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Top 10 Worst Controllers

8.  Atari Jaguar Controller

Jaguar Controller

If any of you have ever seen pictures of this controller before now, it’s probably no surprise that it made it to the list.  What might surprise you is that it isn’t a little lower down, towards the “worst of the worst.”  If you’ve ever actually had the pleasure of playing the Atari Jaguar, then you know that while the controller won’t win any design awards, it isn’t quite as horrific as its reputation suggests.

The Jaguar’s controller was par on course for the times, perhaps a little outdated at worst.  With a run-of-the-mill D-pad and 3 buttons marked A, B, and C, most folks could pick it up and start playing nearly any game for the ill-fated system.  The elephant in the room is the giant 12-button keypad consuming roughly half of the controller, but as daunting as it may look it’s rarely necessary for a player to be able to quickly push correct buttons.  It’s true that many games utilized the keypad in someway or another but it often functioned only as a shortcut to actions that could be performed via menus or other methods.

Jaguar Controller OverlayIn most cases, games using the keypad were packed with a small plastic overlay.  The overlay matched perfectly with the keypad and included small tabs on the side to fit securely over the controller.  These overlays provided some information as to what each key did, usually with a word and/or small picture.  This made it much easier to push the button labeled “bomb” than to have to wonder whether or not button 5 or 6 dropped it.  Any and all keypad functions were listed in the instruction manual but the idea of having to flip around in a book to remember what one of the 12 buttons did is just as unappealing as it sounds.

Jaguar Controller with Overlay

Maybe Atari thought “how can we go wrong with 12 extra buttons?” but clearly they didn’t talk to the right people when they decided this was a good enough idea to take to market.  Perhaps a little enticing at first, one quickly realizes that hardly any game possesses 15 unique functions (keypad plus A, B, and C) and if for some reason they did, it subtracts from the enjoyment instead of adding to it.

The combination of useless and confusing buttons and an awkward looking design doesn’t necessarily mean the controller is total junk.  Once you get past the initial shock and start playing some games the flaws become less obvious.  Overall it’s a solid controller.  It fits well in an adult’s hand (remember, this was the age of tiny controllers back in late 1993) and despite all the wasted space it really doesn’t interfere with gameplay.

Atari Jaguar controllers will always be remembered as horrible, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.  Whatever purpose the keypad may have had was surely never delivered upon and it does look pretty damn stupid, but there really isn’t too much to play once you’re in the heat of the game.

Written by The Cubist

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One Comment

  1. Also, unlike the Sega Genesis controller that most people were familiar with, the buttons go C, B, A from left to right. So for me, who was familiar with the Genesis controller, it was really difficult to remember that A and C were flipped!


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