The definitive list of the worst controller buttons of all time

Getty Images / Kieran Walsh

Late last year, the WIRED office went into meltdown in an argument over the best video game controller buttons of all time. Those were halcyon days – a more optimistic time, when everything was looking up, and we weren’t spending every single evening on the sofa tethered to our games console. The controllers we once loved have become more like a prison, and so now we’ve pulled together our ranking of the worst video game controller buttons of all time. Because why not.

The PS3’s DualShock 3 triggers

Cheap. Mushy. Squishy. Bad. And why did they slant inwards rather than outwards? The L2 and R2 triggers on the DualShock 3 were so reviled they created a secondary market in “trigger caps” – a futile attempt to fix the unfixable. First, the mushiness. A good trigger should make you feel like you’re performing a decisive action – whether you’re shooting or accelerating, the feedback needs to be just right. On the DualShock 3, firing a gun felt like pulling a trigger made of jam. And the inwards slant of the button also made it needlessly hard to find and press. That combination makes these vile little chunks of mushy spring and ill-shaped plastic the most abominable buttons to ever adorn a DualShock controller. James Temperton

The N64’s left shoulder button

It’s not that the left shoulder button (L) on the N64 controller was a bad button – it was fine. It was just pointless. The three-pronged controller design made it a third wheel in a salacious tryst between the stout, reliable R and the exciting, dangerous and titillating Z-trigger – a glorious button immortalised by this publication not long ago. Z and R hung out in fashionable bars downtown while L stood outside in the rain, wondering what it ever did to anger the gaming gods so much. “What did I do wrong, Shigeru? Senpai!” Andy Vandervell

(Almost) every button on the original Xbox controller

Nicknamed ‘The Duke’, the original Xbox controller is an infamous misstep in gaming history. Its oversized design was hated by most gamers and it also possessed one of the all-time worst D-Pads. Still, we’re here for the buttons and boy were there some wrong ‘uns here. The four main A, B, X and Y buttons were needlessly slanted, which made it needlessly hard to move from A (at the bottom) to Y (at the top). Accidentally hitting B, inexplicably directly above A, was a regular occurrence and all the buttons were pill shaped because, what, it looked cool? Who knows. The coup de grâce was the extra white and black buttons, marooned so far up the controller they may as well not have existed. Honestly, what a shower. AV

The PS4’s Share button

The PlayStation controller is like a crocodile – it’s remained pretty much unchanged through years of evolution because the designers nailed its shape and format the first time around. But the arrival of the DualShock 4 brought unnecessary embellishments, and wrecked the beautiful efficiency of earlier models. First, there’s that touch pad, which you’re far more likely to press by accident in most games than for anything you might want to do on purpose (although maybe this can be blamed on a lack of creativity from developers). But the biggest crime is the ‘Share’ button – a thing that can only be useful for the tiny (but admittedly growing) percentage of players trying to make it as professional streamers. Physical buttons should be reserved for important things – we’re all for social features, but replacing ‘Share’ with a button that mutes your online opponent would have been much more useful. Amit Katwala

The Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen

Want to understand how bad the Wii U’s touchscreen was? Put it next to a Nintendo Switch. The Switch looks like a console. The Wii U looks like the hellish lovechild of a Fisher-Price toy and some god-awful customer service system developed by Hewlett Packard in 2005. Central to the Wii U’s failure as a console was its biggest selling-point: the touchscreen. With a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels it looked horrid. It was also hidden behind a cheap, blurry hunk of plastic, which both compounded how bad it looked and made using it accurately as a touchscreen nigh-on impossible. It was as if Nintendo had looked at an iPad and said: “Yes, that. But make it utterly horrible”. JT

The Turbo button on a Mad Catz controller

The horror. You’d been so clear in your instructions – right down to circling the specific, official controller you wanted in the Argos catalogue. But there it was, Christmas morning – and you were staring at a cheap replica. Sure, you could finally play multiplayer – but was it really worth the shame? MadCatz controllers were all wrong: the buttons were all askew, they didn’t have the right level of springiness, and even that cool see-through plastic that let you see the wiring inside wasn’t enough to prevent a full on fight to avoid having to use them. Worst of all were the extra buttons that they squeezed in – we were never entirely clear on what the ‘Turbo’ button was actually for, but its very existence was a reminder you were playing on an un-level playing field. (Other knock-off controller brands are available). AK

The Xbox 360’s D-Pad

Just as rubbish controllers can hide great buttons, so too can great controllers suffer from one heinous addition: enter stage left the Xbox 360’s lumbering plastic beast of a “D-Pad”. Microsoft adopted the classical crosshair design and mashed it onto an oversized joystick. Loose and unresponsive, it rendered games that required precise eight-directional input, like Street Fighter, totally unplayable. Five years into the console’s life cycle, Microsoft would update the controller with a new and improved “transforming” D-Pad, which remained rubbish. Will Bedingfield

The C-Stick on the GameCube

The GameCube controller (like the GameCube) is unfairly maligned by jealous haters – yes, it looked like a plastic prize you retrieve with a vending machine claw, but it was smooth and robust and comfortable, and the shaped buttons were ugly but ergonomically sensible. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Unfortunately, your right thumb spent at least some of the time away from said buttons and on that awful yellow nub, the C-Stick. It appeared like the beginning of a button, a prepubescent button. As a result, playing shooter classics like Timesplitters 2 on the GameCube was a painful jabby ordeal – for shame! WB

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