A look at the nine of the best (and worst) special edition video game controllers ever released.
Most gamers make do with the controllers that come packaged in with a games console, but special editions and variants often come to market that are interesting because of new features, gimmicks, or franchise branding. We’ve rummaged through the Thumbsticks peripheral cupboard and selected our pick of the best (and worst) special edition controllers.
1PlayStation DualShock 4 – 20th Anniversary Edition
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Just look at how Nintendo generated a ton of buzz for the New 3DS a few years ago just by giving it SNES coloured buttons. For gamers of a certain age the 20th Anniversary Edition DualShock 4 hit the same spot. Marking two decades of PlayStation, this PS4 controller is designed in cool grey, and features the classic PlayStation logo in full colour. It’s a reminder of the time when games like Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid were all the rage…
2Nintendo GameCube – Wavebird
An obvious inclusion, but one well earned. The Wavebird took the GameCube controller’s masterful design and cut the cord, bringing wire-free gaming to home consoles. Yeah, it looks a little chunky now, but at the time it was liberating. Being tethered to a console became a thing of the past, at least until 2014 when the PlayStation 4’s power hungry DualShock 4 was released.
Our pick for the best version of the Waveband is the ultra-rare Club Nintendo edition.
3Wii Classic Controller – SNES Limited Edition
The Wii Classic controller was supported by various titles, including Super Smash Bros Brawl, New Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart Wii, but it was predominantly designed to provide a more natural controller for the Wii’s Virtual Console releases – a job it did admirably. In 2007, this special SNES themed edition was released in Japan, and eventually turned up on the UK’s Club Nintendo store. Just like its mainstream brother it has to be plugged into a Wii Remote to work, but it provides a delightfully authentic experience when playing through old SNES classics like The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past and Sim City.
And the good news? It’s the same controller that will be included with the upcoming Super Nintendo Classic Mini.
4PlayStation DualShock 3 – Metallic Gold
Released just in time for the London 2012 Olympics, Sony smelted this – rather vibrant – gold edition of the PS3’s DualShock 3 controller. In practice it didn’t feel like a controller made from gold, but more like a piece of C-3PO’s foot. It was also guaranteed to make any entertainment centre look extremely chintzy. It’s funny how something designed to look expensive can end up looking so tacky.
Oh, it’s not real gold. That’ll be it.
5Xbox 360 – Halo Reach Edition
There were some rather odd Halo themed Xbox 360 controllers released. A few featured some nice artwork that was completely ruined when wrapped round a game controller. Fortunately, the special edition controller for Halo Reach was really smart. Finished with a brushed metal effect, its design featured some lovely motifs, and felt like a piece of standard issue UNSC kit. We wonder if anyone ever scanned the barcode?
6Nintendo 64 – Translucent range
The trident-shaped Nintendo 64 controller probably saw more variants than another game device. It was always available in a multitude of colours, but late in the console’s life Nintendo went all Apple on us, and released a bunch of cool translucent models. The lime-green edition surely takes the award for most vomit inducing controller of all time, but the spicy orange and aqua blue editions have a late ’90s charm.
The detachable Joy-Con for the Switch are giving Nintendo the opportunity to pull the same trick all over again, and Microsoft have released multiple Xbox One variants in recent years.
7PlayStation DualShock 3 – God of War Ascension Edition
Another golden edition of the DualShock 3 arrived to mark the release of God of War Ascension. Although it featured a nice picture of Kratos, from a distance it looked more like you’d had a nosebleed all over the controller.
They should have made a similar DualShock 4 edition to accompany Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
8Nintendo Gamecube – ASCII controller
Those of you who baulked when Nintendo shoved a touch screen into the controller for the Wii U might care to look back to 2002. That was the year when Nintendo decided to support the release of Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II by shoving an entire QWERTY keyboard into the GameCube controller. Not so elegant, but oh so useful.
9Sega Dreamcast – Leopard print edition
The Dreamcast’s controller was an odd beast. Forward thinking in some respects – with the VMU, and well-made analogue stick – but infuriating in others, with iffy triggers and that annoying cord that sprouted from the bottom of the controller. It was almost more comfortable to face away from the screen when playing a game.
The Dreamcast’s controller was released in many variants, but the best has to be this positively fierce leopard print edition that was available from Sega Direct in Japan. They don’t make them like that any more.
You can’t pick up many of these controllers anymore, but if you are looking for the ultimate extravagance you can grab the Xbox One Elite Controller on Amazon.
A note from the Thumbsticks editorial team
If you like what we do, then please consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee. Every penny we earn is poured back into the site, into giving new and aspiring writers an opportunity, and into bringing you more quality content to enjoy. And if you are an aspiring new writer, read this.