Top Pick: Xbox Series 2 Elite Controller | $180 | Ebay
Earlier this week, we asked our readers a simple question: what is the best video game controller of all time? It was a vague, open-ended prompt that could be interpreted in a few ways. Design and comfort are both important considerations, but there’s also the goof factor too. There are so many wild special edition controllers out there that deserve a shout-out just for really going all out. The full Steel Battalion battle station, anyone? That would probably be my personal pick because come on, you just have to respect the hubris.
I thought we’d get some sort of consensus here, but leave it to our readers to bring the fire. We got a whole buffet of excellent comments with good arguments for a range of controllers. Some were the obvious picks, others were totally left field. What we found here is that there is no one-size-fits-all controller. Everyone has slightly different needs when it comes to button layout and comfort. Generally, Xbox controllers seemed to have the most consensus. We saw multiple nominations for Microsoft controllers spanning generations. So if you want a definitive answer, the Elite Series 2 seems to be the “winner.”
That said, there’s no right answer. So we collected some of the most popular responses below. Take a little trip down memory lane and see if you agree with the final picks. It turns out many of these picks are hard to find (even new controllers like the Dualsense), so we’ve included some eBay links to where you can find them right away.
Xbox Elite Series 2. Hands down the best controller I’ve ever had. The level of customization on a controller direct from the manufacturer is amazing. The ability to save presets to recall as needed, different trigger stopping points, fully customizable/removable paddles, different stick heights, different D-pad options, it’s all just so good. The addition of the stick tensioner, a 2nd trigger stop, and a 3rd programmable button layout moved this controller into the number 1 position for me over the original model.
That said, it’s not cheap. But a controller is your only way to communicate with a game you’re playing and it’s used for years. I think the additional cost is worth it when it comes to your entrance into your game worlds. - Nicholas Gerecitano
The Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. Tons of customization options, great ergonomics, 1 year warranty. There’s really no question. Plus with consoles and GPUs out of stock everywhere, it’s really the only way to improve your gaming experience at the moment. Yeah, there are reports of stick drift, but they improved the warranty to give you more peace of mind. - Kevin
The GameCube Wavebird controller, it took that competent form factor of the OG GCN controller and made it wireless. I know that Smash purists prefer a wired controller, but Wavebird holds a special place in my heart because it meant we didn’t have to be limited by the short length of controller cables anymore. I still reach for mine if I’m playing smash even now.- ShadowofTime01
The Nintendo Wavebird wireless Gamecube controller. It was great, in that it was sturdy, allowed for up to 8 controllers to be used wirelessly in the same area without interference, and was comfortable on top of it all.
Yes it didn’t have internal rechargeable batteries or rumble, but a I don’t care about rumble (always has felt like a gimmick to me) and I use rechargeable batteries else where so I always have some ready to go. - Judd
I know not everyone’s gotten a chance to use the PS5 DualSense, but it is a wonderful evolution of the PlayStation controller. The haptic feedback is so cool, I can’t wait for more games to exploit it.
I’m old enough to remember how my hands would ache after extended play sessions on the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, back in the day. It’s a testament to the evolution of controller design that my hands are never sore from extended gaming on any modern game console. - dystopika
If its pads you’re talking, for me its the Xbox One/Windows pad. The Dualshock just feels too small for my hands (I have very long fingers), but if all controllers are allowable in this system then the award goes to the Razer Orbweaver. My 9 year old original bit the dust last week and I’ve now replaced it with an Orbweaver Chroma (the Tartarus is the only one they still sell new but it lacks the Orbweavers adjustability so I found a barely used 2nd hand one).
I’ve tried going back to a normal keyboard but it just isn’t the same and I’m an utter lemon without it in FPS, so much so that Iplan to try and snap up another soon for the inevitable dark day that this one gives up the ghost. - emba4
I bought this many a year ago for Ridge Racer 4, and it was an absolute joy to play with. I really don’t understand how this format wasn’t more widely adopted. - Hi Di gyjf