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360 Sunday Games Top 10: Worst Controllers

17 May 2009 by: Alex St-Amour One Comment


Top 10 Worst Controllers

  Last week we took a look at the best controllers we ever wrapped our mitts around, if you missed it check it out here, or you can see our past countdowns here.

  Let me ask you this. You’re playing a game, everything seems to be going along great, your virtual hero is well on his way to save the world once again from evil and tyranny, but for some reason you just can’t seem to enjoy your adventure, and you can’t seem to figure out why. Everything is in order, your homework is done, girlfriend is out with the girls and the dog is fed, so why is it you just can’t enjoy this adventure in gaming? Well have a look at your hurting and blistered hands and you will have your answer. Video game controllers are supposed to be designed to be comfortable so we can hold on to them for hours on end and also offer a new play experience that opens up a world of possibilities, however the following 10 abominations seem to have missed the memo.

  So in part 2 of our feature on game controllers we bring you the top 10 worst, ever.

10 – N.E.S. Max

N.E.S. Max

  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Year Released: 1988
  • Features: Thumb-Stick, Circular D-Pad, Turbo Buttons

  Nintendo always tries to innovate with their controllers, be it D-pads, shoulder buttons, joysticks or motion controls, Nintendo always wants to do things differently. But they may have gone overboard with the Max. While some innovations like handles were a welcome addition, and one that would become a staple of controllers in the modern age of gaming, the method that you actually controlled the game was a complete disaster. Utilizing a small circular thumbstick that the player had to press onto a hidden D-pad, games became near impossible to control, and if you didn’t like this there was the circular D-pad situated around the thumbstick which didn’t fare much better. Thank goodness Nintendo decided to abandon this experiment soon after it was released, and it was never heard from again.

9  – Microsoft Xbox Controller

Microsoft Xbox Controller

  • Platform: Microsoft Xbox
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Features: Detachable Cord, 6 Face Buttons, Big Xbox Logo

    When Microsoft unveiled their massive Xbox console they debuted it with an equally massive controller. Sure it had nifty features like a detachable cord so when someone tripped over it, it didn’t pull the ten pound console to the floor, and memory card slots built right into the controller like the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast used before it. But when the controller is practically unusable these features end up not meaning much. It’s no surprise that Microsoft eventually replaced the ‘Duke’ controller with the small ‘Controller S’ that was bundled with Japanese Xbox’s as the consoles main controller.

8  – Colecovision Controller

Colecovision Controller

  • Platform: Colecovision
  • Year Released: 1982
  • Features: Numerical Keypad, 2 Action Buttons, Joystick

  Why in the name of all that is good were numerical keypads so popular on game controllers in the early 80’s? Sure they allow for overlays so that you can tell you what all those buttons actually do, but back in those days games were simple, they didn’t need 12 buttons for extra features! Add to that the fact that the Colecovision’s controller was extremely unwieldy, with the ‘action’ buttons located on the side and a very stiff joystick, this controller made the games more of a chore then a relaxing past time.

7  – Super Scope

Super Scope

  • Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Year Released: 1992
  • Features: Wireless Light Gun

  When it came time for Nintendo to release the follow up to their successful Zapper light gun, Nintendo decided to try something different, and different is what we got. Instead of a small device you can hold with one hand and easily aim at the screen Nintendo released the Super Scope, this beast of a bazooka was supposed to simplify things with its infra-red adapter and wireless design, and we all know how that turned out. Inaccurate and un-comfertable the Super Scope is now best known as an item in the Super Smash Bros. games. Despite all its limitations the Super Scope does boast some amazing games like Battleclash and its sequel, Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge.

6  – CD-I Wireless Controller

Phillips CD-I

  • Platform: Phillips CD-I
  • Year Released: 1991
  • Features: Video Playback Control, Wireless

  Combining a TV remote and a video game controller is a bad idea, unfortunately Phillips and the unlucky few who actually bought a CD-I learned this the hard way. Utilising an IR signal that barely worked to register game input, a stiff and unresponsive joystick and face buttons that were actually all grouped around the joystick, the CD-I’s wireless controller tried to do too much while at the same time doing everything wrong. As a side note, the standard CD-I controllers weren’t much better, prone to breaking and featuring 3 face buttons while every game only used two, so if you absolutely must play some CD-I get ready to be disappointed.

5  – Atari Jaguar Controller

Jaguar Controller

  • Platform: Atari Jaguar
  • Year Released: 1993
  • Features: Numerical Keypad

  One day I would love to be part of a focus group, and maybe, just maybe I would be able to keep a bad product from ever making its way out into consumers hands, but I doubt Atari even held focus groups for this controller. Taking the basic Sega Genesis design was fine, even though the three face buttons are oddly positioned, if Atari had kept this part and this part only in the final design it would have avoided ending up on this list, but no, this is Atari and apparently the numerical keypads of the early 80’s were still ‘in’ ten years later. This unneeded addition made the whole thing extremely bulky and uncomfortable and did nothing to help Atari and their last console compete.

4  – Power Glove

Power Glove

  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Year Released: 1989
  • Features: Motion Controls, Programmable Controls

  ‘I love the Power Glove, it’s so bad’, this immortal sentence from the movie ‘The Wizard’ will live on forever in gaming culture as an ironic reference to how ‘bad’ the Power Glove really is. Designed to be the Wii before the Wii even was a concept. the Power Glove translated the motion of your hand into the controls for the on screen action. Did it work? Hell no. Gamers spent more time flailing their hands around in every way just trying to get Mario to jump. Their is however a silver lining for the Power Glove, it will live on forever as the butt of many game related jokes. It truly was ‘bad’.

3  – U-Force


  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Year Released: 1989
  • Features: Hands Free Control

  I don’t know what the developers of the U-Force were thinking, controlling a game with only the movement of your hands and nothing is a cool idea, unfortunately it’s still just an idea. So when they released the U-Force no one was really surprised when it didn’t work. The unit generated an ‘infra-red feild’ that the player had to manipulate and try to move the on screen action. The problem with this is that no one knew what they were doing and you ended up looking like an idiot trying to play with it.

2  – Sega Activator

Sega Activator

  • Platform: Sega Genesis
  • Year Released: 1992
  • Features: Full Body Control

  Speaking of looking like an idiot here’s the Sega Activator, this octagon shaped controller was designed replicate your full body’s movement to give gamers the most realistic experience ever. Players would attach sensors to their wrists and ankles and then try to replicate the moves needed to play the game. A good idea?  Not really.

1  – Atari 5200 Controller

Atari 5200 Controller

  • Platform: Atari 5200
  • Year Released: 1982
  • Features: Numerical Keypad, Pause Button, 360 Degree Joystick

 I wouldn’t be doing my job if this controller wasn’t number one on this list. The amount of problems with this thing is just staggering. A useless numerical keypad, a joystick that wouldn’t re-center on its own and most grievous of all, it was the most fragile game controller ever made, often breaking after only a few hours, some people even got broken controllers right out of the box. Of all the controller’s on this list, this is the one that most deserves the title of worst controller ever. 

Tune in next week for 360blog.org’s next countdown!

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One Comment »

  • vincetastic said:

    This is a really great top ten list, the original XBOX controller was like a brick. If you were under the age of 10, you had a hard time even holding it. Anyone can post their own list to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

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