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The top videogame controller buttons - Part 1

Back before you were a gamer, we didn’t have the multi-button, clickable-thumbstick, solar-powered controller gizmos you have today. We used to have to invite friends over and work together to push down the A-button because it was too stiff to move on our own. If we were lucky, we’d get two, maybe three good presses in before it got stuck and Mario just had to hope the rest of the level was flat. We could try to un-stuck it with a little controller grease, but controller grease was expensive and there wasn’t much around back then. Most of the time, a stuck controller meant you had to go back to Nintendo, all the way in Japan, and get a new one. There were no airplanes and the controllers weighed about 100 pounds, but we still gave them four-out-of-five thumbs up.


Above: Did you know? An interesting, possibly made-up fact about the button 

We don’t want to scare you by going back too far into button history, so we limited our selection. These are our favorites, the most influential and the best buttons since the Nintendo Entertainment System first appeared in our living rooms in 1985, when we threw away all our old consoles made of rocks and Super Glue.


A-button - Nintendo Entertainment System – 1985

(North American release dates are used in this article)

The granddaddy of all A-buttons, the NES A-button is red. The iconic device has a healthy amount of push to it and is easy to identify on the controller’s face because of its color and easily read label, “A.” Any accidental mix-ups with its sister button, the B-button, tend to be quickly resolvable once the player realizes that if the button he or she is pressing isn’t working, it’s probably the other one. There are only two.

Our only major caveat with this button is that it has a tendency to get itself stuck in the pressed position, usually during a key boss fight or last second jump over a pit at the end of the level.

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C-button - Sega Genesis/Mega Drive – 1989

This was Sega’s response to the question to which gamers had been demanding an answer: “What happens when we’ve attacked, jumped and we need to do something else?” That’s where the C-button came in. It took what controllers were doing and, with brash disregard for the rich tradition of button management, they added a third thumb-button. The C-button increased total button output by up to 50 percent, prompting each subsequent generation of controller to add more buttons than the last (with few exceptions) and leaving the thumbs-to-buttons ratio forever changed.

Needless to say, many of the more casual NES gamers didn’t know what to make of the C-button. Some gamers’ dexterity failed to catch up with the technology, and they were left twiddling their thumbs, unable to press the correct button – forever lost to Darwinism.


Above: Just looking at all the buttons on this thing makes our heads hurt 

Those who successfully adapted knew the “C” was the outlying button on the right side of the controller. It replaced the A-button as the new “farthest to the right.”  And it wasn’t until several years later, when the Neo Geo came out, that we’d see anything like it again.

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64 comments

  • inSovietRussiaDatesRecallBrettElston - April 6, 2011 12:44 a.m.

    i remember eagerly anticipating a part 2 and then getting super disappointed that it never happened
  • KrazyGamer - February 14, 2011 1:46 a.m.

    Funny Article.
  • coolbeans - October 26, 2009 9:28 p.m.

    i hit my screen when i saw that big red button...
  • Hydrohs - October 26, 2009 2:27 a.m.

    I read this article before reading the author, and the writing style seemed so familiar; then I finally looked at who the author was and everything made sense.
  • super0sonic - October 25, 2009 6:59 a.m.

    Wow this was really interesting in a silly way. I hope to see a Part 2
  • Phazon117 - October 24, 2009 4:54 p.m.

    "We’ve pushed it several times, and encountered no difficulties whatsoever." It's comments like this that make the article so god damn enjoyable.
  • CAPST3R - October 24, 2009 8:40 a.m.

    @nadrewood999: the alphabet's made up of 26 letters, not 26 words. you're even more gramatically incorrect than the article! BTW GR, you forgot two tiiiny little buttons... THE ANALOGUE STICKS AND THE ANALOGUE CLICKS! lol, that rhymed. and the l2 button is used in nearly every game you morons, what are you talking about?
  • Willy105 - October 24, 2009 1:51 a.m.

    This article fails for having the Playstation controller more than one time, and fails even harder for not having the best one of all time: The N64's Z button. OF ALL TIME.
  • Kytl - October 24, 2009 1:05 a.m.

    wheres the Z button? thats my favorite button after the A button
  • secretsearcher - October 22, 2009 8:30 p.m.

    You guys have waaaaaay too much time on your hands. But I will say this. The X button on the Gamecube should have recieved some recognition. It would be very hard to stay alive in Smash Bros. if you couldn't jump. (p.s. I know you CAN jump by flicking up on the control stick, but really, no one does that.)
  • bilstar - October 22, 2009 7:37 p.m.

    Great article.
  • Claymore17 - October 22, 2009 6:57 p.m.

    paul ryan??? whhaaattt?? isn't that the really deep voice guy that says "that's pretty funny" on tdar? i thought he left gamesradar
  • rxb - October 22, 2009 1:05 p.m.

    Strange article. Also you can turn as 360 by pressing the disc tray button.
  • AHolyMonk - October 22, 2009 1:49 a.m.

    Excellent Article! I did notice the absence of the Intellivision controller wheel, the granddaddy of all modern analog sticks. What a beautiful mix of form and function, no?
  • JoeMasturbaby - October 21, 2009 9:36 p.m.

    "(“O-G”) mouse button,..." HAHAHAHAHAHA great article, O-G buttons fo lyfe!
  • TheHolyHandGrenade - October 21, 2009 8:41 p.m.

    Great artical! never seen somone spend four pages on controller buttons before!
  • THEBIGJ3 - October 21, 2009 7:34 p.m.

    Great read! Very informative! haha! Being left handed though, I've never used the W button on the keyboard for forward, not once, so the UPARROW key get's my vote there, and the zero on the number pad for those all-important, super-accessible, Call-Of-Duty, little-finger reloads... Also another lefty issue with the mouse: "You may be familiar with this button already, but if not, have a look at your right hand’s index finger. There should be a left button directly underneath." However the left button is, as you suggest, quite legendary. No button under here, just a beer. :-D
  • bloodyshadow - October 21, 2009 6:45 p.m.

    This was absolutely hilarious! Great job, as usual Mr. Ryan.
  • TreeWhale - October 21, 2009 6:38 p.m.

    I am a Whale And i live in a tree but squirrels don't like me because i am in a tree I am a Whale
  • MagicalSarai - October 21, 2009 5:55 p.m.

    I anticate and eagerly await the second part of this article.

Showing 1-20 of 64 comments

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