The modern scientific standard for controller usability is measured by the number of times a controller can be angrily thrown against a wall.

But before controllers shed their wires, we paid more attention to minutiae such as ergonomics and button placement. And let’s not rule out the biggest factor of them all: nostalgia. Put an old joystick or gamepad in our hands, and our thumbs remember combo sequences like it was just yesterday 

A controller may just be an arrangement of buttons and a directional pad, but as games have evolved, so have controller layouts. The alchemy is a funny thing—same basic ingredients, but each company cranks out a distinct brew for every console. Every controller left its mark on our childhood and adulthood. Sometimes that piece of plastic was a landmark; at other times, a skid mark. Either way, we decided to rank our favorite man-machine interfaces since the home console first became popular, because good or bad, we still left Cheeto fingerprints all over them. Oh, and we’re limiting the list to stock first party controllers. Sorry, Mad Catz!

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