We all love console gaming – it’s probably the reason why you’re here reading this. Like us, you've probably spent a disproportionate amount of time fiddling with controllers and accessories over the years, many of which were swiftly adopted (and many just as quickly forgotten).
The NES Zapper, the absolutely mad analogue TV aerial for the Game Gear, the near-mythical Power Glove – we could go on. But as video games have risen to become the dominant home entertainment juggernaut that they are today, it feels like some of that uniqueness has been squeezed out to make room for consistent, mainstream functionality.
This makes sense; buttons work, we understand them, and a controller sitting in your hands is intuitive. Nintendo has, for the past decade or two, occasionally been the outlier, but even its very clever, detachable JoyCon fit the design pattern established back in the early '90s. Why be weird when you can just work?
Well, because we need weird. Weird is good. Weird is interesting, and can open up so many possibilities that 'normal' can’t. There was a time when an analogue stick was weird – imagine that. But even as things like that become normalised, there are some control inputs that remain weird – even if only a little. And so this list is a celebration of that – a top ten list of gaming’s weird, quirky control inputs.
The list includes both consoles and controllers and crucially, their concept works well – we're not talking about weird for weird’s sake here. We may love the Resident Evil chainsaw controller, but let’s be honest, its just a standard controller strapped to a gimmick product, and is clunky and awful to use.
And don’t get us started on when we finally got to try the aforementioned Power Glove and all our childhood dreams were shattered – The Wizard was right. It's so bad.
No, below are gaming’s golden weirdies – let’s dive in.
10. Paddle Controller (Atari Home Pong / 2600)
The granddaddy of home consoles – Home Pong’s paddle with fully rotating dial is in many ways the epitome of an incredibly odd but entirely intuitive gaming input – by today’s standards, anyway.
Although we're slightly loathe to include any input which only operates with a single game on this list, we just couldn’t leave this one out – having been lucky enough to play HomePong on an original machine, we can report it really is remarkably flawless for such old tech.
The dial has a satisfying amount of resistance, which means you’re never overshooting where you want to be, while the simple concept of sliding your paddle back and forth is strangely hypnotic and soothing.
Though we can’t envisage many concepts that would thrive utilising this control method, it’s certainly delightfully strange and perfect. Atari would use the same basic concept on its VCS / 2600 home console – the recently-released 2600+ even ships with the controller.