When hearing the word Nintendo, video games and family comes to mind. The company came into popularity when it released the Famicom in 1983. Nintendo saved the world from the crazy video game recession—a scrambled of too many consoles and computers. But Nintendo wasn’t always known for games as it initially built and invested in some oddities.
Nintendo began as a card company in 1889, creating cards for a Japanese game. This was during Japan’s Meiji era—a time of industrial revolution between 1868 and 1912. Many Japanese companies got their start in the Meiji era. A card game seems relevant, but some of the gadgets are bizarre. Nintendo created an unknown number of products that made absolutely no sense.
The article features some of Nintendo’s weirdest products, from a “love hotel” (it’s exactly what you think) to a heart monitor. Companies have to find their industry and it took Nintendo some time to get there, considering their first mainstream gaming product didn’t come out until nearly one-hundred years after opening.
The items in the article will surprise you, as Nintendo is known for being “family friendly” and the most kid friendly of the systems. These are the 15 Nintendo products that made absolutely no sense. Enjoy the read and let us know which ones are the weirdest!
15 Taxi Service
Not Yellow Cab. Not Green Cab. Not even Uber, but Nintendo. You heard that right, Nintendo ran a Taxi service. Hiroshi Yamauchi, the president who brought Nintendo to fame, explored many ventures (more that make this list) but the Taxi service, named Daiya, was bizarre. Yamauchi was eager to bring Nintendo fame so he would go to explore as many business possibilities as possible.
According to Mary Firestone, author of Nintendo: The Company and its Founders, the taxi business was “a successful venture.” Hiroshi sold and closed the service because of struggles with labor unions it made the business too expensive to run.
Continue reading; things only get weirder from here.
14 The Ultra Hand
Did you know that Nintendo created toys before games? Nintendo spent some time building them. The first one, called The Ultra Hand, sold over 1.2 million copies.
Gunpei Yokoi, an assembly line worker who pioneered the Game Boy, created the Ultra Hand. The toy was a mechanically extend hand with a scissor-like design made to grab distant items like tongs. Can we say lazy?
While in production Nintendo was having major financial hitches, but due to its massive sales, the company found some success in toys. Nintendo promoted Yokoi to Manager of Research and development. There he continued to work for the company, later creating the Game Boy.
Although the Ultra Hand is no longer available, it has since made appearances in several Nintendo games, including Grill-Off With Ultra Hand and Power Tennis.
13 Laser Clay Shooting System
Nintendo’s Godfather to Duck Hunter, The Laser Clay Shooting System (LCCS) was a gun simulator that put Nintendo on the gaming map. The device was an invention overseen by Gunpei Yokoi and invented in the same period as the Ultra Hand.
The LCCS was an indoor game where participants shot virtual clay pigeons. The first day of release in January 1973 was initially a disaster. The system quickly broke down but game designer Genyo Takeda saved the day. The day went by smooth and Takeda became a Nintendo hero.
Nintendo purchased bowling alleys around the area and set up “virtual” shooting ranges. Nintendo even received LCCS orders from other Asian countries. If you hadn’t shot a Nintendo clay bird, you weren’t in the popular crowd!
Unfortunately, the Oil Crisis of 1973 hindered Nintendo from success. The LCCS cost around $64 million in US dollars and companies started pulling out from orders, stopping the LCCS from achieving fame.
12 Nintendo Cards
Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon have a grandfather: Nintendo. Nintendo created many cards since it began; from items like generic playing cards to trading card sets, Nintendo attempted it all.
When Nintendo started in 1889, its original cards were for a unique Japanese game, Hanafuda. Hanafuda, which translates to “flower cards,” is a Japanese based card game where players used multiple strategies to win. The game dates back to 14th century Japan and Nintends handcrafted its cards. The deck consisted of 72 cards with different pictures of flowers and multiple combinations to win.
This was Nintendo’s first invention and its first attempt at games. However, as we witness Nintendo’s innovation in the video game industry, the cards get overlooked. Nintendo’s Hanafuda sets are still available.
11 Love Tester
The name 'Love Tester' isn’t misleading. If you ever wondered how to test the love between you and a partner, Nintendo answered that question.
Created in 1969, another by Yokoi, Nintendo came up with a device that tested how much your “lover” loved you. You and your love would grasp the round piece in one hand and interlock the others, then you’d whisper sweet things. It detected the heartbeat and “beep boop bop,” it generated a number from 1 to 100.
The device discovered the “love” through the words and heart rate of the lovers. Nintendo marketed the device not only as a love radar, but also a “lie” detector. Hopefully, this didn’t cause any divorces!
According to Kotaku a replica, presumably licensed, went on sale for $55 for some time but is now discontinued.
10 Virtual Boy
Nintendo took a stab at interactive gaming in 1970 with the Laser Clay Shooting System, but they weren’t going to stop there. Nintendo created the Virtual Boy in 1995, marking Nintendo’s first—and possibly last—shot at virtual reality gaming.
While the Virtual Boy made sense, it wasn’t the right time for release. The virtual boy released to a brutally atrocious reception. The console was reputable for causing migraines, eye strains, and headaches.
Without HD, real 3D, or advanced technologies, the Virtual Boy beamed images into a player’s eyes through 1x224 linear arrays built with oscillating mirrors. Described at the time as “cutting edge,” the system caused seizures and headaches, something that Nintendo was sure to warn players.
The virtual boy came before its time. Nintendo may attempt once more due to the release of the successful PlayStation VR.
9 Food Company and TV Station
Why not eat while you play games? Or even watch a Nintendo TV program? Well, Nintendo thought it would change the game. Nintendo purchased a company that created food. Instant noodles and rice were a few goods sold, along with energy drinks. Mario and Bowser energy drinks could be seen plastered on shelves. The drinks even came in the form of lemonade.
Not only did Nintendo try the food, but TV as well! Take a break from some Legend of Zelda to watch TV, how could that go wrong? It did for Nintendo, and they folded on food and TV quicker than they started.
In 2006 Nintendo created WiiConnect24. The WiiConnect24 controlled a multitude of Wii functions which it separated into “channels,” like News, Mii avatars, etc. Nintendo discontinued this service in 2013.
Released in 1985 as an NES part, R.O.B., which stands for Robotic Operating Buddy, was a robotic companion that acted as player two for games on the NES, but only for two games. Gyromite and Stack-Up and they weren’t nearly as fun as Mario Kart.
Once the player turned on the screen, R.O.B. was ready to receive one out of six—only six—commands. R.O.B. wasn’t in circulation for long as his compatibility was only six controls, several games, and a particular television.
While a good idea, it would’ve been better for Nintendo to promote making friends over creating a bot. Most know R.O.B. through Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Wii U, but Nintendo invented R.O.B. long ago. Support making new friends over fake robots, Nintendo.
7 Game Boy Pocket Sonar
Ever take your Game Boy fishing with you? If you raised your hand, then this is for you. The Game Boy Pocket Sonar wasn’t created by Nintendo, but needed an honorable mention. Bandai Namco created a Pocket Sonar in 1998. The device attached to the Game Boy like a cartridge and it used sonar to detect fish underwater—an incredible feat for a Game Boy device.
Unfortunately, the Pocket Sonar never came to the States and served as a Japanese exclusive. If you got sick of fishing, it had a fishing minigame to keep you occupied, but it doesn’t speak for how out of the ordinary it was.
While Game Boy Pockets are going for $399 on Amazon, this attachment bit the dust and remains unavailable in Japan and the US.
6 Nintendo Phone (Almost)
Pokémon Go blessed players with a serene nostalgia while Super Mario Run, not having as much success, is a fun time passer. But this isn’t Nintendo’s first strategy with mobile.
Nintendo itself has yet to release a phone, but back in 2004 a company, Danger, came up with a Gameboy/Cell Phone crossover. The device played Game Boy games and allowed the user to take calls, even mid game. During the first demonstration, a call that came through would automatically pause the game and switch to the call.
The phone, called the G1, was a well-thought idea, especially before Android or iPhone were calling shots. The gadget blew away Nintendo execs, but various stipulations led to the device’s rejection and eventually it fizzled out.
5 Lego Ripoff
Nintendo took a jab at Legos, too. Already boasting high sales from the Ultra Hand, Nintendo decided to create more toys. In the late 1960s, Nintendo created Lego-like interlocking blocks called Nintendo Blocks, shortened to ‘N&B Blocks’ or ‘N&B’ for short.
The blocks were identical twins to Legos; the N&B logo sat on top of studs, like legos, and the block dimensions were the same. If you mixed the Nintendo Blocks into a pile of legos, it’d be hard to tell the two apart.
Eventually, Nintendo released sets of cylinder shaped pieces to distinct itself. This circular shape was a piece that Lego hadn’t had yet. The SNES controller shaped pieces could interlock with any of the other pieces and set Nintendo apart from Lego.
The N&B blocks ultimately dissolved.
4 “Sexy” Trading Cards
As you know, Nintendo started off as a card company. However, not only did they have cards with flowers on them, but Nintendo published cards with pictures of sexy pin-up models. In the late 60s and 70s, Nintendo released a deck of “pin-up” themed cards, an oxymoron to their family reputation today. The cards featured sexy pictures of Japanese girls on them, looking more like posters than cards.
At the time Nintendo regularly manufactured cards of all kinds, including their original decks for Hanafuda. In addition to pin-ups, Nintendo also created trading cards. Unlike their Hanafuda or pin-up sets, these cards came in with Mario and Zelda characters on the front. Customers collected and traded the games. Nintendo eventually discontinued both.
3 A Super Mario “Adult Film”
Wipe your glasses or rub your eyes because you’re reading correctly. A Super Mario adult film existed and Nintendo bought it. Check out the story.
As odd (or cute) as it may seem, adult film producer Buck Adams created Super Hornio Brothers, a Mario themed adult film in 1993. The film featured famous adult actor Ron Jeremy. It even had a sequel, Super Hornio Brothers II, that released the same year along with the Super Mario Bros. film.
According to Ron Jeremy’s website, people have been looking for Super Hornio Brothers. Well, the film is unavailable because of Nintendo, says Jeremy, as Nintendo purchased the rights to the Buck Adams creation to halt distribution.
Although not Nintendo’s creation, they still bought and own rights to Super Hornio Brothers. Who knows, we may see the film in circulation again if the Switch fails.
2 The Super "Knitendo"
While also a fabulous play on words, the Super Knitendo was the concept and design for a Nintendo-made knitting machine. The part would attach to the NES and had the slogan: “Now You’re Knitting with Power!” Wow, that definitely had to be a tough sell to people.
As if Nintendo didn’t have enough odd innovations. the device hooked up to your NES and autonomously knitted an object. The Super Knitendo could make hats, mittens, sweaters, and anything your wardrobe demanded. Nintendo designed it to do multiple designs and colors, as simplicity isn't in their nature. As uou could imagine, this never made it to market, but they did actually make a prototype of this insane accessory.
1 Love Hotels
Possibly the weirdest, most awkward, least likely thing for Nintendo to ever invent: The Nintendo Love Hotels. Put the controller down, young man, it’s time for you to grow up.
Nintendo’s least “Family friendly” venture, Nintendo opened up “Love Hotels” during the time of their taxi service in the late 60s. This was at a time when sex hotels were an "in" thing. It’s just like it sounds, one rented a room and 'made love' for a night for cheap. Thanks, Nintendo “there’s no play like it,” when it comes to sexual activities.
Nintendo has done a fabulous job of sweeping this under the rug because no one knows the name or place of said Love Hotels. Rather, it was something that came and went during Nintendo’s era of inventing.