Approaching two decades ago, Microsoft unveiled “Xbox,” it’s pie-in-the-sky foray into the video game home console market. The pivot from Office and Windows was an odd one for the company back then, and frankly, even now, as business-oriented goods and services continue to be the cornerstone of Microsoft’s business. Yet, Xbox has endured, evolved, and ultimately, become a globally recognized brand for gaming excellence, for online performance, the games themselves, and industry-leading hardware.
The iconic Xbox controller has also evolved, becoming a global standard across consoles and PC. Design conventions established by Microsoft’s controller hardware team have found their way onto competing platforms, including Nintendo’s “Pro” Switch controller, and third-party controllers like the Razer Raiju for PlayStation 4. The current Xbox One controller is a symphony of engineering excellence, yet, where did it all begin?
Say hi to Hyperkin’s monstrous, hulking, beautiful recreation of the original 2001 “Duke” Xbox controller, the retro accessory to end all retro accessories.
Must-have for retro gaming:
Hyperkin Duke Xbox controller
Bottom line: If you’re a fan of retro OG Xbox gaming, you have to buy this controller.
- Faithful recreation of the original.
- Important modern-day refinements.
- Great construction and materials.
- AMOLED screen.
- HUGE. Small hands beware.
- No wirelessness (exclusive to official Xbox controllers by policy).
What you’ll love
The Hyperkin Duke is a thing of beauty. Monstrous beauty.
The original Duke controller was revised pretty early on, as many complained it was too large. The Hyperkin Duke doesn’t compromise. It’s still huge, but Hyperkin has made various tweaks and improvements that modernize the featureset a bit, without getting in the way of your nostalgic needs.
There’s a meme about third-party video game controllers. We’re used to them leveraging corner-cutting construction techniques and low-grade materials, but Hyperkin bucks this trend aggressively with the Duke. It’s wonderfully constructed, feeling dense and solid in the hand. This is something that could have come straight out of Microsoft’s modern day controller labs.
The directional pad (d-pad) is rarely used to control games these days, acting more like an extra four buttons instead. Back in the day, though, quite a few games still saw the d-pad as a control option, and were designed as such. The Hyperkin Duke improves upon the original d-pad, making it far more precise and tactile. Another area of improvement are the joysticks themselves, which are rubberized, making them less slippery on your thumbs.
The white and black buttons return, and along with their ABXY brothers, they have great clicking action. The start and back buttons have been updated to reflect modern controllers, with a hamburger “menu” key and the view key, and a 3.5mm port adorns the underside edge for compatible headsets.
The triggers also feel a little refined, featuring similar travel and resistence to the official controllers. Joining them are two new shoulder buttons, which sport the same functions as the white and black buttons. The shoulder buttons have a welcome indentation to help you get your finger on them, and are quite small and subtle, apologetically flush with the shoulders of the controller. It’s nice that they’re included, considering modern games are designed for them, but it’s also nice how Hyperkin gave them a low profile as to not impede the retro feel of the controller. It speaks to an impressive attention to detail third-party accessory makers often overlook.
The coolest thing about this controller, though, is the huge AMOLED circular display right in the middle. The controller of ages past sported a giant plastic Xbox logo in the center, but the Hyperkin Duke takes their celebration a little further. The giant screen is also a button, acting as the Xbox button on official controllers. Additionally, it also displays the gorgeous boot animation from the classic Xbox, in all its neon green glory every time you open the Xbox guide. It’s simply sublime.
What you’ll love a little less
Many of the imperfections from the previous Duke have been faithfully recreated, of course. The controller is huge, and people with smaller hands may find it extremely difficult to use. Even gamers with larger hands may find themselves aching a little following long sessions, sometimes you have to suffer for nostalgia, though.
The Hyperkin Duke supports USB connectivity on Xbox One and PC, but some may find the omission of wireless connectivity hard to swallow. We’ve heard from various gamepad manufacturers in the past this is because Microsoft doesn’t license out its wireless signal for third-parties to use, unfortunately. So that’s on Microsoft.
I also had a minor issue with one of the triggers being overly squeaky when pressed, but it’s nothing I couldn’t fix with a short blast of WD40. All things considered, there’s just very little to complain about here.
Buy this controller
If you’ve played any OG Xbox games on backwards compatibility, you have to buy this thing. Those games were designed specifically for those shiny white and black buttons, and it just feels so right having the Duke in hand when that backwards compatible Xbox boot screen loads up on your shiny modern TV.
Hyperkin has done a truly special thing here, reviving a piece of Xbox gaming history. For $70, it can be yours as well (if you can find it in stock, that is. Turns out it’s pretty popular!)