Retro USB Controllers for NES/SNES/Saturn
November 26, 2013 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a quality build of classic console controllers with USB.

I'm setting up a retropie installation for emulators and I would like to get appropriate controllers. I've bought a few off of Amazon and been disappointed with them (they look right, but do not feel right). Unfortunately, there are tons of different old controllers that all seem to have about the same score in the reviews.

I know somewhere out there, people are making / converting classic controllers, but I'm not sure how to find them. Like the title says, I'm specifically looking for NES/SNES and Saturn (best D-pad ever!) controllers, but I would be willing to check out other models.

I'm more concerned with quality than cost.
posted by lkc to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unless you want a specific controller that you know for a fact is quality, you're always better off with an adapter/converter than you are with a controller. Making an existing controller work on USB is a lot easier to do, technically, than making a new one, so there are many, many less places where they can fuck it up. The biggest issue you'll encounter with adapters is lag and misaligned buttons (e.g. hitting "B" actually hits "A".)

I have heard very good things about RetroPort adapters. Definitely better than anything I've heard about contemporarily-made third-party NES/SNES/etc. controllers.

Saturn is a little trickier. I haven't seen anything as established as RetroPort's adapters for it, but adapters do exist if you check eBay and Amazon. If you know anyone who does electronics for fun, you might even be able to commission someone to convert a regular Saturn controller to a USB one.
posted by griphus at 10:48 AM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just in case you've somehow missed them in your search: Sega made (or licensed) official USB Saturn controllers a few years ago. I have one, and it's great for my purposes. You can still pick them up on eBay.
posted by Magnakai at 10:54 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Careful with those; eBay is replete with cheap Chinese knockoffs and even the sellers can't always tell the difference.

However, I have heard of people gutting regular Saturn controllers and replacing the circuitboard inside with the one from a cheap controller they got on eBay.
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A couple of threads on the Hardware subforum of discussing the USB Saturn pads Magnakai is talking about.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:58 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: From the first link Bangaioh posted, this is EXACTLY the one I am looking for. I only saw the official USB ones that a friend of a friend got in Akihabara many years ago. Its actually the original control with the weird shift buttons (later models changed them). Also, its the nice black color instead of the ugly white / blue remake.

I'm now kicking myself because I have actually had several official pads that either I donated to my friends console collection, or threw away the last time I moved.
posted by lkc at 11:37 AM on November 26, 2013

Best answer: I would also second using a converter or just purchasing an existing Saturn controller and soldering on a USB connector (if you want to bring one over I can still solder pretty well).

I'm curious about your setup; I'm assuming you are plugging into these controllers into a USB hub and then toggling them via the software is this accurate?
posted by proneSMK at 11:46 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: lkc: I bought one of those SLS pads a few years ago on eBay and while I've had no issues with it so far (the D-pad seems as good as the original Saturn controller's from what I can tell), I hardly ever used it as I very rarely play videogames on a PC so I don't know how it holds up to a genuine Saturn pad after heavy usage.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:21 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: nthing the adapter/real controller. The build quality of those is just so much higher, even if they're 20+ years old. The current ones are thrown together as fast and cheap as they can be for a niche market.
posted by gregoryg at 2:54 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, you are all absolutely totally right: I should just use the real thing.

I'm going to go dig up some old controllers and get a converter.

I contributed all my old console stuff to a friends classic console collection. We're a few states away now, but I'll shake him down for it next time I see him. Until then, ill just cruise the internet.

Thanks for the answers, folks!
posted by lkc at 12:45 AM on November 27, 2013

Response by poster: If anyone is still checking this:
I got 2 of the white sega branded re-issues off of ebay. They are white with the blue buttons, but I've been playing through emulators and they are _fantastic_. I'm not ditching my wired 360 controller for modern stuff, but its great to feel the old muscle memory working and having the game respond properly.
posted by lkc at 12:18 AM on December 12, 2013

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