Oh man, we love us some 360 controllers. They fit any size hands, unlike the Sony controllers, and despite the less-than-stellar stock d-pad they're a dream to use. But it's not just about functionality, it's about collectability. And with 33 official Microsoft controllers to hunt down there's no shortage of game for the hunter.
But some controllers may only interest you from an aesthetic standpoint, and so in addition to a rarity rating for each controller we've also listed an availability level for replacement parts should you want to transform your existing controllers. So instead of buying an all new controller you can give that nasty, sticky-buttoned gamepad new life and a wicked shell. When searching for custom shell parts remember to stick with vendors that have high reputability or high eBay ratings. There are a lot of cheap knockoffs that look the same in a picture but fit poorly. As per our recent review, we recommend Quickdrawmods if you're looking for shells that have a Low or above availability rating. Past that go for eBay sellers with high ratings (both in percentage and number of ratings). Also be sure to pick up a Torx T8 security bit screwdriver from whoever you buy your first shell from. It's invaluable, and they're usually dirt cheap.
So without further ado we present the 32 Microsoft produced 360 controllers: row by row, left to right.
UPDATE: Added a missing controller to bottom right of the above, along with a description below.
White – rarity: Ultra common; parts availability: Very high
The staple. If you don't have/haven't had one of these lying around then you're not a true 360 aficionado. And while these are no longer offered in brick-and-mortar stores new (being replaced by the S model) you can get them anywhere and everywhere else.
Black – rarity: Extremely common; parts availability: Very high
Second only to its white and grey brother the classic Black controller was first offered with the equally black toned Xbox 360 elite. These are a dime a dozen, and while they too have been replaced by the new S model it's not hard to track one of these down.
"Limited Edition" Red – rarity: Semi-common; parts availability: High
Also known as the Resident Evil Red controller, these were offered both with a charge-n-play kit and as part of a special limited edition Resident Evil console. A lucky person can find one of these in their local used game store, but if you're a sucker for red a better option would be to buy a replacement shell for an existing controller.
Pink – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: Low
The Pink controller was offered along side either the American or Light Blue controller depending on the region. For some reason parts are much more rare than the American blue, though the parts can still be found
"American" Blue – rarity: Semi-common; parts availability: High
While not officially known as such, "American" Blue controllers were only offered in the states. The rest of the world got the Light Blue controller, which in turn was not available to America.
Green – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: Low
Bundled with Pro Evolution Soccer 2009, this controller has 16 way d-pad functionality instead of the standard 8. Not sure just how important that is, what with analog thumbsticks and all, but there you go. It's not available in the states, making this little gem uncommon. Our recommendation, however, is just to hunt down a replacement shell instead of dropping more-than-retail price for it.
Light Blue – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: Very low
This beauty was offered to the greater part of the world, but never in America. Finding even a Light Blue shell to replace an existing controller's is difficult. If you're a collector, one of these would make a great addition to the collection.
Black S – rarity: Very common; parts availability: Very high
The black S is essentially the same as the old model, with a few minor differences. The guide button now has an ultra cool chrome finish, the bottom plate is black, and the d-pad and thumbsticks are black. These are offered pretty much everywhere, so if you're looking for one it's best to buy it outright rather than re-shell one of your own controllers.
White S – rarity: Fairly common; parts availability: High
One of the newest common controllers on the market isn't quite so common yet. These are offered in stores, but stock seems to be trickling out slowly. It won't be hard to find one, but if you're looking for four matching controllers you may be out of luck.
Silver Transforming D-Pad – rarity: Semi-common; parts availability: Low
There's a love-hate relationship with this controller for most people. The cool d-pad addresses accuracy issues, but the thumbsticks lack the four small nubs that keep your thumbs grounded. We recommend picking up a replacement pair of thumbsticks and going old school. While you're at it replace those ugly silver ABXY buttons with colored ones. It looks much better.
Black Transforming D-Pad – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: Low
Released just this past October the Black Transforming D-Pad controller is available only in a charge-n-play kit. It's basically a Black S with a transforming d-pad in it. You can find aftermarket shells like this, or have it done to your original black controller, both for about half the price or less.
Chrome C3P0 – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: Low
It's Star Wars themed. That's cool in and of itself. But it's gold chrome, and that's awesome. You also get the transforming d-pad and little 3P0-themed wires painted onto the bottom plate. It's cool, but then again it was a Kinect Star Wars console exclusive. Unless you want to drop big money on a limited edition console odds are better looking for a custom gold chrome shell.
Chrome Red, Blue and Silver – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: Medium
Released in May this year, these are available, but expensive. You're better off buying an aftermarket shell. Frankly there's a larger selection of chrome colors to dress up including this sweet Iron Man-themed shell.
Halo 3 Green – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: High
Originally bundled with the Halo 3 console you can find replacement Halo 3 Green shells just about anywhere on the web. Our recommendation is to create a look alike with one of your existing controllers. The real McCoy is not only hard to find, but drown amidst a sea of copycats.
Halo 3 ODST – rarity: Rare; parts availability: Rare
These controllers can still be found through resellers on the web or on the street, but you'll be hard pressed to find one still in its packaging. Finding stock replacement parts is difficult as well, but some of our favorite resellers still have a few on their shelves if you just want to refresh the look of your old controller.
Halo 3 Covenant and Halo 3 Spartan – rarity: Very rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
If you're a collector and you see one of these controllers, drop your money right then and there. These are very difficult to find, and you won't find replacement shells to transform your old controller into something new.
Halo Reach – rarity: Uncommon; parts availability: Rare
These controllers were quite popular on store shelves or something, because these seem to be more available than most game-themed special edition controllers. They were reportedly available both with the limited edition Halo Reach console and separately, so that might have something to do with it. Sites that offer rapid fire conversions often keep these in stock as they seem to be a favorite amongst
cheaters enthusiasts. You won't find the shell separate anywhere, but if you're itching for the controller you're probably in luck.
Halo 4 UNSC – rarity: Rare; parts availability: Rare
Technically speaking it's still available via the Microsoft Store, but they're rare because they won't be around for very long. Resellers have been pulling the shells and selling them on eBay, but as of now all are sold, and some even went for more than the price of a new controller. Auctions apparently bring out the dumb in people.
Halo 4 Forerunner – rarity: Very rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
This is another 'grab it if you see it' controller. They were bundled with the limited edition Halo 4 console, and the last auction on eBay went for $105 USD. Rapid fire resellers will give you one, but you'll pay up to 40% more of the eBay going price, and that's an untouched model.
Fable 3 – rarity: Very rare; parts availability: Mid-low
This one is actually totally separate from the release of Fable 3. In fact, it came out close to three weeks prior to the game's release. The only true Fable branding is a small roman numeral III at the bottom of the controller, so this is a great addition for someone who just wants a cool design. Oddly enough these shells can be found on eBay, and for a darn good price (about a fourth of what the controller itself might go for).
Gears of War 3 – rarity: Very rare; parts availability: Very low
It's a Gears of War 3 controller. That's a thing, right? This is only one of two non-Halo themed game controllers with a transforming d-pad, and it rocks a slick hydro-dipped paint scheme. You'll pay a good chunk of money for it, though, and doing a shell-swap is unlikely. We don't know of any place that has these replacement shells for sale.
Modern Warfare 3 – rarity: Very rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
The other non-Halo game shell that features a transforming d-pad, this controller is, personally speaking, much more slick. Even non-fans of the Call of Duty series have to admit that this controller turns heads. It is, however, yet another controller you won't be able to shell-swap on. If you want this you'll have to shell out the money for the real thing.
Radioactive – rarity: Very rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
As near as we can tell this was exclusive to GameStop/EB Games. The red and black design is offset by awesome red and black thumbsticks. They aren't sold any more, and you won't find replacement parts.
Dragon – rarity: Very rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
Exclusive to Wal-Mart, and no longer made. As with the Radioactive these are unicorns and replacement parts can't be found. Pretty, but impossible to find.
Tomb Raider – rarity: Unknown; parts availability: Unknown
Revealed shortly after this article was published, the Tomb Raider controller is the newest in the game-themed family. We don't know yet how rare it will be or how quickly spare parts (shells) will show up in resellers' stores. It is due out this March.
Camo – rarity: Unknown; parts availability: Unknown
Another Wal-Mart exclusive in the U.S., though unsurprising. We're guessing this will sell well in the southern states. Kidding aside, it's actually a pretty decent design, and includes the transforming d-pad. Outside of the states it will be available in "select regions".
The Simpsons – rarity: Ultra rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
Roughly 100 were made. They were bundled with a special Simpsons console. 99 are probably stored away in their respective owner's fireproof safe. The last one some fool used as a 'daily player' controller. You can build something similar with third party yellow shells, but be aware that some distributors sell the cheaply molded versions.
Launch team – rarity: Ultra rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
Given to very select members of the Xbox 360 launch team alongside a matching console. If you get one, a glass case would be an appropriate means of display. Genuine parts are impossible to come by, but you can recreate something close with custom parts available through most online retailers.
Live Turns Five – rarity: Ultra rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
These were given only to select members of press and Microsoft on the fifth anniversary of Xbox Live. If you get one, keep it in its little protective baggie.
10th Anniversary – rarity: Ultra rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
Given out recently to random members of Xbox LIVE who'd been faithful since the days of its inception. If you own one, resist the temptation to open the box.
NXE Launch Team 2008 – rarity: Ultra rare; parts availability: Nonexistant
This controller with a custom skin was given to the Xbox team responsible for creating the NXE in 2008. It also came with a matching faceplate. You're unlikely to ever have one, so commit yourself to do without.
There are a handful of what might be considered insignificant variants of the above that the total purist may want to consider. There are two wired controllers, the classic white and the black S. Additionally some early white controllers had a different sheen to the bottom mic plate.