Any platform requirements would have been useful in the original question. On Linux, USB gamepads can make xinput events. I only ever cared about it for the sake of disabling it, but the discussion in this Ubuntu bug may help get started on the right track. Basically you'll need xserver-xorg-input-joystick installed and may need to do some xinput set-props work (see starting around comment 24 there.)
I installed Windows 95 OSR2 on a machine without a CD-ROM drive over Interlink and a null modem cable. Took about fifteen hours, but did the trick. It's probably the best least-common-denominator option.
Thank you...and thanks to your governments for opening the back road through Rendija again. I bailed to Albuquerque Sunday night; not much to do now but follow the news and hope I have a house when we go back.
Directing people to a third-party service which doesn't provide source counts as a "proprietary solution" to me. I understand more and more where Debian's apparent fanaticism about "freedom" comes from, slippery slope and all that.