People love their games machines. Genesis vs Super Nintendo. PlayStation 3 vs Xbox 360. Epoch Cassette Vision vs, er, the Arcadia 2001. If you've owned a gaming box you probably had a view on how it stacks against the competition. But how often do we factor in the controller? As the bit you actually need to get your feels on, it's important. Like, really important. With this in mind, let's take a gander at seven games controllers that didn't so much let the side down, as scuttle the bloody ship altogether. And there isn't an N64 controller in sight.
Let's start off with this upside-down ergonomically-challenged precursor to the PlayStation controller. There are prettier pieces of plastic floating in the Pacific, but have you actually tried using the thing? Judging by the sales figures, the answer is almost certainly no. And a good thing too. It was disconcertingly lightweight, and had underwhelming build quality in the all-important clicky and pressy bits. Oh, and it had an optional (read unnecessary) stick-on rubber d-pad to put over the directional nipples. The punchline? Among all those buttons, the vast majority of games ported to the machine used only the big red one.
Having said controllers are the bit of the machine you spend the most time touching, here's one you don't. Peter Molyneux's incredible Project Milo tech demo more or less ensured the commercial success of the 360 Kinect overnight. But the reality was rather different: a slow, laggy control system you needed a living room the size of a safari park to waft about in. Fruit Ninja aside, the Kinect was sorely lacking in quality software, and so eyebrows were raised when Microsoft bundled it with the Xbox One, adding both price and, as the tinfoil-hat crowd would argue, a surveillance menace to unsuspecting living rooms. Microsoft later backtracked, offering Xbox Ones Kinect-free. But at least those of us with one still plugged in to their machines can tell it to change the channel. Sometimes it even works.
We all know the feeling. You're stuck into a butt-aching gaming bender when suddenly the phone rings. It's Auntie Morag, asking you to ring her horticulturalist. Can you take down the number? Atari had scenarios just such as these in mind, one imagines, when it included the otherwise inexplicable number pad in the Jaguar's gamepad. Who doesn't want to do sums while you play Cybermorph? Alright, so you couldn't actually use the number pad to do those things. It was simply a ploy to make the controller 120 percent larger than it needed to be. And though games did use the pad, it was really only because it was there, in lieu of actual proper buttons. Baffling.
The 1990s: good for music; disastrous for gaming controllers. As far from ideal as Amiga's and Atari's offerings were, at least you could sort of use them to play games. The 400-series CD-i controller looked more like something you'd use to track down Saxon gold, or scan stray dogs. Piss-poor by all accounts, the controller has been attributed as being partly responsible for the console's mercifully-swift demise. Shame.
Intel Wireless Series Gamepad
Let's face it: there aren't enough consumer electronics that double up as airplane neck supports. Intel took a mighty swing at it with its Wireless Series Gamepad, but the results are really much too hard to relax with, much less catch some shut-eye. On the plus side, if you had the wherewithal to download the drivers from the Intel website, you could theoretically use this thing to play PC games, or even as an ill-conceived mouse replacement. At least there wasn't a whole game system relying on this unwieldy u-bend.
Sony DualShock 3 for the PlayStation 3
Controversial? Despite having a powerhouse of a CPU, Sony's PlayStation 3 ceded precious marketshare and brand loyalty to the Xbox 360 compared to the previous generation. The controller was one area of mismatch. The 360's was an ergonomic delight: a masterful iteration of the Xbox controller. In contrast, the DualShock's design had remained more or less unchanged for a decade. Though not awful, its sub-optimally placed thumbsticks, poor d-pad and stingily short charge cable didn't exactly enhance some otherwise masterful games. File under missed opportunity.
Power Glove for the Nintendo Entertainment System
Eons before wearable electronics were a thing, there was Mattel's Power Glove for the Nintendo Entertainment System. As well as sporting all the buttons of the regular controller (located supremely conveniently on your forearm), you could also control the on-screen action with awkward hand gestures some 21 years before Microsoft attempted to repeat the feat with Kinect. Oh, and it had number buttons. So we can't even give Atari credit for having a shit idea with the Jaguar control pad — it merely copied one. Selling poorly and with only two games to its name, the Power Glove would inspire awful gaming controllers for decades hence. Ahead of its time, then.
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