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Top 10 Worst Controllers

2.  Atari 2600 Joystick Controller

I don’t care how often the Atari 2600 is touted or credited with being one of the key systems that brought video gaming into the living room, its little joystick controllers suck.  At first I was willing to accept that I got a less-than-pristine specimen or fell into a bit of bad luck when purchasing my first 2600, after all, these things tend to happen when you dig into stuff this old and it comes with the territory.  Over the next 2 or 3 years I snatched up every errant 2600 joystick (not to mention other 2600 controllers) that I could find.  I even went as far as buying another console in the event that something with my original console was preventing my controller from working exactly right.

Atari 2600 Joystick Controller

Turns out, these controllers do in fact suck.  There aren’t any redeeming qualities to be found and  if you happen to find a 2600 game you like, don’t get too attached because you’ll never be able to play it as intended.  The joystick’s unresponsiveness is mind-blowingly frustrating.  Getting a character to move around in the correct direction at all is a major pain in the ass, let alone trying to do anything precise like aim or not fall into a hole.  Half the time I can’t even get Pac-Man to turn where and when I want him to.

Even if the joystick did work a little better, the results might not be all that dissimilar from my experiences described above.  With all the thick rubber padding and generally small size of the unit, the stick doesn’t exactly provide a wealth of natural feedback.  So if you’re trying desperately to get E.T. out of a hole but he falls right back in despite your best efforts, it won’t be as simple as making minor joystick adjustments.  You’ll have no idea where the joystick is pointing or if you’re even pushing on it!

I can’t really complain about the little red button, mostly because I can’t get close enough to anything with the joystick to ever use it.  I’m all for old games.  I generally love the older graphics and I’m always down for some simple, mindless button mashing, but the damn joystick ruins whatever potential is locked away in the 2600.  Every time I settle in to hand over a few hours of my life to one of the earliest Atari consoles I can barely focus on anything other than how I can’t get whatever’s on the screen to do exactly what I want it to do.  One day maybe I’ll fork over enough cash to get a new joystick controller if such a thing exists outside of sealed Atari 2600 boxes, but until then all I can do is revisit the system every 6 months only to remember why I’ve waited so long.

Atari 2600Wait a minute, how could I forget one of the most serious shortcomings of this (and every other) 2600 controller!!??  The cord is about 2 feet long, literally.  It’s pretty impossible to relax with the unit in hand.  Even if you have the console near you the second you attempt to lean back on your couch or chair you’ll find yourself jerking the system around.  What’s more is the controllers plug into the back of the 2600.  A good 6 to 8 inches of the miniscule cable is wasted traveling over the console.  With the nature of my current set up I’m mostly forced to stand up in order to play which certainly doesn’t help my mood when hating on these tiny, deficient controllers.

Written by The Cubist

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  1. I have to disagree. I won’t go so far as to say the CX40 joysticks are great, but they do work decently. What you need to keep in mind, is that over the years, the factory PCBs and domes have degraded/corroded. I don’t care if the joystick is still new in the box, the PCBs have still aged. So, before you assume that they “all suck”, you should try a set that has been upgraded with new PCBs. Best Electronics makes new PCBs and once you install them, you will change your mind.. I’ve tried a lot of different joysticks with the 2600 and the 7800 and there are a few that are really great, (Competition Pro, Tac-2, Slik Stik, etc.) but you will pay a decent amount for those. You will find that most others are not as good as a standard CX40 with the “Gold Lifetime” PCBs.. I guess for those who can’t play using a Joystick, you can use a Sega gamepad or a modified NES controller, but the games were meant to be played with a CX40.

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

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