When you really get down to it, the NES controller is the granddaddy of all modern game controllers. Granted, they didn't have thumbsticks, triggers, or tilt controls back in the 80's, but it doesn't take a terribly observant eye to note the design principles that are still evident in today's controllers. This is probably due in no small part to how the design is simple, yet effective. Of course, in typical Nintendo fashion, this design was actually based on an older idea.
Masayaki Uemura – one of the lead designers for the NES – recently talked to USgamer about how they thought up the controller. He says that the team couldn't quite get a controller design right and eventually somebody on the team suggested that they hook up an old Donkey Kong Game & Watch portable. Everyone that tried this control type reacted positively and so the idea stuck. Here's the relevant quote:
There were, as you can probably imagine, a lot of difficulties we faced in doing things for the first time in building this hardware, but one of the most difficult was, 'What shape and layout will the controller have?' This has a touch of coincidence about it, too, but some of those people who had gone to work with Gunpei Yokoi's team eventually found their way back to our team. So one of the ideas that came up because of that was, 'Well, we've got this Game & Watch multi-screen Donkey Kong that uses the controller format of a plus control pad and buttons.' So we hooked that up and got it working.
What do you think modern game controllers would look like if Nintendo had opted for a different design? What's your favorite video game controller? Drop us a comment in the section below.