Leah’s Best & Worst Video Game Controllers

In: Articles by Leah "WhiteGodiva" Haydu

3 May 2011

As you may have noticed, many of the GameHounds crew have been playing some older games recently, both in their original formats and through ports or re-releases. Nostalgia only gets you so far, though, when it’s not set up properly.

In order to really get that first-time feel, you need to have the right tools. In the case of video games, that means the controller you use has a significant impact on the experience you have.

How many game controllers have you held in your life? A select few? Dozens? More? Whatever your answer, odds are you’ve had a favorite. Whether it was because of the shape, the responsiveness, or the durability it displayed when being smashed into the floor, you probably have a particular controller that stands out as being ideal for you.

Well, I’ve played many a game system over the years, and I’ve come across some winners — and some losers, too. Here’s what I consider to be some of the best and the worst.

The Best

The Sega Genesis controller: Larger and more contoured than the original Nintendo controller, this black beauty fit my 10-year-old hands perfectly. It also had an extra button and a directional pad that worked in a full circle rather than just offering the same old up, down, left, and right choices. At the time, I was awed by that particular technological marvel, and it was perfectly suited to the often-simple gameplay mechanics without being too restrictive.

The WaveBird: This is the only controller I’ll talk about that didn’t originally come with the system in question, but as it’s still a Nintendo property, I figure it still counts. This was one of the first really good wireless controllers, coming as it did a generation before they were in the explosively common use that they are today. It sticks quite faithfully to the button design of its wired counterpart, and since I liked the GameCube controller to begin with, the added wireless capability was just icing on the cake. With low weight, high battery life, and excellent responsiveness, I consider the WaveBird to be my favorite controller overall.  I still use mine.

The XBox 360 wireless controller: The 360 controller isn’t perfect, but it’s by far my preferred one of the current-gen hardware. It’s sturdy (I’ve thrown mine many a time), the buttons are nice and springy (avoiding the squishy texture of the PlayStation 3 Sixaxis controllers), and the joysticks are positioned in a way that actually makes sense. The battery life kind of sucks, but rechargeable packs are abundantly available and can actually be plugged in while you’re playing, which is a nice touch. The ability to plug things in like headsets and chatpads without a lot of hassle and extra pieces is also welcome; even though I don’t use them much, I know many simply couldn’t function without them.

The Worst

The Nintendo 64 controller: What were you thinking, Nintendo!?  This thing looks like a mutated boomerang, and the button placement is horrible. The really sad thing is that it wouldn’t have been so bad if Nintendo had just done something about the joystick. It’s sitting on the middle prong of the paddle, meaning that if you needed to use it for something, you either had to give up access to one side of the other buttons so that you could reach it, or (if you had big hands, which I did not) reach over from the edge, which was uncomfortable at best. I really would have rather seen the joystick left off entirely than half-assed like this. I did find an image of a guy smoking something out of a hollowed-out N64 controller while I was looking for images, though, so I guess that’s something.

The original XBox controller: I actually know people who would place this controller on their list of favorites for one of the same reasons I’m doing the opposite: It’s just too damn big. If you have hands the size of my entire head, that might be cool, but I actually had to stop learning to play the bassoon in high school because my hands wouldn’t fit all the way around it (true story!). It’s not even the fact that all that space was being taken up by buttons; it was mostly the monstrous XBox logo that sat in the middle. The second incarnation, thankfully, toned it down a bit, but there were still those weird black and white buttons that no one seemed to know quite what to do with.

The Sony Playstation Sixaxis controller: This is another case of “so close, and yet so far.” I really liked the PS2 DualShock controllers, and at first glance, the Sixaxis is just that without the wire. It’s not, though. It’s far too light, for starters — although thankfully the DualShock 3 fixed this — which makes it not only feel wrong, it also makes the controller exceptionally easy to break. Trust me on this one. The squishy, marshmallowy triggers weren’t fixed with the advent of the DualShock 3, but the insubstantial nature of the piece is what really turned me off.

So, what are your favorite and least favorite controllers?

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3 Responses to Leah’s Best & Worst Video Game Controllers

Avatar

Holy Goalie

May 3rd, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Atari 2600 was the best controller. One button. One joystick. Felt great in your hand. Simple and easy.

Worst: intellevision. It was like a cell phone. Buttons on the side, a dial at the bottom. A keypad in the middle with game overlays inserted. Way too much going on and none of it good.

Avatar

Commander Tim

May 3rd, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Sega Saturn controller: full stop.

Outside of that, the Sega Astro City arcade layout.

Avatar

eyescovered

May 4th, 2011 at 4:42 am

Good:

Genesis – You pretty much summed it up. Had to get a 6 button version to play MK3, though!

NES – Simplicity at it’s finest!

Xbox 360 – They really nailed it. Got rid of the Black/White buttons from Xbox 1. Feels comfortable in your hands. Buttons, triggers and sticks make sense.

Bad:

PS3 – I’m sorry but the DualShock came out in 1998 and little has been done to improve it in all that time. It’s not very ergonomic and awkward to hold. Shapes on buttons suck — I always have to look at the placement during games! Sticks are too close together and they should swap the d-pad and stick since 99% of the time you are using the stick. The L3/R3 triggers face inward towards you so your fingers slip (there are 3rd party solutions for this, but still).

Ugly:

Jaguar – Seriously, what were they thinking!?!?

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