How To Build A USB SNES Controller For The PC, iPad, And PS3 - Part 1: Background

20 Nov 2012

Let's just cut to the chase: The Super Nintendo had one fine controller. Four face buttons arranged in the shape of a diamond, shoulder buttons, two menu buttons, and a directional pad. Whether Nintendo meant to or not, their controller set the standard for gaming input devices for decades to come. Despite the fact that today's controllers have analog sticks, motion controls, and touch screens, you can still clearly see the SNES's influence at work.

Despite all our advances in technology, there are certain things that Super Nintendo's controller actually does better than modern controllers. Platformers, fighting games, or anything else that requires precise, split second controls generally suffers on today's first-person shooter oriented controllers. Beyond that, there's nothing like replying the classics as they were meant to be played. Games like Super Mario World loose some of their charm when you're forced to mash away at a bulky 360 controller.

So, short of dusting off your SNES, how is a gamer supposed to keep using the SNES controller? Well, it turns out that this isn't a novel question. Realizing the SNES controller's popularity, Club Nintendo of Japan actually put out a replica SNES controller for the Wii. It was a limited release, and fetches a pretty penny on eBay and other sites. There's a pretty close facsimile of it up on ThinkGeek for $20 however.

Those are all recreations though, what if you want to use the real McCoy? It turns out that question has been asked many times as well. There's a plethora of SNES to USB adapters out there, ready and waiting to let you play emulators on your PC with your authentic SNES controller. I'm particularly fond of the RetroZone adapter, but there are some cheaper dual controller adapters out there. RetroZone also has a SNES to Gamecube adapter, which is particularly handy for playing legitimate Wii Virtual Console games with an authentic controller.

So, there you have it, a simple way of using an SNES controller on modern hardware. Dongles are a simple, cheap, straightforward method that 99% of people out there will be perfectly happy with. If you're catching onto the theme of this blog however, you'll realize that I'm about to ask: What if you don't want to use a dongle? What if you want to turn an SNES controller into a 100% USB device?

It turns out that question is also one which has been answered many times. In fact, people are starting to get clever now. There are guides for how to make a USB SNES controller with a motion sensor, a USB controller with an integrated flash drive, or even just into straight up Bluetooth controller. Hacking something with an SNES controller is practically an electronics hobbyist rite of passage. If you're just looking to turn your SNES controller into a USB controller for your PC, I once again highly recommend looking into RetroZone's RetroKit. It's simple, straightforward, and comes with everything you need. If you've got the most minimal amount of soldering skills, you can pull it off.

So, point made, plugging a SNES controller into a PC via USB isn't exactly an untrod path. The Wii doesn't allow USB controllers, but as we saw above, there are plenty of solutions for getting a Super Nintendo controller to work on your Wii. So what about the PS3? Nice try, someone's done that as well. I've exhausted my title now, right? SNES to iPad. That's new! That's novel! Right? Well... technically. Someone's already made a homebrew NES to iPad adapter. Adding SNES support to the theory behind a NES adapter isn't exactly groundbreaking work.

So why am I bothering to write this guide? What new cards am I putting on the table?

I'm going to do three controllers in one, and an integrated flash drive to boot. Welcome to my USB SNES Controller for the PC, iPad, and PS3 how-to. The four parts to this guide can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

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