It’s widely known that before Nintendo made video games, they were a toy company. Most people also know by now that before that even, they were card manufacturer, whose cards became synonymous with illegal underground gambling in Japan in the late 1800s. Surviving two World Wars, the Great Depression, and their own occasional missteps, Nintendo’s indelible legacy cannot be questioned.
That being said, there are a few toys from Nintendo’s past that simply could not be made today. Either due to changing tastes in today’s children (our today’s adults) or because some of these toys are… well, you’ll see. Of course, with the advent of phones and tablets, it’s hard to imagine kids are interested in toys at all these days. The demise of US toy giant Toys R Us last year proves that, but we won’t include every toy Nintendo ever made and shrug our shoulders.
Instead, we’re going to take a look at toys that today would be considered boring or offensive. Nintendo was at their toy-making height in the 1960s and 1970s, so you can bet there are plenty of examples from those two decades alone to fill out this list a couple of times over. So let’s quit stalling, and look at 25 Nintendo toys that could never be made today.
24 Didn't Work As Expected
R.O.B. the Robot, or Robotic Operating Buddy, was released simultaneously with the NES in North America in 1985. It had one sole purpose: to get kids interested in the NES. It was less about creating a great accessory for the console, and more about showing the potential of it.
As a result, R.O.B. was terrible. The idea was that it would play games with you using flashing lights transmitted by R.O.B., specific games that were too fast for the human eye to see. These commands, controlled by the player, would tell R.O.B. what to do. The problem is, he was slow and loud. Not able to press button himself, he had this complicated system of picking up and placing blocks and spinning tops just to press a button on the controller.
23 This Doesn't Even Look Like Link
In 2002, Nintendo teamed up with ToyBiz to launch a series of action figures. One of those figures was our old pal Link. At least, I think that’s supposed to be Link. That’s what the box says anyway.
For some reason, they gave him super skinny legs, one massive arm and one small one, a mole on his neck, and that face. Oh man, that face. The eyes and eyebrows are painted on, giving him both a weird creeper look and making the whole thing look like a cheap knock-off. Nintendo could not have been happy with these.
22 It's A Game, But Also A Toy?
In 1986, Nintendo had given up on the toy business and were instead partnering with other companies to make toys based on their now incredibly successful gaming properties. One such partnership with Bandai produced Famibots – toy Famicom cartridges that transformed into Mario characters.
These were only released in Japan (hence why they’re based on the Famicom, the Japanese version of the NES) and were based on Hasbro’s Transformers line, which was also very popular at the time. I can’t decide if these are awesome are terrible, but they’re certainly… something.
21 Super Mario Bros. The Movie Action Figures
Cast your mind back to 1993, and you may remember a little movie called Super Mario Bros., starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. It’s considered by many to be the worst video game movie of all-time not directed by Uwe Boll. Truthfully, it’s not that bad, but its reputation is so putrid it’s turned Nintendo away from movies ever since.
Enter the Super Mario Bros. official action figures, based on the characters in the film. These are actually high-quality toys, they just look awful because the visual style of the movie was terrible. Don’t expect a re-release of these anytime soon.
20 Not What They Want Kids To Play With
The NES Zapper, called “The Gun” or “Beam Gun” in Japan, was a plastic light gun accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Just like what you’d find in arcades, it would let you play shooting games by pointing the Zapper at targets on your screen and firing.
There are a couple of reasons why this couldn’t be made today, primarily (and obviously) because parents don’t typically like kids playing with guns these days. In fact, the original Zapper had to be reissued, as the original gray color-scheme looked too much like a real gun, so it was changed to orange.
19 There Are Better Handhelds Today
The Game & Watch was revolutionary in 1982. The idea of a handheld game that you could fold up and put in your pocket was unheard of at a time when video games were really first getting going. Not only that, but a game on two screens?
Featuring games like Mario Bros., Green House, and Donkey Kong, the Game & Watch series introduced now iconic games and characters. But by today’s standards, these toys are limited at best, and boring at worst. Overly simple and expensive, and the fact that you only get one game per unit would doom these to general stores like similar Tiger Electronics games of today.
18 Is This Really A Toy?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Punchbuoy per se, but it’s something you can easily see as being deemed too dangerous for today’s kids. Part toy, part exercise device, the Punchbuoy was advertised to both kids and adults.
Featuring a plastic “buoy” on a rope, with two handles on either end, the goal was to not let the buoy hit your end of the rope. You’d have to pull your two ends of the rope back with force, and at the right time to send it back to your opponent. The “danger” comes in if you mistime it, the buoy can get up to somewhat high speeds and despite plastic stoppers at the end, could theoretically hurt.
17 ...Aren't These Just Walkie-Talkies?
Simply called the “Companion,” this toy was released sometime around 1965. Before Mario, a blog dedicated to Nintendo’s past as a toy maker says this is Nintendo’s first electronic toy, as well as their first collaboration with tech company Sharp.
The Companion is a walkie-talkie set, nothing more.
To say this toy is outdated is an understatement, to say the least. Maybe it’d have some use as a personal intercom system. But in a world where five-year-olds have smartphones, virtually no kid would be even slightly amused by the existence of a walkie-talkie.
16 Before Roomba, There Was Chiritori
The Chiritori was a remote controlled… vacuum cleaner. No, really. Designed by Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi, the Chiritori (Japanese for dustpan), was a tiny circular vacuum cleaner that could be controlled by a remote control that actually did function as a vacuum cleaner (though it was too small to be effective).
Released in 1979, the Chiritori pre-dates the Roomba and other robotic vacuums by about two decades. Of course, Roomba’s are AI-controlled and are sold as real vacuums, not as a child’s plaything.
15 Not So Fun To Play With
The Light Telescope, another of Gunpei Yokoi’s designs, is another toy that’s a cool idea, but lacking as an actual toy. It was a plastic device, modeled after video cameras of the day, that emitted a beam of light. You’d talk into a microphone on the back, hold the trigger down, and the beam of light would transmit what you said to another person with a Light Telescope, and with the provided headphones, they could hear what you said.
It’s a neat idea, but once the novelty of transmitting sound via light wears off, it’s hard to imagine this would actually be any fun to play with, especially today with phones.
14 Good For Learning About Forklifts, Not Much Else
1973’s Power Lift is a remote-controlled forklift that can pick things up. That’s all it does. No fancy-schmancy extra features like hydraulics or rocket launchers, just honest-to-goodness picking things up. That’s how it was back in my day, walking 10 miles, going up and down a hill in the snow to play with our remote control, plastic blue forklifts.
Seriously, you can move the forklift around like a normal RC car (if slower), and you can pick smaller cars up with the lift. That’s all there is to it. It’s impossible to think that any kid could want something like this these days.
13 Seems Like Something Out Of A Movie
You know those novelty plastic extendable hands you’ll often find at the dollar store? They’re good as gag gifts, and that’s about it. Well, back in 1966, Nintendo released a version of one of those extendable hands in earnest, called the Ultra Hand.
Another creation of Gunpei Yokoi, the Ultra Hand folded up like an accordion and came with several plastic objects you could grab.
There was a rope by the handle so you could operate the pinchers at the end to pick up or let go of an object. Again, it’s hard to imagine any kid getting fun out of this these days.
12 Seems More Like A Joke
Speaking of dollar store toys, we now get to the lowest of lows for Nintendo. The Mister Magician Coin & Stick is about as cheap as Nintendo ever got. This “magic trick,” is about as gimmicky as they come. Hiding a handkerchief in a fake plastic thumb that’s white so it won’t fool anybody, a plastic coin that falls apart but is held together by a rubber band so it won’t fool anyone either, and the titular stick being the handkerchief folded up in a cylinder. Wow.
It’s easy to be cynical about something like this because of how it looks. Maybe this was entertaining in 1975, but maybe only as a joke.
11 What's The Point?
Back in World War I, soldiers would use periscopes to look over their trenches into No Man’s Land, without having to risk sticking their head up. It was a cardboard or wooden tube with two mirrors angled towards each other that allowed you to see what was above you.
Well, someone decided to take inspiration from this wartime device, and that someone was once again Gunpei Yokoi in 1971. It’s a periscope that lets kids see things higher up. That’s literally all this is. Yokoi was a great designer, rest in peace, but come on.
10 Starting Them Young
Hey kids, do you like gambling? Well, has 1970s Nintendo got the toy for you! In the 60s and 70s, Nintendo leaned heavily on their gambling roots with games aimed at kids, and the first on our list is Extra 4. The name comes from the fact that it includes a poker game, horse racing, roulette, and slots.
What a great deal!
This was pretty much a roulette game, with the other three games having slight variations. Players would have to bet a certain amount of fake money, and whoever won the game won everybody’s money.
9 Gotta Ring Them Bells...
In the 1960s, several “toys” were released that weren’t exactly “toys.” These games were marketed towards kids, but were really intended for adults to have their own “fun.”
Take, for example, the Hip Flip. Released by Parker Bros. in the US, Nintendo led the charge in Japan for this thrusting masterpiece. That’s no joke either. The game works by having two people attached to one another by a pole with two hands grabbing you at either end, with the goal of quickly spinning a bell in the middle. How do you ring the bell? By thrusting your hips towards one another, of course.
8 A Classic! By... Nintendo?
What really started the grown-up game trend though, was Twister. Believe it or not, the game where you have to bump body parts together in tantalizing positions was released by Nintendo in Japan in 1966.
The 60s were a divided time. Promiscuity was on the rise during the hippy movement, but there were plenty of folks who weren’t having it. To get away with a game like this, manufacturers like Nintendo put kids on the box and sold it as an exercise and gymnastics game. Sure, Nintendo, sure.
7 This Luigi And Goomba… Thing
Cheap knock-off toys are always fun to laugh at; the more incompetent the better! Such is the case with whatever this thing is supposed to be. It’s Luigi’s head (with an ‘M’ on the hat, of course) with a smiley face mustache, stuck on top of a slightly squashed Goomba.
You may be wondering what this is, or why it exists. What child would want to play with this monstrosity? Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. This isn’t a toy, it’s a piece of art. The post-modernist inspirations are evident in the distant, hollow gaze of both Luigi (Muigi?) and the Goomba, as this intimate moment of the former jumping on the latter is frozen in time, allowing us to ponder the meaning of life, demise, and mushrooms.
6 Could Be Fun For Parties, Honestly
As if the Extra 4 weren’t explicit enough in its intention, we now have the Magic Roulette. Released in 1966, was a miniature roulette wheel, complete with metal balls and poker chips. Yes, at this point Nintendo was releasing straight up gambling games aimed specifically at kids.
What made this version “magic,” was that instead of one ball rolling at a time, five balls would spin in the wheel at once. Instead of just rolling on the sides though, the balls would move around in wild, random patterns until suddenly stopping in one of the forty holes on the wheel.
5 Nintendo Should Stay Out Of This Department
Where Nintendo tried to be coyer with Twister and Hip Flip, in the case of 1969’s (of course it was released that year) Love Tester, Nintendo wore their intentions on their sleeve. Another “toy” designed by Gunpei Yokoi, was a simple device that “measured how much a couple loved each other.”
The idea was two people would hold hands, and with their other hand, would both hold on to either end of the cable of the Love Tester. Depending on how much they loved each other, the meter would go up. In reality, the meter rose based on the heat from your hands.
4 Not A Safari We Wanted To Be On
Tired of shooting lions? Well, with this toy from 1970, you could go hunting all kinds of animals like lions, tigers, and eagles. Teach your kid to be a colonial-era hunter and go rampaging through the jungles of Africa, ending every animal they can, post the picture of them on Facebook, and then wonder why everyone on the internet is suddenly screaming at you.
The 70s were definitely a different time and it's toys like this that show how different things were.
Imagine if anyone, much less kid-friendly Nintendo, released a toy like this today, complete with realistic gun.
3 These Just Look Too Real
The safari shooting game and the Custom Gunman games weren’t just one-offs. They were actually part of a series Nintendo did in the 60s and 70s called the Kôsenjû Light Beam series. This was a series of realistic shotguns, rifles, and revolvers Nintendo released using the light beam technology for a variety of games. Got tired of using the shotgun in Electro Safari? Buy a pistol! Tired of using the revolver to eliminate John Wayne in Custom Gunman? Why not pick up a shotgun instead?
Being of a different era (and country) none of these guns feature the orange tip on the end of the barrel that you’d find on toy guns. They also don’t have wild color schemes that you’d find on most toy guns, either. Nope, these are plenty real looking.
2 These Were Only Made Because They Had No Other Options
After WWII, Japan was in a difficult position. The nation had lost between 2.5 to 3.1 million lives (depending on your sources), was dealing with the devastating effects of two nuclear bombings, her economy was in ruins, had few resources left, and fewer means of production. Because of this, toys in Japan were rare and seen as a luxury for years afterward.
In the early 1960s, miniature, simple plastic toys became popular as the economy slowly began to recover. Nintendo capitalized on this boom by releasing their Mini Game Series. These were tiny plastic toys such as chess, poker, pinball, bowling, and more. These simple toys were born out of necessity, and with several gambling games, wouldn’t exist today.
1 Literally Just... Copying A Photo?
Monster Copy is an interesting idea, but that’s about all. It’s a plastic frame that comes with photosensitive paper and… that’s about it. How it worked is you’d put the paper on top of the plastic shell, then put a picture on top of it, and then put it in the sun for a while. Then you’d have a copy of the picture. That’s literally it.
The “toy” got its name from a promotion Nintendo was doing with the popular Japanese TV show Ultraman. The box featured an image of Ultraman punching a guy in a rubber suit, and some kids looking at a picture of it as if it were better than the show itself.