Putting hand to formed plastic as you try out a new video game controller or peripheral that works well—one that really clicks—is a magical experience. Gameplay melts into you as your body becomes an extension of the console, this humble device fusing with your hands into a single new, exciting umbilicus.
A good gaming device is indispensable. I’m sure most of us can’t imagine playing GameCube without a Wavebird Controller, shaking a Wiimote without the MotionPlus firmly attached, blazing through a classic on the Sega Saturn without the 3D Controller, or facing off against a competitor that isn’t via an online network. Many of these additions end up being fundamental to the consoles they were designed for.
But sometimes these efforts fall very short and are virtually forgotten and never spoken of again. That’s what this list is all about: the hardware that didn’t need to happen or failed miserably. But let’s break this up a little bit and start with the unnecessary gaming devices of the retro era before moving onto contemporary uselessness.
RETRO SYSTEMS AND ACCESSORIES
It’s kind of unbelievable that decades before people were complaining about extraneous motion controls on the Kinect and Move, the Sega Genesis was quietly setting the (low) bar for full body motion control.
The Sega Activator was a peripheral for the Sega Genesis in the ‘90s that was meant to facilitate motion controls in its games, particularly fighting titles. The setup: the player would stand in this octagonal grid that used infrared lights to detect movement in over 16 different areas.
While the Activator was designed specifically to work with Mortal Kombat, Comix Zone, and Eternal Champions, it was heralded to be usable with every game, which is certainly true if you’re liberal with the term “usable.”
What made this a bust was that while the commercials showed gamers rapidly doing martial arts in the octagon, as they pleasantly watched their digital counterpoints do the same, the way the peripheral actually operated was that each section was essentially mapped a button that was detected as you waved your hand into said section. Only the product was extremely temperamental in addition to this, seldom bearing results, even for the three games it was programmed for (plus the hefty $80 price tag it came with).
I suppose that’s what happens when you base a game product off of a musician’s idea (Assaf Gurner’s Light Harp) rather than a game developer’s.
SUPER NINTENDO MOUSE
While a perfectly fine mouse peripheral in its own right, the onus here more so falls on its purpose. Gamers may tend to jump to the conclusion that the mouse was only used with Mario Paint, a title that the two-button peripheral was even packaged with. In fact, the mouse was compatible was a surprising number of games, but this felt more like the system trying to shoehorn a functionality that wasn’t there onto a product.
For instance, while the mouse was made usable for a bunch of games, does anyone really want to be evading dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, or destroying cyborgs in T2: The Arcade Game with one? With so little purpose, it makes you wonder why they even bothered. At least the even less remembered PlayStation mouse peripheral made good use of a real-time strategy and point-and-click adventure library at its disposal.
PLAYSTATION LINK CABLE
A link cable that allows multiplayer gaming is nothing new here, yet many were unaware that the original PlayStation even offered such a capability. What’s slightly different in this version of multiplayer gaming is that in console-to-console linking, you’re not forced to share a split-screen experience. At last, you can have a whole screen’s worth of space without the frustration of it being squished down.
Oh, you know, because you’re linking console-to-console, to actually use this feature, you’re going to need two PlayStations, two copies of the game you’re playing (in like 98% of the cases), and two televisions that are near each other.
Sure, it’d be nice to play Twisted Metal 3 in a true multiplayer environment, but it shouldn’t involve the prerequisite of owning a cloning machine to be practical.
NES POWER GLOVE
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you know about this thing; I get it. You’ve seen The Wizard a thousand times; I hear you. But there’s more to this peripheral than it being prime meme fodder.
Part of the problem here could have been that Nintendo, in spite of licensing this product/clothing item, outsourced the development to six different people/teams, continually switching and amending the work they had done, and it very well could have been a case of too many e-cooks in the e-kitchen.
Controlling the glove consisting of using the basic NES controls that were on the glove, inputting commands to the labeled 1-9 buttons (nine buttons), as well as utilizing hand motions to control your character, too.
After you’ve incorporated all of this excess into the peripheral, you’re now free to play your selected game in a much, much more complicated, precarious way than before! Sure, the idea of controlling a video game with a glove seems cool, especially back in the ’80s, but a core concept in that idea working is that the glove has to actually control the video game effectively. However, if you are desperate to see just how frivolous this device is, I suggest you start with Super Glove Ball, Glove Pilot, and Manipulator Glove Adventure (hmm, do you see a pattern here?).
Exclusive to Japan, the Satellaview for the SNES (or, more accurately, the Super Famicom), was a satellite modem that, naturally, facilitated access to online gaming all the way back in 1995, or at least a version of it.
The way that this very complicated system worked is that via the Satellaview, your Super Famicom would pick up satellite TV stations. There would then be a designated hour (The Super Famicom Hour, natch) that would air content like contests, magazines, data, and of course games.
The games were actually distributed in a pretty interesting fashion, usually airing in parts each week, with a password being involved, or yourself needing to unlock access to the next part before the subsequent episode aired; almost like radio plays, but for video games.
In spite of this novel idea, and fun things like contests being offered through the service, the support and games behind it were minimal. The fact that Satellaview was roughly retailing for around $150 USD (which didn’t include you also picking up the BS tuner that was necessary for the service, as well as Nintendo’s additional subscription fees) certainly didn’t help move or justify the product either.
MASTER SYSTEM GIRL
Okay, here’s the litmus test to see if the Master System Girl is unnecessary: Have you heard of the Master System? Yes, you have? Okay, well then this offshoot is entirely redundant. All that this is is a regular Sega Master System, but colored pink, and with a feminine avatar slapped onto the packaging.
The product was produced by Tectoy in Brazil as a means to increase the amount of female gamers on the system, but not only is the system needless, but it’s pretty much enforcing gender stereotypes and entrenched sexism in youth (because of course a female would play a video game system if it was pink, and of course a female would give something a chance if it now had “Girl” in the title).
Bottom line, there was nothing stopping girls from playing the original Master System (especially with prominent titles like Phantasy Star even featuring a female protagonist), and if they had to play some co-opted gender confused console, couldn’t it have a slightly less clunky name, like Mistress System, instead of Master System Girl?
Another product that never made it overseas from Japan (perhaps because we were seen to have enough common sense that such a product wasn’t seen as necessary), the Famicoin (ohhhh, I see what it did there) was a rubber pad that you’d put over your controller’s D-Pad…
Oh, you want to know why you would do this? You mean in all the photos or videos you’ve seen of people playing Nintendo, they’ve never been doing so with the aid of a Famicoin? Surprising!
Obviously ,the Famicoin is used to give yourself better, enhanced grip and protect yourself from the dangers of repetitive strain injuries, dumbie. Just a thin layer of extra rubber to make gaming easier on your hands. Besides, the Famicoins even come with fun stickers that you can put on them! How can you not have confidence in a product that hides behind stickers?
Here’s a peripheral that is absolutely going to change your life.
You’re going to view gaming from this point on in a “Pre-Speedboard” and “Post-Speedboard” sense, that’s how fundamental this thing is. The Speedboard for the Nintendo—and brace yourself now—is a piece of plastic that is meant to hold the NES controller for you, so you are therefore able to press buttons faster.
Do you need some time now so you can go scour the electronic bay for the cheapest, most accessible copy?
In all seriousness though, this thing is the worst (it’s actually widely considered to be the worst gaming peripheral). It’s really doing nothing at all, let alone help you game any faster here, and feels like the definition of the most useless, cash grab-y, grandmother-ignorantly-buying-you-for-the-holidays sort of peripheral.
It is the only NES accessory endorsed by a NASCAR driver, Kyle Petty though, so if that’s something you’ve been looking for, hesitate no longer.
It also goes without saying that it’s safe to assume that if you were to try using the Speedboard and Famicoin in conjunction, you’d be gaming so fast that the world would just collapse in on itself.
Basically Nintendo’s equivalent to the Sega Activator, the U-Force was a rudimentary, infinitely persnickety attempt at motion gaming on the NES, way ahead of its time, biting off way more than it could chew. Rather than being an octagonal shape like the Activator, the U-Force instead goes in the next logical direction, a laptop-like setup that reads your hand movements and translates them onto the screen.
With a bunch of crazy stuff in the middle!
Ideally, this feature was billed to work with games like Punch-Out!! and offer a real advantage to the player. In reality though, the peripheral ended up being less responsive and more restrictive than the Activator, and also offered up a smaller range to play with. Just looking at the ridiculous setup going on here; almost looking like some David Cronenberg kind of creation, tells you that this wasn’t a desirable, necessary way to enjoy video games.
Sega was far from done with experimenting with online gaming in its earlier years. The Sega Saturn in fact eventually had a modem made for it allowing gamers to compete against each other.
While such a luxury was desirable at the time, the Saturn’s Sega NetLink modem retailed for $199 (or, bundled with the Saturn for a cool $400; there was even a Sega Pluto prototype made that was an Internet-ready Saturn out of the box) which was a pretty steep price tag.
The NetLink modem allowed players to use the Internet, e-mail, and even used a modified version of the XBAND technology that was implemented to give the Genesis and SNES online access. Saturn’s online play was actually somewhat refined, the larger problem was that only five games in the Saturn’s library could go online (with Daytona USA, Saturn Bomberman, and Duke Nukem being some of the highlights).
In the end, the cost of the NetLink modem was deemed unjustified — not to mention that a very limited base of players were actually interested in it.
SEGA SCOPE/FAMICOM 3D
When the Sega Master System and original Nintendo were flailing to come up with flashy peripherals to justify their expensive systems, one of the more interesting efforts made were the SegaScope 3D glasses and Famicom 3D glasses which were released in the late ’80s. Utilizing Field Sequential 3D with the aid of some pretty severe Ray Charles-esque LCD glasses, you could experience your titles with the magic of three dimensions.
Games like Space Harrier 3D were being played in a whole new way, and even though the tech being used here was a far way away from where we are now (using that double-image syncing idea), it still bore results and Field Sequential 3D even began to be used in movies at the time.
The issue again here was that not enough people were even aware these peripherals existed, and due to the rudimentary forms of 3D being offered here, in spite of the thrill, it might have been more fruitful to just wait a few generations longer.
GAMEBOY CAMERA AND PRINTER
In 1998, Nintendo developed a digital camera and corresponding printer for its GameBoy handheld. The smallest digital camera of the time, the device allowed you to shoot pictures, view and edit them, and also a “play” option featuring a number of Game and Watch-esque mini-games you could, incorporating your photos in it.
The games and set-up here are a lot like the camera options that were eventually offered decades later on the Nintendo DS. This camera was largely seen as a luxury for children and more of a toy.
The camera itself worked fine, but it was the eventual dwindling support that was the issue, not to mention that if the GameBoy printer was a major selling point for you, it would be exceedingly difficult to acquire more thermal printer to actually print your images (and would be drastically more difficult to do now).
Any product where you can run out of “fuel” for it, is certainly problematic.
N64 TRANSFER PAK
Nintendo seemed ever eager to always try to be linking together its GameBoy with the Nintendo 64, with this being one of the later attempts at the synergy.
How the Transfer Pak worked was that you would put a GameBoy game into the pak, and it would use data from this to unlock something in the corresponding N64 title. The most prominent, functional example of this technology was in the Pokemon Stadium titles (they even came packaged with the peripheral), but Mario Tennis and Mario Golf also made meager attempts at using the science.
The 64’s Perfect Dark had large plans with the device, with the intention being to link up with the GameBoy Camera to transpose faces onto your enemies. However, after the Columbine High shootings took place, suddenly the idea of shooting enemies that resembled your family and friends was no longer as desirable.
This tech was always seen as a frivolity rather than something fundamental to gaming. When you then consider the embarrassing amount of titles that actually supported the hardware, this endeavor seems even less necessary. Releasing the N64 from the start with this sort of reading ability in place, would have been the ideal move.
3DO’S EIGHT-CONTROLLER DAISY CHAIN
The gaming population at large is fairly ignorant of the 3DO in general (home of Gex!), so it makes sense that some of its weirder features would be equally unrecognized.
Many inclusions on this list have been about enhanced multiplayer gaming, but the 3DO truly goes the farthest here, with its ability to link together eight controllers.
The 3DO controllers had a port in the back that could be connected to another one. This meant that you didn’t need some multi-tap or additional controller ports at all; these controllers were self-sufficient.
While a reasonably smart idea in its own right, if you could actually find eight willing 3DO players, the bigger issue became actually tracking down titles that supported the feature. A progressive idea, but one that could barely ever be implemented and enjoyed.
GAME BOY COLOR/GAME BOY ADVANCE/NINTENDO DS RUMBLE PAK
Our video game controllers vibrating and sending minimal shockwaves to our hands to better “feel the game” are expected and understood components of consoles these days. I suppose it only makes sense that someone would try translating this technology over to handheld gaming where your hands are playing a much more crucial role in the experience.
Nintendo developed a number of rumble pak enhanced titles, that came with the peripheral built right into it, rather than selling it separately. The first instances of this were seen with Pokemon Pinball for the GameBoy Color (and there being a steady decision to use this power for pinball games down the road, like Metroid Pinball for the DS), and occasional, minimal support continued to be seen. It’s not as if the rumbling technology was too powerful here and ruining gameplay as a result.
No, what was more the concern was the languishing support to use the feature (why not just put it in all titles starting with the GameBoy Advance, rather than a seemingly random selection system). If Nintendo couldn’t fully embrace it, why should we? And while aesthetics are not a crucial area here, the fact that rumble-enhanced games were bulky, ugly mutations of cartridges may not have helped either.
NINTENDO 64/DREAMCAST MICROPHONES
The natural progression to incorporate voice into video gaming was only a matter of time before the transition was made. While online gaming now has a rich, accomplished microphone and speech system in place, some of the earlier attempts at the idea were not nearly as fluid.
For instance, the Nintendo 64 tried their hand at the idea, creating a bulky microphone peripheral which would only end up being used for the game, Hey You, Pikachu!. Voice tech was far from perfect yet, but to design an entire compatible microphone and then only make it implemented in one title, is a definite waste.
The Dreamcast didn’t learn much from this either, creating an arguably sleeker, more refined mic, it was also only used for a handful of titles (most notably Seamon and Alien Front Online), with the rest being a random grab bag of the titles that worked with it.
The temptation to get into this stream was obviously large for these companies, but they should have waited until voice tech was more of a fundamental, required gaming aspect.
Even the Gamecube released a disastrous microphone peripheral that really only seemed to stand out as extraneous Mario Party hardware.
The Jaguar CD was Atari’s CD-based add-on for their already existing Jaguar system that worked much in the same way as how the Sega CD locked onto the Genesis.
It’s no surprise that a lot of failed systems have come and gone through the years, and while updating the Jaguar with disc-based games might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it was largely a floundering result. Only eleven games were created for the system (the highlight of which was Primal Rage, to illustrate just how much you weren’t missing here). And even if eleven titles was still enough of a library to keep you entertained, pricing the add-on peripheral at roughly $150 would be enough to dissuade you.
With the efforts being put out here, and the bulk of these titles available on other systems, the reasons that the Jaguar CD has to exist become fewer and fewer.
BLEEM! FOR DREAMCAST
A rather bizarre, unusual idea here that you don’t see very often at all, Bleem!’s goal was to allow you to play PlayStation games on a Dreamcast or PC.
The idea of playing a competitor’s title on its rivals system is pretty ballsy (imagine if there was some peripheral that allowed you to play Wii games on the PS3), and its exactly this ballsy-ness that led to Bleem!’s bankruptcy and closure.
Bleem! was essentially a built-in, official PlayStation emulator. It’s use was meant to further popularize PlayStation titles on other systems, and even had slick control mapping to make the transition as easy as possible.
While all of this may sound too good to be true, it more or less was, as Sony took great exception to what was going on here, and their continual lawsuits soon took the company under (but it should be mentioned that they didn’t outright win their case, or succeed in removing Bleem! from stores, which sets interesting emulation precedent).
If this legal grayness wasn’t enough to keep this peripheral behind, the fact that Bleem! could only operate Gran Turismo 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Tekken 3, was another nail in its ambitious coffin. And while playing heavy hitter titles like this on the Dreamcast, even with slightly beefed up graphics, the fact that Bleem! also required you to own the original PlayStation game disc, was a little too much effort for the gamers that were on board with the idea.
Everyone’s favorite peripheral/robot! R.O.B. (or, the Robotic Operating Buddy, but why should we be so formal with the little guy) is a pretty ridiculous peripheral when you stop to consider that this is a controller in the shape of a “conscious” robot.
Nintendo was throwing a lot of ideas at the wall in these earlier days, and while R.O.B. was only supported on two titles (Gyromite and Stack-Up), the peripheral certainly made an impression (hey, you don’t make it into Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart DS as a playable character by being unknown!).
It’s somewhat comical that R.O.B. was produced by Nintendo as a means to fight against the “video game crash of ’83” and assure retailers that video gaming was still very much alive, when this thing looks like the biggest knee-jerk panic attack decision that could be made. R.O.B. worked by receiving optical flashes from the TV that would correspond to his LED eyes. R.O.B. was then capable of completing six commands, which would correspond to the game.
There some attempts to update R.O.B. so he could function with the SNES, or at least have a wider support system would have been crucial but didn’t even seem to be what Nintendo was interested in doing with the thing.
Arguably, this was all clunky at best (imagine if a Furby or something was added as an Xbox peripheral), expensive, and with limited software support, but at the least, it left you with a robot in your room to play with, which is more than what some useless fishing controller would leave you with.
The little system that could!
Or at least could for thirty minutes before you needed to put it away before those spider eggs in your skull hatched.
Seeming even sillier now that Nintendo has produced the beyond viable 3DS, the Virtual Boy was the company’s much, much earlier attempt at the technology. The problem here was that the clunky headset of a system would actually begin to make you feel nauseous or dizzy after extended use, which is kind of a serious issue. It also didn’t help that the system sold for $180 (the 3DS quickly retailed for $170 after its release).
In spite of there actually being some worthwhile titles on the system like Virtual Boy Wario Land and Teleroboxer, and the 3D effects occasionally impressing and doing their job, the console was on the market for less than a year before Nintendo silently killed it.
They didn’t even issue a press release on the matter, they wanted it to be over with so badly. By the end, only 22 games were released, only 14 making it to North America, and if you’re getting headaches to work through only a dozen some odd games, this thing likely should have stayed as a prototype.
Much in the same vein as the Sega CD, or other lock-on peripherals, the 64DD was a disk drive that connected to the bottom of the console. These disks would act as expansions for games, allowing you to edit and create, and have a network at your disposal, while also releasing games upon itself, boasting an impressive launch line-up of SimCity 64, Mario Artist, Pocket Monsters, and Mother 3, the majority of these of course didn’t happen.
In actuality, under ten games were released for the add-on, but there was a large list of nearly fifty titles that were scrapped, due to the unexpected failure of the idea. The attachment was delayed three years on and off, and when it eventually was released in Japan, it was seen as a commercial failure to the point that it wasn’t even attempted to be released over here.
The bulk of the games ended up being re-designed for the Gamecube. The lesson here being that this idea, which had been in place before the N64 even came out, should have been around from the launch, rather than coming out in the system’s nadir before it truly had a chance, and was only appealing to a niche crowd.
One of the absolute weirder controllers that was out there for the PlayStation. The NeGcon (pronounced “neh-gee-con,” obviously) was meant to be used with racing games, and while a clunky steering wheel controller might seem weird to some people, the approach in place here was that there was a swivel joint in the middle of the controller, and you’d twist the respective halves of the thing, like you’re wringing out a towel almost, to control the acceleration and brake of your vehicle.
The controller actually worked pretty decently and was even available for the low price of five dollars, but the design was too weird for most and didn’t prove to be popular or viable enough to continue on past its generation.
Okay, don’t you love those dance rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution? Aren’t they a great way to work out your body and blast through a video game at the same time? But isn’t the worst thing about those dancing games is that we, as humans, dance with our feet? Wouldn’t the world just be perfect if we danced with our fingers, and could let our tired legs rest at last?
Well, the Palmtop Controller answered these prayers and then some. Here, you could work through your favorite rhythm games, with the pleasure of your fingers, an entirely unnecessary endeavor that kind of defeats the purpose of these games entirely.
Unsurprisingly, you likely haven’t seen these things being used in wide support.
ROLL ‘N ROCKER
If you were ever one of those kids that wished that their Nintendo was more like a skateboard, or that skateboarding was more like a video game, then you might have been one of the few lonely souls who happened to pick up the Roll ‘n Rocker for the NES. The skateboard-like peripheral involved the player standing on the device, controlling the D-Pad with their feet and by tilting their weight distribution, as they tried to successfully make magic happen and work the game properly.
If you can picture an even clunkier, more problematic version of Nintendo’s Power Glove, you can maybe begin to fathom what this controller was like. But at least with the Power Glove no one was falling to the ground, getting hurt.
A preliminary attempt at rumble pak technology back in the Genesis and SNES days, except only instead of the rumbling coming out of your controller, the aura interactor was a vest that you would wear (and eventually a cushion that would go against the back of your seat too).
The system had a tiny speaker inside of it that would provide the “feedback” and vibrations that made you “feel” the game, as punches and kicks took place. The vest was expectedly faulty, and with it and the cushion both retailing for $99 each, most people were skeptical to jump on the bandwagon.
With that money, you could buy a handful of new games, and bounce your hands and controllers around just fine. Push the speaker up to the back of your chair if you’re that desperate; it might even work better.
PLAYSTATION/NINTENDO 64 CONTROLLER GLOVES
Surprisingly even rarer than the NES Power Glove, but about equally as troublesome, Reality Quest made a series of controller gloves for the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation (as well as the PC).
The mechanism worked by steering or controlling your character with the movement of your wrist, and your fingers working the keys. This design honestly wasn’t the worst and allowed you to play your games one-handed, but it felt, just like it looked, like an unnecessary idea being crammed in where it didn’t need to be; a novelty cash grab to offer something new to those who didn’t know better.
While it was possible to work a game with this peripheral, it never gave a more preferable experience or simplified the game any.
At tournaments, you don’t see people busting out the controller glove for Super Smash Bros. or Silent Hill, though. And with the device being as hard to find as it is, it seems like the world is slowly eliminating its existence all on its own.
NYKO HIP CLIP
It’s hard to believe that this piece of garbage came out in the 2000s, and not the gullible time of the ‘80s or ‘90s. What you see here is what you get: a holster for your GameBoy Color, that couldn’t be a more uncool way to carry around your gaming device. Not to mention that the GameBoy Color was already at a certain sleekness that it could fit in most pockets as it was. It didn’t need this attachment at all, and even if you thought you did require it, it surely wouldn’t have stayed on you long after the constant stone throwings and insult assaults you’d be open to.
Now here’s a peripheral that actually prevents you from playing your video games, the NES Lockout is one for the parents, everyone! This was a self-setting combination lock that would clip onto the front of your Nintendo, and act as a vise, holding the system together, preventing gameplay.
While something like this does serve a purpose and the idea of children overindulging on video games can be a serious problem in some cases, this product just felt like a lazy cash-in.
The lock wasn’t that strong, and was simple enough, that if parents really wanted to keep their kids from playing games, it would have been a safer idea to just hide their games, rather than having the tempting locked box right in front of them.
RECENT SYSTEMS AND PERIPHERALS
GAMECUBE BROADBAND ADAPTER/MODEM ADAPTER
Where to begin with the Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 Online Adapter, an addition which—I’m sorry. I forgot that’s not what the product’s called, but it may as well be because the Gamecube’s modem is essentially only used on the aforementioned Sega title. That’s it.
Online functionality was added to a system purely to facilitate the use of one game. If that doesn’t qualify as unnecessary, I’m not sure what does.
Granted, the adapter allowed LAN play with a few other titles that you could count on your hand, and the product was actually reverse engineered and the first few pirated dumps of Gamecube titles happened as a result.
It’s just depressing that in a generation where the Xbox and even the PS2 had robust online gaming communities, this is all that Nintendo could muster.
The Nintendo e-Reader was a failed device for the GameBoy Advance that used an LED scanner to read cards (that were called e-Reader cards; hey, branding!) with encoded data printed on them. Swiping these cards–I mean, e-Reader cards–would unlock content in a corresponding game, whether it be a mini-game, new levels, hidden items, or in some of the most appealing cases, full NES games.
This in itself is a somewhat novel idea and more or less a pre-cursor to downloadable content that followed down the road, but the problem here was that the majority of people didn’t want to hunt down separate items like cards, if they’ve already bought the game, especially when these cards are only applicable for a limited amount of titles (with Super Mario, Pokemon, and Animal Crossing unsurprisingly making the most use out of the add-on). Some of these e-Reader cards were even acquired at certain events, or only available at certain locations, that this became far too much effort for a scarcely implemented feature.
In spite of the peripheral seeing success in Japan, it was almost immediately discontinued in North America after people collectively sighed in its direction.
PLAYSTATION 2 HORIZONTAL STAND
While surely the least functional of the peripherals and systems on this list, this item fits the bill for being unnecessary in very simple terms: it’s an entirely superfluous addition that truly offers nothing to the console; it’s deceiving you if anything. Like most modern consoles, they are built with the ability to either stand vertically or horizontally.
The PS2, for instance, while shipping as a “horizontal system,” in time released a vertical stand; a mostly unnecessary product, but one that allowed you to stand your system up, providing it air and alleviating the motor, albeit still being something you could largely do on your own without the use of purchased plastic.
If that wasn’t enough, Sony eventually released a horizontal stand so you’d have no trouble making sure that your console could rest on the ground without exception. It’s doing nothing here. It’s literally a ground surrogate. But I suppose you could consult the product’s original description, which claims that the stand also provides your system with a “visually stunning result” and “keeps it secure” in case it was going to run away or something, so perhaps I can’t see the forest through the trees here…
STEEL BATTALION CONTROLLER
And sometimes “unnecessary” doesn’t qualify as something that’s so needless that it doesn’t even need to exist. Sometimes “unnecessary” can be something that’s so, so realistic, and complicated, it’s doing no one any good use at all.
Take for instance the Steel Battalion controller, a $200, highly obtrusive, forty-button control station. The idea here is that you were getting unrivaled mech simulation for the first time ever, but is this something that we truly need? Do we need to spend $200 on a “controller” that’s more than twice the price of the only game it works with?
That answer is…maybe?
PLAYSTATION 2 EYETOY
The EyeToy was a digital camera device for the PS2, not unlike a webcam, that was used by players to interact with games using motion, gestures, and sound (it also had a microphone). Obviously, this sort of thing was a precursor towards later efforts like Kinect and Move, and this is certainly more refined than say the Sega Activator, but it still ended up feeling like an extraneous product that wasn’t needed.
There were only a few dozen titles for the device, most of them recycling the same idea over and over again, and technical limitations on the camera (such as since the camera had to be able to “see” you, the games needed to be played in a well-lit room) held it back from being a mainstay peripheral on the popular system.
RESIDENT EVIL 4 CHAINSAW CONTROLLER
Available for both the Gamecube and the PS2 so that you can assault your gaming senses across different platforms, the chainsaw controller might be one of the most clearly ill-designed products that had no business existing.
Retailing for an overblown $50.00, the peripheral was clearly meant for the die-hard Resident Evil fans and ignorers of great controls.
Look, I can see what’s going on here. I know it’s suppose to be cool and make you feel like you’re the spooky chainsaw-wielding Ganado from the game, and the design behind the chainsaw is really quite “pretty” in fact. It’s even built in a way that you’d hold it like you would an actual chainsaw. Isn’t that cool? Isn’t that more important than it handling like a functional game controller? The button placement is flawed, where it’s downright impossible to have access to all the controls without changing your grip, and some of the joysticks are even inverted in a weird, confusing decision.
The PS2 version manages to be even gaudier with a big hunk of debris connected to the thing, because if this there’s one thing you want for a game that’s reflex-heavy, it’s extraneous stuff tied to your controller.
KATANA: THE SOUL CONTROLLER
Almost making the Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller look like a practical, restrained gaming device, this peripheral attempted to cram a PlayStation 2’s button set on the skinny side of a sword.
The device was released in conjunction with Onimusha 3, expecting to storm the shelves, but it barely made an impact on anyone.
The big selling point, besides the fact that the thing looks like a fricking sword, is that swiping the thing acts as your go-to attack button. There are some rudimentary motion controls in place here so it can feel like you’re actually hacking and slashing people to death, while you try and navigate your way around the otherwise cluttered control scheme.
It’s also worth mentioning that the controller retailed for over $150, but isn’t somewhat realistic sword swinging worth that?
The trance vibrator was produced primarily for the trance-y rhythm game, Rez, however, the device was tragically not produced for the Dreamcast, but only for the PlayStation 2’s release of the game.
The peripheral was meant to work by pulsing in conjunction with the bass-heavy music that the title features, producing a vibration of more power than the Dual Shock.
The device claimed that it was supposed to be used in your pocket to pick up the rhythms, but the very fact that the product has “vibrator” in its name and comes with a hygienic sleeve pretty much confirms otherwise.
The vibrator also worked with Sega’s Space Channel 5: Part 2, but two titles is hardly a library.
ASCII KEYBOARD CONTROLLER
I really don’t even need to say anything here, do I?
This disaster was to be used with Phantasy Star Online: Episode 1 & 2, a title that’s popped up a number of times here, appearing to be more trouble than its worth.
Yes, this thing will let you use a full ASCII keyboard while you play your game on the Gamecube, but it’s virtually impossible to be comfortable with this thing, as your hands try and balance the monstrosity.
There’s a reason that keyboards and controllers are two separate things, and trying to meld the two here only illustrated this point more strongly.
TONY HAWK: RIDE SKATEBOARD
As you can probably imagine, this device was used with Tony Hawk: Ride, using infrared sensors to detect your movements on the board, replicating it in the game. The problem was, as this title and skateboarding games, in general, began to move in their twilight, a buggy board with quite the high price tag wasn’t winning anyone over.
The amount of precision with the peripheral was hard to master, and it hardly seemed worth deviating from the standard, already slick control scheme. Feeling more like a relic from a previous generation when gameplay was less than it was now, the device failed to impress most gamers.
WII BOWLING BALL
Remember that first time you tried out bowling in your copy of Wii Sports? You gracefully pulled your arm back, moved it forward, and a bowling ball seemingly stemmed from your arm, just like you were in an alley. A process as smooth as this was refined enough from the start that adding an extraneous bowling ball to everything was the last thing that was needed.
If anything, this addition shatters the illusion to an extent; getting in your way and forcing reality into your experience when you just want your mind off of all of this.
Furthermore, wedging your Wiimote into the plastic bowling ball lost you precision if anything. If you just stuck with the standard Wiimote, you’d be saving money and bowling a better game.
WII INFLATABLE KART
And if an unnecessary bowling ball you’re putting your controller into for the Wii is a waste of time and money, then this is really going above and beyond in the “why?” category.
It’s a blow-up go-kart that you sit in while you play Mario Kart Wii. Because we’re apparently at a point where if we’re not holding a mock steering wheel and sitting in a mock vehicle, it’s impossible for our brains to reconcile that we’re playing a racing game.
WII CAR ADAPTER
Trying to fit systems and a pleasurable setup for them in a vehicle is usually a losing battle, but trying to do it with a motion-controlled system is just bonkers. Waggling your arms in a cramped, moving vehicle is a very backward idea, to the point that you wonder how this even got greenlit.
So there you have it, and after examining all of these surprising, pointless endeavors that our favorite companies spent a lot of money on in some cases, it kind of makes you more grateful for some of the truly innovative, stellar peripherals and systems that have come around.
Sure, there are flaws occasionally, firmware updates, and elements that will make us scream in frustration, but we’ve come a long way to give gamers what we want, and at least we’re not in a world where our go-to standards are the NeGcon and the Steel Battalion Controller.