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What Were They Thinking? A Selection of Awful Controllers

What Were They Thinking? A Selection of Awful Controllers

Gaming has always bred innovation, whether it’s through the ingenious ways in which videogames act as a medium to deliver a story, the way that multiplayer aspects are handled, or even through the way in which a game is controlled. Let’s focus on the control aspect a little more. There have been some truly fantastic controllers such as the Xbox One Elite controller, or the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Six-Button gamepad, and some truly innovative ideas like the Xbox Adaptive controller, which has brought gaming accessibility to a much wider audience, or the Guitar Hero guitar controller, which practically defined a generation of rhythm games.

There’s also been some truly abysmal controllers, whether they’re first-party pads, third-party imitations, or game-specific peripherals. Luckily for you, I’ve dived headfirst into researching some of these, presented in no particular order, and thoroughly risking my own sanity to ask the question: What were they thinking?

Turbo Touch 360

s l1600

Pop the heating on, would you, luv?

A series of controllers designed for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis by Triax in 1993, the standard D-pad as used in other controllers was replaced with touch sensors. Conceived as a way to reduce thumb injuries incurred from excessive or frantic gaming sessions, and endorsed by an orthopaedic surgeon, you can definitely see what Triax was going for here. Ultimately though, the touch sensor D-pad was unresponsive compared to the traditional D-pad, and despite being called “360”, only provided input on the Up, Down, Left and Right directions. Plus it looks like a thermostat with too much ambition.

Xbox “Duke” Controller

xbox duke controller

Throwing this at your sibling in a rage would count as "Assault with a Deadly Weapon"

This was the controller that Microsoft launched their debut console with before eventually phasing it out for the more streamlined and sleeker Controller S design. Looking like a fake controller used in a TV show where they don’t have the rights to show a real console, and handling like a dial-up modem with buttons, this beast held the Guinness World Record for Biggest Controller in 2008. It’s no surprise that the controller was poorly received by both critics and consumers at the time, but through the power of memes and social media in recent years, Hyperkin released an updated version of the pad for PC and Xbox One in 2018.

Superpad 64


I don't even have anything witty to say about this one

Would you just look at it? Just…look at it. The Superpad 64 by InterAct for the Nintendo 64 looks like an official controller if it had lost a Saw deathtrap. If you went to a friend’s house as a kid who had a Nintendo 64, you were likely given this controller when it came time to play multiplayer. The thick wedge of a controller was awkward to hold, and not only due to how chunky it was; without the prong on the side of A, B, and C buttons to hold onto, the controller felt off-balance when wrapping your hands around the middle prong to use the joystick. That’s why I always lost at Lylat Wars…right?

Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller


That's not fake blood, it's the result of the blisters you get when trying to use this thing

Designed by NubyTech to commemorate Resident Evil 4, with a red variation for the PlayStation 2 and a yellow alternative for the Gamecube, the true horror came when you actually tried to use it. The controller was completely unwieldy, with the shoulder buttons placed awkwardly on each handle. Although designed more as a collectors item instead of a functional controller, NubyTech claimed that it somehow improved the Resident Evil 4 experience. I’m certain that five minutes with the controller is all it would take to prove the contrary.

Wu-Tang Controller


This Wu-Tang pad ain’t nothing to play with. Forgive me Ghostface.

A controller that came bundled with the special editions of the PlayStation game Wu-Tang: Taste the Pain, it’s a miracle this thing ever passed the quality-assurance checks, let alone saw the light of day. Boasting a totally unusable shape, a lack of vibration features, as well as no analogue sticks, the Wu-Tang controller is probably best kept as a collectors item as opposed to using it to play the game. It’s such a shame that it’s also just hideous as a collectors item, even though it sports the classic Wu logo. 

Honourable Mention: Sega Saturn 3D Control Pad


They used to pop these under the duvet to warm up beds in the 1800s

Touted as Sega’s response to the Nintendo 64 controller, and released with NiGHTS into Dreams, the 3D Control Pad included an analogue stick, which greatly helped with precision movements in the Sega Saturn’s increase in 3D titles, such as Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, Sega Rally Championship, or Quake. The controller generally handled pretty well and was seen as a crucial peripheral for the Sega Saturn’s expanding scope of games. The reason it’s on this list as an honourable mention is, however, because it looks dreadful. All the comfort and precision in the world can’t detract from the fact that this controller looks like the night-terror version of a George Foreman Grill that stands at the end of your bed, watching you intently whilst you’re stuck in sleep paralysis. Thankfully, Sega didn’t continue the charred Wagon Wheel with buttons design when taking inspiration from this controller with the Sega Dreamcast pad (which had enough of its own faults).

There are plenty of controllers that I didn’t manage to fit on this list, but I’m certain there will be a time in the near future when I’m feeling particularly angry at myself and wish even further pain upon my existence. Then, and only then, will I know it’s time to delve into the putrid abyss of awful controllers once more.

Pezh J.

Pezh J.

Staff Writer

Making money but the bank won't believe me

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djd4ws0n - 08:48am, 14th December 2022

Oh blimey, I used to have one of the Turbo Touch controllers for the SNES. I'd managed to repress the memories of that particular controller until now. Thanks... XD

PayslipsDinero - 02:02pm, 14th December 2022 Author

I'm certain a friend tried to get me to use it once as a kid but I refused. I can't imagine how uncomfortable it would be to use for extended periods of time!

shreyasri - 08:52am, 14th December 2022

Thank you for sharing with us.

GarySheppard - 08:29pm, 14th December 2022

Some truly awful controllers here! I've probably had all of them at some point