For a goodly amount of time now, Nintendo has been using the standard button layout that it pioneered on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: A on the right, B at the bottom, X at the top, and Y on the left. Systems like the N64, GameCube, and most certainly the Wii dabbled in other layouts, but it’s surprising how far ahead the R&D bodkins were when they came up with the SNES layout.
For decades now, the A button has been used for progressing through menus and accepting options, and the B button has been used for navigating backwards or denying things. Simple.
Not everyone wanted to follow in Nintendo’s footsteps, however; Sony decided to use the same basic layout but opted for more universal symbols rather than letters from the Latin alphabet. These symbols weren’t entirely arbitrary, either; the most obvious examples of which being the ‘circle’ and ‘cross’ buttons, with the circle button being used in the same way as Nintendo’s A button, and the cross button for the B button, and they were housed in the same locations. How nice!
And then SEGA came along with the Dreamcast. Four main face buttons just like Nintendo, but what’s this? It’s switched A and B along with X and Y, so now A is at the bottom, B is on the right, and so on. Now any seasoned Nintendo fan will be more than a bit taken aback when all their muscle memory for on-screen prompts is suddenly and massively incorrect, leading to what is likely too many deaths in Sonic Adventure. This system would later be adopted into Microsoft’s Xbox series of consoles, just to found us further.
What’s more, Sony’s North American division for some reason decided that circle being ‘accept’ was just too barmy for words, so instead declared that all western PlayStations should have ‘cross’ as ‘confirm’ and ‘circle’ as ‘cancel’. With the arrival of the PS5 this has also become the case in Japan (which had previously had the opposite setup) and a whole lot of irritated fist-shaking has ensued.
The effects of these decisions are clearly still being felt today, then, compounded most painfully in the X button, which (if you count the PlayStation’s cross button as an X button, which an awful lot of people do) appears in no less than three different locations across three different systems. If you own more than one console, you’re no doubt aware of just how frustrating it can be to have to re-wire your thinking each time you pick up another controller as soon as a game tells you to press ‘X’.
We go into far greater detail in the video above, so why not give it a listen? We promise it’s at least somewhat entertaining at least (and perhaps at most).
Do you find yourself vexed by a lack of a universal button layout between systems? Lets us know with some words expressing those feelings in comment form.