Control Pad (Mega Drive)

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Pad MD JP I.jpg

Fast Facts on the Control Pad

Made By: Sega
Made For: Sega Mega Drive

Release Date RRP Code
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis JP 1988 ¥2,000 [1] SJ-3500
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis US 1989 $? MK-1650
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis EU 1990 £?
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis CA 19xx $? 1650-22

{{#ifeq: 1 | 3 |

The Sega Mega Drive Control Pad (コントロールパッド) is the official controller of the Sega Mega Drive (or Sega Genesis in North America). Three button controllers are known officially as Control Pads in both North America and Europe, and SJ-3500s in Japan (following a system set up by the SG-1000). There are many "updates" and alternatives to this controller, the most notable being the Six Button Control Pad. This article covers only the basic three button variants.

Mega Drive control pads are the logical progression from Master System control pads, replacing 1 and 2 with A and B respectively, while adding an extra two face buttons, C and Start to bring the total number of buttons to four. Also featured is a circular D-Pad, designed to allow for movements in eight directions. Unlike Nintendo's systems, the buttons (or "triggers" as they were initially called) are arranged in alphabetical order from left to right, a practise which would continue not only with future Sega consoles, but would inspire the controllers of the Neo Geo, 3DO and Xbox lines.

Mega Drive controllers are notable for being one of the first control pads to be ergonomically designed for the user's hands. Though improvements were made in the coming years, previous systems had cornered edges with their controllers, meaning they were often uncomfortable to hold after several hours of play. The Mega Drive controller is rounded, and has its buttons placed in easier to reach positions.



Control pads remained mostly the same across regions, but the colouring can determine the region and revision of the accessory.



The first controller for the Sega Mega Drive, released in 1988. The A, B and C buttons are printed in red lettering and the Start button is blue. The text at the top of the controller reads "Computer Video Game Control Pad". Later revisions removed the red lettering from the action buttons.

Mega Drive, JP
MDController SJ3500 JP Box Back.jpgNospine-small.pngMDController SJ3500 JP Box Front.jpg


Pad MD JP I.jpg
Control Pad

North America

Sega Genesis Control Pad (MK-1650)

Initial Sega Genesis three-button controllers had a white Start button, with red coloured text. The arrows surrounding the D-Pad are also coloured red, and the printed text in the middle reads "Sega Genesis". These controllers match the original Genesis, and were distributed with the console during its early years.

Mega Drive, JP
MDControlPad US 3BV1 Box Back.jpgNospine-small.pngMDControlPad US 3BV1 Box Front.jpg


Pad gen v1.jpg
Control Pad

Sega Genesis Control Pad (v2) (MK-1650)

As the original Genesis was revised during the early 1990s, so were the controllers. The arrows were changed to white and the text was left black. The text "TRIGGER" was moved below the three buttons, and extra labels for A, B and C were added on top. This controller was also packaged with the Genesis 2 console.

Early versions of this controller used the same internals as the original design, but later models have an improved D-Pad mechanism, employing a metal ball-bearing for the pad to rock on. This prevented the wear which plagued the original design, which used a plastic nub for the rocking motion and would eventually wear down with frequent use. A minor addition is a little plastic lump on the B button, presumably to help users recognise where their right hand thumb was.

Mega Drive, US
Pad MD Gen.jpg
Control Pad

Sega Genesis Control Pad (v3) (MK-1650)

Though this controller appears to be identical to the above, it once again has an updated D-pad. This was the first iteration of Sega's two-piece D-pad mechanism, used in every official subsequent controller up to and including the Sega Saturn's. Rather than providing the rocking motion by a plastic nub or ball-bearing, there is a molded dome underneath the outside half of the D-pad which allows the D-pad to glide smoothly in a circle. This design was also plagued with wear like the first model, eventually resulting in all four directions being able to be pressed simultaneously.

Mega Drive, US
Pad gen v3.jpg
Control Pad

Sega Genesis Control Pad (Canada) (Older)

During its early years, the Canadian Genesis had its own packaging, handled by Irwin Toy.

Mega Drive, CA
ControlPad MD CA Box Front Old.jpg


Pad gen v1.jpg
Control Pad

Sega Genesis Control Pad (Canada) (Newer)

Mega Drive, CA
ControlPad MD CA Box Back New.jpgNospine-small.pngControlPad MD CA Box Front New.jpg


Pad gen v3.jpg
Control Pad


Sega Mega Drive Control Pad

Almost identical to the second Sega Genesis three-button gamepad, the first European Mega Drive controller sports a white Start button, the text "SEGA" and "Mega Drive Control Pad", and red lettering on the action buttons and red-coloured arrows around the D-pad.

Mega Drive, EU
MDControlPad EU 3BV2 Box Front.jpg


MDControlPad EU 3BV2.jpg
Control Pad

Sega Mega Drive Control Pad (revised)

Later revisions of the Mega Drive controller retain the white Start button and "SEGA" text, but the red lettering and arrows were removed. The "TRIGGER" text was also moved to below the B button.

Mega Drive, EU
Pad MD PAL I.jpg
Control Pad

Sega Mega Drive Control Pad II

This revised version of the original Mega Drive controller was released with the revised Sega Mega Drive II, with the main change being a red Start button to match the red power and reset buttons on the console. This would become the most common Mega Drive controller, as far more Model IIs were sold in Europe than Model Is.

Mega Drive, EU
Pad MD PAL II.jpg
Control Pad



South Korea

Super Aladdin Boy Control Pad

The control pad that debuted along with Korea's Super Aladdin Boy is very similar to the first Japanese model. It contains a blue Start button, red button text and the text "COMPUTER VIDEO GAME CONTROL PAD" printed on top. This is all rounded off with a Samsung logo in the middle.

Mega Drive, KR
MDControlPad SK 1.jpg
Control Pad

Technical Information

The chip inside the control pad is a 74HC157. This is a high-speed CMOS quad 2-line to 1-line multiplexer. Basically, how this works is there are two inputs ( A and B ) for every output ( Y ). There are four groups like this. There is one select signal for the whole chip. When the select signal is low, the output ( Y ) is the same as input A. When the select signal is high, the output Y is the same as input B. The pinout for the chip is as follows:

Pin 1 Select
Pin 2 1A
Pin 3 1B
Pin 4 1Y
Pin 5 2A
Pin 6 2B
Pin 7 2Y
Pin 8 Gnd
Pin 9 3Y
Pin 10 3B
Pin 11 3A
Pin 12 4Y
Pin 13 4B
Pin 14 4A
Pin 15 G (? must be low)
Pin 16 Vcc (+5V)

All the controls are done with switches. Up is a switch, Down is a switch, etc. Now, I will be referring to the output of these switches later on. The output is usually high when the switch isn't pressed. When the button is pushed, the output goes low. This is accomplished by connecting the output to +5V through a 10k resistor. The button is then attached between the output and ground. It looks like this:

    +5V -----/\/\/------+--------- Output
              10k       |
               /        |
  Ground -----/  -------+
             (normally open)

The line numbers are determined as follows, looking straight at the plug on the front of the Genesis the numbers are:

	1 2 3 4 5
	 6 7 8 9
Line 1 Up output.
Line 2 Down output. These are the only two direct connections.
Line 3 Pin 4 of the chip. Output 1Y.
Line 4 Pin 7 of the chip. Output 2Y.
Line 5 This line carries in +5V. It is connected to the +5V bus line.
Line 6 (TL) Pin 9 of the chip. Output 3Y.
Line 7 (TH) Pin 1 of the chip. This carries in a select signal from the Genesis. This is a signal which varies rapidly and controls which input goes through the output
Line 8 Ground. This is connected to the Ground bus line.
Line 9 (TR) Pin 12 of the chip. Output 4Y.

Now for the chips pin connections:

Pin 1 Line 7 (select)
Pin 2 Ground (1A)
Pin 3 Left (1B)
Pin 4 Line 3 (1Y)
Pin 5 Ground (2A)
Pin 6 Right (2B)
Pin 7 Line 4 (2Y)
Pin 8 Ground (GND)
Pin 9 Line 6 (3Y)
Pin 10 Button B (3B)
Pin 11 Button A (3A)
Pin 12 Line 9 (4Y)
Pin 13 Button C (4B)
Pin 14 Start (4A)
Pin 15 Ground (G)
Pin 16 +5V (Vcc)


Access to controller ports is from bytes $A10003 (controller 1) and $A10005 (controller 2). TH must be set for output and the other pins for input, so bytes $A10009 and $A1000B must be set to $40 to read the respective controller.

Bit 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Pin - TH TL TR R L D U
TH = 0  ? 0 S A 0 0 D U
TH = 1  ? 1 C B R L D U

Bit 7 latches the value written to it. It takes approximately the equivalent of two nop instructions for other types of controllers (such as the six-button controller) to respond to a TH change.

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