On April 22, 2023, Nintendo Life published the results of a reader survey ranking the best Nintendo controllers. The results were as follows:

  1. GameCube / Switch Pro Controller
  2. SNES
  3. Wii Remote
  4. N64
  5. Switch Joy-Con
  6. Wii U Pro Controller
  7. NES
  8. Wii U GamePad
  9. Wii Classic Controller Pro
  10. NES (101), Virtual Boy, Wii Classic Controller

I have used, and at one time owned, 12 of the 13 of the listed controllers (they seem to have cheated a bit on the “top 10”). On first glance, one may assume that the my missing controller is the NES (101) or the Virtual Boy controller. Not so! I am currently in possession of an NES (101) and Virtual Boy controller. However, I have never held, much less used, a Wii U Pro Controller.

I suppose that my experience renders me qualified to offer an opinion.

We should first separate controllers with joysticks from controllers without in light of the fact that the purposes and design demands are different. I will disagree with the ranking and rate the Super Nintendo controller as the best joy stick-free Nintendo controller over the Wii Remote. While the Wii Remote was revolutionary, it relied heavily on peripheral attachments and was awkward to use on its own. The Super Nintendo controller has an ergonomic design and a crisp and responsive d-pad. I purchased a Switch replica SNES controller to use with my computer.

In an effort to show off my experience with niche Nintendo controllers, I inform readers that the NES (101) controller is better than the more familiar rectangular original. There is a reason that the Super Nintendo controller is not a rectangle. Nintendo wisely applied that fact to the NES 101 controller. The Virtual Boy controller, which is closer in form to an N64 controller than to the other joy stick-free controllers, is decent, notwithstanding the flaws of its associated console.

Having already noted that I never had or used a Wii U Pro Controller, I agree with rating the Switch Pro controller and GameCube controllers as the best joy stick Nintendo pads. The battle between the Switch Pro and GameCube controllers is close enough for me to not begrudge Nintendo Life for leaving the top spot in the ranking a tie. I am probably more comfortable with the Switch Pro these days, but I am not sure that it is better. However, while I agree with the end result, the Nintendo 64 controller wins the joystick category. Its joystick, while too fragile for the original Mario Party, is by far Nintendo’s finest joystick effort, surpassing the more generic GameCube, Wii, Wii U, and Switch efforts in that area. I once again call for more creativity in joystick design.

(While I am not a Wii U GamePad fan, it easily wins the biggest controller Nintendo contest. But it is still smaller in spirit than the original Xbox controller.)