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10 Worst 1st Party Controllers of All Time

Horrible Controllers 6 through 2

CD-i

CD-i

6. CD-i

Back before Nintendo wooed everyone with the Wii-mote, Philips conceived the CD-i with its TV remote come game controller. Philip's goal then was much like Nintendo's goal now: capture the imagination of the casual gamer. The difference being their lack of experience making games, the expensive hardware, unimpressive titles, and the simplistic controller.

The controller resembled an infrared TV remote, but with an analog stick and four small thin curved buttons placed around the stick. While the CD-i's remote might have revived the idea of the joystick, the system's flaws and market failure overshadowed the innovation that wouldn't gain mainstream notoriety until the N64 controller.

The control was a fairly simple design that fit along with the simple design of the games. Most of the games ended up being either shooting galleries or Dragon's Lair-esq adventures, so the gamer really didn't need anything beyond the analog stick and the few buttons.

The CD-i had a bad controller. It also has bad games, was released for a bad price, and was, in short, just bad overall. Maybe the controller was the main problem. Or it could have been the few terrible games just didn't use it properly. It might even have been too hard to make a decent game that used the controller properly because of the hardware. With so many things wrong with it, it's hard to pin point one thing that killed the CD-i because the entire system was travesty.

Nokia N-gage

Nokia N-gage.

5. N-Gage

The N-Gage is a little bit of a cheat on this list with it being the only handheld... but this is an article on terrible controllers and N-Gage controls have absolutely no redeeming qualities. The truth is the entire system is design nightmare all the way from needing to take out the battery to change games to holding it sideways to use as a phone. It would be further up on the list if the top four weren't incredibly bad.

The N-Gage had a d-pad on the left, but an inexcusable number pad on the right. The problem with this number pad is there are too many buttons too close together that are uneven, not sized the same and have a inconsistent contour. In short, you've probably got just as much chance of hitting the wrong button as you do the right one, in fact you'll probably end up hitting three or four buttons at the same time. Now, repeat after me, the number pad is not a replacement for having good game buttons. At least with the Game and Watch you knew where the two buttons were and wouldn't have a problem pressing them. The d-pad was also problematic because of its small size, the number pad buttons easily make this controller a crime against humanity.

The kicker is that that Nokia not only made this mistake once, but twice. I find it unbelievable that they brought the N-Gage out and then chose to not fix this wretched control scheme with the redesigned N-Gage QD.

Atari Jaguar

Atari Jaguar Controller.

4. Jaguar

For some reason, consistently over sized controllers seem to be a reoccurring theme. There is definitely a balance to be struck between making your controller big enough so all of the buttons far enough apart and easy to hit, but small enough so that you can comfortably hold it. The Jaguar is yet another in the line that completely misses the mark. But while it's big enough to used to beat orphans to death, that isn't the only reason that the Jaguar controller finds itself on this list.

If you look at the controller from the top down, you'll notice a d-pad, three big red buttons, a start button, an option button. Then you'll see the other two thirds of controller are taken up by a ginormous number pad with 12 buttons. So... We've got a huge controller (strike one) with a 12 button number pad (strike two). The only thing worse than either of the other two of the aforementioned is... overlays!

Overlays are little plastic inserts that come with games that fit over an area of the controller to tell you what to do so the buttons actually mean something. Chances are that within 24 hours, you'll lose the overlay and be clueless as to how to control 90% of your game. Without a photographic memory, you're pretty much screwed. To make matters worse, due to the large size of the controller and the small size of the number pad buttons, you often have to stop doing whatever you were doing in the game and look to make sure you press the right button. If you didn't, you were just as likely to hit the wrong button as the right one because they all felt the same. Heaven forbid you were actual needed to press one of these buttons in the middle of a fire fight, because you were completely screwed.

Of all of the controllers we've listed, there is the widest amount of loathing for the Jaguar controller among the people we asked for their opinions. Tim described it as "...huge, square, and has more buttons than a Steve Harvey suit".

John, aside from ranking the Jaguar as the number one worst first party controller on his list, said that "It was just uncomfortable and the action was too low on the directional button to have good control on movement. The number of buttons also made them hard to use on the keypad. The overlays also kept falling out."

Tarik Solimn, Creative Director at Naked Sky Entertainment, keeping with Jaguar's "Do the Math" slogan, even supplied us with an equation for figuring what the deal was with the controller that goes something like this: "3 thumb buttons + 2 option buttons + 12 keypad buttons + flimsy overlay card for said keypad + elephantine 6.25" x 5" size = WTF."

The Jaguar was a platform with no games, and after looking at the controller, it was certain easy to see why. You shouldn't need a photographic memory or PHD to figure out how to change weapons in Doom.

Intellivision

Intellivision Controller.

3. Intellivision

The Intellivision gets the number three spot partially because it one was one of the chief starters of the whole overlay business that eventually found its way into the Jaguar controller some years later. The other principle reason for the Intellivision controller should be cast into the fire is that both of its control schemes were tools of the devil. It used both an overlay needy 12 digit number pad and a 'golden disc' with 16 directions of motion. Number pads are genuinely evil with no redeeming qualities and have no business being on a controller.

The gold disc is another matter entirely. With 16 directions of motion, you'd think you'd be able to a greater amount of control. More directions to move, more options for the player, right? Well that might be true if you could actually control what direction you move in, instead you run into the problem of jumping between directions and never being able to go in the direction you're trying to go. It always was like the thing would go in any direction except the one you wanted it to go in. There's nothing like trying to go up and instead going up and to the right, straight into that bunch of pixels that kills you. Then you curse and swear and pick up the controller again.

Tim described the Intellivision as "Hand cramp city". "It looks like a telephone, and the buttons down the sides are the action buttons, due to the way you have to hold the controller, it means inevitable arthritis-like pain. The direction disc thing is the most inaccurate and uncomfortable mechanism ever, the membrane keypad had a tendency to stick and make the horrible "razz" noise or accidentally pause the game. There is so much wrong with this controller, its just ridiculous."

The Intellivision was a great system that has since become a classic. It was unfortunately burdened with a poor controller, though. That being said, there are a lot of people out there who love retro games and many who will go to any lengths to preserve the experience. There is even a converter to let you use your old Intellivision controller on the PC so you can use it with Intellivision emulators. There's something to be said for preserving the original experience of games, even if it is painful sometimes.

Gamecube

Gamecube Controller.

2. Gamecube Controller

The Gamecube (otherwise known as the thing propping the books on my bookshelf at home) is pretty much a paperweight now with the Wii coming out, but even with the ability to play our games using the systems backward compatibility feature, we'll still need to use this god forsaken mishmash of press-able plastic. For me, making fun of the system was certainly more fun than playing it. Save for a small handful of games, the generation was a wash for the big N. I know for me, one of the principle reasons for staying away from Nintendo's last generation travesty was the controller.

It seems like a major revision of the N64 controller more than anything else. Swap the d-pad and the analog, tighten the analog up a bit, get rid of the middle part of the trident, add triggers... well... those are the positives. For some idiotic reason , they added the z button as a sort of small bumper button to the top right and then the right side of the controller where all the primary buttons are was massacred. They took the four c buttons and made them into one analog stick, which is great, but then for some reason they had had four face buttons of various sizes and shapes. The huge A button seemed like it should be the solution to all your problems, with the B button being a little lower to the left and smaller as though you should only press it in case of emergencies. Then you've got the almost quarter circle Y and Z buttons that are like elongated type ovals above and to the top and right of the A button respectively. Controllers that have differently sized buttons AND different shaped buttons are a little silly. I don't like to play by feel, I like to just know where the buttons are. When you have to press combinations, different shaped and sized buttons make things more difficult too. To top it off, the triggers weren't even pressure sensitive... it was like Nintendo wasn't even trying to play in the same league as their competitors. Good to know that Nintendo is just gonna let me swing the hell outta my controller in this next control generation without the need for any complex button insanity. I'm glad to know that Nintendo is more concerned with choosing what colors (electric orange anyone?) their controllers and consoles should come in rather than creating... you know... good comfortable fun controllers.

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Continued: and the very Worst of the Worst is ... Number 1

Table of Contents: 10 Worst 1st Party Controllers of All Time