Controllers are pretty important. They’re the bridge between reality and the game we’re playing. Without them, how would Mario ever save Peach? How would Kratos massacre the Gods? How would Master Chief defend Earth? They wouldn’t, to be honest. With that in mind, here are the 5 best and 5 worst controllers in history from the epic N64 to the Wii.
5. Sega Master System
Looking like something that should be attached to a car dashboard and not your hands, the SMS controllers are pretty bad. Granted, they’re a very early system controller, but the fact remains that they were evidently never designed to be held comfortably unless you’re Edward Scissorhands or a geometric shape. With no evidence of ergonomics, these controllers are uncomfortable and basic. However, their role in the evolution of the controller cannot be ignored.
These controllers displayed similar issues as the SMS, geometric and not human friendly. What makes them worse on this scale however is that they’ve clearly put effort into the design (adding option buttons and a d-pad) yet they’ve STILL overlooked the need for ergonomics in a controller. One step forward and two back if you ask me.
3. Xbox 360
*Cue uproar* I have great difficulty with these controllers, and I’m not the only one. Their proportions feel wrong, and the trigger buttons are ridiculously thin. Dirt gathers in hard-to-clean places, and as most of them are white that’s actually a problem. The bumpers are also notorious for sticking because of this. To Microsoft’s credit, the center buttons and LED player display are good fun, but the poor quality thumb sticks are unforgivable. They weather quicker than an elderly woman in Benidorm and are a right pain to replace.
2. Wii Arcade
Too small. We aren’t all petite gamers. My gorilla paws have huge issues with these little plastic pancakes. This is exacerbated by the microscopic option buttons. If I had a dollar every time I pressed “Home” instead of “Start,” I’d be a happy man. The biggest gripe is much the same as the NES issue: they’ve had the opportunity to think hard and design something that works really, well but instead they’ve mashed a few ideas together to produce an ineffective peripheral.
Speak of things that don’t work, motion control has never and will never be a good thing in my books. These controllers took a revolutionary step from horizontal to vertical, producing a phallic motion-sensing plastic wand. The funniest thing about the Wii controllers can be found in the reasoning behind their health and safety ads at the beginning of each game. They initially had fixture to the hand other than the uncertain grip of a gamer. A few projectile remotes and broken $5000 TVs later, the wrist strap was introduced. Some black eyes, hilarious YouTube videos and broken table lamps after that, they released the padded remote case. Aside from the hideous external flaws (and arguable usability issues), the Wii controllers are also pretty temperamental. It’s highly irritating when you lose connection with the infrared sensor and your cursor has an on-screen fit (Trust me, re-positioning the sensor does not help.). Sorry Nintendo, I don’t live in a mansion. Thank you for reminding me.
Sega cottoned on and designed some ergonomically-minded controllers that are awesome to this day. With intuitive buttons and a wonderfully illustrated D-pad design, it was a tad small but fit nicely in your hands. Finally, a controller for human beings. An oddly placed option button floating at the edge of the controller did raise a few eyebrows, but at least this system even had an option button.
The Sega Dreamcast was Sega’s last console in the home console market. It was also the first 128-bit system with a built-in modem for online play that truly revolutionized the way games were played. This design aesthetic was passed on to its controllers. The controllers featured 2 Ports which can accept 2 Dreamcast memory cards or a memory card and a Rumble pack. They were pretty large in comparison to their predecessors, perfect for my bear paws, and even better when paired with the aggressive rumble pack. It clearly took them a lot of console development, but Sega got there in the end.
These controllers were one of Nintendos’ finest. Large yet compact, healthy sized triggers that cupped your fingers, and the “Z” button which fathered concepts for the 360’s bumpers. It’s wing grip design acted as a modern rendition of the super comfortable N64 controllers along with a single thumbstick and back up ‘c’ stick. The Gamecube controllers, although they didn’t allow expansions, did note something important. The ‘A’ button was made extra large, playing on the fact that it’s the most pressed button on the controller, which I think is a piece of logical genius. It also came in a wireless edition and many limited edition colors.
A brilliantly designed controller for a brilliant system, the N64 controllers brought a whole new aspect to the field. They consisted of two controllers in one, some games utilized just the d-pad and yellow face buttons and the gamer would hold just the outer grip whilst other games used the thumb stick face buttons which would mean the player would hold the center and right outer grip. This meant the controller could accomodate specialized configurations for different games. FPS’s like Turok could use the thumbstick to full effect whilst games like Pokémon Stadium could just use the outer buttons. They felt great whichever way you held them. The main downside was sticky thumbstick syndrome.
1. Playstation 3
The Dualshock controller was introduced in Japan late 1997 and has remained largely unchanged since then. Only slight updates are added based on consumer feedback making the Dualshock 3 for PS3 controllers brilliantly suited to their job. They fit comfortably in your hands, the triggers are responsive and react to pressure pleasingly. Unobtrusive LED’s indicate the 4 players, and the PS button is strategically placed away from the other option buttons to help avoid mis-pressing. The motion sensing element of Sixaxis is irritating and unnecessary, but I still render the PS3 controllers superior in terms of variety in comparison to same generation consoles. The decision to make them wireless and painless to recharge sealed the deal and gathered a lot of support, especially when Xbox still had the typical AA power system. They also have an impressive power life considering the rumble feature. Six years ago, the Dualshock design itself won an Emmy award for its impact on hardware peripherals. Today, the Dualshock 3 is the best incarnation of this iconic clan of controllers.
What’s your best and worst controller? Let me know either on our Facebook Page, Twitter or my own Facebook and Twitter pages. I have linked a hilarious Wii Remote video montage on Youtube below and some relevant articles including information on the newest incarnation of the Dualshock controllers below that.