Evolution of the Console Controller – Virtual Boy Controller (1995)

Designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the Virtual Boy was intended to display “true 3D graphics” via a headset with two monochrome displays. The Virtual Boy’s 3D effects were not the same as later 3D capable consoles. Virtual Boy games were often essentially 2D, having players switch between a few preset “distances” from the camera rather than actually allowing full 3D control.

The controller borrows from both the Nintendo and Super Nintendo controller designs and features two digital D-Pads, one each on the right and left, intended to provide enhanced control in 3D. The rounded handles, Start and Select buttons located next to the left directional pad, and six AA battery pack in its back were oddities in an already odd console concept.

Poor video quality and lackluster games doomed the console to a short lifespan, but the Virtual Boy’s legacy far outlived the console itself. The Virtual Boy’s controller was the first with two directional pads. Also, while the earlier NES Max and PlayStation controllers introduced handgrips, the Virtual Boy’s handgrips were far more exaggerated. Both of these features would be imported into the Nintendo 64 controller, and the dual directional pads would be included – in analog form – in Sony’s later Playstation Dual Analog controller. While the Virtual Boy itself was not a success, its controller is heavily reflected in later designs.

Up to D-Pad Era – Back to Sega Genesis – Forward to Analog Era

Gift of Ben Wilhelm, 2012.025.007