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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.