BLOG: The 25 rarest and quirkiest game controllers ever
15th Jan 2013 | 15:25
Last week Microsoft revealed a new limited edition Tomb Raider Xbox 360 controller. It looks the part, but it's by no means the most interesting controller we've ever seen.
Over the years we've been subjected to all manner of weird and wonderful controllers. Some have been released to coincide with the launch of a certain game, others were made in an attempt to improve gaming. And some just made no sense whatsoever.
Below, then, are our favourite quirky controllers. Many of them are extremely hard to find these days and regularly fetch a pretty penny on eBay, so while you laugh and think "what sort of idiot would buy that", bear in mind that idiot could be sitting on a goldmine.
This special Twilight Princess controller prototype was designed by Nubytech, the same company that created the bizarre Resident Evil 4 pad (more on that later). When Nintendo decided to port Twilight Princess to the Wii and make that the main version, the controller was sadly scrapped. The prototype recently sold for $2500.
In 1999 Activision released Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, a dodgy Power Stone knock-off for the PlayStation featuring members of the Wu-Tang Clan as fighters. The game may have been a bit guff but the limited edition came with this amazing controller shaped like the Wu-Tang symbol. It was a bit of a nightmare to use because of its shape, mind.
The Resident Evil 4 chainsaw controller has both the distinction of being our favourite game-related controller design ever, and the shame of being the most impossible to use effectively. Very much a case of style over substance. If that's not odd enough, here's a better one...
Released for $150, this is Katana: The Soul, a sword-shaped controller released by Hori for Onimusha 3 on the PS2. It's probably the most ridiculous themed controller ever created, but full marks to Hori for showing some bottle.
When Arkanoid was released on the NES, Taito decided the NES contoller wasn't good enough for it so it released this special analogue dial for it instead. This special "Vaus Controller" is one of the rarest NES controllers around.
Ace Combat 4 is fully playable with a standard controller, so perhaps this Hori-created flight stick combo could be considered overkill. Still, it's ideal for those who take their dogfighting seriously.
The Slime is easily Dragon Quest's most popular character so it's not surprising that peripheral maker Hori decided to make this little beauty back in 2004. What is surprising is that the Slime's undercarriage is actually a fully-functioning DualShock PS2 controller.
To gamers of a certain age, the phrase "quirky controller" immediately brings these to mind - the motion-sensing Samba De Amigo maracas. Released for the Dreamcast version of the game in 2000, they sold in such limited numbers in the west that UK or US versions of the maracas (without the game) can regularly go for well over £100 online.
Some controller ideas are so odd that they don't ultimately make it to production. This prototype reversible Mega Drive controller allowed players to detach the D-Pad and attach it to either the left or right of the buttons, so that left-handed players could play better. It was never given the nod and the prototype is currently going for $399 on eBay.
Many of the controllers in this feature were a little too elaborate to actually be useful and comfortable while playing a game, but this Sonic Screwdriver Wii Remote is a pretty solid piece of kit. It works just like a normal Remote but it also has a built-in battery that can be recharged via USB, making it arguably better than the standard Wii Remote. Too bad the Doctor Who game on Wii is about as entertaining as sitting a book out in the sun and watching the colour fade on it.
Not happy enough playing Duck Hunt with the NES Zapper? Want to ensure everyone keeps their distance from you because you look a bit odd? You want the LaserScope, Konami's insane headset that shines a laser on your TV and has you shouting "FIRE" into a microphone every time you want to shoot. You can also detach the mic and use the LaserScope as normal headphones, if you fancy having a Tube carriage all to yourself.
This generation of gaming has seen a slew of licensed controllers, but our favourite in terms of looks is the Batarang controller, released by Power A to coincide with Batman: Arkham City. As well as lighting up and giving you the option to change what colours the LEDs are, it's also interesting because the PS3 controller is laid out like an Xbox 360 one. Sadly, the analogue sticks reportedly have some dead zone issues, meaning it's all fur coat and no knickers.
Mortal Kombat was so successful on home consoles that a company called Innovation were given the license to make the Mortal Kombat II Kontrol Pad and the Mortal Kombat III Kontrol Pad. The controllers had their own cartridge slot and came with a selection of cartridges, each containing the special moves for certain Mortal Kombat characters. If you chose a character in the game and inserted their cartridge in the controller, you could press the four long buttons to execute their special moves instantly. Amazingly, the Kontrol Pads only came with some of the cartridges - you had to buy specific controllers to ensure they supported the characters you wanted.
As Tron Legacy hit cinemas and the world was caught up in Tron fever, this officially licensed Xbox 360 controller hit the shops. It was a comfortable enough controller and it did the job, but its fancy lights made playing in the dark a treat and you didn't even have to meet an awkwardly CGI-faced Jeff Bridges to use it.
Back in the early 90s a company called Cheetah was one of the leading third-party joystick makers, partly thanks to its critically praised Amiga joystick, the Bug. In a moment of madness it released the CharacteriSticks range, a series of five joysticks shaped like popular film and TV characters. The full series featured joystick versions of Bart Simpson, Batman from Batman Returns, Batman from the Animated Series, a Terminator head and an Alien. They were all horribly uncomfortable to use, especially the Bart Simpson one because his spiky hair jabbed into your hand as you tried to press the fire button on his head.
Rez was one of the most immersive gaming experiences of the early 2000s because of the way its pumping, rhythmic soundtrack was integrated with the gameplay. A special edition of the game took it a little too far however because it came with the Trance Vibrator, a USB device that vibrated to the beat. Because of its shape and the power of its vibrations, many believe it was intended for... well, yes. Anyway.
An explosion at an art factory led to this Marvel vs Capcom 3 Fightpad for the Xbox 360. It's clearly one of the "busiest" designs we've seen on a controller.
The Nintendo Hands Free controller was an early solution for gamers with physical disabilities. It's worn like a vest with a special straw in the user's mouth. Blowing activates the A button and sucking triggers the B button, while a special chin stick controls movement.
Before the days of the DualShock, Namco came up with its own analogue controller for the PlayStation. The bizarre NeGcon (neh-GEE-con) was created for Ridge Racer games and could be twisted at the middle for analogue steering. It actually worked fantastically well and the replacement of the square and circle buttons with two analogue buttons made accelerating and braking more realistic too.
Not satisfied to rest at the NeGcon, Namco released a second odd analogue controller for the PlayStation to accompany its release of the excellent Ridge Racer: Type 4. The Jogcon featured a force-feedback dial in the middle of the controller, which let you steer the car while feeling the torque and feedback from the car.
The Capcom Pad Soldier was a bizarre two-handed joypad designed to improve your Street Fighter II experience. It was released on the SNES and Mega Drive, but it's the 3DO version that collectors try to find because it's worth a fortune.
Limited edition game-themed controllers were a rarer occurrence back in the day which is why this Donkey Kong 64 controller was so special at the time. Looking back, a controller coloured like a banana is a bit odd, especially considering the ends of the prongs just looked filthy.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Street Fighter, Capcom commissioned a range of special six-button controllers for the PS2 with lenticular panels on them showing an animation of one of the game's fighters.
When Nintendo released the Game Boy Player for the GameCube (which allowed you to play Game Boy, Game Boy Color and GBA games on your TV), Hori brought out a special GameCube controller designed to look like a SNES controller. If you can find one, it's ideal for Wii Virtual Console games too.
What do you do when Phantasy Star Online, a game with a large focus on communication, is released on GameCube? If you're Sammy, you release this ruddy huge GameCube controller with a built-in full-sized keyboard.