Console and computer controllers have been subject to extensive ergonomic tests to ensure they offer the very best in comfort and gaming function. At least, that’s what you might think. As you will see from the following list of weird and wonderful peripherals, that has not always been the case.
Some are genuinely useful. Others are faintly ridiculous. All are worth taking a closer look at as we investigate some of the weirdest game controllers…
CHEETAH CHARACTERISTICKS JOYSTICKS
If you are of a certain age, the Cheetah joystick should be a blast from the past. With names like the Mach 1 and the Python 2, Typhooon and Zip Stik they were go-to controller for many gamers in the late 80s and early 90s. Then, of course, you have these, where form very much takes the front seat over function – unless you enjoy the feeling of Batman’s ears poking into your palm or trying to get your tiny 10-year-old hands over the Terminator’s head. From the Cheetah CharacteriStick range, this colourful collection of joysticks were compatible with the NES and Master System.
REZ TRANCE VIBRATOR
The Rez Trance Vibrator, for reasons you can probably expect, has become quite an infamous peripheral. It was originally created for the Japan-only special edition of the PS2 on-rail shooter music game Rez. The Trance Vibrator’s intended use was as a USB device that plugged into your PS2 and pulsed in time with the beat. Officially, you were supposed to put it in your pocket to enhance your appreciation of the music. Inevitably, someone experimented with putting in in their pants. Just bear that in mind if you choose to buy one second hand.
THE STEEL BATTALION CONTROLLER
Capcom’s ambitious Mech combat game for the original Xbox could be purchased with an equally outlandish peripheral: the colossal Steel Battalion controller from 2002 had two sticks, 40 buttons, three pedals and was the size of a family car. Okay, maybe a coffee table. It also cost a fair whack – around £130 (approximately $200) at the time. However, as a limited edition, these can now be seen being sold for a lot more on auction sites.
NES HANDS FREE CONTROLLER
We were all set to start mocking the NES Hands Free Controller and had a really funny Darth Vader joke lined up. Then we realised that the peripheral was actually to give quadraplegics and other impaired gamers the ability to play on the NES and we felt bad. An official Nintendo product, D-Pad movements on the NES Hands Free were executed with tongue/mouth movements on a stick, while A and B commands were issued by sucking or blowing into a pipe.
RESIDENT EVIL 4 CHAINSAW CONTROLLER
There are several controllers on this list that rank quite low in terms of practicality but these PS4 Chainsaw controllers, created to commemorate Resident Evil 4, are especially daft. On the plus side, what these controllers lack in everyday use they make up for with a pull-cord chainsaw noise and built in rumble and a special storage box to keep it in. Better still, you can even buy one new on Amazon today if you’re quick…
This odd-looking fella came out in 1998 with the Special Edition of Ridge Racer Type 4 on the Playstation. That big dial in the middle – inspired by the ‘jog’ function on VCR machines – was actually a force-feedback wheel for steering your car. Was this controller just a one-use wonder? Oh no – it could also be used for Ridge Racer V on the PS2 as well. So, well worth buying then.
RAILDRIVER AND SHIPDRIVER CONTROLLER
Do you consider yourself a hardcore train or ship simulation fan? Well, unless you’ve got one of these $200 behemoths, you ‘aint squat. The Raildriver controller comes complete with a realistic throttle, brake and reversers, switch controls and 34 programmable buttons. So you can “feel like you are driving a train, not a computer”. Are there even 34 different things you can do other than forwards, backwards, opening the doors and tooting the horn?
SAMBA DE AMIGO DREAMCAST CONTROLLER
Samba de Amigo was a rhythm game originally released for the Dreamcast in 1999. Featuring primarily Latin music, players would join in by shaking these maraca peripherals. These were more than just plastic shaker-makers, though: each maraca is plugged into to a sensor bar and was fitted with an utlrasonic transmitter on its cord which triangulated its position in order to match the right sound.
WU TANG ‘W’ CONTROLLER
This tasteful controller was released in 2000 for the special edition of the 3D fighting game, Wu-Tang Shaolin Style on the Playstation. Needless to say, using it as an actual controller left something to be desired but whipping this out for ‘player 2’ duties and seeing the look on their face could be very satisfying.
THE NOVINT FALCON PC CONTROLLER
What is this? How even does it work? Why does it look like a gun stuck in a lampshade? According the Novint website, the Falcon offers “a realistic sense of touch in video games”. As far as what that means, the controller is effectively a cross between a mouse and a joystick (albeit a joystick on its side) that can offer a more realistic feeling of holding a weapon, along with a force-feedback recoil effect when you pull the trigger. Swap the attachment over and you can use it for some virtual surgery software too. Bonus!
SAMURAI WARRIOR USB GAMEPAD
Well, there’s a few things you’d have to balance out before considering purchase of the Samurai Warrior USB controller. In its favour, it looks like a kickass Samurai warrior with glowing eyes and a removable mask to reveal a terrifying skull face. Plus, it will leave the imprint of creepy little faces on your thumbs. What isn’t quite so good is the potential hand lacerations and confusion that can arise from the new, symbols on the buttons.
NES POWER GLOVE
Where would this list be without a mention of the legendary Power Glove? Equal parts awesome and completely useless, the Power Glove was what the future was supposed to look like back in 1989. Not only was the built-to-a-budget technology woefully inaccurate, only two Power Glove-specific games were released for the NES and both of them were considered awful.
HORI SUPER ROBOT WARS CONTROLLER
This unusual looking contraption was created by Hori (best known for their impressive range of beat-’em-up fighting sticks) for the Playstation 2 and allowed gamers the potential to play PS2 games with one hand. Although reasons why you’d need to play Namco Bandai’s long-running series of tactical Mecha RPGs Super Robot Wars without both hands evade us for the moment. Unless you really want to work on some serious RSI.
HORI KATANA CONTROLLER
Yep, Hori again. This time with a controller shaped like a Japanese Katana sword to celebrate the launch of Onimusha 3 Demon Siege. You will be forgiven for thinking that is is yet another completely impractical controller but Hori at least allowed you to dismantle to use just the handle (with all the buttons on). Interestingly, the special feature of the Katana was that swiping it about would act as the ‘attack’ function.
QUICKSHOT FLIGHT GRIP
Compatible with the NES, Mega Drive and Master System the Quick Shot Flight Grip was supposedly to be used with flying and driving games but offered no real benefits over a conventional pad – other than making your hands all weird.
EPIC MICKEY PAINT BRUSH WIIMOTE
Created as an accessory to accompany Epic Mickey: The Power of 2, this unusual Wiimote (which came bundled with a ‘Clicker’ nunchuck) featured a glowing paint tip which changed colour. Although the controller was also compatible with the Wii U, the packaging stipulated that it was only for use with the aforementioned Epic Mickey game. Presumably because it would look weird bowling or playing tennis with a paintbrush?
FIRE DRAGON USB CONTROLLER
Depending on your point of view, the Fire Dragon USB controller is either the most majestic and incredible controller you have ever seen or so utterly ridiculous you cannot comprehend that it is actually real. Well, it (was) available from the same people who brought you the Samurai Warrior pad, and this too features glowing eyes, what can only be described as jewel-like ‘dragon nipples’, and a general appearance of awe-inspiring badassery.
Which weird controllers have we missed or you think deserve to be on this list? The Donkey Konga Bongo Drums? The Sega Activator? The Nintendo U Force? Let us know!