Chris Snellgrove is an English Professor by day and a pop culture writer by night. You can read his thoughts on celebrities over on Instanthub, thoughts on games over on Gammicks, and thoughts on everything else over on Ebaum's World.
For the most part, we associate Nintendo with quality games and products. The Nintendo Seal of Approval back in the day was like the company’s pact with gamers that we wouldn’t be getting the awful shovelware titles that helped cause the video game crash of 1983.
Sadly, that Seal of Quality didn’t apply to Nintendo’s game peripherals. Over the decades, the company has released some stunningly bad add-ons for your favorite systems. And these things would ruin your childhood faster than seeing The Phantom Menace on opening night.
Don’t believe it? Check out this collection of awful peripherals that even hardcore retro gamers know to avoid!
Before you throw something at the screen, know this: the Super Scope would probably never have made the list if we didn’t play the hell out of the original Zapper for the NES.
The zapper had tons of great games, required no batteries, and was comfortable to hold and use. And then there was the SuperScope for the SNES.
It worked with far fewer titles, and most of them sucked. Speaking of sucking, it sucked the power out of six AA batteries before you could tell Mario his princess was in another castle. And the strange bazooka design of this thing meant it was uncomfortable to hold and use.
Honestly, this thing made us want to shoot ourselves, but it was tough to aim at out heads, and the batteries were already dead by the time we pulled the trigger.
Game Boy Booster Boy
What if you could take everything about the Game Boy and make it worse? If that’s your dream, then the Booster Boy will make it a reality.
Instead of a handheld console, this thing turns your Game Boy into something you have to set down on a table. It also makes the buttons larger, adds a really crappy joystick, and provides awful screen magnification. The added light and speakers were okay, but not enough to make us kill four C batteries at a time.
Basically, it turned the best portable system of the time into the worst at-home console. More like “Loser Boy.” You see, I put as much effort into that joke as the developers put into this joke of a peripheral.
What can we say about the LaserScope that the Angry Video Game Nerd didn’t already say? This was a weird peripheral you put on your head that made it look like you were about to scan Bowser’s power level. And the peripheral’s main gimmick is that you could shout “fire” (or anything, really) to fire a weapon in certain games.
This thing worked as headphones, which was nice, but the core functionality is insane. Making your child self look like a cyborg sitting in the corner and screaming at the TV is an insane choice unless you wanted to star in your own Mario Is Missing prequel called My Parents Are Missing.
Remember when we mentioned the video game crash of 1983? Because of that crash, “game system” was a dirty word, so Nintendo had to work hard to shake that image. It’s why their first system was called the Nintendo ENTERTAINMENT System outside of Japan, and why they emphasized toy-like add-ons such as the awesome Zapper.
And then there was R.O.B. the Robot. At his best, R.O.B. plugged into your system and made it feel like you were playing with your own personal robot. Most of the time, though, the thing didn’t work with your TV. You know, so you could play the whopping two games this thing was compatible with.
Maybe Nintendo felt guilty about this crappy thing and that’s why R.O.B. is a helpful character in Starfox 64.
Back in the day, playing video games in the car seemed like the ultimate dream for those long road trips. Honestly, the ability to play on the go is why the Game Boy got so popular so quickly. Over time, even home systems got car adapters so, with the right setup, you could keep gaming on the go.
But the most insane version of this was the Nintendo Wii car adapter. However, actually playing the Wii on the go meant finding a way to balance the sensor bar on top of a screen. And then there was the small matter of actually using the motion-sensitive Wiimotes to play a game.
Just picture two siblings fighting each other in the back seat in Wii Sports while you’re trying to drive to grandma’s house. One vigorous tennis serve could crash the entire car, making this add-on Nintendo’s ultimate survival horror experience.
The idea behind the Power Pad was simple: instead of holding a controller and pressing buttons, you could step on buttons on the pad. This allowed simulated running in games like World Class Track Meet. Sadly, the whole experience kind of sucked.
First, running in place is not an accurate simulation of actually jogging. Years later, when gamers used a similar setup to play Dance Dance Revolution, they were at least actually dancing instead of just stamping their feet down.
The only real use this thing had was to encourage kids to exercise instead of sitting on their butts all day. But it took fat kids no time at all to realize they could just get on the ground and start pounding the buttons with their hands like they were trying to get to some cake hidden there by Mario himself.
Nintendo was nothing if not ambitious. Eventually, they released a Camera peripheral for the Game Boy that was basically the world’s first portable digital camera. And you could even print out the images you took on a separate printer.
But, following a theme, all of this worked very, very badly. The 128 x 112 resolution photos looked crappy even back in the 90’s. And as many noted, the printer paper had the consistency and quality of the one-ply receipt paper from the worst Dollar General you’ve ever visited.
To make things that much worse, there were “Easter Eggs” that would show you creepy faces. Just in case you wanted these “we all float down here” faces to haunt your entire damn childhood.
The Nintendo Wii wasn’t Nintendo’s first rodeo with motion-controlled gaming. For example, in the heyday of the NES, players could control games by moving their hands and arms in front of the U-Force peripheral.
Well, you could try. The controls never worked well, and it basically looked like you were trying to cast Doctor Strange spells at your TV just to make Mario jump.
In retrospect, you would have been better off actually devoting your life to the Dark Arts. After all these decades, you’d have better odds of becoming an actual wizard than trying to make this thing work well.
Ever had an idea that sounded so cool in your head and was an utter failure in reality? Well, that’s the Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller in a nutshell.
This peripheral came out for both Gamecube and PS2 and was allegedly optimized to help you play Resident Evil 4. We say “allegedly” because aside from looking cool, this controller is uncomfortable and nearly impossible to use well.
Also, who the hell thought they couldn’t really enjoy Resident Evil unless their controller looks like a weapon that you hardly ever use in the game? It’s like your closeted furry friend who keeps insisting that he can’t really enjoy Super Mario Bros. 3 unless he wears his own Tanooki suit the whole time.
Let’s be honest: you knew this thing would be on the list as soon as you clicked. And to this day, Nintendo hasn’t released any peripherals quite as disappointing as the Powerglove.
Back in the day, this thing really felt like it came from the future. You would put on this cybernetic glove and just control games with motion controls. Hell, the idea of actually punching to box enemies in Mike Tyson’s Punchout! was about as cool as it gets.
In reality, the motion controls worked for crap, and most gamers spent their time moving individual fingers to see if it got a reaction. This may have been valuable practice in the years before dating, but Mike Tyson is still going to knock you out with one punch no matter how many fingers you keep thrusting in there.