Video game controllers have come a long way since 1962. That’s when Ralph Baer, a video game developer, built the first ever video game controller—and it was a simple two-button device that looked nothing like the sleek, ergonomic controllers we use today. Since then, we’ve seen the rise and fall of joysticks and trackballs, as well as the invention of motion controls and touchscreens. We’ve also seen some pretty wild designs come out of Japan—like this controller made out of bananas.
So without further ado, here’s our visual history of video game controllers from 1962 to now!
The home video game industry has been around for nearly 75 years, and the devices used to play have been around almost as long. For example, did you know that Pong was first offered on a controller built into a table? Or that arcades of the ’80s had plastic guns to use with light-gun games like Duck Hunt and Operation Wolf? And you probably know about the NES controller (Nintendo’s first 8-bit console) which introduced popular elements still seen in modern consoles. You’ve probably held it in your hands before—I know I have! But there are lots of controllers you might not be familiar with—few people will remember The Nintendo Power Glove or Atari’s touch-sensitive steering wheel—and I’m going to show you here. So keep reading to learn all about the evolution of video game controllers over the last 60 years!
The evolution of the video game controller is a fascinating journey from an old-school joystick to today’s wireless, motion-control controllers. Beyond that, the shape of controllers has changed over time as well. In 1962, Magnavox released the first commercial console for home use: The Odyssey 300. It had a single joystick and 30 simple games programmed into it by its creators. In 1980 Nintendo released their first home console system with two joysticks (the NES). It was followed by Sega’s Master System in 1986 and NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 in 1988—both systems used similar controllers with four buttons total that resembled an egg shape when viewed from above (to accommodate players’ thumbs). This layout stuck around until 1991 when Sega released its next generation console called Genesis CD where they replaced this design with six face buttons arranged like a diamond on top of another plus another button located at the bottom for easy access.
We hope you had fun going on this journey through gaming history with us! It’s amazing to look at how far we’ve come from simple two-button joysticks to complicated hand-held consoles and mobile devices. But one thing is for sure, no matter what type of controller you use, games are more fun than ever before! What was your favorite part of the evolution? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting at us.