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Top 10 Worst Controllers

10.  Nintendo 64 “Three-Handed” Controller

To what extent the “three-handed” moniker was ever official I do not know, but this crazy contraption that my 6 year old constantly refers to as a “chicken foot” kicks off our list of the worst controllers.  Nintendo really tried to go out of the box with this one but it never quite worked, and time would prove that the simple but effective designs of controllers for Sony’s PlayStation and Sega’s Saturn were perfectly adequate for the 5th generation.

N64 Controller

In order to fully benefit from what the N64’s controller has to offer, you’d literally need 3 hands.  I still remember the blank look of confusion on some of my friends’ faces as we sat around and discussed how exactly this device was supposed to work.  In the end, most games utilized one of two grips.  The right hand always grasped the right-most “leg,” and the left hand held either the left-most leg containing the D-pad or the middle leg where that poor analog stick was placed.  Even still, as the life span of the N64 wore on, nearly all games ended up favoring the joystick in lieu of the D-pad and the entire left arm was about as useful as a third nipple.

A few games out there like Mario Party 2 attempted to variously use both grips depending on certain aspects of gameplay, but overall the D-pad was out of style and everyone was eager press forward with the joystick.  Not only did the design of the controller make it difficult to use the D-pad for auxiliary purposes with the left hand firmly planed on the third leg, but the L shoulder button went completely to waste.  This led to some confusion in games that used triggers; in games where shoulder buttons would be used, R and Z (the button on the back of the center leg) were counterparts instead of the more logical R and L.

Furthermore, on the right-most leg of the N64 controller is a strange D-pad-esque arrangement of yellow buttons (in addition to the two action buttons, A and B).  These yellow buttons served many purposes and were easy enough to press quickly, but because they weren’t properly named they’re commonly referred to as “C Up” and “C Right” leading to more potential confusion.  Suddenly the controller 3 separate functions that could loosely be referred to as up, down, left, or right.  Seriously, this would’ve been a fantastic device for people with 3 hands; I guess Nintendo miscounted when they developed this oddity.

Aside from aesthetic “limitations” of the N64 input mechanism, there was (and still is) the more immediate and pressing issue of that damned little analog stick that gets so much use.  Unfortunately, Nintendo made a weak-ass piece of plastic and then developed games where kids had to handle the joystick so roughly that they gave themselves blisters.  Not only did a lot of parents complain about their kids’ blisters so that they could milk Nintendo for a free pair of gloves, but pretty soon they had to run out and buy them another controller.

The tiny little analog sticks were notorious for breaking, and not always in an obvious way.  Many times the controller’s outward appearance would suggest no malfunction only for the user to discover an unresponsive joystick or erratic character movement when a game was booted up.  Although the actual plastic of the joystick is rather thin and many early games suggested doing things like rotating the stick in a circle as quickly as possible, it wasn’t usually the case that the stick itself snapped in two.  Instead, a little piece of rubber or plastic just inside the controller’s shell was often what broke.  This tiny bit of material turned the mechanical movement of the joystick into electrical signals and without it, all control is essentially lost.

Most people interested in hunting down old N64 components know how to best treat their controllers these days, although I still maintain that one should exercise caution when letting anyone else use their N64 controller.  Give them a big long lecture and start cringing every time you even think the stick is handled too roughly and they’ll either be 10 times gentler than they need to be or give up on it completely.  Either way, you’ve saved your controller!

Oh, and beware of any sticks that seem really loose if you’re ever out buying used ones.  Of course all of them are going to have some degree of wiggly-ness, but they shouldn’t be flopping around.  If you’re unsure, make sure wherever you’re getting from will let you test it and bring it back, or better yet provide you with the means to test it before you buy it.

Moving on to number 9, I’m sure this one’s bound to stir up some controversy…

Written by The Cubist

<< Back to the Beginning          Number 9 >>


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  1. Pingback: Lode Runner 3-D - Nintendo 64 - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. Shadow Links says:

    I think i determined that the placement of the right hand was always the same on the right side, and the left hand moved depending on the game. Although hitting L/Z/analog was always interesting. Dont remember the d pad being used ever…..not that i played much though.

  3. Pingback: The Top 10 Worst Controllers of All Time - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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