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Kinect, Playstation Move, and the Best/Worst Controllers in History

My God! Revolutionary!

E3 2010 is happening this week, and is once again closed to the public. I thought of going and staring longingly through the windows, but then I remembered that I have dignity. So, I went back to sitting on my couch, eating week-old pizza, and drinking Mountain Dew straight from the 2-liter bottle.

As usual, what Nintendo started everyone else seems to be picking up on (can we talk about how the Xbox 360 avatars look like Miis? The music after you edit them is even the same), and the theme this year is new methods of control and immersion. Microsoft brings us the Kinect (the new name for Project Natal), which combines cameras that recognize your movements with voice recognition to ensure that you never have to pick up a controller. Sony has been a little less imaginative, and basically just copied off the Wiimote but put a big glowing ball on the end.

These advances in controllers got me thinking back to the good ol’ days. So strap in, kiddies, and let’s take a trip back in time and look at some of the best and worst video game tech over the years…

Best: The Nintendo Zapper

Classic. Pure and simple. The zapper and the Power Pad were the “original” video game accessories. They weren’t perfect…those ducks got away more often than they should have (cue the damn dog) and my runner would often fault on the triple jump. But for the time, they were brilliant. The original cheat code was putting the Zapper right up to the TV screen.

Worst: The U-Force Controller

I consider myself to be a pretty serious gamer, but even I have never seen one of these. The U-Force was, like many failed video game controllers, a big idea brought down by a lack of proper technology. The idea was that infrared sensors would detect hand movements in the space between the screens. The reality, apparently, was very different. I imagine they’re tough to find today as many of them were thrown against the wall in frustration.

Props to this guy, though, who seems to have figured it out:

Best: The N64 Controller

Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but there’s something about holding this controller that just feels like home. It form-fit my 14-year-old palms perfectly, and no matter what game you were playing, every button seemed to be in the right place. Nintendo has recently announced that Goldeneye will be available on the Wii…but there’s no way I’ll be playing that with a Wiimote and Nunchuk.

Worst: The Nintendo Power Glove

No. No no no no no no no no no. No. No.

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24 comments

  • The original cheat code was putting the Zapper right up to the TV screen.

    I used to get heat from my friends sometimes for not standing the recommended 6 to 8 feet away from the TV when playing Duck Hunt or attempting to play Gumshoe (damn, that game was hard), but my answer was always the same: “Fuck that, I miss from back there.”

  • I kept the Zapper long after my Nintendo was sold off at a tearful garage sale. I used to play ‘Indiana Jones’ with it with the gun being a gun and the cord being the whip. Nothing like hearing your kid sister scream ‘STOP INDIANA JONES-ING ME, SEAN!!!’

    Good times.

  • N64 controller as a “best”? You’ve got to be kidding me.

    1) I only have 2 hands, it was designed for people with 3.
    2) You can’t hit Z if you use the d-pad. Same goes for left shoulder button.
    3) The analog stick got unusably loose after about 45 minutes of use.
    4) Using the analog stick created a very awkward wrist angle
    5) What’s up with the C buttons. Why not just make it a 6 button controller, evenly spaced and matching in size?

    I place the N64 controller near the bottom of the controller spectrum. But hey, I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the Gamecube controller.

    Sega made a giant leap with the 3D controller for Saturn, but unfortunately it was only made for one game AND the Saturn only had 4 or 5 playable games total (which conveniently matched the number of happy sega saturn owners). The dreamcast controller made a good step in the right direction, but I think the Xbox Controller S is where they finally got it right. It’s just been small refinement since.

  • this is awesome. the 64 controller is just too small for an adult hand and the original xbox controller was too big for anyone’s hands with the exception of andre the giant. remember the original nes controllers with those sharp ass corners? so hard to play for a long time with those.

  • @Mitch–I thought about it, but the off-axis dual analog sticks helped save that controller. There’s no better system to play FPS’s on (besides the 360, of course)

    @HeavyRaines17–Good to know I wasn’t the only one who played with the Zapper when it wasn’t plugged in. I seriously considered cutting off the wire at times!

    @hammy–I guess it’s all subjective. I found the analog stick very comfortable (almost like holding a remote). The c-buttons provided excellent strafing controls for Goldeneye (unrivaled until the dual-analog sticks of the xbox) and the c-down button was perfectly placed for Mario Kart use. You have a point with the D-pad, but I can’t remember even using it except when playing the arcade-classic Donkey Kong minigame in DK64. They might as well have chopped off the whole left side…but the balance (or lack thereof) was kinda nice. I liked the feel of weight to the left of your left hand.

    But again, it’s all subjective. Case in point, I hate the Gamecube controllers with a passion. Ugh, those trigger buttons. And the c-stick. To me it felt like a cheap plastic McDonald’s toy in my hands.

  • Re:N64 don’t forget what that controller did to Mario Party players. Granted this was just as much a flaw in the game too, but I will never forget the huge liquidy blisters we’d all get in the palm of our hands from trying to rotate that damn yellow stick. Im not fond of screaming in pain while playing a video game.

  • Wow great post. Brings back some memories thank you. N64 controller kind of had to be tops because its influence can still be seen in most other modern controllers. Good call.

    I do feel that you overlooked this (sadly sold-out) controller over at dealextreme: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.4998 — Though it is basically a ‘skinned’ controller I feel it brings certain intangibles to the table by way of terrorizing the competition.

    Imagine showing up at a friend’s place to play some NHL with it. It’d be over before it started.

  • I have fond memories o’the N64 controller, though never played Mario Party so I think ‘d have a wee bit different memory if Marylee said is true. I was one o’those guys tha actually did cut the cord off ‘is Zapper (though it was a broken one, ‘d never do tha te a workin one heh)
    Whenever I see the ad fer the Powerglove I remember tha kid off o’The Wizard Lucas. An lookin ‘im up on imdb shows tha he isn’t known fer much else: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0899092/

  • The Wii’s Classic Controller Pro is now the greatest controller ever, I think. It basically combines every good thing about every other past controller (not counting motion controllers).

    I have to agree with some of you that the original Xbox controller is possibly one of the worst of all time. It’s a good thing for Sony that they never made that awful boomerang controller for the PS3 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PS3_boomerang_controller.jpg). That thing would surely have taken the crown.

  • I had a friend that had the U-Force controller. It was just as perplexing/non-working as it seemed. None of us could ever figure it out.

    Also, Gamecube Wavebird controller FTW.

  • Older school perhaps, but what about the Intellivision controller? This thing was like the cheapest remote you could imagine with a big knob sticking out of it.

    Also, the Atari 2600 paddles always seemed to lose whatever calibration after a few vigorous rounds of Kaboom!

    Yes, you need to get off my lawn. Stat.

  • i had the u-force. i did pretty well with it as a kid….couldn’t really use it on a tone of games, punch was about it in the hit game dept. oh and thanks for pointing out that for my 7th birthday my dad bought the one of the biggest peaces of crap ever made by Nintendo….