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Sega Saturn 3D Controller

Sega Saturn 3D Controller

Developer: Sega

Release Date: 1996

For Use With: Sega Saturn Gaming Systems

Sega Saturn 3D Control Pad

Touted as “The New Standard in Game Control,” this Sega Saturn 3D Controller was a moderately strong entry in the competitive gaming market of 1996, the year of which it was released. This controller was packed in with most of the NiGHTS into dreams games, as the NiGHTS’s 3D world would heavily utilize the analog stick and make it easier for the gamers.

saturn 3d controller nights

This controller is shaped a little odd, being that it features a perfect circle as the main face of the controller with two little handles that jut out of the bottom rear. Actually, this controller looks a lot like a space ship, which would make it appropriate for a system named “Saturn.” Perhaps such was their intention. But that’s a different story. Let’s see what this controller has to offer.


Featured on this cutting-edge controller is the standard six buttons on the front with the two “bumper” or “trigger” buttons on the back. The six on the face are located for the right thumb and are near-identically spaced to the standard Saturn controller. The Sega Genesis 6-button controller layout is present here with A, B, and C on the bottom row from left to right, and X, Y, and Z on the top row from left to right. This is perfectly acceptable and has caused no quandaries with any gaming aficionados (unlike a competing “trident” controller used to handle one mustachioed plumber).

photo 3

On the rear of the controller, just above the “handles” are two trigger buttons that never officially received proper identification on the controller itself, although it was widely regarded as L and R for left and right, respectively.

In addition to these 8 buttons mentioned above, the true standout feature on this intergalactic spaceship of a controller is the analog thumb pad. This little thumb “joystick” provides gamers with the best opportunity to excel in 3D gaming worlds, which was taking center stage in the industry. In fact, the standard controllers for the PlayStation (later models. Not the original models) and Nintendo 64 systems featured a thumb analog stick right out of the box. Yet another thing that Sega mucked up for their Sega Saturn.

Not all games are created equal, however, and most were not compatible with the 3D Control Pad. So in order to make the Sega Saturn 3D Pad your one-stop-shop for all Saturn games and not just a one-trick-pony, there is a “mode switch” located just below the start button that allows the gamer to switch from d-pad control to analog control. This was a great feature and one of the very few smart moves by Sega.

3D Controller Mode Switch

There’s an odd little thing about the cord going into the controller… it’s actually plugged in and can be unlatched to remove the cord/plug from the controller itself. I do not know exactly why, but my professional speculation is that at one point this Saturn 3D Pad was supposed to feature a wireless plug-in, or other various adapters such as a rumble feature, or a memory card, etc. (see pic below). As far as I know this never came to fruition, probably due to poor Saturn sales and even poorer sales of the controller.


Sega Claims
  • Spatially engineered for dynamic 3D gameplay.
  • Ergonomic design provides optimum control and precise maneuvering.
  • Use the analog thumb pad for unsurpassed 3D gameplay – or use the mode switch to select standard digital control.
  • The weapon of choice for NiGHTS, the breakthrough Sega Saturn title from the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Saturn 4 Nights

Pros & Cons


+ The addition of the analog thumb pad allows for a much smoother 3D gaming experience.

+ Ability to switch back and forth between the d-pad and analog keep gamers from having to own and swap out multiple controllers for different games.

+ More ergonomic for some people than the standard Saturn controller.

+ A little rarer than the standard Saturn controller, making it more of a collector’s item (although not technically a rare item).


– Only compatible with a very limited number of games. Nearly 50% of the compatible games were developed by Sega, showing how few developers truly believed in the Saturn and/or their 3D Controller.

– While some might find it more ergonomic, others will feel the opposite. This controller is very large and can be tough to handle. The Cubist is widely against the Sega Dreamcast controller, and this one is similar but worse.

– Never came packaged with any Saturn systems, so new Saturn owners would still have to purchase it in addition to their system.

– Disappointing sales led to a moderately small number of these controllers actually being produced (when viewed in comparison to other systems’ controllers). Due to these small numbers, finding one anywhere other than online can be challenging (as with most Saturn games and accessories).

– Currently (Updated: February 2016) these controllers can fetch a somewhat expensive fee for a controller that’s fast-approaching 20 years old on a system that nobody liked with games that everyone hated.


The Saturn 3D Pad is only moderately intuitive in design and function but is still a solid piece of gaming hardware. In effect, the Sega Dreamcast Controller was largely based on the design of the Saturn 3D Pad. The similarities are ever-apparent and need little to no breakdown. It would appear that 6 buttons on the face would be more than necessary as nearly all successful consoles from the mid-90s to today feature only 4 main buttons for the right thumb use.

Saturn and Dreamcast Controllers

I personally have a love/hate relationship with this 3D Controller. The analog stick is a relief when playing 3D games (the ones that are compatible, that is), but the damn controller doesn’t feel all that great in my hands. And I think the standard Saturn controller ALSO doesn’t feel all that great in my hands! The Saturn was an utter disappointment to most, but in the last 10 years people have really been rediscovering the unique designs, features, and rare fun games for this failed system. It is for that reason only that I recommend snatching one of these 3D Control Pads up ASAP because not too many people are selling them.

         Tested and Reviewed by Nerdberry

Written by Nerdberry


What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.


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  1. Pingback: Sonic 3D Blast - Sega Saturn - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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  4. Way cool, I need one of these!

    Have you seen my Dreamcast controller that’s shaped like a Saturn controller?

    I recently got the Atari Jaguar Pro controller off of eBay…$89! I’ve also got a Jaguar multi-tap. I know I have 2 regular controllers, thought I had 3 but I guess not. Pro controller makes 3 though. And a multi-tap can be inserted into each port for 8 player gameplay; we definitely need to get this stuff together for an NB party.

  5. Pingback: Sega Dreamcast Controller - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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