Controllers for my PC emulation machine!!
June 21, 2008 1:03 PM   Subscribe

What's the best USB controller to use when emulating old games on my PC?

It needs to support NES, SNES, and Genesis emulators. The button configuration doesn't need to be perfect. Cheap is best, because I'll be purchasing two. Links, advice, tutorials, anecdotes, and snark welcome. I'm running Windows XP Pro on a Macbook Pro. (Heresy!)

♣ Bonus points if it supports MAME, PSX, or N64.
posted by theiconoclast31 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You mean a game pad / "playstation controller"?

In my (limited) experience you plug in the controller and it appears as a 'game controller' that Windows handles the interface for - so all game controllers should work with all games.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:43 PM on June 21, 2008

Best answer: Call me crazy, but the classic SNES controller does it best.

There are plenty of sites out there that provide detailed instructions on how to convert a SNES controller to a USB device. Here's a video. This site sells parts. Here's a SNES controller USB converter box.

If you'd rather buy than DIY, you can do that too. This is a USB RetroPort. Buying a SNES controller to use with these will be no problem.
posted by baphomet at 1:47 PM on June 21, 2008

Best answer: Back when emulation first started, I bought a Microsoft Sidewinder pad, and I use it to this very day. It's a remarkably sturdy and comfy controller and does its job quite nicely.

Only problem is that MS discontinued the Sidewinders back in 2003. You could probably pick up a cheap one on ebay if you had a look. If you can, I recommend the original pad (the one pictured at the top of the wikipedia article I linked to) over the newer versions, just because I think it's sturdier and as I said, it's comfy and the thing has lasted me over 10 years.

Failing that, I understand you can buy USB dongles that allow you to hook up XBox controllers to your PC, so maybe that's an option too?
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2008

Best answer: I recently purchased one of these for just this purpose, and I'm pretty happy with it.
posted by Zach! at 2:21 PM on June 21, 2008

Best answer: I got a Playstation to USB adapter and use a PS2 controller for emulated games. The button layout matches SNES games perfectly, and there are extra buttons and sticks for more modern games.
posted by zsazsa at 2:23 PM on June 21, 2008

Best answer: If you'd rather not have to do a bunch of DIY hacking or ordering clapped out old controllers off potentially dodgy websites, just buy an Xbox 360 Wired Controller. This works automatically with Windows, and therefore with any emulator, and has the added bonus that because it's made by MS, a lot of newer, modern games support it too.

They actually make another controller called the Xbox 360 Controller for Windows which is the standard wireless controller with a USB dongle. If you already have the wireless controller (for example if you have an Xbox 360) I believe you can just buy the dongle separately, too.
posted by jon4009 at 2:33 PM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I tried a few cheap USB game controllers but I could never get the directional pads to work properly with my (original) NES emulator. Then I realized that these cheap USB controllers had 8 directions on their pads (up, down, left, right, 4*diagonals) and that the original NES controller had only 4.

I ended up buying a Wii-mote since that has a 4-way pad, and can also be used on friends' Wiis in addition to on my emulators.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 2:36 PM on June 21, 2008

Best answer: The venerable Logitech Dual Action and the probably-discontinued Belkin Nostromo are both pretty good, but I think the 360 controller is better (slightly more expensive, though). A PS2 controller, with a PS2-to-USB adapter, isn't a bad choice either. The X-Arcade stuff is pricier, but it's also really, really nice--probably not what you want for a laptop setup, though.

That said, it depends a little on what you're trying to emulate. Lots of games really benefit from having an analog joystick, but just as many work better with a d-pad. Fighting games, and six-button Genesis games, cry out for an arcade stick. If there's a game/genre/system/whatnot that's your favorite, or one you can't do without, be sure to keep these game-specific considerations in mind. And if you're going to be playing SNES games all the time, you might be happiest with a pair of SNES controllers.
posted by box at 3:27 PM on June 21, 2008

Best answer:,en
Logitech Dual Action. Best.Gamepad.Ever.
posted by PowerCat at 5:11 PM on June 22, 2008

Best answer: Definitely seconding the Logitech Dual Action. It takes a few minutes to learn the quirks (like the above mentioned 4 versus 8 directions). But I found that works quite nicely.
posted by gjc at 5:08 PM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: I bought four of these when I built a HTPC that I dual purposed for emulation/gaming. They've held up well (going on 2 years), and are cheap enough that you can buy 4 for what you'd spend on 2 others. If price isn't an issue, then i'd second jon in picking up a wired USB XBox 360 controller.
posted by richter_x at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: I also have the logitech dual action but mine is wireless and its the cats pajamas.
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:57 AM on June 24, 2008

Best answer: Umm so my supercheap solution was the Logitech Precision which works with NES1, SNES, Genesis, MAME. But the store only had ONE controller so I will probably get something else later (likely a Dual Action or Sidewinder). But from reading the responses, it looks like there are many good options.

1. To get it to work with NES emulators, you need to install the latest Logitech drivers.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2008

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