The five greatest controller inventions in gaming history

In the relatively short but rich history if gaming, many inventions and innovations have come and gone, and a lot of them had to do with how players interacted with their games. Some of them have stuck to this very day, because of their intuitive nature and their proven functionality. So, which five inventions left the biggest impression, and have shaped the way we play games ever since?



Probably the most iconic among all video game buttons is the directional pad, more commonly known as d-pad. The famous plus-shape design was created by Nintendo legend Gunpei Yokoi, originally for the Donkey Kong Game and Watch, but was later implemented on the controller of the Famicom console. This simple to understand, elegant design used for controlling menus and characters in (mostly) 2D games has since become a standard on both home console controllers and handhelds. Even modern systems that feature mainly 3D games still come with a variation of this control input.



Four face buttons, placed on the right side of the control device with equal distance between them, have now become a standard. They are often indicated by colors or symbols that add to the system’s identity. Most notable examples are the red, yellow, green and blue buttons on the Japanese and European Super Nintendo (which were also used in the logo), and the cross, circle, square and triangle found on the PlayStation systems.

Control stick


The control stick has a long history before becoming a standard for home console controllers. They offer precise movements in a 360 degree angle, fit for 3D games. It has now become a norm to equip controllers with two analogue sticks, one for each thumb, meant for separate control of the character on screen and the camera. The DualShock was the first controller to use sticks that could be pressed down, serving as an extra button. The control stick has also made its way to handheld devices with their move to 3D graphics.

Shoulder buttons / triggers


Shoulder buttons and triggers offer the player additional control, without having to move his hands away from the face buttons or control sticks. They are therefor used for aiming and firing in shooters, or accelerating and braking in racing games. But aside from that, practically every genre makes use of these buttons due to their unintrusive and practical location.



Rumble features offer the player an extra degree of immersion, and also provide feedback on what is going on in the game. They can be used for gameplay cues (the player getting hurt, a nearby hidden location) or simply to absorb the player deeper into the world of the game, by making explosions, damage or heart beats tangible.

  • Dimitris

    N64!! The most innovative console ever!! Highly underrated…First console with four simultaneously split screen multiplayer. First with analog stick. First with trigger. First with rumble. First with true 3D games with 3D world. If only they had installed that damn CD drive and the history of consoles would have been much different. I don’t know if that means better though. But till today with all GTA5, Skyrim, CoD etc the era of Playstation and N64 was the most exciting for me.

    • Nyxus

      The Nintendo 64 was an awesome console indeed. Many great and important games came out for it.

      • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

        Ocarina of Time (or Majora’s Mask and other great exclusives) anyone?

        • Nyxus

          Yes, such as Mario 64, F-Zero X, GoldenEye, Paper Mario, Super Smash Bros and more.

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            Let’s not forget, Banjo Kazooie and Tooie, Perfect Dark, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day, or even DK 64. The latter I’m playing right now as my very first play through as I never played it before and it is so much fun but has quite an amount of unwarranted difficulty for its time.

          • Nyxus

            Sadly, I didn’t play the first four games you mentioned. Limited funds at the time… And yeah, DK64 was very difficult, I never managed to finish it although I got quite far.

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            yeah…I didn’t get to play all the games either, especially since N64 games were notoriously expensive then. I’m only a little more than 25% through in DK64, but I think I will see it to the end. I don’t like leaving my games unfiinished. And I actually didn’t get to play the games I mentioned either except DK64 or even play the titles you mentioned except Mario 64 and also played Star Fox. I unfortunately didn’t start gaming until the Gamecube era so I didn’t live out the glory days of the late 90s like you and many others did but am planning to catch up now by going back to play what I can…had no idea how nostalgic it would be to play on the system…too bad it was underrated by many, at least the games spoke for themselves and N64 to keep Nintendo around.

          • Nyxus

            I didn’t really start gaming until 1999, the N64 being my first home console. And even if I did have just a few games for it, I had a great time with the system.

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            Yeah, I started gaming like 2002 I think with my first game being Super Mario Sunshine-I have my dad to thank for that. But like you said it’s all about the games. Games back in the day were made to last-now they’re just made with the present in mind without any longevity except DLC and multiplayer. Kinda sad.

          • Nyxus

            I think there are still many great games with plenty of replay value if you know were to look.

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            yeah, precisely. like Assassin’s Creed II or MGS4.

  • Adventurer of Hyrule

    Its a great list, however i think the N64 controller should have gotten the credit for the analog stick.

    • Nyxus

      Yeah, the photo is meant to be illustrative for the control stick in general, not necessarily the DualShock. But that one did have the dual analog layout and the clickable sticks.

    • Nate Barrett

      You’re sorely mistaken if you think the N64 controller was the first to feature an analog stick.

  • Darren Snakeman

    And you have the cellphone tilt detector. That makes smartphones addictive. hehe

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