The recently announced 3DS XL hit the community with some controversy. The expected model revision was going to be something smaller that included a built in analog stick. We got quite the opposite with a bigger system that has no built in analog stick. It will have another franken-stick attachment though, because you wanted to carry that around.
Not long after the announcement people were up in arms about the missing stick. The option to buy a second stick for the original 3DS seemed like a clear admission that the original skew was poorly designed. So it made sense that people were a tad confused and frustrated when the 3DSXL was announced, sans second stick.
Then, out of the ether came a “new” idea. “We do not need a second stick, we can have great games with one stick.” It is the same argument we heard with the PSP during its life span. A valid argument it is, as long as you are ok with taking whatever you are given. However, it does not take into account that some games simply can not be done well, or at all sometimes, without the additional analog stick. And even though the Franken-Stick XL is an option, no publisher is going to going to develop a game assuming that you have it. What this means is that without having the second stick as a standard feature certain games and genres will never make it to the system.
Now, again, if you are ok just having what you are given then none of this will matter. However, if you want to see games as a whole continue moving forward you may want to take all this into consideration. Technology continues to get smaller and more powerful each year. Continuing on that trend could quite possibly lead to the end of a traditional console as we know it. It is probable that the handheld market could overturn the living room dominance. The problem is that this future will never happen if developers have to work around a limited control scheme in an attempt to give gamers a more traditional experience. We may not always be happy about the proliferation of Call of Duty but the fact is that games like that can make or break a console.
To drive my point home I asked several of the editors to send me a list of ten random console games. None of them knew what it was for and so I received a very diverse list. Not all of these games use, or need, a second analog stick. So let us go down this list and delve a little bit into each game. At the end the numbers will be tallied up, to see where we stand. Which games could be on the 3DS, which ones would have trouble existing because of the lack of a second stick.
Duplicate games will be counted twice seeing as how this is a random sampling of games from different editors. Games in blue need or use a second analog stick. Games in red do not use or have been proven to work without a second analog stick.
TL:DR- The 3DSXL has no analog stick. What games use a second analog stick. Which games do not.
Assassin’s Creed 2- There was an Assassins Creed game for PSP. The camera was controlled by holding down L and pressing the face buttons. Not exactly the best scenario for a game with such intricacies. However, it still is functional.
Super Mario 64- No second analog stick was present on the N64 and it worked, no argument there.
Batman:Arkham City- The common thing to do in Third Person Action games without a second analog stick is to bind a “center camera” button. This is what I would assume Batman would have, if it had not already taken up almost every button combination in the most recent game. With a game like this you need the second stick for camera control simply because there is nothing left on the controller.
Need For Speed:Hot Pursuit- Traditionally racing games do not have much for the right stick to do. This game is no different since it is allocated to camera control.
Heavy Rain- Since this game was almost entirely QTEs it is difficult to say if the right stick was needed even if it was used quite a bit. It is quite possible that the game could have been just as good with one stick. But it still used one.
Super Mario World- No analog sticks, great game.
Batman: Arkham Asylum- Same as Arkham City, second stick stick is needed.
Uncharted 2- How can Drake commit all those murders without a right stick for aiming? He can’t, so maybe we should take it away from him.
Halo 3- This is an FPS. You need a second stick.
Modern Warfare 3- The highest selling FPS series on the market today. Having this game in your library, and having it done right, can give your console a huge sales boost. You need an analog stick to make it work right though.
Mass Effect 3- While the dialogue could be done on almost any interface; the combat could not. You need that second stick.
NBA 2K12- I do not play many sports games but as I understand it the right stick is used for multiple things including precision shooting. Pretty sure precision is important.
Fifa 11- The right stick in this game is used for making trick moves. Things like a 360, a reverse step-over right, and a Rainbow Flick. Definitely need that Rainbow Flick.
Mirrors Edge- This is not a traditional FPS but it does control like one. An example of innovation within a stale genre. Right stick needed.
Infamous 2-Third person action game with third person shooting mechanics. Accuracy is needed and so is that right stick.
Little Big Planet 2- On the surface Little Big Planet is a side scroller without the need for a second stick. However, at the core of the game is the tools to make almost every type of game imaginable. Plus taking any widget or piece away from the truly rabid fans of could result in lost appendages. I am going to say it is needed.
Virtua Fighter 5- Right stick not used or needed.
Awesomenauts- This game is a side scrolling MOBA. No second stick required. But having some idea of what the internet is might help a lot.
Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty- Third Person Action game with lots of shooting and camera swinging. Needs a second stick.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim- How could you even think about playing through this insanely large game, with all its possible scenarios and variables, and have sub par camera control. If you play this in first or third person you are going to need the second stick to effectively deal with every situation.
Halo Wars- The right stick in this game is used primarily for camera control, something that could easily be worked around since it is an RTS game.
Kingdoms of Amalur- More camera control in a third person character action game. Kinda need that right stick.
Halo Reach- One of the most beloved shooters would not be that way if you forced someone to use the touchscreen to aim a la Metroid Prime Hunters.
Vanquish- Third person shooters prevail throughout this list. This super fast paced knee-grinder is no exception. That right stick is needed.
God of War HD Collection- The PSP god of war games proved that this game could exist without a right stick. While this experience was not exactly like it was on the home console it was close enough. No right stick needed.
Gears of War 3- The highest selling cover shooter needs an aiming input and it needs that aiming input to be reliable.
Lollipop Chainsaw- The old standby for this entire article, camera control. Maybe a “reset camera” button could be added but it was not. It has it, it needs it.
Assassin’s Creed 2- Oh no, there is a guy sneaking up behind you and you did not see him! Why? Because you were using a flawed camera control. But hey, at least it “works” right?
Catherine- This changes your view. Quite a useful trick a puzzle game when you are being chased by demon babies.
El Shaddai- While no directly controlled camera was present in this game it was usually knocked on for that very reason. Still, the original game lacked a second stick function at all. No stick needed but sure is wanted.
Left 4 Dead 2- FPS zombie chaos. Unless you want to be zombie chow I suggest bringing a second stick.
At Tonelico Qoga- An interesting RPG that completely lacks a right stick. From what I understand most scenarios where you would normally control the camera the game just does it for you.
Dokapon Kingdom- Another interesting RPG completely lacking the need for a right stick.
Psychonauts- A third person platformer in which the right stick is used for camera control.
Final Fantasy VII- This game never needed a right stick because all of the environments were pre rendered images. Later Final Fantasy games took to using the right stick once their games became fully 3D. However, for the sake of the argument there was no right stick support in this game.
Pokémon Puzzle League- No right stick on the system, no right stick needed. Also it is a puzzle game, those do not usually need a right stick.
Jet Set Radio- Well this game did not use the right stick (it did not exist) for anything, but it probably should. Having your camera button allocated to you spray button caused all sorts of trouble. It “worked” and so it does not need a second stick.
Super Mario World- Side scroller without the need for many buttons, including but not limited to a right stick.
Wonder Boy in Monster World- Side scrolling chibi action game. No right stick needed.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic- A fan favorite in which you use the revolutionary new control scheme of turning the right stick to rotate the camera. Raven made a point to say that this was the Steam version of the game he was recommending. If that was the only option available I would have considered this in the “no analog stick” category; it does have that other option though and so it falls under the other category.
Catherine- This game may not be much improved by the use of a second stick but it is still there.
Mass Effect 3- An argument could be made that the shooting mechanic in Mass Effect is not the most important part of the game. Many would agree with you. But it still is part of the game, more so in Mass Effect 3 than in any of the previous titles. So unless you want a Krogan to ram his foot up your tuchus you should use that right stick.
Skyrim- Giant game, you need to be able to aim. Unless you wanted to take an arrow to the… I’ll stop.
Infamous 2- Now I feel like I am a broken record. Needed.
Dead Space 2- Horror game of old would tell you that we do not need a right stick. Dead Space has kicked those old games up and down the street. Giving you the ability to defend yourself competently and still have horror was something that eluded developers for an eternity. Dead Space did it, and it did it with a right stick.
Portal 2- Valve is one of the few developers that I would trust to make a game like Portal, without a second stick, and make it cool. Portal 2 does have a second stick though.
NFS: Hot Pursuit- Said it once, I will say it again. Second stick is used for camera control, plain as that.
Batman: Arkham City- I am starting to notice a trend in the games that people like. For some reason people like Batman, who knew? This game has and needs a second stick.
Little Big Planet 2- A game where you can make anything and you want to take a control option away? No, this game could use more analog sticks, not less.
Forza Motorsports 4- You may be getting tired of hearing this argument but camera control is a legitimate use of the right stick. This game is no different.
Paper Mario- Side scrolling RPG on the N64. A double whammy for not needing that second stick.
Blur- Another racing game with camera control. Not usually something you would use in a racing game, unless you suck at them and might need to use that thing called Reverse. Also clicking in on the second stick causes your minimap to zoom in and out.
Donkey Kong 64- There was no second analog stick on the system and still this game is loved. But let’s all be honest here, it was the DK rap that made you love this game.
Gears of War 3- Asking someone to play the highest rated cover shooter without a second stick is like asking a duck to fetch a stick. It can be done, but why…why?
Halo: Reach- Maybe if the Xbox 360 never had a second stick the appearance of “bro gamers” would have never happened… It just dawned on me that Nintendo knows exactly what they are doing. They are taking extreme measures to keep “bro gamers” off their console. That sounds like a money making idea right there.
Super Paper Mario- Redundancy. But I guess when you love a series, you love a series. Still no second stick needed for this game either.
Mario Party 3- While having more input choices could only improve this minigame collection, the second stick is not present.
Banjo-tooie- A universally loved game that had no second stick.
Limbo- Another highly praised game that does not even require one analog stick, much less two.
Bastion- The kid uses the right stick to aim his ranged weapon. He is real glad to have it.
The Sly Collection- Sneaking around in this puzzle platformer would be a huge pain without being able to see every bit of your surroundings. While this is technically three games it will be counted as one since they are all on the same disc.
Portal 2- I mean, you could play Portal without a second stick I suppose, but why?
Mass Effect 3- There is a trend in this list of games that people really seem to enjoy. Do they all have second analog sticks, no, but this one sure does.
Pikmin 2 (Wii)- Adam made sure to point out that this was the Wii version. Considering the “new play control” controls make use of the pointer and not a second analog stick I guess this game does not need one.
Kingdom Hearts- Now we are moving into fanboy territory. Kingdom Hearts has existed in multiple formats, including ones without second analog sticks. While I will always, always, prefer the second analog stick the games without them were not terrible. So I will relent from my fanboyism and accept that Kingdom Hearts does not need a second analog stick, but it should have had one.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood- As I have said about a bajillion times here. This game, like Kingdom Hearts, has be proven to work without a second stick: that does not mean that the game is better because of it though.
The Gunstringer- This is a Kinect game. I am not sure how it could ever be pulled into a “conventional” control scheme. As much as I wish I could discount this game from the list and drive my own point home better it still falls under the “no second analog stick” category.
LittleBigPlanet 2- Yet again we come to this game. Right analog stick required.
Wii Fit- This is kinda like the Gunstringer in that there is no way this game could use the second stick for anything useful. Not needed.
Crisis 2- The last of the list had to be an FPS did it not? Yes, yes it did. Crysis needs that second stick like the desert needs the rain.
So let us tally up the votes.
25 Games do not require or can be played without a second analog stick.
45 Games need or use the second stick in some way or another.
So there it is, in plain numbers. When given the opportunity developers will make games that use the right stick, and why should anyone stop them? Creative minds should have free reign of their vision and being hamstrung by the lack of a second stick can do no good. If we want to see the handheld market proliferate instead of stagnate then it needs to fall in line with an accepted control scheme. Without it your most common genres will never appear giving the system a smaller library and developers less of a reason to create games for it.
You may be looking at the DS and thinking “Well it had really original and great games in its own lifespan.” You would be right, but remember that the DS was released almost 8 years ago and gaming has changed quite a bit since then. The proliferation of Call of Duty into the mainstream market is just one example. Handheld consoles were just beginning to be able to handle games with polygons; analog sticks were not a high priority at the time. But now you are seeing console quality games on your phone and if a dedicated portable gaming system ever needed a time to stop being quirky and start being conformist that time is now.
If I have made an actual mistake with any of these games then feel free to point it out in the comments.