How important are controllers?

I’m quite fond of mini-consoles because they always include a replica of the original controller. There are no unused buttons, which really changes the feel of playing.


The next mini console I’m getting is the Atari 400 which comes with a traditional black Atari joystick. These joysticks with a corner button are hard to capture with with an arcade stick, partially because they use your right hand instead of left. There’s also the issue of ‘up to jump’ which works fine in this type of stick but feels hideous on a gamepad.

One more recent example is Katamari Demacy. This game was designed around the PS2’s two symmetrical sticks. With the modern releases I cannot cope with offset sticks like the Switch, so I have to use a third party controller.

I’m sure some of this comes from knowing how games ‘should’ feel by experiencing them first hand, but it’s important to remember more about the game than what’s on the screen.

The podcast folk often talk about using the Mister for games, but this presumably reduces them to an Xbox controller or similar.

If you had the choice of playing games with an authentic controller, would you?

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@docky I think it depends on the game really - some remakes/remasters/rereleases benefit from a modern controller but it‘s very game specific and how well an updated control system is implemented. Updates to Wii games seem very strange without a remote/nunchuck combination if they’re just released on the Switch, but if they are worked from the ground up to adapt to the new controller I think they work very well.

I've been playing ~~Yakuza Kiwami 2~~ Virtual On a lot on my steam deck, I can say the sticks on it are great when you set it up to twin stick controls, but also owning the twin-sticks for the Saturn and playing it how it was originally made it's a totally different experience, one that I prefer.

I did have an Atari VCS when I was younger so the "left button" was my first experience of a controller, so while I won't buy the Atari computer I would like to get one of the sticks, for old times sake.

Hope you have fun with your Atari 400!


I have been using authentic controllers but now I'm upgrading them all to new third party ones.

The plastic shell on a PS2 pad gets creaky with age and the buttons don't feel great. I have a few and in the cold hard light of 2024, maybe they're just not good controllers? I have switched to a Retro Fighters Defender pad as it is wireless, the plastic feels nice and it has pressure sensitive buttons.

The Dreamcast pad has always annoyed me because the d pad will tear your ass (thumb) up when doing fireball motions. Like, why is the d pad so tall? I was using a Hori PS4 fighting commander pad for DC fighters with a Brook Wingman adapter that has an onboard VMU. Now I have a VM2, I don't want to switch between VMUs so I just got a Retro Fighters Striker pad. Also, the DC triggers squeak like heck.

I have also just got a wireless Retro Fighters Game Cube pad. I really like the layout and feel of a GC pad but I'm enjoying the Wireless Lifestyle and want better triggers for when I do yet another Resi 4 play through.

I don't have an Xbox but I used the controller on PC. I have since switched to a Dual Sense because I hate how loudly clicky the Xbox face buttons are.

I've never been bothered by stick positions between pads but I get why it annoys people. I am really impressed with how good modern third party controllers are now and have been enjoying upgrading my game experience with them. I have been buying less retro games (PS2 HDD, DC ODE) so it has been nice to have the money for better controllers.

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@“Tom of the Fog”#p159892 also owning the twin-sticks for the Saturn and playing it how it was originally made it’s a totally different experience, one that I prefer.

**Virtual On** controllers (on xbox/kiwami2) took me a while to wrap my head around. Didn’t know these things existed but now I wonder how it feels because it kinda makes sense.

**Changing controllers** for a specific game always feels extra special. It’s not only the physical buttons. I have my 8bitdo snes with sticks mostly for tetris and platformers and it feels like playing on a different console.

The one that I **always struggle with was N64**. There’s just no way to mapping that successfully to a modern controller and get the same feeling* (I think, never played a real one). You’re always translating in your head.
Eventually I got an N64 USB controller to get that but the stick was SO BAD and you had to push so hard that sold me on dealing with modern controllers and get over it. Eventually we finished Ocarina :)

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It came out in the arcades first, which is where I originally played it and got so excited when it got a home release.

The twin-stick controller is just the sticks themselves a lot smaller but the same buttons.

It feels very natural to play with the twin-stick as it was designed that way. You can play it with a regular controller but it doesn‘t have the same feel, as movement is really tank controllers. The Kiwami 2 version by default had left stick for movement, right for camera which wasn’t how it was designed. Not that it‘s bad if it’s all you know, but the two stick option is for me far more fun and more of a challenge too.



@“Tom of the Fog”#p159910 The Kiwami 2 version by default had left stick for movement, right for camera which wasn’t how it was designed.

How was the original then? Do you know if there’s a kiwami 2 configuration that mimics that?

For SNES/Genesis and beyond, using that controller is less important for me for most games. The button configurations are close enough. I could fret a bit about d-pad versus analog stick placement, or the feel of shoulder buttons and triggers, but overall it works for me.

For the C64, I sometimes miss the joystick. One example is the game Decathlon. Running was achieved by quickly and rhythmically slapping the joystick left and right. It was rough on a joystick (luckily we never broke one), and it also meant sore forearms by the end of the events. That kind of frenetic activity can't be replicated in a different format; it'd be like trying to play DDR on a PS1 controller rather than with a floor pad. So there are times that I still want that stick - tall, angled a bit forward, with a button on the stick and two front buttons. (I'm pretty sure it was a Suncom, possibly a Tac 30.)

@ulisesftw If you go into the menu when you're in the game itself, you can view controls, then in that menu select “Minigame: Virtual On - Twin Stick A” which maps to the analogue stick, “B” maps to the d-pad and face buttons. Left trigger is left weapon, right trigger is right. Both at the same time is middle weapon. Push both sticks to their opposites to jump and shoulders are dash. I tried the B set up and hated it, but it is very similar to how it worked on the Saturn with a controller.

And have fun =)

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This is one of those things where I will never project my own feelings onto someone else. Anyone else can just do whatever they want. For me, controllers are everything. Not only using original controllers, but curating controllers to tailor the experience. I‘ve already said a lot on this forum so I’m going to pivot to another topic now.

Last week I went to a smash bros kickback. I told everyone to bring controllers but no one did except for me. I was using an Xbox Elite controller and everyone else had various pairs of joycons. I started passing the elite controller around for other people to use when I got tired of playing and they all said it felt like cheating. I was like dogg, that's because you all are using the shittiest controllers.


@“TaliesinMerlin”#p159913 we trashed our Quickshot joysticks thanks to Daley Thompson. I believe these derive from the Konami arcade game Hyper Sport. I had a wholesome arcade experience with a stranger when I was seven years old. They were playing javelin, and the stranger let me press the throw button so they could focus on running speed. I never saw them again.

It depends. The original Atari 2600/VCS is bad, despite being iconic. I had a stick made by Benj Edwards when he was doing that, and it's great. Having a real joystick makes some of those games actually playable and fun.

@“hellomrkearns”#p159974 show me your stick! I’m curious about whether you went left or right handed. Obviously leaf switch joysticks like the Atari stick are not the best longterm but they work great out of the box.


@“docky”#p159976 show me your stick! I’m curious about whether you went left or right handed.

Both! Benj built this model with buttons on each side. Official Sanwa parts, and even an official Atari controller cord.

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I’ve been on a journey with this after getting my Xstation PS1. There are a few options for PS1:

Original controller
Original DualShock
PSOne DualShock
New 3rd party(Retro Fighters etc)
8bitdo converter thing to use modern controllers

The console I got came with a PSOne DualShock and I hate it. The plastic feels worse than the original controller/dualshock, I don’t like the white color, I don’t like the PSOne logo on the front. After researching and touching some of these other controllers I now know I want an original darker grey DualShock. And after I decided that I can’t even touch the PS1 until I have the right controller to play it on lol.

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I have a couple of classic Atari/Amiga sticks and relevant USB adapters. I always hold the joystick in my right hand which is the opposite of a modern arcade stick.

Is there anyone here that’s under 30 and enjoys using this type of thing?


Controllers are great. On the one hand, I usually try to play with the controller that the game was designed for. But I’m also down for experimentation and seeing how different controllers can change the gaming experience.

The N64, Wii and Gamecube I think are systems designed for their controllers, and playing games for those systems with other controllers feels off.

I usually play Sonic Mania exclusively with my USB Genesis gamepad because the game was designed with that gamepad in mind. But I also enjoy using a Switch Pro Controller for a different feel.

On the topic of Virtual On, a big arcade about an hour away from me has a full two player Virtual On and playing it is a spiritual experience compared to a standard gamepad.


I just had a birthday and got the Atari 400 mini, and the controller is pretty neat! They snuck seven extra buttons on there, including a button for each of the orange direction markings at the base of the stick. Here I am playing Terry Cavanagh’s Atari inspired Mr. Platformer, and it feels great to use the weird rubber coated joystick.