The 5 wackiest retro game controllers to ever exist

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Retro video game controllers are a hilarious portal back to the hopes and dreams of an industry that tried to fly well before it could properly walk. Here are 5 of the craziest controllers ever made.

It’s difficult to talk about retro video game controllers without talking about nostalgia. I have vague memories of a number of these bonkers inventions, mostly from television commercials and pop culture references, but what I really remember is the way that they made me feel.

To a youngster whose experience of video games up to that point consisted of a Sega Genesis, the Super Nintendo, and arcade machines, these bizarre and expensive creations captured my imagination. They seemed like the future squatting in the unremarkable real-estate of the present.

I fantasised about how powerful I would be if I managed to get ahold of a Power Glove, or how much further I could get in Sonic the Hedgehog if I could use my real-world punching skills to batter that pesky Dr. Robotnik. It never occurred to me how much of a little twat I would have looked to literally everyone else on the planet.

The thing that ties these five retro video game controllers together isn’t just how ambitious they were, it’s how goddamn hilarious they are in retrospect. But just like my embarrassing six-year-old self, I wouldn’t change a thing about them.

vintage video game controllers
Image: Konami LaserScope / Konami

The Power Glove – SNES

The Power Glove is undoubtedly one of the best known, most batshit game controllers out there. Originally released for Nintendo’s SNES system in 1989, it captured the violent hearts of young children all across the world. The promise of being able to, as I remarked earlier, use one’s own fighting skills in a video game proved endlessly appealing.

What wasn’t, however, was playing video games with one hand tied behind your back. That’s right, the Power Glove wasn’t all it was cracked up to be in terms of ergonomics.

Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style Pad – PlayStation

Definitely one of the more practical looking controllers on this list, the Wu-Tang themed PlayStation controller makes this list for its sheer ‘what-the-fuck’ factor. Whoever thought that Wu-Tang Clan, despite being bloody brilliant, needed their own beat ’em up game (let alone a controller tie-in) needs a whack from the Power Glove.

It’s also the least inspiring bit of technology on display here because it actually subtracts features (no joysticks) rather than adds them. Sometimes less is more, and while some other controllers on this list could have been reminded of that, I would have liked to see a bit more crazy here.

Still, if forced to use one controller on this list, I’m going for the Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style for sure.

vintage video game controllers
Image: Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style Pad

Resident Evil Chainsaw – Gamecube

Getting chainsawed to death has become a bit of a tradition in the Resident Evil games. This wonderfully impractical vintage video game controller gives players the chance to return the favour and finally get even.

The Resident Evil Chainsaw controller was unveiled to celebrate Nintendo’s exclusive release of Resident Evil 4 on their Gamecube console. Unfortunately, in much the same manner as that console’s eventual fate, this controller has been consigned to the annals of history.

I can’t think of anything more horrifying than facing that game’s horrors holding this monstrosity in my hands.

chain saw controller
Image: Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw controller / Youtube

Konami LaserScope – NES

The Konami LaserScope video game controller looks outrageously stupid. Being charitable, you could say that it looks a bit like something you might see in a knock-off Star Wars film from the 1980s. But honestly, George Lucas or any other self-respecting director would have sent the design team back to the drawing board.

Interestingly, the controller doesn’t have a single button on it for gameplay purposes. Aiming is performed by pointing your red eye laser at the screen (looking), and get this – firing is voice controlled. Very cool… until you realise you’ve been transformed into some weirdo yelling at your TV.

“BANG! BANG!” Indeed.

R.O.B. – NES

I don’t know what the design team at Nintendo were smoking during the ’80s, but it must have been some pretty wild stuff. R.O.B. (Famicon Robot in Japan) is a retro video game controller that aimed to take the place of a second player. Ol’ ROBBO was there to be your video game sidekick. The problem is that he was a horribly over-designed piece of shit.

Hilariously, and also somewhat heartwarmingly, Nintendo decided that R.O.B. deserved a second chance and brought him back to life in the form of a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros… which is apt considering that smashed is exactly how most R.O.B.s found themselves after gamers found out how useless he was.

I kind of love him though. He may be a piece of shit, but he’s our piece of shit, right?