Nintendo Wii Classic Controller Alternatives

April 10th, 2008

wii classic controller

Some time ago I posted my thoughts on Hard Copy Collection Vs Digital Distribution. Although there are pros and cons for each, I myself still remain stuck in my ways as a hard copy collector. One of the reasons being the issues with playing retro games on a controller designed for modern gaming.

The Wii’s Virtual Console is the digital distribution service for old school gaming, unfortunately Nintendo’s mish-mash of previous controllers; the Classic Controller can detract from the overall retro experience. So I’ve been looking around for some good alternatives. Heres what I found:

The Obvious Choices

GameCube Pad/WaveBird

I’m sure everyone knows this by now; so I will quickly go through the motions. You don’t need to recycle your old, faithful Gamecube pads as they can be also reused to play your favourite Virtual Console and Gamecube games as well as a whole bunch of Wii titles.

With this you can also take advantage of the Gamecube’s excellent wireless WaveBird pad. If you don’t already own one of these controllers then chances are you’ll have a hard time finding one. Nintendo ceased production of WaveBirds over a year ago and thanks to the Wii’s run away success, the demand for WaveBirds has also increased despite the number low Wavebird numbers. But don’t fear as there is an alternative to the WaveBird which I shall get to later.

The GameCube pad is great for Nintendo 64 titles in fact it’s probably superior than the N64 controller as the Gamecube’s dual analogue sticks lack the grindy feel of the N64’s. The N64 controller essentially has three main buttons (A,B and Z) which translates well onto the Gamecube’s 4 face buttons. The only disadvantage for N64 games may be the Gamecube’s shoulder triggers. The N64’s triggers are soft and light, conversely the Gamecube’s triggers are large and springy. This nuisance depends on the game at hand though as few N64 titles utilized the shoulder buttons.

The overwhelming majority of Virtual Console games aren’t 3D which is where things get a little frustrating. The Gamecube’s D-pad is just downright awkward for these games so you’ll have to toss up whether you want to use an analogue stick for 2D games. Personally I love using analogue sticks for 2D fighters to avoid blisters from all of those quarter circles but for other games like RPGs and platformers, where direct position movement feel more natural, it can feel a little odd.

Where to Buy?

GameCube Pads can easily be found online at eBay or at local pawn shops.

Arcade Sticks

I’ve spoken about Wii arcade sticks before in my Reliving an Authentic Arcade Experience on the Wii article. Just like before there are still only a handful of sticks available on the market. Primarily the two major players are the Hori Fighting Stick and the Wii Neo Geo Stick 2, the latter of which is yet to be released). Both of these sticks are essentially Wii iterations of previously released PS2 arcade sticks. The Hori Fighting Stick currently retails for $49.99 while the Wii Neo Geo Stick 2 is set for roughly $70.

wii arcade sticks

On the other hand there is also the Wii Shaft which is a slightly cheaper alternative to the other two. The Wii Shaft is in limited supply and must be ordered, it retails for $40 and is the cheapest of the three sticks. I’m not a fan of the overally simplistic design of this stick unlike the other two it lacks a certain spark which gives it an overall cheap, generic look. You can find some video of the Wii Shaft here.

More Information
Hori Fighting Stick

Wii Neo Geo Stick 2

Wii Shaft

Unlikely Alternatives

The GameBoy Player Controller

The GameBoy Player Controller was released by Hori several years ago with the intention to be played with GameBoy Player games. I’m sure that you’ll all agree that this looks much more suited for SNES games on the Virtual Console, purely because of the controller’s shape and button layout. I think that this controller is probably the best option for 2D games on the Virtual Console. In fact seeing this makes me question why other peripheral makers haven’t decided to make their own VC controllers modeled after the original controllers.

gae boy player controller hori

The only feature that appears to detract from the SNES design is the right hand button layout which is derived from the Gamecube pad. Even the curved bump underneath the buttons is present. The controller comes in two colours (Black and Indigo) which are intended to match the Gamecube’s original two colors.Unfortunately as of time of writing there was only one available through Amazon at the price of $49.95 which is a terrible price considering this originally retailed for $14.99. Look around.

More Information

The GameBoy Player Controller

Playstation 2 Controller

Last generation there were a surprising high number of adapters released for the Gamecube which would allow for you to use your Playstation 2 controller over the original Gamecube pad. The Playstation controller is one of the industry’s most iconic controllers and one of the reasons for this is because it works well for both 2D and 3D games which makes it a suitable controller for the Virtual Console.

On my search, I could only find three adapters which were the:

And out of those the Cube Joybox appears to be the most well received. You can still buy it from Play-Asia, eBay and other online retailers for around $8-10. Unfortunately I could not find any of the other two for sale online.

As for the Playstation 2 pad itself as I was saying it is very iconic. Unlike the Gamecube pad which favors particular styles of games the Playstation 2 pad is a one size fits all pad. All buttons are well balanced and comfortable. There may be some problems in configuring the button set up for certain games as you have to match the Gamecube and Playstation 2 buttons.

Cube Joybox Information



IGN Review

Thrustmaster T-Wireless NW

Thrustmaster T-Wireless NWAs previously mentioned Nintendo ceased production of the wireless Wavebird controller which has left some new Wii owners out in the dark as pre-owned Wavebird sales outmatch supply. Fortunately Thrustmaster released their own take on the controller to help fill that demand.

The T-Wireless NW is as you’d expect a 3rd party WaveBird replacement there are a number of significant differences though. Instead of being modeled around the original WaveBird controller the T-Wireless NW’s layout is based off of the PS2 pad. Which as you’ve just read isn’t a bad thing for Virtual Console games. I can see this being a problem for first party Gamecube games which worked well with the pad’s button layout. There is also rumble support included but this doesn’t mean anything for Virtual Console games. Turbo and slow modes are included as well and the controller runs of three AAA batteries.

The Thrustmaster T-Wireless NW retails for $19.99 and should be available in stores and online.

Thrustmaster T-Wireless NW Information


IGN Review

  • Excellent — another one of those posts I have thought about but never done.

    I have to say you are on a roll. I think you’re officially in my top three favorite gaming blogs now 🙂

  • senseibaka

    Actually, I find the classic controller is a good all-rounder device. The dpad is good for my VC version of Super Metroid, and the thumbsticks are in a better position (than the 64’s) for when I play mario kart 64. It feels relatively comfortable in my hands. A little padding on the area in contact with my palms would have been appreciated though, and the weight of the controller feels too low for me. I can’t remember if it has vibrations, but I doubt it (not so good).

    Interesting alternatives you have presented; and as always, a good read.

  • Thanks for the positive feedback guys ^_^

    BTW if anyone else reading this has any experience with any of the control methods listed then please share your thoughts as I may add them to the article.

  • Alex

    I’d mostly recommend the GCN Controller (Wavebird if you can live without rumble; I can’t), the Classic Controller, and the Thrustmaster, as those are the ones I own. None of the options are perfect:

    The buttons on the Thrustmaster are a little too small and kinda mushy (especially the L and R buttons), the dongle is stupidly designed (it hangs halfway down the Wii and blinks endlessly), and its shape is slightly weird (would be perfect except for some inexplicable indents on the handles); also it only works when plugged into a Wii, it won’t work on Gamecube. Additionally, those with large hands may find it too small. Plus, it has to be said: it’s sorta ugly.

    The Classic Controller is poorly shaped and the sticks aren’t great, and the lack of rumble is annoying. As senseibaka mentioned, it’s too light.

    The GCN controller has a lousy button layout and a tiny D-pad, plus weak rumble.

    On the plus side:

    The Thrustmaster is the best option for games that don’t work well with either the classic controller or the GCN controller’s button layouts; being able to remap the controls is wonderful. It has better rumble than the GCN controller too. It’s the only option with thingies around the sticks instead of Nintendo’s stupid decagons. The turbo is occasionally useful on VC. And it’s the best controller for playing Genesis games thanks to its D-pad. Plus, it works on Wii, VC, and GCN games. Also, the only wireless option with rumble.

    The Classic Controller’s buttons and D-pad feel fantastic, the buttons are easily the best of the lot. I couldn’t beat Sin and Punishment until I got this (the GCN controller’s L and R buttons took too long to press); although I bet the Thrustmaster would have helped almost as much despite the slightly mushy feel. Wireless is a plus.

    The GCN controller has the best sticks by far; I wouldn’t play most GCN or N64 games with anything else. The analog on the L and R works better than on the Thrustmaster, but I think that’s only an issue on a couple GCN games. It’s also the most comfortable to hold. The Wavebird’s dongle is much better than the Thrustmaster’s, it plugs right in instead of dangling off the side of the machine.

    A few other notes: first, Pelican makes a ripoff of Hori’s pad, you can find it on I’ve heard it’s worse in every way, but I suppose it’s worth mentioning. Second, if you’re willing to spend a few extra bucks, those NES-style Gamecatz PS2 controllers are great. Don’t know if they’d work with the adapters though, as I don’t have an adapter.

    Overall, if you only buy one of these options (you should have at least four though, nobody wants to play Brawl with the wiimote!), I’d recommend the Thrustmaster. It’s the only one that will work well for everything you can play on your Wii, barring wiimote-only games of course. Still, each has its advantages, and I use them all. I still want to pick up a Hori GBP pad, a Hori Stick, and a Neo Geo stick though. I’m such a controller whore.

  • Alex

    Uh, by “thingies around the stick etc.” I meant that the holes in the plastic where the stick pokes out of the controller are round, as opposed to Nintendo’s decagon-style holes, which are good for fighters and annoying as hell for anything else. Of course, no fighting game fan should try to play on anything other than the arcade sticks.

  • Thanks for your critique Alex, I’ll be sure to point this out to my readers in an upcoming post. ^_^

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  • Mayfair also makes a Gamecube to PS2 adapter. I looked at a Thrustmaster controller yesterday and they are very small. So small I didn’t buy it.

  • horf

    Can you use a playstation 2 to gamecube adapter to use playstation 2 controllers with the Wii? It should work, right?

  • Ah yes, thats what was mentioned.

  • Adurna Nagra

    the fighting stick wii thing from hori isnt compatible with super smash bros brawl and that sux

  • axl

    great guide Daniel.
    above all the SNES alike controllers are always be my ideal^^

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