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The five most controller-wrecking games ever

4:00 PM on 05.14.2010 // Conrad Zimmerman

Controllers, the means by which we exert our will on the worlds inside our games, need to be durable. Constant clicking, flicking, pressing and tugging is going to cause wear on anything and, in the long term, your controllers are probably going to stop working some day.

There are some games, however, that put a level of strain on them that borders on abuse. Join me as we look at five games that can wreck your controllers just by playing them.

Mario Party

The Mario Party series is fantastic good fun, but when I asked my compatriots at Destructoid for their opinions in regards to the topic of games physically detrimental to the lives of our controllers, the first Mario Party was instantly suggested. In specific, the "Fly Guy" minigame, which you can see video of above.

In "Fly Guy," players rotate the analog stick on the N64 controller as fast as they can in a limited amount of time. The more revolutions you can make, the more an adorable Fly Guy gets wound up, allowing it to fly further distances. But all of that spinning really takes its toll on the analog stick, which ends up losing all resistance.

Eventually, the only thing it's really good for at all is playing "Fly Guy" as it loosely spins around. Funny how often we see peripherals that are made for only one game, yet this one does the reverse and makes a universal control system into a specific one.

Dant's Inferno

Dante's Inferno

Visceral's recent tour of the underworld is all about punishment of misdeeds. Ironic, then, that the torment the game lays out on unwitting controllers is down to trying to be a nice guy.

In Dante's Inferno, there are two special types of experience which can be earned through play: Holy and Unholy. Each unlocks their own assortment of special abilities and magic powers and are vital to success in the later chapters of the game. Gaining Unholy experience is easy, with a quick grab usually followed by a simplistic quick-time event.

Absolution, fittingly, is much harder. Maybe "harder" is the wrong word. "Tedious" may be more appropriate, as scoring that Holy experience almost invariably requires you to hammer on a button until the game decides that you've done enough and awards you the points. Considering that you'll have to kill hundreds upon hundreds of enemies in this way to earn every Holy ability and it's just a matter of time before you have one less functioning button on your controller.

Activision Decathalon

The Activision Decathalon

Over the years, many games which have featured running events choose to demonstrate the exhausting physical effort by having the player wiggle a joystick back and forth. Needless to say, this eventually has a detrimental effect on the hardware.

But The Activision Decathlon stands out because it is literally nothing but running. Even events that didn't feature running, like Shot Put and Discus Throw, still had you winding up in the same way. It is literally nothing but painful seizing of the muscles combined with plastic components slamming into one another repeatedly throughout.

God forbid you attempt to run the full series of events non-stop. Either your arm or your controller is likely to be out of commission once you're done.

Rock Band

Rock Band

It's one thing when a game is hard on a standard controller. They're used to play practically everything on a system and are already subject to some wear before some of these other games have a chance to do some serious damage. But when an accessory is designed specifically for the purposes of playing a single game and still manages to break? That's serious.

Ask anyone who's had a drum kit from the original Rock Band and they'll probably tell you that they either don't play the game very much or that they've had to replace their kick pedal. Harmonix didn't anticipate the ridiculous level of abuse the accessory would be taking and pedals around the world quickly began to snap in twain.

Is some of that damage down to how people play the game instead of the game itself? Sure it is. But it goes to show how one weak link in design can bring a whole device down.


Pac-Man (Atari 2600)

Pac-Man is a legendary game, but the Atari 2600 port of the classic maze-muncher had some real issues. With only a quarter of the memory used in the arcade board to work with and a six week development time, that was probably to be expected. That port wound up making the maze have sharper corners and had the titular character munching on wafers instead of dots all in the name of getting the game to work on inferior hardware.

That's not the only change that came, though. Pac also has a bad attitude, occasionally disregarding instructions from its lord and master, the player. As if the Atari controller wasn't a stiff, unforgiving piece of hardware already, just getting Pac-man to do what you want him to quickly is an exercise in frustration. 

The uncertainty, that's what kills controllers. Pac-man's lack of response often resulted in players cranking the sticks as hard as they could. The sound of plastic cracking and grinding together was a common one for players of this game, a sure sign that you and your controller are about to part ways.

Conrad Zimmerman, Moustache
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An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. He can be heard on the comedy podcast () and str... more   |   staff directory

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