7 Wacky Ways Players Have Controlled Video Game Characters
Controllers are an essential part of gaming. No matter how good a game’s graphics are or how immersive the gameplay is, the controller needs to quickly, comfortably, and accurately relay your input. Over the years, some unique and innovative controllers have been created, with some gamers taking it upon themselves to use controllers in ways not originally intended or to create their own devices. In this article, we round up seven of our favorite weird and wacky controllers that gamers have been experimenting with, including a few repurposed commercial controllers and some innovative, custom-made gamer creations.
1. Using a DK Bongo set to play Dark Souls
The DK Bongo is a controller that was designed to be used with the rhythm-based Donkey Konga series released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube. The controller is shaped like a pair of drums made out of barrels, which match the theme of the Donkey Kong games. It has two “pads” on each side, and each pad contains two parts. It also has a microphone in the center that detects noise, such as clapping.
DK Bongos have far fewer physical inputs than a normal controller, but that did not stop streamer Benjamin “bearzly” Gwin from using the bongos to complete Dark Souls. Gwin spent about a month creating custom software that would allow him to cycle through all of the in-game actions needed to clear Dark Souls, and he did it in less than five and a half hours. That is faster than most players can complete the game with a normal gamepad.
2. Using a steering wheel to play Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
The best steering wheel controllers will take your favorite driving and racing games to the next level. Whether playing Forza or F1, steering wheels will make you feel like you are really in the driver’s seat. Steering wheel controllers typically provide tactile pedals and realistic feedback, making car racing much more enjoyable.
What they will not take to the next level is a third-person, action-adventure hack and slash game like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which is known to be one of the more challenging and intense games of the genre. Nevertheless, a Reddit user named “Cae5ium” effectively used a steering wheel to control Sekiro, the protagonist in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and managed to beat one of the game’s harder early bosses, Genichiro Ashina. Cae5ium used Steam’s big picture mode to bind the USB steering wheel as a game input. He then spent an hour making multiple attempts to defeat the boss, with his final successful attempt captured in the 4-minute YouTube video above.
3. Using a dance Pad to play Elden Ring
The Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) arcade-style dance pad controller for the Nintendo Wii is exactly what it sounds like: a dance pad patterned after the ones attached to the DDR arcade units. With an anti-slip surface on the bottom and combining fun, excitement, and a great workout, the pad was designed to turn users into dancing machines; however, one gamer decided to use the pad to slay a boss in Elden Ring.
Elden Ring, like other FromSoftware games, has a reputation for being an intensely difficult game to beat. The game requires patience and focus, especially when facing area bosses. Malenia, area boss of an optional dungeon area, is widely considered to be one of the most challenging bosses the game has to offer. So that makes Twitch streamer MissMikkaa’s achievement even more astonishing: MissMikkaa managed to beat Malenia by using a dance pad, albeit after 199 attempts over three days.
The following four examples of wacky video game controllers are even more amazing than the last three. These controllers were all custom-made by individuals for playing various games.
4. Using a harp to play Elden Ring
A musically talented Elden Ring player decided to attempt defeating Margit the Fell Omen by using a harp in place of a game controller. Elden Ring and the Lands Between are filled with terrifying bosses, but Margit the Fell Omen sticks out to many players as being a particularly brutal challenge, making this musical gaming feat stand out even more.
Anna Ellsworth is a harpist and vocalist who has won awards and done national tours in the United States, including as part of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses tour. She is also an avid gamer, and in an impressive display of her musical and gaming skills, defeated Margit by using a harp. Ellsworth connected each string with a specific controller input: rolling, attacking, healing, and stopping were all tied to specific notes. A series of three dodges and an attack translated into three A notes and a G.
According to Ellsworth, the hardest part was adjusting for input lag; there was a lag between plucking the string and the controls firing off. Since her triumph against Margit, she has also beaten Dark Souls’ challenging duo Ornstein & Smough using her harp.
5. Using a recorder to play Call of Duty: Warzone
Call of Duty streamer, “DeanoBeano,” went viral after hitting incredible sniper shots while using a drum kit as a controller in Modern Warfare. But most recently, DeanoBean’s weapon of choice has been the recorder (that humble plastic instrument of the flute family), which he used to win a Gulag in Warzone.
DeanoBeano’s recorder allows him to move forwards, left, and right and to aim and shoot, depending on the note played. The player has admitted that successfully hitting the right notes is difficult. Also, the fact that one note corresponds to one key command restricts the movement and shooting capabilities.
Asked in a stream how he did it, DeanoBeano responded:
“So anyone that's wondering how it works. I got two programs. I got a pitch to MIDI converter, and I got a MIDI to keyboard command converter. So, the first one's routed to the second one. So its got a tiny bit of delay, it's not perfect.”
6. Fish playing Pokémon Sapphire and committing credit card fraud
It is almost impossible to find yourself in a no-win scenario in the Pokémon games, because you cannot die and there are no game overs. As such, players can grind their way through the Pokémon games by fighting wild Pokémon and defeating trainers. The Mutekimaru YouTube channel’s innovative approach to playing Pokémon Sapphire for the Nintendo Switch was to use a tank of Betta fish as the game controller. The fish’s movements were tracked by a webcam and linked to each of the Switch’s buttons. As you can probably imagine, the fish do not bring much strategy to the game, and their inputs are completely random, but that doesn’t mean they do not eventually win. The fish successfully finished Pokémon Sapphire in approximately 3000 hours, a feat that would usually take a human player about 30 hours of gameplay to accomplish.
Anyone who has played these games knows they occasionally crash, which is exactly what happened while this team of fish was at the controls. But because their inputs were completely random and they were not being monitored 24/7, instead of starting up Pokémon again, the fish managed to first find their way into the Switch’s settings, and then the eShop, where the console owner’s login and credit card info were saved for easy access. The team of fish managed to add 500 yen (US $3.70) to the console’s eShop account.
7. Potatoes and pomegranates as controllers: Skyrim and Hades
Potato controller for Skyrim
Pomegranate controller for Hades
You were probably not aware that you could exploit the natural electrical conductivity of potatoes in a custom-made controller and use that to play Skyrim. Youtube Robotater was aware. He hooked up a bunch of potato slices to a Makey Makey logic board via simple wires and bound each slice to a corresponding button on a controller, enabling him to play Skyrim, albeit not very well.
Similarly, streamer Dylan “Rudeism” Beck used a pomegranate controller to beat the final boss in Hades. He created the controller by sticking a bunch of wires into 10 slices of a chopped-up pomegranate, hooking each slice up to specific inputs using a Makey Makey circuit board. In Hades, Poms of Power are used to level up your boons, making the choice of fruit particularly apt.
If you find your games need some more challenge, consider using a weird controller like one of those described here to up the ante. Whatever controller you go with, make sure to check out the Xbox Game Pass and see why the Xbox Game Pass is Acer’s official sponsor.
Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.