I published an innocent little story yesterday about an N64 controller that provoked an unexpected response. You see, I hate the Nintendo 64 controller. All my friends hate it. Everyone I ever gamed on the console with hated it. I figured it was pretty safe to share that dislike.
Others, on the internet, disagreed. Some said it was fine, others even said it was their favourite.
Wow. A disconnect like that meant only one thing. Time for a Pecking Order, see where everyone's thoughts on the subject really lay.
Below, I've ranked each Nintendo controller according to how I think they stack up. Not Kotaku as a whole, just me, based on my experiences. You, you're more than welcome to list your own right below.
Some notes before we go on: we're only talking about primary controllers for the company's major home consoles. That means we start at the NES/Famicom, and end at the Wii U. So the control schemes for handhelds don't count, nor do light guns, or "secondary" pads like the Pro controllers, or weird in-betweens, like the Donkey Kong 3 Micro Vs. System.
Even if that last one was awesome.
Hear me out. The GameCube pad (left) looked weird. And wasn't the greatest for third-party games, since its button layout was so different than that of the PS2 and Xbox. It's only when you start to look at the details that you start to appreciate how fantastic it was. How weird and wonderful. The thumbstick "grips". The isolated, sunken D-pad that I think is the best ever. The directional guides, so you could be sure you were pointing in exactly the right way. The comfortable grip. The weird colour schemes (Purpe? Spice?) The regular GameCube pad was great.
But the Wavebird (right) was fantastic. It added some much-needed heft to the pad, enough to give it some weight in your hands but not so much that it became a problem. Oh, and it was also the world's first effective and successful first-party wireless controller, blazing a trail that Sony and Microsoft couldn't follow until a whole hardware generation later.
I agonised over this. For the longest time, I had the SNES pad in the top spot. It's just so iconic. The shape, the button layout, the D-pad, the vibrant PAL/JAP colour scheme that is still the single greatest in console history, it's almost the complete package.
So what cost it? Remember, this is my list. And I hated the flimsy shoulder buttons. Especially when Street Fighter was concerned. Four face buttons and two on the shoulder? That's not how Street Fighter worked!
Yeah, the touch-screen could be better, and yeah, it's expensive, but just take a step back and look at what it can do. It's a "regular" controller, in that it's got two sticks and buttons, with triggers. It's a motion controller. It's a touch-screen device. It can even, via magic, become a handheld gaming system, with some titles able to be played right there. On your pad. Without a TV. That's awesome.
Simple. Brutal. Effective. They did the job, and featured what many will still call one of the best D-pads in existence. But the sharp corners of the NES pad were a killer for small hands, and they're even worse for bigger hands. The Famicom controller was better, not only because it had a softer design, but because of that amazing colour scheme.
Yea, it "revolutionised" gaming. Or at least it did, for some people, between the years 2007-2011. But let's not forget, once you got past the advertising, the Wii Remote was pretty terrible. Waving it around was tiring. You looked like an idiot, especially with a nunchuk. Performance, at least until the release of the Wii Remote Plus, was dreadful, while the cumbersome control scheme meant that, outside of the barest of games (Wii Sports, etc), juggling a "complete" setup was a pain in the ass.
It's no wonder the Wii U saw the company revert to something a little more traditional, leaving the Wii Remote to languish as a party trick.
Silly design (handles?). Silly button layout (what is that, a second D-pad or four buttons?). But what I hated was that, without fail, every house I ever went to that had an N64, nearly every pad had a broken thumbstick. I'm not talking isolated cases. I'm talking every damn house. You think getting handed an old Mad Catz pad was bad? At least they worked. Trying to play with a jiggly N64 stick was hell.
Petty, maybe, but that's my list! I think even more so than games, my experiences with controllers were uniquely forged by the time I spent with them growing up. Rather than count against me, I think it's fascinating, because as a 32 year-old I bet there are those significantly younger - or older - than me who may have wildly different views based on their childhood. Or adulthood. Or both.
(Top image by Daniel_Huxtable)