Ask yourself this question: what is the most important part of any video game system? Is it the console? The games? The AC Adaptor? Okay, it's probably not that last one. No, the answer is the controller. It might not seem like it, but those plastic buttons and D-pads are your only physical link to all of your favorite game worlds. They're what makes the game an interactive experience and not just some sort of pixelated movie.
So naturally, as games have become more and more complex, so too have their controllers. The earliest arcade games only needed a directional stick and maybe a button to shoot. (looking at you, Centipede.) Even by the time the NES rolled around, a grand total of four buttons proved more than enough to accommodate even the most cutting edge titles. So when the 16-bit era of gaming began, companies weren't really prepared for the single biggest leap in gaming controller development.
Street Fighter 2 changed everything!
When Capcom unleashed Street Fighter 2 onto arcades, they created the biggest hit since Pac-Man. Street Fighter 2 arcade cabinets were everywhere! Malls, restaurants, airports; you could not escape this game, if you lived through the 90s. Naturally, every gaming console wanted in on the action, and it wasn't long before Street Fighter 2 was ported to the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, and even Commodore 64!
There was just one problem. Street Fighter 2 was an arcade game that featured an unprecedented SIX buttons. This meant that the Sega Genesis' three button controller was all but useless when playing the fast-paced fighter. The Super Nintendo controller was barely up to the task, even with its added shoulder buttons. For the first time ever, gamers across the world, across platforms, were all demanding a new kind of controller that could meet the demands of these new games.
Initially, 3rd party developers like ASCii were the first to respond. But, it didn't take long for Sega to revamp their design. By 1993, six-button controllers were rapidly becoming the company's new standard. And soon after that both Sega and Nintendo had released their own enormous fight sticks to perfectly emulate the arcade experience: the Arcade Power Stick and SNES Super Advantage.
Since 93, the standard video game controller has developed to feature a truly mind-boggling six face buttons, four shoulder buttons, D-pad, and two joysticks so that it can handle just about any game imaginable. However, there was never a shift as sudden or dramatic as the original six-button revolution. It was the controller evolution that paved the way for all that followed it.
How many of you enjoyed the experience of finally being able to enjoy games like Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat the way they were meant to be played? How many of you just like having twice as many buttons to mess around with? As always, let me know in the comments!