When you think about it, game controllers are the most important thing about video games. After all, if you haven’t got a jump button, how is Mario going to jump? Without that Start button, you’d just be endlessly watching Street Fighter II’s attract screens. So yeah, pads are important, right? Glad you agree.
But controllers aren’t all created equal. Everyone had a third party pad they’d make friends use when they were houseguests, while you use the superior first party pad, but we’re not talking about unofficial pads – Not this time, anyway. There are some control methods that make the simple act of playing a game that bit more enjoyable, and these are some of the ones that I love using the most.
Xbox One X
We’re going to start off with something current, Microsoft’s latest pad. The standard Xbox 360 controller was a real upgrade from the two different controllers for the original Xbox, but the Xbox One’s pad was somehow even better.
Having the dual analog sticks out of alignment might have had more to do with being different to Sony’s original Dual Shock design, but I always found Microsoft’s design much more comfortable (after all, D-pads are rarely used for common actions). On that note, the Dpad is a much better design than the skin-shredding Dpads that Sony continually uses (in my opinion, of course).
The analog triggers are a little firmer than those of the Dual Shock 4’s, but I find that to be a little more preferable, especially for racing games where the use of analog triggers is much more integral.
It has a good sense of weight to it too, not too light and it doesn’t feel like I’m holding a brick (I’m looking at you, original Xbox’s “Duke” controller!).
Basically, it’s an excellent evolution of 30+ years of controller design.
The controller for Nintendo’s 16-bit system was incredible for the simple fact that its design seemed to be perfect for the sort of games that would be seen at home and in the arcade for the duration of the console’s lifespan.
Totally juxtapositioned with the very angular NES controller, the SNES pad was all about rounded edges and I particularly love the colourful face buttons of the PAL and Japanese editions (sorry, my American chums, but those purple abominations don’t quite cut it). Plus, the new L & R shoulder buttons were a revelation, an idea that pretty much every console controller has used since – Although sadly not always great when used in games like Street Fighter II. The diamond arrangement of the face buttons has also remained a popular design choice for other systems, too.
Interestingly enough, the console’s launch game, Super Mario World, didn’t even use all of the pad’s six buttons (which showed some great restraint on Nintendo’s part), but I’d say the SNES pad design was instrumental in bringing Street Fighter II to the console. After all, for the Mega Drive’s Special Championship Edition, SEGA had to release a separate 6-button pad, which was frustrating.
Speaking of Street Fighter II, this pad was also home to arguably Nintendo’s best D-pad. It was perfect for pulling off Hadoukens and Spinning Piledrivers.
It’s a pad that truly set a trend for pretty much all console controllers, and for retro games, it’s still a preferred choice.
SEGA Mega Drive Six-Button Pad
OK, so I sort of just threw the Mega Drive Six-Button pad under the bus just now, so to make amends, I’m adding it to this list. Truth be told, I think I actually like the Dpad on this pad, a little better than the Super NES one, especially for Street Fighter II.
I always found the original 3-button Mega Drive pad to be a little stiff, but this improved version was a little bit smaller, more comfortable and a bit more responsive, making it the best way to play on SEGA’s 16-bit console – Even if most games only used three-buttons.
The rounded style of the new X, Y & Z buttons were a little different, but they were comfortable enough, but what I really appreciate was having all six buttons on the face of the pad, which certainly helped with arcade conversions.
SEGA pretty much duplicated this design for the SEGA Saturn pad, so you if you’re that way inclined, you can include the 32-bit pad in this entry as well.
We really do take wireless controllers for granted, don’t we? No longer do we worry about pulling consoles off desk, or risk trip hazards during our gaming sessions. Sure, the Wavebird wasn’t the first wireless controller (even the Atari had a wireless stick that ran on radio waves, while Acclaim released some infrared pads for the NES), but it certainly reminded the industry that wireless technology was possible and could be a viable option.
At its core, it’s a mostly standard Gamecube controller, sans rumble – Only with the addition of wireless capabilities, via the very same RF technology used by the wireless Atari pad I mentioned earlier. It needed two AA batteries (which lasted a long while), had a dial on both the controller and received for switching radio frequencies to find the best one, and it had the most incredible range (officially 6 metres, but some people report it working up to four times that).
Latency was mostly negligible, and it worked incredibly well. Smash Bros. players obviously sweat by the original wired pads, but for the rest of us – The is the pad of choice for the Gamecube.