Evolution of the Console Controller – Sega Saturn 3D Controller (1995)

Sega’s Saturn game console was released with a controller very similar to the Genesis’ six-button controller; the only difference was the addition of shoulder buttons. The controller was not well suited to 3D gaming. Two years after Saturn’s debut, Nintendo’s analog stick equipped N64 was being released, and Sega needed to compete in 3D analog controls. The Saturn 3D controller, a heavily modified Saturn controller, was Sega’s answer. The 3D controller is much larger than the previous Saturn controllers, replaces the shoulder buttons with analog shoulder triggers, and most importantly features an analog stick.

The 3D controller was packed with copies of NiGHTS into DREAMS… (1996), the Saturn’s flagship 3D analog game developed by Sonic Team. The game was produced alongside the controller and does an excellent job showing off the controller’s analog capabilities. NiGHTS is the Saturn’s best selling game and frequently makes lists of the best platformers of all time.

Though the Saturn was not a commercial success for Sega, the Saturn 3D controller does illustrate the need for analog controls in 3D games, the difficulty the games industry had in transferring from 2D to 3D controls, and the simultaneous evolution of controls and games.

Up to Analog Era – Back to Nintendo 64 – Forward to Sony PlayStation DualShock

Gift of Ben Wilhelm, 2012.025.008