If you think about it, peripherals are the lifeblood of gaming — without a method of input, we’d go nowhere.
The game industry has seen its fair share of peripherals — electronics encased in plastic molds that often have a nice, aesthetic look about them. Some of them, like our favorite console controller or gaming mouse, help bring us an endless amount of joy. Others, like the NES’ Power Glove, bring us an infinite amount of futility and frustration.
So for this new edition of Pixelitis Picks, a few of us deemed it important to share with you our favorite gaming peripherals, and likewise the ones that would be better off in a garbage heap.
Favorite peripheral: SNES controller
Since my first experience on the SNES with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as a four-year old, the SNES has been my most important and trusty partner for entering the vast virtual fantasy/sci-fi worlds that populated my television screen.
With this gray and purple pad, I single-handedly felled Ganon and saved Hyrule, kicked mecha-koopas at Bowser and rescued Princess Peach, foiled Sigma thrice, stopped a comet from obliterating Earth, commanded Paula to pray for help against an insane, irrational evil, and delivered the final blow to Deathevan.
With the SNES controller, Nintendo set the precedent for the minimum amount of inputs a controller needs. Nearly every controller thereafter borrowed its layout of face buttons and shoulder buttons — just look at every iteration of the Dualshock, Xbox controller, and Dreamcast controller — all of them have those essential four face buttons, two shoulder buttons/bumpers/triggers and a variation of the d-pad.
It’s light, comfortable, durable, and its functional d-pad still makes the Xbox 360′s own look like a turd. Aside from its lack of an analog stick or two (that was before they were necessary), it’s my quintessential game pad.
Least favorite peripheral: Wii Wheel
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Rather than design a racing wheel peripheral complete with extra buttons and an accelerator/brake pedal board, Nintendo thought it would be fine to just give you a…plastic shell.
Yep, just like the Wii Zapper, this “peripheral” was just a white, plastic wheel in which you placed your Wii remote. What resulted was a less-than-pleasant experience – I found that steering a wheel that wasn’t attached to anything and that worked off the Wii remote’s accelerometer simply didn’t cut it for me. I want to feel like I’m actually driving a go-kart, instead I got a floating steering wheel that didn’t even control as well as a regular controller.
The wheel would have been better if it wasn’t just a plastic mold to place your controller in. If it had its own internal electronics and a more heavy-duty build like the Logitech PlayStation 3 Driving Force GT Racing Wheel, it would have made Mario Kart Wii that much more fun.
After a few races I switched to the Wii remote and nunchuk and never went back. Keep the lousy piece of plastic to yourself.
- Patrick Kulikowski
Favorite peripheral: Nintendo Zapper
This is quite possibly my favorite gaming peripheral of all time, which is hard to believe since the Nintendo Zapper is well over 20 years old at this point. However, despite its age, it has set a precedent that hasn’t been matched by very many others in gaming peripherals.
Its light weight, the simple design, and the oh-so-satisfying “sproing” of the trigger and the springs inside, make the Nintendo Zapper beautiful as well as effective in its simplicity.
Again, I know its weird to laud such an ancient piece of machinery, but I’ve never had any sort of problem with it in the slightest. No need to realign or recalibrate any sort of sensor bar, and no need to swap out batteries or recharge. Sure, its connected by a cord, but its long enough that it really doesn’t inhibit playing Duck Hunt.
My only regret is that the gun wasn’t utilized for too many other games after Duck Hunt. Until I find another gun peripheral that meets my standards, I guess I’ll settle for Time Crisis at the arcades.
Least favorite peripheral: DDR Dance Mat
During my “I must use videogames to get in shape because why not” phase, I decided that playing Dance Dance Revolution was the best course of action. I mean, fusing cardio dance workouts with my competitive gaming mentality — what could possibly go wrong?
The peripheral, of course. The cheap plastic mat may have been the best solution for portability and home use, but it was far from the most effective. I, like many others, like to take off my shoes off when in the comfort of my own home. However, trying to dance on this plastic mat with only socks on is an invitation for a broken hip, not to mention broken pride.
Even worse is when the mat is on a carpet. Half the fun, double the danger. Seriously, I worked more muscles from keeping myself from falling over than from actually playing the game.
And to top it all off, after a while of being rolled up the buttons started to lose their sensitivity, resulting in a fuming and flailing adolescent vainly attempting to complete a song without putting his foot through the pad and subsequently the floor.
- Tom Farndon
Favorite peripheral: DDR Dance Mat
Very few gaming peripherals out there can be considered a life-changing device. The Dance Dance Revolution dance mat easily gets that honor — just look at the hundreds of impressive Youtube videos of people putting that thing to the test, or think back to those days at the arcade on a Friday night where DDR was all the rage.
Dance Dance Revolution was a big part of my social circle back in high school. We would have little DDR parties in our basements, where we would shuffle around the floor trying to pound on the arrows with the right timing.
The pad has its importance in other respects. It was the precursor for several other music peripherals, such as the ones for Guitar Hero, DJ Hero and Rock Band. And you wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spent on those!
Like Tom, I had the cheap plastic dance mat, but some of my friends ponied up the money and got big-boy mats. Nothing can impress a girl like a set of metal dance pads that light up when you stomp on the arrows. And for that, the Dance Dance Revolution dance mat is easily my favorite gaming peripheral.
Pikachu! Get the mushroom! Pikachu.. No.. No, the mushroom..
Hey You! Pikachu was a huge disappointment when I picked it up all those years ago. Being able to talk to a Pikachu? That was a dream come true!
Instead of a great game in which you communicate with an adorable Pokemon, Hey You, Pikachu! gave Nintendo gamers a headache as they screamed into a huge yellow microphone, struggling to get that electric yellow rodent to interact with different objects.
To be fair, I can’t tell if the majority of the issue lied with the microphone or the game itself, but in general the microphone was awkward. It was a giant yellow ball at the end of a stick — no glamour there. I’m sure kids everywhere were yelling directly into this mic in a vain effort to get Pikachu to cooperate.
And if you lost or broke that microphone, there goes the whole notion of playing that game ever again. Hey You, Pikachu! would then remain just a lone, unusable N64 cartridge –never to be played again.