I think that reducing a game to its controls is a bit of a shortcut and can be inherently wrong.
If it were the case, you could consider QTE the best control method available (the player is warned that he/she will have to press a key, then is told what key to press and experience the result of this key press) and so any game containing QTE to be great games.
Nevertheless, amongst "hardcore" players, those type of games (despite being still played nonetheless) are pretty despised.
I agree that great graphics/sounds don't make a great game (especially if the gameplay sucks), but on the other hands, sh*tty/inappropriate graphics/sounds added to a great gameplay can make the experience less enjoyable as well.
I also agree that to a certain extent, game reviewing (is it a good game or not) is somewhat a very subjective matter and a great game for someone will be considered a poor experience by someone else.
I guess it comes down to personal preferences (I prefer X type of game compare to Y) as well as personal experience (older players who have played "oldies" in their youth, compared to today's new/young players who discover video games with the current productions in their current state).
I'm 32, I never owned a console but always played on PC as well as consoles' games at my friend's/relative's.
Nostalgia plays a big part IMO amongst the people of my age. We have fond memories of games we have played in our youth, and we remember loving them.
But if you play those games today, the controls, graphics, sounds are pretty outdated compared to the evolution of technology and games we might have been playing in the meantime.
We also used to play those games because, at the time, there were less games made/available to us, and any game that was "good enough" would get our attention/love.
To come back to the original question, IMO, gameplay/controls are to be complimented by graphics/sounds/story; the entire package. It's the whole that make a great and coherent experience.
It's the basic of game design, think every elements of the game so that you deliver fun to your player without any discording element.