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Atari 7800 Controller Options

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Back in the day we didn’t have many choices for playing our 7800. We had the proline, for some select games we could use the traditional one button controller, and there was one aftermarket controller floating around from Telegames. But that Telegames controller wasn’t common. European 7800 owners had the gamepad, but us yanks wouldn’t know about that for some time. 
 

Today we have choices. Many choices.  We have adapters for Sega controllers, import game pads, arcade joysticks, and 3D printed NES style controllers.  There’s more than that even when you get into DIY projects and adapters. 
 

Below I’m going to go over a few of the choices I’ve acquired and my feelings on each.  Obviously I neither own every possible controller, nor am I any sort of authority on the subject. So feel free to comment with your opinions and if you agree with my assessment.

 

Lets go!

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7800 Proline Controller

These are the original pack ins here in the US. They are painful to use and the years have not been kind to them. I find most of them to be mushy and unresponsive. Even when they were new, they weren’t ideal. There isn’t much reason to use them today, but if you collect for the 7800, your going to end up with quite a few probably. 
 

Variant! 7800 Proline Rebuilt With Best Gold Components!

If you want a proline or 2, I would recommend going this route. I bought a set of these myself, and the difference is night and day. They feel more clicky and responsive, but they retain their awkwardness in use.  Their a big step up from a non-rebuilt proline, but those are bottom of the barrel anyway. image.thumb.jpg.3a7360890b13c90d44b93df6358af0ca.jpg

Telegames Quick Fire Joy Stick 
While similar to Ataris original, I was actually surprised how much more I liked this stick. The rapid fire is nice for a few games, and I actually prefer the clicky buttons and joy stick to the original. I’d probably say that a Best rebuilt is still preferable, but this isn’t bad if you want something authentic to the time. Still doesn’t compare to some of the other options though. 
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2 Button Gripstick from Video61 Atari Sales   
I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but what you get is a fairly nice flight stick style controller.  The suction cups are kind of pointless, but these are a well made alternatives at a fairly low price. While there’s nothing specifically wrong with it, it’s not my preferred controller either.  If you want a 2600 style joystick with more of a flight stick flair for your 7800 games, this might be the one for you. 
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Atari 7800 Euro Gamepad

These are highly sought after by us in the US and rightfully so. They have a nice NES style feel and a removable thumb stick for those who want a d-pad. The issue, like with the proline controllers, is time hasn’t been kind to them. They are starting to become unresponsive and failing in various ways. But finding a good one can really change your 7800 experience, although I feel their not as good as the hype would have you believe.

 

Variant!  Best electronic 7800 gold rebuilt gamepad!

Now these are good!  I didn’t realize how pad my Europad was getting until I got my hands on one of these rebuilt pads. It’s overall the same but the responsiveness and quality has been much improved. With how hard these are to obtain, I would just order a rebuilt from best and be done with it. Trust me, it’s worth it!

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7800 Arcade Joystick 

I’ll update the user that makes these in this post after I look it up, but you can get these from the for sale forum here, on eBay, and on Etsy I believe. And they are fantastic!  Great clicky arcade buttons, responsive arcade joystick, and a base that is comfortable to hold and sit in your lap!  This was my go to for a long time and I still use it for arcade style games. If your 7800 console is used for its fantastic arcade ports, then this is what you want!

 

Variant!  Edladdin Arcade Stick!

Some may say I have this backwards as Edladdin uses high quality real arcade parts and the other is a step down.  But I did it like this because I haven’t purchased one of these yet. If you have, let us know down below what it’s like!

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Retrogameboyz NES Style Gamepad

This is my current go to for the 7800. It is perfectly responsive, comes with both a thumb stick (with grip) and d-pad, and is second nature to hold. These are reasonably priced and come in several variations of layout and color.  I can not recommend these enough, especially if you prefer the European joypad over arcade controls!

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Seagull 78 Sega Adapter by Edladdin

 

And this is my ultimate recommendation for most people. Sega pads are easier to come by (you probably already have one) and are more comfortable to use than most other options. And at roughly 20 bucks, this is one of the cheapest choices as well. Unless you absolutely hate Sega pads or want authenticity, then this is the way to go!

 

And that’s it!  Later I’ll make a follow up post for light guns, trakballs, and robotron controllers. Let me know what else is out there or which controller is for favorite!  See you next time Atarians!

 

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I used 2 of these babys for Robotron as well as all the 1 button games...the switch there was for rapid fire.

Lasted forever..only down side is they were noisy.

robotron controller.png

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SticksOfJoy.thumb.jpg.c5da931e15378c647a8c069608d1453e.jpg

My selection of 7800 sticks.

 

From the top is a @Bratwurst arcade stick of sorts. We bought a pair of enclosures from him and dropped some old arcade hardware into them we had kicking around, so it's not quite the same as the ones he does. Wonderful thing though.

 

The pad is a Europad but the buttons have been replaced with tact switches. the pad is still as was but the joystick hole has been filled with epoxy so it feels like a regular D-pad.

 

The joystick with the yellow buttons is a ZipStik, god among 8-bit sticks. They're essentially a better Comp Pro 5000 (microswitched everything with a very effective autofire). I have a few of these, including a very fetching pink one... This one however has been modified for the 7800. The buttons now operate individually as per the 7800, and the autofire switch has been re-purposed to swap them as it can be a bit of a reach to get to the second so you want that to be the least used feature which can change from game to game.

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@NIKON I have one of those as well. I used it for Solaris and radarlock as it just felt appropriate. 
 

@juansolo that is a nice assortment of controllers!  I’ve never used Zipstick but it looks like a unique controller style. Thanks for the input fellas. 

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I've also heard great things about the Zip Stick, but they are tougher to find for US gamers.

I'm a little iffy about buying one since it has the same similar form factor as the Competition Pro -- and that's a joystick that I've had a hard time warming up to.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Leonard Smith said:

I've also heard great things about the Zip Stick, but they are tougher to find for US gamers.

I'm a little iffy about buying one since it has the same similar form factor as the Competition Pro -- and that's a joystick that I've had a hard time warming up to.

Yeah it's near identical to a Comp Pro in shape, it's just a nicer version.

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I think what sort of turns me off the Comp Pro (at least the modern USB versions which I feel are way too stiff) is the loud microswitches.

I grew up playing using contact dome or leaf switch joysticks, so for playing Atari games for me with a microswitched stick just feels unnatural.  Personal preference, but I do feel like I'm missing out since I hear such rave reviews of the zip stick and others.

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Thanks for the mention!  

 

We've actually produced a total of 7 models of arcade joysticks for the 7800 at this point, but four of them are now retired.   The three models currently available are:

 

1. Super 78:  ambidextrous arcade stick featuring a Sanwa joystick with octagonal restrictor plate and concave Suzo-Happ fire buttons.

2. Super Combo:  same as above, plus a keypad with custom 3D printed overlay frame to support use with classic ColecoVision and the Phoenix.

3. Super Twin 78:  Dual stick controller than is actually two complete Super 78s in one case, specifically created for Robotron 2084.

If you get the button orientation as shown, it effectively acts as an ambidextrous controller on all the other games, because you can play using either the right or left control set. 

 

All are in large, heavy metal cases that rest easily on your lap or tabletop,  so you get the light touch of an arcade control panel rather than having to fight to hold onto a handheld control housing.  And you always get your choice of ball top and fire button colors!

 

Also worth mentioning is the Easy 78 I/O board, which makes it a snap to build your own arcade controller.

 

All the Edladdin hardware is available in the AA Store.

 

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6 hours ago, edladdin said:

3. Super Twin 78:  Dual stick controller than is actually two complete Super 78s in one case, specifically created for Robotron 2084.

It is also great under the fantastic T:ME Salvo and the upcoming excellent Attack of the 7800 PETSCII Robots, for any interested in utilizing dual joysticks for those titles.

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On 1/23/2022 at 7:41 PM, NIKON said:

I used 2 of these babys for Robotron as well as all the 1 button games...the switch there was for rapid fire.

Lasted forever..only down side is they were noisy.

robotron controller.png

I'm fairly sure I had one of those...

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Thanks everybody for your input and thank you @edladdin for the breakdown of your offerings. One day I’ll have one to try :)  
 

I recognized the space invader plug n play that @mimo and @gilsaluki discussed and as it turned out my dad still had had it in the tv stand drawer under his television!  So I’m going to attempt that mod myself here shortly. 
 

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9 hours ago, Silver Back said:

Thanks everybody for your input and thank you @edladdin for the breakdown of your offerings. One day I’ll have one to try :)  
 

I recognized the space invader plug n play that @mimo and @gilsaluki discussed and as it turned out my dad still had had it in the tv stand drawer under his television!  So I’m going to attempt that mod myself here shortly. 
 

The mod is super easy.  I am not a great solder master, I did it.  Instructions are on this site.  Search, Radica Space Invaders or RSI.  The control is perfect.  My Go-to test is always the 4-way games (PAC MAN series).  It works perfectly for maze games, and thus the rest of the 7800 games.  It's also nice to have two fire buttons on each side of the stick.  Comfortable in the hands or on tabletop.

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2 hours ago, gilsaluki said:

I take it back.  There are a plethora of RSIs on Ebay.  Shipping costs hurt however. 

Yeah, I checked too and the with shipping can take them up there...

Too bad, before the last couple of years I wonder how many of those I might have seen in a Goodwill and not picked up cheap???  <sigh>

Oh well, the Europad has been decent for me.  Although I am old school and prefer actual joysticks, so I will be keeping my eyes out for the Radicas... ;-)

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9 minutes ago, desiv said:

Although I am old school and prefer actual joysticks


As a fellow joystick afficionado, I tip my hat to you good sir!
🕹️

 

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24 minutes ago, Leonard Smith said:


As a fellow joystick afficionado, I tip my hat to you good sir!
🕹️

 

I have all variations of Joypads (CX-78) and others.  None can hold a 'stick' to joysticks.  Couldn't resist.

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I own multiple custom 7800 sticks, I have built multiple custom 7800 sticks. The best option IMO, both $$$ wise and functionally is the Seagull 78. It should be every new 7800 owner's first purchase (ok, second after Joust). Get that and a nice dirt cheap Sega controller and you are good forever.

 

There are also Genny joysticks like the TAC-50 for you stick guys. No mod needed...just the awesome SG78.

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I present you with the Edladdin Supreme 78: All-Play 4/8 way controller.  Great controller with an easy access restrictor plate for 4-way (Pac-Man etc.) and 8-way (Berzerk etc.) games.  

Supreme 78 All-Play 4_8 Way.jpg

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Yeah when you go HARDCORE DeCrescenzo, you need to be able to get under there and switch that gate to 4 way!

 

(I used to think that was such a silly thing, "I'll just avoid the diagonals"...nope. 4 way or GTFO for Pac!)

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