SNES Controller: The Most Influential Game Pad Ever?

SNES Controller

SNES Controller

A great video game controller leaves its mark by utilizing features that become industry standards. The NES made the D-Pad an integral part of the gaming experience. The N64 controller introduced rumble, an expansion slot, and most importantly, an analog stick. Sony’s Dual Shock introduced a second analog stick, and the Sega Dreamcast introduced pressure sensitive triggers. More recently it seems the 360 controller have made the “Home” button a new standard, and the Wii controller with motion control. All of these features have helped mold our modern day control pads, but surely there must have been one controller that had the greatest influence. I believe that right goes to the SNES controller as it has laid the groundwork for all controllers, and features a design that is still emulated today.

For starters, the SNES Control Pad is the first controller to feature four face buttons. It is not just the number of face buttons either, but the layout of the four buttons is also important. The buttons are laid out so that your thumb can access them as naturally as possible. The “Cross Buttons” are a proven layout that has been handed down across all major console control pads to this day. It is easy to over look this fundamental design choice in the grand scheme of things, but it has impacted game controllers as much as the analog stick.

Button Layout

The left and right triggers were also born on the SNES controller. These shoulder buttons were actually slightly ahead of their time. While usually an after thought in many SNES titles (though more creative games like F-Zero and Star Fox made great use of them), shoulder buttons play a major role in the way we use today’s dual analog stick controllers. We wouldn’t be running and gunning like we do in all FPS shooter titles on home consoles.

The overall aesthetics of the control pad are also a defining factor. The curved edges of the controller allowed people to completely wrap their hands around the controller almost perfectly. I do believe that this is the first controller that was designed around comfort. You could argue that the Genesis control pad was, but I personally find it to be too large, and uncomfortable, along with a slightly awkward button layout.

How about we take a look at a handful of controllers inspired by the SNES design?

1. The redesigned NES controller is almost a replica of an SNES pad. Of course it’s missing two face buttons and the triggers, but the overall aesthetics are in place. Notice the flow of the A and B buttons and how they follow design choices made in the SNES pad. Also, the rounded edges are nearly identical to its younger sibling. Also worth noting is that this pad is much smaller than the SNES controller.

2. Playsation Controller: It should come as no surprise that the Playstation controller is based off the SNES pad, as we all know the Playstation was originally developed to be the SNES CD add on. Aside from a few modifications to its design, the core concept matches the SNES pad. Sony must really love the SNES controller, because aside from some minor modifications on each console generation, the pad has stayed virtually the same. Obviously, it is a proven formula.

3. Hori’s Gamecube Controller: Hori developed this controller for the Gamecube when Nintendo released the GBA Player for their console. Aside from the GCN’s distinct button layout, this pad is an SNES controller right down to the curves on each side. Though never released outside of Japan, it didn’t stop people from acquiring one.

4. Wii Classic Controller: The Classic controller is the true evolution of the SNES Controller. While the pad features a more sleek design, the shape is still very similar to its older brother. The button layout is identical, and the only real addition is the dual analog sticks. It resembles a Dual Shock, but the Dual Shock resembles an SNES pad.

Is the SNES Controller the most influential controller? Of course it is all a matter of opinion, but looking at the fundamentals of controller design, I can’t see anything else more deserving of the title. What controller do you feel deserves the honor?

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Actually the Saturn 3D pad had analog triggers. The Dreamcast pad is simply an updated version of that controller minus a few buttons. It’s even the same shape.

  • guess what segaboy, you dipshit, you’re wrong. sega released the analog stick in response to the N64s controller. here’s some links for you, idiot.

    i call you an idiot because you are not capable of reading. the article is not biased nor is it fanboyism. it is a look at a particular controller that helped shaped the way we play games today. no where in here does it say that nintendo (or any other system for that matter) is better than another. finally, the article ends with a question, asking you the reader, what you think. instead of using your brain to actually think you issue some puss-laden and “witty” response.

    plus i find it completely hilarious that you accuse someone of fanboyism when your own name is segafag1984. what a hypocrit.

    learn to read and think critically before opening your mouth, you jackass.

    thanks for stopping by.

  • The thing that amazes me are how angry people got over this whole thing. Guys, it’s an opinion piece, big deal, no need to get your panties in a bunch. I could go on and on, but it’s not worth the trouble really. Either you agree or you don’t, simple as that.

    And macshome, thanks for the Saturn pad info. I knew the Dreamcast controller was based on the Sega analog pad, but I didn’t realize that it had the pressure sensitive triggers. I only used that pad once many, many moons ago… at a Toys R Us no less.

  • I think it is interesting that the only company that didn’t copy the SNES controller is Nintendo. While Microsoft, Sony, and Sega all implemented the “Cross buttons” on their subsequent systems’ controllers, the N64, Gamecube, and Wii all have completely different face-button patterns. Then again, Nintendo has never used a controlled design twice.

    (The Wii Classic Controller doesn’t count, because it is designed to play SNES games)

  • that is true. i think its both a good thing and a bad thing. its good because as the past has proven, nintendo comes up with some pretty good stuff and a means to make it all work. the other side to that coin is that its often at the cost of stabilty with 3rd party developers. for example, the PS3 enjoys an advantage because most if not all major developers are already very used to what the sony controller can do and have had the development tools already in place for that controller for practically the past decade. nintendo is constantly starting from scratch which i could see from a 3rd party standpoint would be a major pain in the rear.

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