Here's an interesting bit of backstory behind the writing of the 25 Worst Video Game Controllers. Originally, it was supposed to only be a top 10 list. However, over the course of our research we found out that there are literally hundreds of horrible game controllers out there, from failed peripherals to misguided attempts at reinventing the two handed d-pad and button layout that we all love. Putting together all the horrid controllers from early '70s and '80s game consoles, the third party junk that companies created to just make a buck, and the strange goldmine of weird controller ideas that PC manufacturers had, it was nearly impossible to whittle this list down to 25, let alone 10. Still, the Top 25 Worst Video Game Controllers will have to do, because we would be here all day if we included all of gaming's past mistakes.
The multi-peddled, multi-buttoned, multi-switched monstrosity takes slot #25 on the list of 25 Worst Video Game Controllers because of its sheer complexity. You had to do a million things at once just to be able to move your giant walking death machine. There was even a button you had to press in order to safely eject your pilot and prevent your game from being deleted when you die! The only reason this huge apparatus isn’t higher up on the list is because Steel Battalion was actually kind of novel and fun despite its controller.
The original Xbox controller is at the top of most people’s worst controller lists, but at least it was functional. It gets so much worse from here, so let’s put this controller in perspective. It was too big for your hands, had unresponsive buttons, was totally uncomfortable no matter what way you held it, and would frequently cause you to fat-finger multiple buttons at once. They may be bad for gaming, but if you line them up on your street you'll prevent people from speeding in your neighborhood.
Speaking of completely uncomfortable controllers, the Sega Saturn 3D controller is one of the worst. Whose bright idea was it to make the controller an unwieldy circle? The controls were decently responsive but reaching them caused you horrible hand cramps. The Virtua Stick was great, but the default controller stunk.
Madcatz is currently known for controller excellence, but that used to not be the case. Their Gamecube line of controllers was one of the worst to ever come out. The analog sticks would break, the buttons would stick, and the whole controller was horridly unresponsive. These things would easily become unusable in a few months, a total ripoff compared to the excellent tournament quality arcade sticks that Madcatz makes today.
The thought of a “build your own controller” peripheral is actually pretty cool. Unfortunately, the way this controller made you spread out your fingers in order to use it keyboard style was just too awkward. It would be cool if we had some sort of modern day analog that let you slot in parts to a more sensible controller layout, but alas, the only modular controller we will ever have is this obscure piece of junk. It wasn't hard finding a spot for this messy thing on our list of the 25 Worst Video Game Controllers.
The Turbo Touch 360 line of controllers were terrible. Triax thought it would be such a good idea to replace our useful digital d-pad with a recessed touch pad in the days of the NES. Never mind that the NES, SNES, and Genesis were only able to accept digital inputs, making the touch pad completely useless and unwieldy. Not only that, but plastic edges around the touchpad were sharp! Have you ever gotten a plastic cut while playing Contra? It hurts!
What is this, a stethoscope? Every Phillips CD-I controller is just a horrendous jumble of poor controller design. They're all one-handed paddles that look more like a TV remote than a game controller, and they have about as much functionality. They were unresponsive, awkward to hold, and broke easily. So you didn’t just have to put up with the horrendous voice acting of CD-I games, you had to put up with their awful controls as well? No wonder the thing failed miserably.
The idea behind the Novint Falcon was a good one. Essentially, there was a motor pushing on the handle, giving you not only a full range of motion, but also total force feedback. Unfortunately, few games actually supported it, and the games that did were controlled better with a keyboard and mouse. In addition, this thing was huge! It was the size of a desk lamp. Not only that, but you needed a powerful mounting base for this or you would just push it around your desk like an idiot when you were trying to aim.
Unlike most of the controllers on this list, the Intel Wireless Gamepad was actually quite usable. Its buttons worked just fine and were totally responsive. So why did it make this list? Cause it was shaped like a giant horseshoe! It was easily one of the hardest controllers to hold and if you were rough with it, you’d actually break the plastic on the U portion. Why do developers keep trying to reinvent the wheel in regards to controller shape? The two handled controller works just fine. Anyone up for a game of horseshoes?
We have to cheat again here because the N-Gage isn’t actually a controller, but a handheld console. Still, you would not believe how bad these controls sucked. Not only were the buttons too close together and sticky, they would frequently mis-press, triggering other button inputs by accident. This made it not only totally useless as a game console, but also totally useless as a phone. The N-Gage's stupid design made its way onto our list of the 25 Worst Video Game Controllers.