The Angry Gamer 08.21.03: “Joy” Sticks

Today, friends, we’re going to examine various implements for controlling your onscreen characters in the world of video games. Formerly called “joysticks,” they’re more commonly referred to nowadays as “controllers,” since they’re so incredibly varied, and rarely have an actual “stick” (analog thumbsticks don’t count…they’re too tiny).

Anyone who says a controller shouldn’t have any impact on the game they’re playing is foolish. In many cases, the controller can make or break a game; if you’re having serious issues in a platformer requiring precise jumps, for example, then a button failing to respond at a critical time is going to make you whip that controller at the nearest wall, lamp, or sibling.

I’m going to focus on the top 5 worst controllers of all time, in my personal experience. I’m sure there’s other that could be on this list, but if I haven’t used them, then they don’t count for the purposes of this article. I’m also not counting third party controllers. Anyways, starting at the bottom of the pile:

5. NINTENDO GAMECUBE (picture)

I’m sure some folks are horrified that I’d dare include this on the list. “But the controller’s comfortable, and works great!” I can’t debate the responsiveness or comfort of the controller; however, for games that are not specifically designed for it, it SUCKS. The little-ass D-pad and the monstrous A button are horrible for, say, sports games, platformers, fighters, etc. Games like Super Mario Sunshine and Animal Crossing were designed to use the A button as your “primary” button; in this instance, the controller works well. But for action games where A and B are both used equally, there’s a problem. Mega Man Network Transmission, a sidescrolling platformer, would’ve been much more fun had the D-pad been a proper size, and the A/B buttons been of equal size. The weird shape and placement of the X and Y buttons doesn’t help, either. And why was the Z button even put in? It almost seems like an afterthought.

4. MICROSOFT XBOX (picture)

Take a Dreamcast controller, and f*ck it up. This was the result. The controls themselves are alright, but it’s just not comfortable to hold. It seems like the little black and white buttons were squeezed in at the last minute. I’ll give Microsoft credit for remedying this issue via the “S” controller, which is nothing more than the Japanese controller released in the US. Of course, they should’ve done that in the FIRST place…

3. ATARI JAGUAR (picture)

A D-pad, pause/option buttons, 3 fire buttons, AND a f*cking keypad?! Aside from the overkill factor, this controller suffers from poor ergonomics, and questionable response. Even though the keypad is used in many games (like Alien vs. Predator), it’s not very accessible.

2. COLECOVISION (picture)

Speaking of shitty keypads…this bad boy takes the cake. The damn recessed buttons had crappy response, and the joystick wasn’t comfortable to use for long periods. Worse yet, the stick itself was too small!

1. ATARI 5200 (picture)

The concept was cool (a non-centering stick, analog control, with digital keypad), but the implementation blew ass. Response was poor, the rubber button coverings were crappy, and the keypad was largely unnecessary. Plus, they broke very easily, and not as a result of people throwing them; we’re talking mechanical fatigue due to shitty design and substandard parts.

Luckily, folks, we’ve come a long way as far as controller design goes. But always bear in mind, that even in the present day, we can get stuck with poorly implemented designs (the GC controller proves that).