The Evolution of Game Console Controllers

Tech Tips

For both hardcore and casual gamers, the various game console controllers can inspire either a seething hatred or powerful devotion. Some people are loyal to their Xbox One Elites, while others swear by the Sony PlayStation DualShock 4. Some are just nostalgic for the Nintendo 64 controller. Here’s a look back at the last few decades of gaming history and the evolution of game console controllers.


1977 — Atari 2600

The first ever joystick was the Atari 2600, and its popularity was ubiquitous. It set the stage for all future game console controllers and is still beloved by gamers everywhere.


Nintendo Entertainment System debuted in 1983. 1983 — Nintendo Entertainment System

Japan’s NES is one of the most iconic consoles of all time, and its controller is no different. It largely mirrored Nintendo’s own handheld gaming systems with the simple model of four directions and two buttons.



The Nintendo Power Glove, debuted in 1989, was an accessory failure. 1989 — Nintendo Power Glove

While technically a controller accessory, the Power Glove still deserves a mention. It sported NES controllers on the forearm, along with extra buttons labeled 0 through 9. It was just too hard to use though, making the Power Glove a critical and commercial failure.




The Super Nintendo Entertainment System came out in 1990.

1990 — Super Nintendo Entertainment System

This revolutionary design established a lot of the basic foundation of gaming controllers we have come to know. With four buttons under the right thumb and shoulder buttons for the fingers, the Super Nintendo controller paved the way for controllers to come.




In 1994 the Sony PlayStation debuted.

1994 — Sony PlayStation

The original PlayStation controller was an exciting, new innovation in the world of gaming. It gave us the triangle, square, circle, and cross buttons gamers all know and love still to this day.




1996 — Nintendo 64

Nobody anticipated the design of the Nintendo 64 controller. Its unique three-pronged design set it apart. It featured a joystick, a trigger, double shoulder buttons, and a D-pad. It was every 90s gamers’ dream.




1997 — Sony PlayStation DualShock

The DualShock set the mark for almost all controllers that came to follow. Competitors were scrambling to copy Sony’s design. It fit the hand perfectly, with every button within reach of the thumbs. Plus, it rumbled and grumbled, which is many gamer’s favorite feature.


1998 — Sega Dreamcast

This was the last of the Segas. It was bold and daring with two dock connectors for a slew of accessories. But it just didn’t live up to the hype. RIP Sega.



2001 — Microsoft’s Xbox

The original Xbox controller wasn’t a huge hit. Its chunky design left something to be desired. While it was comfortable to hold and play with, it was just too bulky for gamers.




2001 — Nintendo GameCube

The Nintendo GameCube played upon the popular Sony PlayStation DualShock controller’s design. It said goodbye to the old Nintendo three-pronged N64 design, and instead opted for a more conventional two-pronged, handlebar design. This moved the joystick to just under the thumb, making it easier for gamers to access and control. Nintendo also strayed from the old grey color scheme of the controllers of yore and offered gamers controllers in bright hues.



2005 — Microsoft Xbox 360 S

Microsoft mimicked and improved upon the class Sony PlayStation DualShock design. This Xbox controller offers ergonomic comfort and long-lasting durability.




2006 — Nintendo Wiimote and Nunchuck

The Wii elevated its original design by adding the nunchuck to its Wiimote. The nunchuck is a separate joystick hooked up to the Wiimote for more avid gamers who look for that capability.



2010 — Microsoft Kinect

Microsoft re-envisioned the Nintendo Wii controller for this Xbox 360 controller. It was an innovative and versatile motion controller beloved by gamers, both hardcore and casual alike.




2013 — Microsoft Xbox One

This Xbox controller nixed the bulky battery pack of the 360 controller, but enhanced the rumble triggers. It’s a sturdier design built to withstand the daily wear and tear hardcore gamers.



2013 — Sony PlayStation DualShock 4 Controller

The PS4 controller offers a sturdier design than its PS3 predecessor. It’s smooth and comfortable, but the biggest innovation is its touch pad. Rather than using the “Select” and “Start” buttons of the past, gamers can use the touch sensitive click pad, which is especially beneficial for point-and-click titles.



2015 — Xbox One Elite Controller

Microsoft released its elite controller 2 years after the Xbox One hit the scene. The Xbox One Elite Controller is perfect for fast-paced, multiplayer shooting games. Gamers can customize their button layouts depending on the game they’re playing. They’ll never have to take their hand off the joystick again.


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