the NES and SNES were pretty conventional by today's standards (though they were remarkably innovative at the time) but in the ensuing years, the Big N's controllers have had us waving blocks above our heads, tapping chunky kidney-shaped keys, attaching and detaching buttoned bolt-ons, and even trying to work out how exactly these are meant to be played with only two hands.
Our point is, there's a lot to choose from when it comes to finding the best Nintendo controller out there. There are so many different options, in fact — and so many different opinions — that attempting to find "the best" feels somewhat like an impossible task.
With this in mind, we at Nintendo Life Towers have come together to vote on which controller is our favourite. Presenting a list of every standard controller in the company's history (including the 'Pro' variants for the more recent consoles with non-industry-standard default controllers, but excluding the weird, unique models that we have previously discussed here), we each voted for our top five, with our favourite getting five points, second favourite getting four, and so on.
The following is the result of our team survey, and should you disagree with our picks, there's a poll at the bottom of the page where you can have your say.
We'll build up to our number one pick, but let's start with the controllers that received no love (in vote form, at least) from Team NL...
10. NES (101), Virtual Boy, Wii Classic Controller
Right at the bottom of the pack, this trio received a whopping nil point from the Nintendo Life team and therefore find themselves joint last.
The NES 101 model was originally released in 1993 and was all about emulating the look of the newer SNES system. The two-tone grey and red colouring isn't all that pleasing to look at, and while the dog bone shape would work on the later, four-buttoned Nintendo controller, it just looks off when there are only the A and B options available. To be fair, we're not sure anyone on the team has ever actually used one of these.
It's no wonder that the Virtual Boy controller finds itself at the bottom of the pile, either. Will this console one day get a rose-tinted renaissance in the form of "The Virtual Boy Is Nintendo's Most Underrated Console"? We doubt it. That Wario Land game was great, though!
As for the Wii Classic controller, it's the one that most people have forgotten. Not to be confused with the Classic Controller Pro (more on that later), this oval design was built for Virtual Console gaming, but with analogue sticks that close together, our hands are cramping up at just the thought of playing with this one for a couple of hours.
9. Wii Classic Controller Pro
Leaping ahead with just one point (hey, it's an improvement, we guess) is the Wii Classic Controller Pro.
Released in 2009, this pronged upgrade was designed to be much closer in feel to a GameCube model than the SNES-like design that preceded it. It might not have matched up to the kind of innovation that we saw elsewhere for the Wii, but it was certainly a step in the right direction as far as comfort goes.
8. Wii U GamePad
Truly innovative, truly chunky.
The Wii U GamePad received only three points from us. While the touchscreen controller brought a boatload of fun to certain games like Nintendo Land, the bulky design and ultimate lack of software that put it to good use meant that it was always likely to appear on the lower end of this list.
Yes, it paved the way for one of Nintendo's best-selling consoles of all time, but in terms of actual controller design, this wasn't going to top anyone's list, however comfortingly substantial it is.