One controller to rule them all…

When you’re slightly obsessive about a topic – like I am about retro gaming – you can comfortably take tiny aspects of said topic and ramble about them for ages, like I’m about to do.

Right. Now.

Today I was thinking about console controllers, in particular their incredible diversity and evolution between platforms, brands and machines. All those different designs, shapes and colors with a heavy question mark around which controller is the superior one. It’s helpful for me to think about things like this you see, because the more I think, the less likely I am to log onto eBay, press the Buy It Now button and obliterate my savings account purchasing a boxed Atari Jaguar.

Anyway, back to controllers, is there a greatest controller? One that is vastly superior to the rest? Most people would argue yes, but they’d likely all be arguing for a different controller. Me, I prefer to celebrate and chastise a variety of them for different – sometimes bizarre reasons.

Nintendo Entertainment System: This isn’t a controller, it’s a religious artifact. There is nothing ergonomic about the NES controller, but it’s small footprint fits so comfortably into the hand, and the fact remains that the NES controller is one of the premiere iconic images of gaming as an entire construct. Powerful stuff from a little rectangle with red buttons.

Sega Master System: Like Darth Vader with a thumbstick, the Master System controller is black, cold and slightly evil looking. Not quite as famous as the NES pad, the Sega Master System controller is nonetheless a mean looking piece of old school kit which fits perfectly with the equally badarse-looking Sega Master System I.

AppleJack: Developed for the Apple Bandai Pippin, there is nothing good to say here. Honestly, milk sours and horses sweat when near this nasty boomerang turd.

Sega Megadrive: Always a joy to hold in my humble opinion, the Megadrive controller (and the Nth American / European Saturn pad) are really smooth, elegant and generally feel-good to hold.  Top marks from me.

Atari Jaguar: The only construct that could make the AppleJack look like a freakin’ supermodel, the Atari Jaguar controller is an abomination that should have been taken out the back, beaten to death and dragged through the streets in a frightening display of rage and contempt.  It really is that bad, with it’s 50 thousand buttons and seemingly zero consideration for taste or design.  I’m happy to add my name to the list of those who feel that the Jaguar controller is an easy and cheap shot to take whenever you have the need to rant.

Dreamcast: Equal parts awesome and not, it’s difficult to form a final opinion on the Dreamcast controller. It’s big and unwieldy, and doesn’t really show any signs of being ‘sexy’, but the VMU, with it’s cool little LCD animations and such was a really unique touch.  I think the jury may be out on this one forever and a day.

Nintendo 64: It’s a spaceship, I’m convinced of it.  Any moment – while I’m in the middle of playing Goldeneye 009 – that thing is going to sprout warp engines and fly the fuck out of my gaming room leaving me sitting there, stunned.

There are so many others, all deserving of mentions for one reason or another – what’s your most noted controllers, for better or worse?


3 Responses to One controller to rule them all…

  1. Takoma says:

    And not one mention of the legendary, timeless, SNES pad. The controller that collected a million one ups, launched a million monster jams, and executed a million crushing shoryukens.

    May it live forever.

  2. Swahboo says:

    I always liked the N64 controller, but that’s probably because I’ve been involved in a torrid love affair with my N64 ever since I clapped eyes upon it. If the controller did happen to “sprout warp engines and fly”, I’d only love it more.

    Then again, I have issues with most controllers (especially the more recent ones – age restricts me from remarking on the more uh… elderly controllers) because they don’t seem to agree with my tiny hands.

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