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Since the dawn of video games and consoles, designers have worked day and night trying to come up with the next “Big Hit” accessory to sell to the masses. 90 percent of these add-ons failed hilariously! Not a one of them made it into a “Back to the Future” future (but number one did make it into another Hollywood movie). Take a scroll with us as we try to get a handle on the most bizarre gaming accessories ever.
Nintendo Power Glove
This list can only go downhill from here so, we might as well start with the gadget made famous by Nintendo’s film “The Wizard.” (you should check out the “Power Glove” scene on YouTube, This glove was a chick magnet!). The setup used three sensors mounted on your TV to estimate your hands movements (at least, that’s what they said…) but in reality, the glove only protected your hand when you punched the screen in frustration.
Next came the U-Force, the American software company Broderbund’s first and last step into the hardware market. This piece of cra…um, equipment, used infrared sensors to estimate where your hands were (and more often, where they weren’t) to help you “play” games that were too complicated, even with a conventional controller. The ad tagline was “Don’t Touch” which turned out to be the best advice possible.
Sega’s Activator was a fighting game controller based on the Light Harp designed by musician and martial artist Assaf Gurner. This was another infrared driven device that was easily confused by its eight vertical sensors (and, apparently, ceiling lights, reflective surfaces, and, small farm animals). It was so bad that it was ditched even before the games specifically designed for it came to market.
STD Entertainment Handy Boy
This add-on combined speakers and back-lighting with more ergonomic buttons, a thumbstick in place of the D-pad, and a magnifying lens that really allowed you to revel in the minute details of Tetris. But the Handy Boy was comically named given that it defeated the purpose of having a game system that fits in your pocket (the fully kitted-out Handy Boy was so heavy and unwieldy that later versions came with a neck strap).
Bandai Pocket Sonar
The Pocket Sonar was a Japan-only accessory that connected your Game Boy to a foam sonobuoy that could detect fish up to a depth of 65 feet and displayed the sonar readings on the screen. Pocket Sonar also featured a fishing minigame for when the fish just weren’t biting. It’s every kid’s dream accessory, right?
Samba De Amigo
2000’s popular rhythm game Samba de Amigo, by Sonic Team, featured two motion sensitive maracas and a sonar-based sensor bar to track the player’s movements, a fairly substantial piece of hardware that could only be used for a few other games, and even then not effectively. One of the games featured in the package was called Guacamole, a direct ripoff of Whac-a-Mole. We’re thinking not too many moles were harmed during this session.
Densha De Go!
Complete with 16 different arcade games, the Densha de GO! was mostly sought out for its humorously dinky-looking train controller. Who wouldn’t want to sit behind (the idea of) the controls of a surging locomotive engine? You could really feel the acceleration and power when you pulled back that big plastic handle! The most sought-after model is the special Shinkansen bullet train controller released for the PS2, which not only featured its own LED display but came with a foot pedal just for honking the horn. And a Horn? Sold!
Wu Tang Playstation Controller
The official Wu Tang “Taste The Pain” gamepad, packaged with the Wu Tang Shaolin Style fighting game, ranks among the highest in the ratio of coolness vs. practicality. The game scenarios provided many awesome opportunities to handle this awkward controller until you got premature arthritis (usually in about 30 minutes).
Steel Battalion Control Suite
In September of 2002, Capcom released the bulky and deliberately complicated pedal/throttle/stick system designed for Xbox’s Steel Battalion and is the Holy Grail of weird gaming accessories. For starters, it only worked with Steel Battalion and its sequel. This behemoth featured some 40 buttons and switches (many of which were only used to begin your robot tank’s complicated start-up sequence), and all of this self-harming fun could be had for the low, low price of $200 (in April 2002, Microsoft slashed the price of the Xbox to $199), costing more than the console it was designed for!
Nintendo Knitting Machine
Which brings us to the last place (?) entry. While it never made it to market and only appeared in public once (at the business-oriented CES trade show in 1987) the Nintendo Knitting Machine was meant to show that the game console had bigger hopes of becoming an even less-appealing household appliance. The pitch at CES was meant to sway Toys”R”Us into buying but, they apparently had too many competing broadloom playthings for kids to clamor over.