Sony’s always taken a very stylish approach to the PlayStation line. For better or worse. From the simply named successor consoles to sleek models that age remarkably well, even PlayStation critics have to admit how well Sony has cultivated such strong branding over the years. Of course, every great console calls for a great controller.
Most know the DualShock line, Sony’s go-to controller model, but the PlayStation line has seen quite a few different controllers over the years. Some very much in-line with the DualShock while others playing with virtual reality, even as early as the mid-2000s. Not every PlayStation controller was a success, and some had some glaring flaws, but each one is an important part of PlayStation history.
A cute novelty that better served as a makeshift webcam, the EyeToy was the PS2’s answer to virtual reality. With the camera displayed at the player, the EyeToy could simulate one’s movements in-game. It was a rather interesting concept and one that worked relatively well, but not well enough to allow for much gameplay depth.
Due to both technological limitations and design, the EyeToy can’t really capture much beyond the most basic of movements. If the Kinect can feel sloppy, the EyeToy really doesn’t compete. It doesn’t amount to much, though, as most EyeToy games lack in gameplay depth to begin with. It’s worth a try nonetheless.
9 PlayStation Controller
The first PlayStation controller took quite a few queues from Nintendo’s controllers for the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo. A D-Pad, four face buttons, start & select, and shoulder buttons– albeit with an L2 and R2. The PlayStation controller interestingly also adds grip handles, better differentiating the controller from its SNES counterparts, both visually and in terms of feel.
While usable, this isn’t that comfortable a controller, especially since it’s essentially a DualShock controller without analog sticks. It’s jarring in a modern context and not a clear enough upgrade from the simply effective Super Nintendo controller. They get the job done, but that’s about it.
Console VR has been getting better, to the point where it’s genuinely a solid alternative for specific games (Resident Evil 7, Skyrim), but games designed specifically for VR have yet to find the same depth as their non-VR counterparts and having to wear a headset to play games stops being fun fast.
PSVR games that make use of motion are also going to thrive exclusively on how much space a player has in their game room. The PSVR is an interesting concept as both a controller and a pseudo-console, but there are so many different factors at play where it’s less playing a game, and more an event to prepare for. If nothing else, it is indeed quite impressive.
7 Dual Analog
Important distinction to make, the Dual Analog is not a part of the DualShock line. It would serve as the foundation that the DualShock 1 would build on, but the Dual Analog is a slightly different controller. Neither the American or European models vibrate, the controller is weirdly wide & long, and the analog stick is completely different from the DualShock.
To its credit, the Dual Analog isn’t a bad controller by any means and some might even come to prefer the concave analog sticks. The fact of the matter, though, is that the Dual Analog controller is full of minor design flaws. Its grips are slightly too long, its body is slightly too wide, and its shoulder buttons are slightly too far apart.
6 DualShock 1
In spite of its piled up flaws, the Dual Analog was genuinely a step in the right direction from the original PlayStation controller. A 3D space requires more movement depth than a D-Pad can offer, so a controller designed around analog sticks was a natural next step. The DualShock 1 basically irons out the Dual Analog’s kinks to make a smoother controller.
While some PS2 games do take advantage of the DualShock 2’s specific features, the DualShock 1 is forwards compatible for the most part. Unfortunately, being the first version of the DualShock, it just doesn’t feel as refined or as polished as later models, especially the DualShock 2.
History would repeat itself with the PlayStation 3 as Sony ditched the DualShock in favor of the Sixaxis, a controller that would ultimately serve as the model for the DualShock 3– much in the same way the Dual Analog led the way to the DualShock 1 years ago. It’s a fine controller, but it takes steps back from the DualShock 2 with no clear improvements.
Most of the buttons remain pressure-sensitive, but L2 and R2 are now standard analog triggers. It makes sense for the era and generation, but full-on pressure sensitivity added quite a bit of depth to certain PS2 games. The motion-sensing also isn’t much to write home about as so few PS3 games used it well, but it’s at least a perfectly comfortable controller.
4 PlayStation Move
The PlayStation Move was rightfully criticized for ripping off the Nintendo Wii wholesale, but those who actually put some time into the Move likely found themselves enjoying far better motion sensing than Nintendo was producing at the time. The PlayStation Move was an evolution of the Nintendo Wii’s motion-sensing.
And it still works really well today, being forwards compatible with certain PlayStation 4 games. Actually finding a PlayStation Move might be difficult these days and most games designed specifically for it are awful, but the games that just use the PlayStation Move as an alternative control scheme typically use it well– especially the PSVR games.
3 DualShock 4
The DualShock 4 is super comfortable, but it takes clear steps back and really hurts itself with its light bar. To its credit, the light bar actually doesn’t drain as much battery as some seem to think, and it can be dimmed, but always having it one is a massive design oversight and a downright dumb detail.
The removal of pressure-sensitive face buttons are also an enormous bummer, but the DualShock 4 is easily the best version of the DualShock in terms of feel. It falls so comfortably in place and Share & Options taking the place of Start & Select– while unnecessary– does actually make some degree of sense.
2 DualShock 3
The Sixaxis was a fine controller, but it could be better as proven by the DualShock 3, the Sixaxis’ successor. The DualShock 3 essentially ended the Sixaxis and became the PlayStation 3’s de-facto controller for the rest of the console’s run. To this day, the DualShock 3 remains one of the best controllers to pair with emulators.
As one of the first competent wireless controllers, the DualShock 3 holds up incredibly well. It might not have all the pressure sensitivity of the DualShock 2, but the DualShock 2 more than makes up for it with great handling and enough controller depth to get the job done.
1 DualShock 2
Full-on pressure sensitivity, vibration capabilities, and a library of games designed specifically around it, the DualShock 2 is PlayStation’s crowning jewel. Just imagine Metal Gear Solid 2 or Metal Gear Solid 3 without pressure sensitivity– without all that extra mechanical depth. The DualShock 2 genuinely offered so much to developers.
It’s an incredibly slick controller too, upgrading the DualShock 1 logically and thoughtfully. It’s a wired controller in an era where the average controller is wireless, but DualShock 2 cables are long enough to get the job done. Besides, it’s that very wire that keeps the DualShock 2 vibrating so intensely.