Evolution of the Console Controller – Sega Genesis Controller (1988), 6-Button Controller (1993)

The Sega Genesis controller was only a mild upgrade from the previous Sega Master System controller. The Genesis controller added one action button and a start button, for a total of three action buttons, start, and a D-Pad. Later in the 16 bit era, Sega released a version of the controller with six action buttons, likely in response to Nintendo’s six action button SNES controller and the demands of arcade games ported to the console. Street Fighter II on the Genesis could not be paused with the three button controller because start was used (awkwardly) to switch between kicks and punches, leaving no button for pausing. The later controller also added a Mode button to switch compatible games into six button mode.

The Genesis controller enabled gameplay similar to the controllers immediately before it and worked well with established 2D tropes. More buttons allowed for more input and slightly more complexity without a radical change in capabilities. Games had difficulty advancing beyond the D-Pad. Sonic 3D Blast (1996) used an isometric viewpoint to achieve quasi-3D graphics, but the camera angle forced players to use diagonals on the D-Pad as primary input directions. The frustrating controls served to illustrate that D-Pads were not ideal for 3D.

Up to D-Pad Era – Back to Super Nintendo Entertainment System – Forward to Virtual Boy

Gift of Ben Wilhelm, 2012.025.005, 2012.025.006