Now, we all love to game. Of course, we do. That’s why we’re all here, this beautiful little community, united by our passion for video games and discussion thereof. In these uncertain times, where the world seems on the brink of disappearing down Beelzebub’s underworld sewer system forever, we’ve got to focus on what unites us. That community feeling, that togetherness, it’s crucial.
That’s not to say that we love everything about the gaming industry as a whole, though. Far from it, in fact, because there’s some totally shonky stuff going on here. The whole issue of violent games and their effects is never going away, and neither is the debate over representation and the like. Another big one is the whole anti-consumer, give-us-your-cashtacular-so-we-can-roll-in-it-like-Scrooge-McDuck mentality.
We see this in the usual DLC, microtransaction and season pass shenanigans, but also in the thriving market for accessories. It’s not enough to buy the game and the system, you’ve got to play ‘the right way’ with such and such a peripheral. Oftentimes, they’re thrown in with the game in a bundle, for a significant price of course.
This sort of thing has been popular since the dawn of the industry, and it’s easy to get bamboozled by an accessory that looked amazing in the commercials but soon proved to be a steaming mound of crud.
Here, for your delectation, is a selection of some of the worst console game accessories ever created. Plus some of the best, just to make us all feel a little better. From the Wii’s Balance Board to Samba di Amigo’s maracas and Rez’s ‘Trance Vibrator’ (whatever the heck that is), it’s going to be a darn bumpy ride.
30 RIDICULOUS: Resident Evil 4’s Chainsaw Controller- Leatherface Would Love It
Now, I’m trying to understand what happened here. I really am. Resident Evil 4 was, granted, the franchise’s big mainstream break, and it totally makes sense that they’d want to milk it as much as possible. It’s also true that this thing was probably intended just as much as a collectible as an actual functional controller.
Still, though. Look at this monstrosity. Look. AT IT. It’s neat in a spooky kind of way, I’ll give it that, but I haven’t seen something as difficult and cumbersome since Ross tried to PIVOT his couch around the stairwell in that Friends episode.
29 RIDICULOUS: Wii Wheel — Why, Wii Wheel, Why?
When the Wii launched in 2006, it kicked off a whole new era of motion-controlled gaming. This newfangled idea was shoehorned into just about every game developers could get away with, thanks to the popularity of Wii Sports and the like, and you know what that means: hilariously bad tennis racquet attachments and things everywhere.
One of the worst offenders, in my eyes, was Nintendo’s own Wii wheel. If you want to ‘steer’ around the course in Mario Kart, more power to you, but this was just a completely unnecessary empty shell.
28 USEFUL: The Wii Balance Board — It’s Yoga Time
For some years now, Nintendo have been trying to push the whole get-off-your-saggy-cheeks-and-move-while-gaming angle. This is surely to try and combat a lot of that negative, couch potato press that video games have always gotten.
Results have been mixed, of course, but the hugely successful Wii Fit was a triumph in that regard. For the time, the tech in that Balance Board was pretty darn impressive, and it actually seemed to have a positive impact on dedicated users’ health.
It was dang embarrassing, gyrating to spin an imaginary hula hoop, but that’s the price of progress.
27 RIDICULOUS: Xbox Kinect — You Kinect Be Serious
So, yes. Nintendo fans have always been very vocal about the company’s creativity and rivals imitating them, but there’s always a little of that between rival companies.
As I say, motion control was the Latest Super-Cool Thing™ in the 2000s, and everyone wanted in on it.
For Microsoft, this meant the release of the Kinect tech. While it all worked fine (and, supposedly, allowed Microsoft execs to see you playing Call of Duty in your living room in your underwear, scaremongers reported), it just didn’t have to support it needed to really warrant its existence.
26 RIDICULOUS: PocketStation — Remember This Thing?
Nope, me neither. This is mostly because, as with a lot of obscure and cool little gadgets, it was released only in Japan. Not that it ever really did anything notable anyway.
If you’ve never seen one of these bad boys, it’s best described as part memory card and part super-primitive handheld console (think of it as Sony’s take on that little VMU dealie for Dreamcast controllers). It proved very popular on its Japanese launch in 1999, but is now just an odd little curio from yesteryear.
25 USEFUL: PlayStation Multitap — Four Player Funtimes
Personally, the PS1 was the first home console I truly fell in love with. This was around the time that my friends and I started having dedicated gaming days on weekends, and so a lifelong tradition began.
The thing about that is, nobody likes waiting around and taking turns. As we know, the original PlayStation had only two controller ports, but the release of the sweet, sweet multitap allowed more controllers to be hooked up at once. These sorts of adaptors have existed since the Joypair for the Famicom, back in 1985.
24 RIDICULOUS: Rez’s Trance Controller — Well… Okay
For the uninitiated, Rez is a music-based rail shooter, which first released for the Dreamcast and PS2 in 2001. It sees the player character traveling through a computer network, evolving and devolving from a simple spherical form to a humanoid one depending on their performance.
Rez is most notable for spawning the super-niche Trance Vibrator peripheral. This thing was based around the idea of haptic feedback, providing an immersive ‘feeling’ stronger than the feeble rumble of the Dual Shock controller.
It’s also well suited for… well, other activities.
23 RIDICULOUS: R.O.B. The Robot — Look, Buddy, I’m Not Impressed
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I can appreciate R.O.B. the Robot, I definitely can. The little guy’s appeared in Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart of late, and is just about the most charming and teeniest robot I’ve seen since Chibi Robo.
In his original form, though, the Robotic Operating Buddy was all kinds of underwhelming.
An NES peripheral from 1985, the idea was that it could ‘play’ certain games right along with you, but it was compatible with a grand total of two titles: Stack-Up and Gyromite. As it is now, it’s just an interesting collector’s piece.
22 USEFUL: The Pokéwalker — I Choose You!
Long-time franchise fans will remember this little novelty, that’s for sure. The Pokéwalker was bundled in with copies of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, and could communicate with the games themselves by means of infrared signals. It’s a pedometer (and a surprisingly accurate one, for the time) that allowed you to take a Pokémon of your choosing for a walk, inside the little device.
It may only have been compatible with that one game, but it was super useful because it actually got me walking, which the industry at the time simply could not do. It was the Pokémon Go of its time, you could say.
21 RIDICULOUS: The Power Glove — Now You’re Playing With… Something
What can I say about the iconic Power Glove that hasn’t already been said? You know it, you love it, you’ve snarked on it until you can snark no more.
Now, it’s not easy to be so bad that you’re actually good again. Much of the time, you’re just plain awful, and that’s the end of it. the Power Glove is a cult favorite, though, what with that movie and the hilarious catchphrases it spawned.
The world just wasn’t ready for this kind of tech back then. We could not cope.
20 RIDICULOUS: Sega Activator — Don’t Bother Activating It
Speaking of peripherals that were just far too ambitious for the tech they were supposed to use, meet the Sega Activator. This magnificent device was supposed to be able to allow you to control your on-screen character by having them copy your movements.
Needless to say, that was a little too much for the humble Genesis. It was like handing cavepeople iPhones and a Lamborghini Gallardo. The technology of the time was not up to it.
Wildly inaccurate and very expensive, Sega Activator was a horrible failure.
19 USEFUL: The Wii Remote — Definitely Grew On Us
As you’ll probably remember, many of us were super unconvinced when the Wii was first announced. There was mass snark about the name (so it’s called… wee?), the design, just about everything. The controller, too, completely divided opinion.
The Wiimote looked, for all the world, like a Fisher Price TV remote.
Nobody could have anticipated the popularity of the system, the complete gaming newbies waving these things around in homes around the world. It’s become the symbol of family-friendly gaming everywhere. Which, of course, is just what Nintendo were aiming for.
18 RIDICULOUS: Steel Battalion Controller — My, Grandma, What A Lot Of Buttons You Have
Like a lot of you, friends, I’ve been a committed gamer for decades now. I’ve seen fads come and go, companies rise and fall, great games, questionable games, and games like nothing else out there.
Needless to say, I’ve seen a whole range of shonky controllers, too. Certain niche games are going to need their own setups (PC flight sims wouldn’t work nearly so well any other way), but the absolute pinnacle of that concept is the famous Steel Battalion controller.
As a mecha sim, precise controls are needed, but this beast has two control sticks and over forty buttons. It’s like freaking NASA mission control behind the wheel of this thing.
17 RIDICULOUS: Poké Ball Plus — Just A Step Too Far?
A little earlier in this rundown, we took a look at the Pokéwalker. This Pokémon-flavoured pedometer interacted with your copy of Pokémon HeartGold or SoulSilver, allowing you to transfer a Pokémon of your choosing from the cartridge to the Pokéwalker for real-world walks.
The Poké Ball Plus that launches with Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee seems to be channeling that same spirit. It plays soundbites of the Pokémon ‘inside’ it, and also doubles as an actual Joy-Con for the game, but it all seems just a little extra to me.
16 USEFUL: GameShark — Shenanigans Ahoy!
Ah, yes. The good old GameShark. Way back in the day, when I still had an innocent, unspoiled gaming soul, I was introduced to the magical ways of the cheat cartridge. A schoolfriend was able to catch a Mew right there in the very first grass of Pokémon Yellow, thanks to a device the size of the average studio apartment that was protruding from the top of his Game Boy.
Naturally, I immediately abandoned my morals and hopped straight in for a slice of that action. Cheat devices has come a long way since then, but the basic principle is still just the same.
15 RIDICULOUS: The Aura Interactor — Wait, What?
As a huge retro gaming fan, I have nothing but appreciation for the SNES and the Sega Genesis. The latter, in fact, is still my very favorite console of all time, and I’ve got quite a collection of games for the system.
Even with all of that said, there are some things that neither console was really ready for. A full-on haptic suit peripheral would be one of them, in my eyes, but there it is.
The Aura Interactor became a thing in 1994, bringing a new level of feedback to shots, punches and kicks in games. It was successful, though.
14 RIDICULOUS: Tony Hawk — Ride’s Skate Deck- Gnarly, Dude!
So many things went horribly wrong here. For one, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is one of the most critically-acclaimed and beloved sports games ever made. Heck, it’s one of the best-received games of all time, period. So why was 2009’s Tony Hawk: Ride such an awful dud?
I’ll tell you why, friends: because its whole shtick was motion-controlled skating, using the included nightmarish skateboard peripheral. I suppose you can’t fault the idea, as a spin-off, because it could’ve been super fun. The issue was, the darn thing just wasn’t responsive.
13 USEFUL: Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand’s Sun Sensor
The Game Boy Advance saw a whole array of quirky games over the course of its long life. My personal pick for most creative would have to be Konami’s 2003 adventure Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hand.
In the game, you take the role of a young vampire hunter by the name of Django. His weapon of choice is the Gun Del Sol, a weapon that fires ‘bullets’ of sunlight. Real sunlight, that is, because there’s a solar sensor on the back of the cart.
It’s an incredibly niche setup, but it’s one that fits absolutely perfectly.
12 RIDICULOUS: Glow Saber Duo Pack — No. Stop That.
Ah, yes. Remember when I mentioned the early days of the Wii, when peripheral-makers were hopping on the bandwagon and hawking their plastic crud left and right? This sort of thing is exactly what I mean. I see you there, Glow Saber Duo Pack, and I am not amused.
The thing is, all of these tennis racquet attachments and the like were cool enough as a novelty, but entirely unnecessary. We soon realized that you don’t have to wildly swing your arms like Roger Federer on Prozac to return the ball in Wii Sports. A simple wrist movement did the job.
11 RIDICULOUS: The Wii Vitality Sensor — The Wii’s Lost Legacy
So, yes. As I say, with the phenomenal success of Wii Fit, Nintendo really were contributing to gamer fitness around the world. Only slightly, in some cases, but that’s still pretty darn admirable as far as I’m concerned.
The thing is, there’s more the system could have done. We’ll never know what the mysterious Wii Vitality Sensor may have been capable of.
Former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata showed off this fingertip pulse oximeter sensor at E3 2009, but the project proved more complex than the company initially thought. This curious thing never saw the light of day.
10 USEFUL: Amiibo — The Little Action Figures That Could
Granted, everyone’s going to have a different opinion on this subject. For me, though, the Amiibo line largely delivered on its promise: collectible figures that actually have a lot of in-game utility.
Through NFC technology, the figures can be scanned by compatible systems (New Nintendo 3DS, Wii U and Switch). Depending on the game and the specific character figure, they’ll have all kinds of different functions. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for instance, certain Amiibo will unlock that character’s costume as a racing outfit for your Mii.
9 RIDICULOUS: Foot Craz — I Don’t Know Either
Ah, yes. We’re stepping way back in time with this next entry, friends. Many of you are fortunate enough to have never even heard of this abomination before. That being the case, I’ll just apologize for bringing it to your attention and get straight into it.
You’re looking at the Foot Craz, a controller for the Atari 2600. It was sold packaged with two different fitness-based titles, Video Reflex, and Video Jogger. As you’ve probably guessed, the idea was to have gamers up on their feet and moving while playing. As you’ve also guessed, it didn’t go all that well.
8 RIDICULOUS: The Dreamcast Fishing Rod — Reeled Another One In
Motion-controlled fishing game peripherals really aren’t anything new in gaming. Players have made thousands of the things with Nintendo Labo, and you’d better believe that there was a fishing attachment for the Wii. The interesting thing about the Dreamcast’s Fishing Controller is that it’s the only officially-made one in all of console gaming, having been created by Sega themselves.
It wasn’t compatible with many games, but more than you’d think. As Sega Retro reports, it was discovered that you can play Virtua Tennis using this thing, in a Wii Sports swing-athon sort of way.
7 USEFUL: Game Boy Light Attachments — Our Eyes Were Super Grateful
I hit the big 3-0 this year, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. I seesaw between being fine with it and wanting to dye my hair jet black and buy a Harley-Davidson. One thing it’s certainly done, though, is make me very nostalgic.
If you’ve been gaming as long as I have, you’ll remember a time when our Game Boy had all kinds of Frankenstein’s monster-style attachments.
Screen magnifiers and battery packs were popular, but the one most of us were thankful for was the clip-on light. You lucky kids with your backlit screens don’t know you’re born.
6 RIDICULOUS: The N64 Voice Recognition Unit — Que?
As I’ve probably made abundantly clear at this point, Nintendo have never been afraid to go full creative mode on us. Their ambitious ideas have sometimes gone nowhere or flopped entirely (that’s you, Virtual Boy), but they just keep right on with that philosophy.
Another odd result of this way of thinking was the N64 VRU (Voice Recognition Unit). It was, again, compatible with only two games, one of which was the notorious Hey You, Pikachu!
Did Pikachu understand what you were saying? Nope. Would it have giving a single crud even if it did? Nope.
5 RIDICULOUS: The Game Gear TV Tuner — How Many Channels Does That Thing Get?
Oh, wowza. If anything’s going to make you feel old, it’s the Game Gear TV Tuner. These days, we lie in bed with our big-screen tablets and 40+ TV screens, watching movies, shows, and streams in beautiful HD. Something like this is a relic from a bygone time.
As much as I enjoyed the Game Gear, with its enormous, unwieldy housebrick of a casing and its laughable battery life, this is just… it’s a firm no. I can’t imagine anything even remotely watchable resulting from this.
4 USEFUL: The Donkey Konga Bongos — They Rock
I’m just going to come right out and say it: The Switch could definitely use another Donkey Konga title. With that said, let’s take another look at those sweet, sweet bongos.
For me, these bad boys are probably Nintendo’s weirdest and niche-est yet most fantastic peripherals of all time. The hilarious thing is that they’re far more versatile than they might appear. I mean, heck, as VG 24/7 reports, people have played through Dark Souls using these things. Some of us find that difficult enough with an actual controller.
3 RIDICULOUS: The Wii U GamePad —Well, The Potential Was There
Knowing what we do now, you can kind of see where Nintendo was going with the Wii U. It was a bit of a dry run of that home console/portable concept, which they’ve since totally cracked with the Switch.
As they say, though, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
Nor can you make a successful Switch without first making a not-exactly-as-portable-as-you-might-think Wii U.
The unfortunate thing was that the GamePad would immediately lose its connection if it strayed too far from the unit itself.
2 RIDICULOUS: FamiCoin — Not Exactly NESecessary
Now that’s a pun, friends. I’m super proud of that one. There’s no time for own-horn-tooting just now, though, because we’ve got a pressing matter to discuss: the oddity that is the FamiCoin peripheral.
Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s a simple rubber cover for the controller, intended to reduce strain and (as always with these accessories) enhance your gaming experience. I’m not sure what exactly on the Famicom (the NES is known as the Family Computer in Japan) would warrant that sort of thing, but here it is, existing nonetheless.
1 USEFUL: Samba de Amigo’s Maracas — Making Sweet Music
I don’t think I could’ve closed this one out without mentioning the mighty Samba di Amigo. This 1999 arcade title was released for the Dreamcast the following year, before being ported to the Wii in 2008. It’s a super-happy, poppy rhythm game, and it’s played with those distinctive maracas.
I’m not sure what it is. I just get a vibe from these things. As with the Donkey Konga bongos, they’re designed only to work with their specific title, but they’re so perfect for the job and so darn fun to use that I’ve got to give them the thumbs up.