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USB-compatible Saturn controllers

2013 November 1
by Kirk Kosinski

Do you love the Sega Saturn control pad?  If not, you’ve probably never used it (or maybe you only used the analog version, or the 1st-gen US Saturn version).  The Japanese Saturn controller (equivalent to the 2nd-gen US Saturn controller) has stood the test of time and is arguably the best game pad ever.  But what if you want to use it on a PC?

There are several options.

Buy a USB-compatible knock-off.  Avoid this at all costs.  They may look the same but they do not feel the same.  I made the mistake of buying one and it is simply terrible.  The companies making these really should make a little extra effort and copy the original more closely.

Buy an official USB-compatible version.  This was once the best choice.  A few years ago eBay was flooded with ones branded with the SLS (Sega Logistics Service) logo.  They were selling for under $20 and were quite good, very close to the original Saturn controller.  Unfortunately, these suddenly disappeared from eBay and the prices quickly skyrocketed.  When a new one actually shows up it can sell for $100 or more.  Used ones vary in price, so it is viable if you don’t mind a used controller. 

Buy an adapter for an official Saturn controller.  This is a reasonable choice.  It is not as “clean” of a solution as a USB controller but works fine as long as the adapter does not introduce input lag.  Various companies have made these over the years.  The Mayflash controller adapter is one such example and sells for about $15.

Convert an official Saturn controller to USB.  This is an interesting choice which I recently tried.  It is mainly useful if you already own a Saturn controller, or can find a new one for cheap, since if you don’t mind buying a used controller you might as well a USB-compatible one as explained above.  There is no need to be an electronics guru, you simply need to purchase and install a USB-compatible controller PCB.

I bought such a PCB from a Japanese company called Third Science Laboratory.

Sega Saturn USB-compatible replacement PCB

My donor controller is below.

Sega Saturn Controller

Installing the new PCB couldn’t be easier.  Remove the five screws holding the Saturn controller together, remove the original PCB, install the new USB-compatible one, and reassemble the controller.  That’s it!

Sega Saturn original PCB

Sega Saturn USB-compatible replacement PCB

Sega Saturn USB-compatible controller

The end result, pictured above, is an excellent controller that is compatible with PC and PS3.  I mainly use it on my PC for emulated games.

7 Responses Post a comment
  1. Alexander permalink
    February 15, 2014

    How are you supposed to buy from Third Science Laboratory? They don’t accept paypal or anything and I’m just sort of confused.

  2. Alexander permalink
    February 15, 2014

    Oh, and do you know what the mapping for the controller is on the ps3? I want to know if it’s any different from the offical usb controller they made.

  3. Alexander permalink
    February 16, 2014

    Hm. No way to change the mapping then?

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