Six Button Control Pad (Mega Drive)

From Sega Retro

Pad MD Gen3.jpg
Six Button Control Pad
Made for: Sega Mega Drive
Manufacturer: Sega
Release Date RRP Code
Sega Mega Drive
¥2,5002,500 SJ-6000
Sega Mega Drive
$19.9919.99[2][3] MK-1653
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive
£14.9914.99 MK-1653
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive
Sega Mega Drive

The Six Button Control Pad became the de facto controller for the Sega Mega Drive, replacing the standard Control Pad internationally around 1993/1994. It is officially known as the 6 Button Arcade Pad in North America and the Fighting Pad 6B (ファイティングパッド6B) in Japan.


There are two main types of Six Button Control Pad, a smaller model originally intended for Japan, and a larger one intended for the west. The differences in size are due to a perception that the Japanese and people living in similar Asian countries have genetically smaller hands - it is an idea that passed through to the Sega Saturn and even to the Xbox before the realisation it might have been easier to produce one single pad for all regions. Indeed the larger variant was phased out by the end of the decade to cut costs and the Japanese variant would replace it worldwide.

The Six Button Control Pad is functionally identical to the previous pad but features three extra face buttons (or "triggers"); X, Y and Z, placed above A, B and C. The  START  button was moved to the centre of the pad, similar to Nintendo's set of controllers.

In most regions the Six Button Control Pad was released with Street Fighter II': Special Champion Edition, which made use of the six-button layout. Though the game had been released on the Super NES, it had to assign moves to the L and R buttons - the Mega Drive version is therefore more analogous to the original arcade version (and also means a separate arcade stick does not necessarily need to be purchased).

Some games do not function with the Six Button Control Pad. To fix this situation, Sega added a  MODE  button on the top right of the controller. If held while the system is booting, the controller will revert back to a three button pad. Many six button games make use of the  MODE  button within play, bringing the total number of buttons to eight (plus the D-Pad). Since the Super NES controller also has eight buttons, this made developing multiplatform games for both consoles easier.

There are some minor aesthetic differences between models. Japanese control pads have blue  START  buttons, PAL models have red ones, and North America has grey ones.

The Six Button Control Pad would be used as a basis for the Sega Saturn Control Pad, though the  MODE  button would be scrapped in favour of an extra two shoulder buttons, L and R.

Compatible games

Mega Drive



Incompatible games

note: this list is incomplete
  • Forgotten Worlds (reads controllers too quickly for the pad to keep up — there is no delay between setting TH and reading the new values, and apparently regular controllers are fast enough to handle this, but not the 6-button)

Games requiring 3-button mode

King of the Monsters requires an abnormally long press of the mode button in order to work.

Mode Button

Though the  MODE  button is officially used on a Six Button Control Pad to switch between six button and three button modes, many developers utilised it in-game as an extra button for gameplay. In many situations the  MODE  button's usage is kept hidden from the player by not being listed in manuals, thus its use is not widely documented.

List of Games which use the Mode Button

Hidden compatibility

Though these games are generally designed only with 3-button control pads in mind, support for the Six Button Control Pad is added to these games anyway, usually as a means of accessing hidden features such as cheats, Easter eggs or debugging features.

Technical information

In order to maintain backwards-compatibility with existing games, the 6-button gamepad acts the same as the 3-button if the controller inputs are read by the program a maximum of four times per frame. Reading the 3-button gamepad takes two cycles (once with TH=1 to read Up, Down, Left, Right, B, and C; and once with TH=0 to read A and  START ), and the 6-button gamepad allows this to occur twice. It then reports the state of the extra buttons when the TH line is changed after the fourth cycle.

The full controller state is read in 8 cycles:

Cycle TH out TR in TL in D3 in D2 in D1 in D0 in
1 HI C B Right Left Down Up
2 LO Start A 0 0 Down Up
3 HI C B Right Left Down Up
4 LO Start A 0 0 Down Up
5 HI C B Right Left Down Up
6 LO Start A 0 0 0 0
7 HI C B Mode X Y Z
8 LO Start A --- --- --- ---

Note: For the 8th cycle, '---' indicates "don't care". These values are all 1 on the 6-button controller, but may be mapped to other buttons on third-party controllers. Software expecting 6-button controllers should simply ignore these values. (6-button detection should be done on the 6th cycle, which presents four 0's on the D lines.)

The controller's internal counter automatically resets after the eighth cycle. It also resets if it doesn't detect a rising-edge (0 to 1) transition on the TH line within 1.5 ms, which ensures that most games that don't support the extra buttons won't read them accidentally.

Some games incorrectly read the controller more than twice per frame, which may cause them to read the wrong set of buttons. If the  MODE  button is held in while starting the Mega Drive console, the 6-button gamepad will disable the extra buttons and act identically to a 3-button gamepad. (That is, the controller's internal counter will reset after the first two cycles instead of after eight cycles.)



Magazine articles

Main article: Six Button Control Pad (Mega Drive)/Magazine articles.

Promotional material

6ButtonArcadePadTeamPlayer US Flyer.pdf

US flyer
6ButtonArcadePadTeamPlayer US Flyer.pdf
Sega TW advert PaiYuing.jpg
TW advert
Sega TW advert PaiYuing.jpg
Print advert in Sega Visions (US) #15: "October/November 1993" (1993-xx-xx)
also published in:
Print advert in Sega Visions (US) #21: "October/November 1994" (1994-xx-xx)
also published in:
Print advert in Mega Force (ES) #24: "Abril 1994" (1994-xx-xx)

Physical scans

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Six Button Control Pad (Mega Drive)

Mega Drive, JP
FightingPad6B MD JP Box Back.jpgNospine-small.pngMDController SJ6000 JP Box Front.jpg
Mega Drive, US
6ButtonArcadePad MD US Box Back Older.jpgNospine-small.png6ButtonArcadePad MD US Box Front Older.jpg
Mega Drive, US (newer)
6ButtonArcadePad MD US Box Back.jpgNospine-small.pngMDController MK-1653 US Box Front.jpg
Mega Drive, US (Sega Club)
SC6BC MD US Box Back.jpgSC6BC MD US Box Spine.jpgSC6BC MD US Box Front.jpgSC6BC MD US Box Spine2.jpg
Mega Drive, EU (-50)

SixButtonControlPad MD EU Box Back 50.jpg

Mega Drive, EU (-50 B)

SixButtonControlPad MD EU Box Back 50 B.jpg

Mega Drive, EU (-44)
SixButtonControlPad MD EU Box Back 44.jpgNospine-small.pngMDController MK1653 EU Box Front.jpg
Mega Drive, PT (Mega Game II)
ControlPad MD PT Box Back.jpgNospine-small.pngControlPad MD PT Box Front.jpg
Mega Drive, BR
J6B MD BR Box Front.jpg
Mega Drive, BR (Master System branding)
J6B SMS BR Box Front.jpg
Mega Drive, BR (grey)
J6B MD BR Box Front Grey.jpg
Mega Drive, CA
6ButtonArcadePad MD CA Box Back.jpgNospine-small.png6ButtonArcadePad MD CA Box Front.jpg
Mega Drive, TR
Nospine-small.pngMDController TR Box Front.png
Mega Drive, AS


Mega Drive, CN (Tianli)


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