Throughout gaming history, every now and then a company will throw out a little something special to enhance the enjoyment of a particular game. Usually, this is just a collectors edition, or an art book… some cute figures to gather dust on your shelves, that kind of thing.
Other times, however, it’s an ill-fitting, weird game controller that’s designed specifically for that game. They’re always unwieldy, awkward and, quite frankly, an absolutely amazing delight to behold. So let’s take a look at a few of them!
Steel Battalion was originally released in 2002 for the Xbox, with the premise revolving around the player taking control of a huge mech and blowing up other mechs. It’s all fairly standard mech genre stuff where you use a cool robot to explode things. The big difference, however, was the controller for the game, which the game was specifically designed around. It was a beast with over 40 buttons and three pedals that sold for around US$200 at launch and now goes for anywhere from AU$200 for the reprint to up to AU$1500 or more for the original style controller.
Essentially, you’d use the many, many buttons on the controller as a sort of real-time cockpit of the machine. It involved using a complex method to start the machine with various buttons and switches through to having to carefully control the machine. For example, rounding corners too fast will topple it. And, there’s a method to correct overheating. No expense was spared to make it as realistic as piloting a walking tank could be. It even has little window wiper buttons! But really, no expense was spared which is why the game was only produced in limited quantities.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turn much of a profit. But, it was mostly designed as a way to show off what could be done by thinking outside the box with controllers. Though there was a sequel that also used the controller, it couldn’t really be used with any other games. But, you could probably try, I’m sure it would make Blinx: The Time Sweeper an interesting experience.
Resident Evil 4’s Chainsaw
Resident Evil 4 was a turning point for not only the Resident Evil series but also action/third person shooters/horror as a whole. It had an edgy action focus including shooting a lot of peasants and angry men with chainsaws. But, as you were watching Leon being cut into pieces for the 5th time, did you ever think to yourself, ‘Gee, I wish I had one of those chainsaws’? Well, you’re in luck!
The incredibly unwieldy controller comes in both a red PlayStation 2 flavour and a yellow GameCube flavour. Oh, and a fancy display case to show it off in and also probably just keep it in. After trying it once, you’ll probably realize this is actually a really bad idea. But the good thing is, it’s absolutely compatible with any other game because it’s basically a standard controller shoved into a nifty blood-spattered chainsaw casing! You know, if you’re really into getting carpal tunnel or something!
Donkey Konga’s DK Bongos
When I was a kid, I wanted Donkey Konga so bad. I got it for Christmas one year. I think I played it two or three times before I just stopped playing it. The game had a bunch of songs that were all really bad covers, so I just played The Legend of Zelda theme a bunch. In saying that, though, it was actually otherwise a solid little rhythm game with a dedicated controller that was a pair of bongos.
You just… Played them like bongos, really. And there was also a clap sensor so sometimes you had to clap. This was surprisingly difficult because you were so focused on doing the drumming parts. I think as an accessory for other rhythm games with better tracklists, it would have been amazing.
Though action games also came out revolving around the use of the controllers in a more innovative way in Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. They showed the controller had the potential to offer a more diverse playstyle. Which, naturally, other folks jumped on and used it to beat Dark Souls with.
As you do.
The NES Power Glove
Listen. I don’t think it’s even possible to write this piece without talking about the Power Glove. It’s so bad! Like. In the cool 90s way but also in the literal sense of, “This is a very bad controller that doesn’t work properly.” While the idea was innovative and impressive, the execution with 90s technology was less so. It was a buggy, unresponsive mess.
Essentially, you would put the glove on, and there were also some large, bulky sensors you would put with your TV. It had all the standard NES buttons, plus some extras which could be used to program custom features. You could also move your hand as a method of control for the onscreen character. But, again, this is a buggy mess that refuses to work right half the time.
However, it’s still perhaps one of the most important parts of Nintendo’s history.
Anything that Rudeism makes
Perhaps you’ve heard of Rudeism. Perhaps you haven’t. For those who don’t know, Rudeism is a streamer/content creator/absolute madman who looks at games and standard controllers and scoffs. “These are tools for the common man,” he says, or, I assume he says. “I will face God and walk backwards into hell,” he continues to say as he picks up a literal baguette and turns it into a functional controller to play Overwatch with. “I spit in the face of traditional design,” he says again, beating Super Mario 64 with nothing but a single button programmed with a range of inputs.
Again, I don’t know if he actually says any of that, but I can only assume he does. Rudeism is a talented programmer who uses his skills to turn everyday objects into purpose-built controllers. He usually builds them for specific games or specific characters in specific games.
He’s played Tetris with an eggplant, Civilization VI with six sieves (because puns are a delight), and a frying pan to beat Dark Souls. I could have just filled this entire piece with his stuff if I wanted, but it’s better to check it out yourself.