Sticky buttons, uncomfortable shapes, and clunky joysticks — no game controller is perfect. Here are 12 classics with just as many problems.
The rectangular little heartthrob that could, the NES controller represents all those warm and fuzzy memories we have of rotting our brains in front of a tube TV for hours on end. Unfortunately, time doesn’t remember this controller as fondly as you do. A rectangle? I’m just going to assume that the dog bone redesign was a solution for innumerable cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Yeah, that looks pretty accurate.
The prototypical design that laid the groundwork for two console generations of button-mashing and monster slaying, the SNES controller is a big step up from its little brother. Real grips are nonexistent in this design, but grips on any controller were pretty terrible at the time. Also, the face buttons should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise.
Top right, please and thank you.
I think we all remember the confusion of playing Sonic the Hedgehog and discovering that every face button did the same damn thing. That situation was actually preferable to games that required awkward use of all three buttons, and the skinny thumb-punching D-pad made long sessions painful.
Right where it belongs.
Ah, the Playstation, sweetheart of the 32-bit generation. Its controller improved incrementally on previous designs, but came with some serious flaws. The start button in the shape of a “play” button was a little clever, but in practice an asinine design decision. The spongy D-pad didn’t help, either.
Appropriately long grips? Nah, scrap it.
Quite possibly the mother of all controller abominations. What was Nintendo thinking? A line of rainbow-vomit frankensteins, these controllers went wrong in so many places that I don’t know where to start: an analog stick designed to bite it early, (four!) feverishly conceived camera buttons, another positional change for the A and B buttons, and the near impossibility of using the D-pad and the analog stick in the same holding position. Z-trigger? Sure.
Before fighting game fans rip me apart, remember that this console was released near the marriage of high polygon counts and silky frame rates. One could assume that control in polygonal 3D games would have been tantamount to the design, yet I still have nightmares about that joystick. The grips were an ergonomic step backward, and the VMU was nothing more than a novel pipe dream.
Imagine a controller with a heart. Now rip it out.
Convinced that there was no better controller on the planet, Sony decided to skip R&D and reuse the DualShock design for — brace yourself — the DualShock 2! Keeping any innovations under the hood in the form of laughably useless pressure-sensitivity, the second iteration of Sony’s flagship design guaranteed that button-mashing would be a thing of the past.
Same squishy D-pad, now with mushy buttons!
Finally, a controller that looks stupid and feels great! Mostly. Except for the GBA D-pad they crammed in there. And the we-won’t-even-pretend-it’s-analog C-stick. Not to mention the awkwardly large range on the analog shoulder buttons. Is that a Z button now? Even better.
Great for Smash Brothers. Garbage for everything else.
Ah, the Duke. Funny how people find endearing ways to defend their stupid preferences, huh? This one’s almost too easy, especially after the S-type popped up. Even so, a new coat of paint did little to hide those shameful black and white buttons.
The perfect way to mask poor programming.
I love when gaming brings people together — young and old, casual and hardcore. Too bad that unification came at the price of precise control. The Nunchuk and Motion Plus aimed to correct that; too bad you can’t dress a gunshot wound with colorful bandages. As a bonus, the lightgun-like technology was so outdated, you could substitute the sensor bar with a candle!
I can think of another way to use a candle here.
Now the joke has turned dark. New features included an irreplaceable battery doomed to a short lifespan, motion-sensing technology eventually gutted for the cleverly named DualShock 3, triggers made of melted ice cream, and of course, every existing problem with the previous designs.
Don’t change a thing. Seriously. Ever.
Quite possibly the least offensive controller of all time, so let’s blow the one negative way out of proportion, shall we? The D-pad is so bad, it’s not even digital. Crafted on an incredibly cheap analog stick housed in a movement-restricting casing (not unlike Evangelion’s soon-to-be-berserk Eva), this choice marked an otherwise solid piece of artistry completely unusable for any fighting game ever.
This is the D-pad’s true nature.
Article by contributor Drew Noffs.